Theatre Directing or Sky Diving

September 15, 2014 / by Elena Heyman, Fall Directing Fellow


There’s the moment when everyone’s ready to begin. One last inhale before you take action. In your head a voice whispers, “Oh god. This seems like a bad idea. I’m not quite ready. We should probably just call off today and maybe try again tomorrow.” But then you jump (or speak) and everything is set into motion. 

This was my thought process at the beginning of the DL Stump Sprouts Retreat. During the four hour drive from NYC to The-Middle-of-Nowhere, MA, I attempted final preparation. But, I'm never really ready. Or at least, I'm never comfortable.

That first moment of getting to work felt like jumping out of a plane. Roger announced it was time to stage the monologues, and suddenly I was walking down a path in the midst of a field, thinking, “Where could I possibly put this monologue? Is that a big rock? Yes. That will be the perfect big rock!” From there, I directed an incredible company of actors on a scene from ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and worked on other texts. I discovered places around the lodge to set the work; I quickly developed relationships with the actors; I uncovered something worth expressing in my scene (thank god!); and I did it all without time to go away, wait and reflect. 

Though it absolutely terrifies me, I LOVE this way of working. It demands bravery, truthfulness, and an incredible trust in oneself. It’s a process of courting the present moment. In these situations, I am reduced to a sequence of gut impulses; saying YES and seeing what happens; pushing for something I believe in because I won’t have time to go back and deal with it later; and vigorously collaborating with the actors.  

And from this time-crunched, largely intuitive process, I witnessed the sprit of the work come alive, both in my own work and that of my fellow DL Fall Program directors. 

I love theatre when it feels ALIVE. So often by the time a show opens, it’s like a museum of moments that were, at one point, breathing. From this experience, I'm curious about my realtionship between time and creating living work. 

I find myself wondering, “How could I go further to set up and then trust the creative flow of a moment?”  Time is often a challenge in a rehearsal process. We always want more of it. How can the condensed nature of a process somehow feed our artistry and fuel our work? I’m not quite sure, but I am grappling with these questions. I feel like it has something to do with the creative chemistry of the ensemble and how the director both ignites and frames the process.

I left the retreat feeling creatively sharpened, inspired by my colleagues, and much like a thrill seeker, inspired to jump from an even higher height next time.