Looking back, I find it hard to believe that only three weeks ago I was sitting in my living room practicing in front of my dog how to introduce myself before leaving my house for the first day of professional week in NYC.
So much has happened since then. Professional week was incredible. I think that in this profession, it takes quite some time before you become comfortable defining yourself as a professional theater maker. Even though I have been directing for more than ten years, I always have this feeling that I am at the beginning of my journey and only when I figure out how exactly theater works I will earn the privilege to call myself a director. And there I was, among my talented fellows, actually treated like one by people in the top of my field. It was so inspiring hearing about everyone’s personal journey and seeing that even people that are deep into their career are still figuring it out. We talked about plays, traded war stories but most importantly talked about the role of theater in the world today. Something that kept coming up in a lot of these conversations was the idea of community. We talked about theaters’ role in forming real relationships with the communities around them and creating work that engages in a dialogue with them. These conversations really got me excited for the next part of my fellowship— Assisting directing at Shakespeare & Company and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, two theaters that do just that.
A week after professional week, I was already on my way to Shakespeare & Company where I am assisting director Tina Packer on The Merchant of Venice and have just finished the first week of rehearsals.
I wonder if other directors/actors/designers will back me up on this, but I find that one of the side effects of working on a play is that the themes of the play suddenly become pronounced in your life. It seems like coincidentally everything that is happening in your life while working on the play is somehow connected to these themes. Reading The Merchant of Venice, I anticipated that my experiences of being Jewish and a being a woman will be something that I will be dealing with while working on this play. While that is true, I was surprised that the theme that kept on popping up for me this past week, was the idea of what defines you. The characters in the play are dealing with how society defines them and try to define themselves through reacting to people’s expectations of them. Being away, and around people that do not know me, I find myself asking myself similar questions — what do people assume about you and why is your identity defined solely by your reaction to people’s expectations of you? That is one of the things that I find most exciting about directing — focusing all your attention outward towards the text, actors, design, etc. and in the process learning about yourself.