It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since my first AD’ing assignment on IPHIGENIA IN AULIS ended. This production had some of everything: music, dance, and a challenging text, and I feel so lucky to have been in the room with a group of artists who were not afraid to jump in head first, take risks and make big choices.
There were many reasons why I was excited to assist the director, Rachel Chavkin. I’ve long admired her work on new musicals and I was excited to observe first-hand her collaboration with the composers and choreographer on this piece. Having directed my first musical this summer – including working for the first time with a composer and choreographer- I had was curious to see how a seasoned professional worked to tie in these elements of a production.
The other thing I was excited to learn from Rachel was how to do all of this- quickly. One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that I tend to work slowly, and unfortunately most shows in New York have short rehearsals periods due budgetary constraints. IPHIGENIA was especially short- we didn’t even have a full three weeks of rehearsal before starting previews, and then only had one more week before opening. This is short for any process, but especially one that involves music and dance.
In speaking with Rachel about this, she said often when directors work slowly it’s because they’re hesitant to make choices too quickly, when in fact, until you make a choice, you can’t really start to play. This reminded me of something someone had said in a screenwriting class I took once: until you have something on the page (even if you think it’s bad) you can’t begin to edit and re-work. In other words, it’s best to dive in with something and see what springs from it- if it doesn’t work, you can always change it. I think I have always been worried that by making a choice too soon I’m turning my back on all the other possibilities that exist without weighing each one thoroughly. But this was a reminder to not overthink it, and instead trust my gut instinct and see if it works. If it doesn’t, it’ll be evident fairly quickly and you can try something different. This approach was apparent in Rachel’s own rehearsal process, and has already made a big difference for me as I begin pre-production for a few upcoming projects, including DirectorFest.
I’m getting ready to leave next week for my second AD’ing assignment at Playmakers Rep and I'm curious to see another director's approach to what is also a big ensemble show with a very short rehearsal process. More from North Carolina soon!