Last week, I took one of Shakespeare & Company’s Professional Development workshops – a week-long study focused on teaching Hamlet in classrooms. Most of the participants were secondary school teachers, and during a session on Directing High School Productions, Kevin Coleman introduced a directing model that I’ve been noodling on ever since.
According to Kevin, there are four types of directors. Here’s the setup: Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Mohammed walk into a bar—er, garden. In the garden, there is a beautiful songbird who’s not singing. Jesus says, “I will teach the bird how to sing!” Buddha says, “I’ll wait.” Krishna just starts singing, expecting that the bird will chime in. Mohammed says to the bird, “I insist you sing!”
Good directors are a mix of all four types. The problem, according to Kevin, is when a director steers too hard in one direction. For example, the Jesus directors tend to spend more time in rehearsal explaining their ideas then they do running the scene – as a result, the play is under-rehearsed, and the production becomes about the showcasing director’s ideas, glossing over the acting and the text. The actors are concerned about “getting it right.” A Buddha-directed production looks sloppy and the tension in scenes is low. In Krishna’s show, the cast is full of high-energy showoffs – there’s a generalized wildness, and the actors aren’t working together. Mohammed’s actors look obedient and rigid, and there’s less play in the work.
In Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival model, each high school’s production is led by two co-directors. While obviously this puts more hands on deck, it also provides the company with the opportunity to model collaboration for its students. When the young actors see older, professional directors working side-by-side, supporting each other, they naturally want to follow suit.
I’d never co-directed before, and I was quite nervous about it! I identify as both an oldest and only child (due to the fact that my brother and I are 10 years apart) who doesn’t often like to share. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to test out this model on my home turf – I’m currently in rehearsal for a production of As You Like It at CCPA@Roosevelt University. My co-director, Kevin Kingston, has totally sold me on working this way.
In addition to his brilliant textual insight, Kevin is both extremely patient and generous, and primarily models the Jesus methodology; I oscillate between Krishna and Buddha (which my mother finds fitting); we both hit Mohammed in tech. As opposed to the good cop/bad cop model (which is a bit too black and white for me), this way of working ensures that our actors are receiving a well-rounded, supportive experience. Recognizing the other’s strengths and weaknesses enables us to do what great scene partners do – make their collaborators look good.
Pictured above: Kevin Kingston showing some support to his co-director during As You Like It rehearsals.