This week on Behind the Curtain, we talk to Atlanta theatre director Amanda Farnsworth about how she keeps theatre directing fun show after show. She discusses how to beat the ‘dog days’ leading up to tech week, where the jokes cease to be funny and everyone is starting to feel tired and burned out. Amanda has a great perspective about how to keep the energy, life and joy in a production, starting with the director and making its way down through the cast and crew.
Video Length: 3:21 (3 minutes, 21 seconds)
QUESTION: “How Do You Keep Theatre Directing Fun?”
AMANDA: “Theatre directing, for me, it’s the people that make it fun. It’s interacting with people. Ultimately, interacting with your cast, your crew, people behind the scenes, people on the stage, and ultimately your audience as well. People are to me what make it fun.
Sometimes within the process of producing a show, directing a show you get into the dog days, you get close to tech week. And nobody’s laughing at the jokes anymore, your lead (actor) is really sick and tired of the co-lead, you’re going through some stuff. And then, you put up a backdrop for the first time or the band plays for the first time, and it brings the life back to it. It brings the fun and the joy back to it. Or you cancel rehearsal one night and do a pizza party and watch The Princess Bride or watch the movie of the play you’re doing or watch a play you guys did last year or something like that. You laugh—humor is a huge part of it. Keeping things funny. I’ve discovered that I can suck all the fun out of theatre real fast when I start to get into my ‘intense director mode.’ I’m like, ‘If you do not cross stage left right now, this show is ruined!’ So, I have to stay light (laughs). I have to keep myself laughing about things, having a sense of humor about stuff goes a long way. Just humility in general. To be able to say ‘I might be wrong, that might be a really good choice, let’s try it. Eh, it didn’t work as well as we thought, now let’s do it my way.’ (laughs) Instead of being like ‘Ahhhh!’ That’s important.
Also, in my experience with theatre, if I tell the cast what I feel about the story, they can feel it about the story too. Then we’re in it together. If I’m really intense about technique and where you stand and what you do and how it works, eh, it’s just not as much fun for anybody. But if we remember the story we’re telling and we talk to each other about it, that keeps it alive for me. And then, when you get an audience in front of you, and then you give that gift to them, it’s a bigger risk. When you’ve got your heart invested, when you’ve got yourself invested. When you’re vulnerable on stage, when you’re vulnerable as a director, showing some things on stage, you give that gift to the audience and you’re just not sure if they’re going to get it—how they’re going to take it. But when they respond back to that, oh gosh, it’s always worth it. And then you have all this energy to start the next show (laughs). Instead of remembering the dog days or remembering how tough ‘that was there.’ Because it just takes some effort, no matter what. But to me, it’s so worth it to see the energy roll off the stage to the audience and that energy roll back to the stage. And to see the unity that happens in that room, the community that happens, the exchange of goodwill and light and joy and ideas and concepts. It creates a space out of time.”