Routine (or lack thereof) and the Freelance Directing Lifestyle

October 6, 2014 / by Lavina Jadhwani, Classical Directing Fellow


Shakespeare & Company asks three questions to guide feedback after working a scene or participating in an activity: What surprised you? What delighted you? Where did you hit a little wall? These three questions get at the idea of “what new information did you receive” – with positive, negative, or neutral connotations – as opposed to asking “How was that?” which typically results in vague answers like “good,” “fine,” or “weird.” (“Crap question, crap answer,” as Kevin Coleman likes to say.)

What has surprised me is how much the living situation has impacted my ability to work alone. I’m fortunate to be living in a lovely house just off property with three quiet roommates and a lot of gorgeous scenery. I’ve found myself being incredibly productive, particularly when it comes to my writing – something I’ve struggled with over the last few years. Damon Kiely has helped me shed a lot of the clutter and cliché that was in my writing (sadly, a holdover from my former life as a grant writer). I now understand why people go on writers’ retreats. The lack of distractions between me and the work has made me buckle down. At first, it was just about doing the work because I was out of excuses. Now, after writing a lot and finding that it’s easier – there’s less pressure to create something brilliant when I’m creating more often, it’s less precious – I’m delighted to re-discover what I like about writing in the first place.

I’ve also been delighted by the students here. The youngest students I’ve taught have been in third grade and the oldest at the collegiate level; I’ve always found high school the hardest and most intimidating. I just find them the most honest! It’s incredibly rewarding when you know they’re with you… and it’s incredibly embarrassing when you’re fronting and they know it (and call you out on it). Josh McCabe and I are co-directing The Winter’s Tale at Mount Greylock Regional High School. We cast the show last Friday and started rehearsals the following Monday. We’ve both been surprised and delighted by the depth of understanding that our students brought to the first week of rehearsals! I’ve never worked on a romance. The first time I read this play was at a high school theatre program, and I know that I didn’t understand then as well as they do now! It’s been a real pleasure to gain insight from their close readings of the text and realize that I as the “teacher” am truly learning from them. It sounds cliché (sorry Damon), but I truly believe that the best way to fully understand a new idea is to teach it to someone else. I’m thankful to have that opportunity on a daily basis through the Fall Festival.
The wall I’ve hit is homesickness. Chicago has been my home base since 2006; I’ve had a few out of town projects that took me away for 5-6 weeks at a time, but nothing this long. This fall is also the start of my third year in the MFA Directing program at DePaul(this counts as my internship quarter), and I’m missing the back-to-school vibe back home. I was home for four weeks between assisting on Henry IV and returning toShakespeare & Company‚Äč for Fall Festival training, but it’s been several months since I could plant my feet in a place and call it “home.” What I love about working outside of Chicago is meeting new artists, learning about other companies’ aesthetics and philosophies, and getting to teach them about my own. Where I’m hitting a wall is balancing those new experiences with a sense of familiarity and belonging. I think it’s important for an artist to be able to do both.