Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Expanding upon More Relevant Content about your show on the blogosphere - specifically photography of the rehearsal

So, I want to take a another look at some of the ideas put forth here regarding ways to increase the volume of relevant content about our work, in the hopes of refining them to a method that , even if it doesn't appeal or meet with approval of the entire blogging community (a goal that is of course not achievable)...well then, a method that at least the usual players who've been vocal during this discussion can agree achieves most of the objectives, respects the desires of a community of participants in any given situation, and allows for intriguing, inspiring, thought provoking content from those enthusiastic about more detailed/indepth content regarding the art on our blogosphere.

I'm sure some of us are passed thinking about this, but I want a more visual theatrical blogosphere so, indulge me while I wax on a bit more in the hopes of encouraging others.

In my directing experience it is always best to tackle the bigger issues first since they are the ones that usually require the most work. For example, if your actor is struggling with Lucky's monologue and you keep pushing it off until the final week of rehearsal, you are setting a scenario where you might not have the adequate time/resource to enable the best solution. In that sort of spirit, I'll focus first on the one element of the previous post that generated the most commentary , the most concern... Cameras in the rehearsal room or otherwise apparent during pre-production.

So, originally I supposed the following...

"...always have a digital camera at rehearsal. This one is simple and to my mind, unless there is gratuitous nudity in your show (or maybe because of it if you aren't shy) should become a must have for every production at some time (if not all the time) during the rehearsal process. First off, it has been said (and I understand) that many folks are wary about sharing things outside the rehearsal room that happen in the rehearsal room. Actors have to be given space to risk and try new things and take chances. If they are worried about how a certain bold choice they made in rehearsal will play on tomorrow's blogosphere...well I know that I as a director wouldn't be interested in that at all. But...but here is the thing about most actors that I'm sure you all know yet still need to be reminded. They spent all lot of time, energy, money, and heart trying to get in front of cameras. If they know ahead of time that you plan on taking pictures during rehearsal, there most likely wont be a problem. If the camera suddenly appears during a candid moment, well that could be touchy. However, fully disclosing that you want to publish pictures of them on your site or your blog should in most circumstances be totally embraced by your performers."

Well, after having reread that, I think it actually does begin to acknowledge the concerns that some actors expressed on Mac Roger's blog. However, if greater visual presence is going to be achieved online, lets embrace the opportunity to examine possible actor objections to cameras (I am not going to worry about video or audio for the present moment at least). The following presupposes that compromise is achievable. If you have an actor who just cant work if a camera appears, then...(devilvet pauses...shrugs). None of this is chiseled in stone. It is just a possible paradigm to think about.

Before the Rehearsal

If you or your company is interested/dedicated to content on the net, you need to share that with actors who are auditioning. You should do what you can to direct them to your site. As we all move forward deeper into the information age, it is probably increasingly important that actors who are considering auditioning not only be comfortable/knowledgeable about the company they are auditioning for and the content of the work, but also the company's online brand/identity/promotional philosophy as well. This is increasingly important. It actors have certain sorts of taste about the kind of work they want to do, or the kind of ensemble they want to get involved with, then they need to use the internet as a tool of investigation. Gone are the days where you just showed up and read your prepared piece like a shot in the dark. Sometimes you'll find the perfect fit, but other times you are playing Russian roulette. Directors and Producers need to be very specific and careful about who they invite to participate. Actors need to be careful about on who's door they knock.

Something that might help folks auditioning who don't know your company is printing out not only sides of the script for them to read, but also hard copy of some pages from your site. Especially pages with content/images/ideas similar to the one's we are talking about here. During auditions, if there are folks that are new to the director/producer, that he/she/or they are certainly inviting to a callback, be able to give them a business card or a flyer with your blog/website data on it. And strenuously encourage them to check it out to learn more about the company and it's approach to the work, etc. You should do this anyway, even if you aren't hoping to take pictures/documentation during the rehearsal process or blogging commentary/content on you or your company's work.

So, now if both the actors and the production team have exercised diligence, both can feel confident that all have at the very least an initial understanding of how the company and its participants use the internet.

Next...You, the director/producer, are having your callback auditions, the actor has read for you and meets all the needs for the part. You are about to wrap up the callback. Hopefully you are looking at a list of potential conflicts datewise, etc. and going over them to make sure the actor is available if you do decide to offer the part. Now is a good time to ask them if they have seen the website. I suggest now versus before they read for you because

a) You should really be focused on the actor right while they are reading, not whether or not they like your blog
b) You should allow the actor to concern themselves solely with the performance they are about to create.

So, if you director/producer are going to address it, I suggest that you wait until after the actor has done whatever heavy lifting you need them to do for the callback. When you do address it, expect everyone to say yes. Ask them what they thought of it. Read their body language. See if they volunteer anything specific, but don't pressure them to. If the actor did find actual affinities or resonance between their approach and your content, they should let you know. If they actually have a response that is lets say less then positive, that is valuable too.

Again, we aren't talking about casting or not casting someone solely based on their acceptance/reception to a company/individual's blog content. But, if this is something relevant to you, then using the above approaches will certain enable you to learn as much as possible about the folks you may be working with in the very near future.

At the Rehearsal

The show is cast. You are enthusiastic about the folks who are joining the production. When you send that email or make that phone call to reaffirm the time and place of the first read-thru/rehearsal mention whether or not you hope to take pictures of the event. Do not surprise anyone with the camera. Whereas, I maintain that actors spend all lot of time, energy, money, and heart trying to get in front of cameras, it is evident from our discussions earlier that it is very important to them to also have some say about how they appear in front of those cameras. So, if they don't mind be photographed, but don't want to shot while wearing their sweatpants and should let them know when the camera will be there.

At some point before you get into the thick of things, you need to ask for permission to shoot the pictures. How you do this, whether in writing or over the phone, whether one on one or when talking to the general ensemble...everyone is going to want to do it their own certain way. I think the important thing is that you make sure to communicate that you are

a) asking for permission
b) That the actor can rescind permission and that they don't have to do it publicly. If they don't want to photographed let them know they can certainly email you, call you, or just pull you aside. That way people should feel less pressured to go with the flow. You don't need to create a situation where a few timid folks feel forced to go along.

As rehearsals progress, always consider letting the actors have a turn taking pictures - It seems that every shot anyone every gets of me always shows off my "best" angle i.e. it highlights my male pattern baldness (and not in a good sort of brucewillis diehard 1, diehard 2 die harder sort of way). Letting someone else have control of the camera for a while and turning it on you will help you to understand how it can feels when/if you do it during rehearsal. This of course will give you first hand experience that is invaluable about how and when to take pictures without putting others on edge. Honestly gaging your own response will help be more observant of how a camera affects others.

Don't let those who don't want to participate get negative impact or blow back. If one of the actors lets you know either privately or openly that they don't want images of themselves on the blog, do not continually bring it up during the rehearsal process. I also would suggest telling them that even if you have the camera at rehearsal they need not worry about a photo of them getting on the net. If that is not enough, just put the camera down while they are on the boards, you know... However, if you aren't going to photograph them or mention their preference in a negative light, then reciprocity is due...i.e. the actors should not be going on to the other actors about how it is wrong to let the director/producer take pictures...further i.e. attempting to convert as many others as possible to their POV in the hopes of making the director take the camera out of the rehearsal space altogether.

After the Rehearsal

Always listen to the actor's feedback about the blog and understand that just because you put a photo up, that doesn't mean it has to stay up. If an actor is worried about a photo that you put on the blog. Then take it down, or crop it so that they aren't in the shot. Again, don't put your actors preferences on display. Just do it and move on...No need to captionize that a photo was removed or state why for the blogoverse (I'm tired of typing blog-o-sphere).

Be sure to let actors who let you photograph know how appreciative you are, but don't go on about it in front of unwilling participants. A simple email or even pulling them aside during a smoke break should let them know you really are thankful for their generosity.


(Devilvet sighs...exhausted) I'll tell ya, I feel damn glad that we have a solidly knit group of folks at least in my Chicago theater circle where, I don't have to sweat taking pictures too much. I, of course, would adhere to just about everything above, but I dont have to worry so much about proving that to anyone in my immediate local sphere. I feel like the folks I work with know that.

Ultimately, even as I attempt this exhaustive outline on how to enable photography during rehearsal without impinging upon an actor, I do agree with the voices out there like Slay in Mac's comments that think whether or not to take photos is much ado about very little so long as an ensemble are communicating with each other as well as respectful of each other.

Something that did concern me was the amount of folks that posited any sort of dramaturgical or process contribution on the blogs would be primarily born out of a director/producer's narcissism. I was also taken aback by what seemed to me to be a timidity or even fear about how directors/producers could jeopardize, victimize, or otherwise betray actors. I have never met a director of any sort of quality who would knowingly do such a thing. But perhaps in today's media world where paparazzi run around attempting to get unflattering shots of people to whom image is identity, for many the camera is almost a weapon. The idea that a zone can't be truly safe so long as a camera is my mind that indicates a loss on our part. The journey we take in art is worthy of being documented and recorded. I know some folks need to worry about product, but our process is valuable, and for many of us... it's isn't as fragile as some have alluded. That isn't a judgement, it is however my observation.


Mac said...

My feeling, DV, is that if this can work, there need to be a few productions that prove it first. There would need to be a few inaugural productions to get people more widely used to the idea.

Thank you for all this detail.

Devilvet said...

Well, it still wont be for everybody, but one artist one show one ensemble at a time till we have a nice strata of folks who are willing excited and see it more as an opportunity rather than navel gazing or an artistic obstacle. I think Colorful World content on James' blog and Philucifer's are approaching something similar to the spirit of this desire of mine. It is still promotion but it is interesting visually or narratively at least to me.

All I can do is keeping asking...and practice what I preach.