When was the last time you did something completely new and out of your element? How was it? Will you do it again?
I’m about to do something completely new and out of my element – I’m going to be a DIRECTOR next season. I’m going to work from the other side of the table for the first time ever. It’s terrifying and exhilarating.
I’m not exactly sure how/why this is happening, but it’s kind of awesome.
I guess it started last year, when I began to feel as though my career was regressing instead of progressing. I asked Del, the Artistic Director at Persephone, for some advice because I was totally stuck and out of ideas. He asked me at that time if I had interest in any other areas of theatre, like playwrighting or directing. I really didn’t. I’ve only ever desired to act. Still, he suggested, it wouldn’t hurt to be part of the process from a different point of view. Perhaps I should ask to assistant direct on a show.
Then in March of this year, I signed up for a professional development class about how a director prepares taught by my friend Johnna. I still had no interest in directing, but I thought it would be helpful to learn how to prepare from a different perspective, and perhaps add something to my actor preparation tool kit. Plus, Johnna is super smart and always totally prepared, so I figured I could learn a thing or two from her. I went into the workshop with absolutely no pressure on myself because I knew I didn’t actually want to be a director. Without the pressure, I ended up having a lot of fun and quite enjoying the director’s preparation.
That made me decide to (finally) ask to be an assistant director on a show at Persephone this upcoming season. I knew exactly what I wanted: to be part of the casting process, including auditions; to work on a mainstage show; to work on a show with a mid-sized cast; and to work on script that was tried and tested. The first show of the year fit the bill perfectly: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang. I bugged Dan, the Artistic Associate, until he finally said yes, I could be the assistant director. Bing! It was like a lightbulb went off – I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to wait around for someone to phone me; I could ASK for work. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this before. That was certainly new and out of my element, and yes, I will do it again. It was incredibly empowering.
So I had my assistant directing show all lined up. I was pretty happy with that. But then last week, Artistic Associate Dan asked me to go for coffee and a chat. I had no clue what he wanted; perhaps he needed a pole dancer for a show? That was the best my brain could come up with.
No, he didn’t need a pole dancer, but he asked if I’d be interested in directing one of the Youth Tour shows? Bwuh? Yes, I’d be interested. Do I have the necessary skill and experience to do it? Ummmm, no. But he knows that, and part of the deal (re: contract) is that he will mentor me every step of the way. Also, we have lots of time to prepare, which relieves some of the pressure.
The play is Under Cover by Mark Haroun. It’s about a young Muslim girl who makes the decision to wear hijab after spending the summer with her family in Lebanon. It’s about connection, faith, feminism – all topics that I love to explore (re: rant on from time to time).
New and out of my element? Yes. How was/is it? Exciting and challenging. Will I do it again? Remains to be seen . . .