That First Director
There are two kinds of people reading this. There are people who will understand what I'm saying and there are people who will probably just think I'm a little insane. Hello to which ever kind you are.
You know those words which you want to say, but can't. So, in your mind, you picture the only situation in which you'd ever be able to tell that person how you really feel and somehow imagining that brings the tiniest amount of satisfaction.
I think it's like that with your first director. Actors, actresses - cast your minds back to the first show you ever did. Can you remember the director? Can you remember the feeling of hanging on their every word because you know that this person will train you to be the best you you can be?
Picture the scene: Day 1 of rehearsals. You walk in, so ready for the singing, the dancing, the monologues, those tight cast bonds ain't nobody ever breaking. You worked your socks off at that audition and you've earned your place in this cast. You stroll, nay, STRIDE into the auditorium, mentally and physically prepared to put your heart and soul into this show. But somehow, the cast stereotype isn't all it's cracked up to be. The cast all seem very "cliquey" - everyone has their own little group and you're the new kid on the block. 'Anyway', you think. There's no time to worry about that! Cast friendships come later. 'Time to get my head in the game.' Then, you see... that person. It's them. The director.
Okay, don't freak out guys but this person is making the whole show! Oh my god. Your pre-performance nerves are kicking in because everything just got very real. This person knows this show and they will teach you EVERYTHING about how they want you to be. They chose you to be their character, in their show and you will do your hardest to impress them, to ensure you don't let them down.
*Actor's Game: Switched On*
I'll tell you about my first director, Hollie. Hollie was a twenty-year old, exciting young woman, with a great brain in her head and enthusiasm by the wagon-load. Some may argue that only twenty-years makes you inexperienced and this was actually her first shot at directing (as I later found out.) But, she had so many great ideas and from the second I met her, I felt the excitement radiating from her. Little, lonely me, with no friends, no one she knew, found her excitement in the director. From then on, if I ever felt nervous, right up until the moment when I first went onstage, I would look at Hollie and see her determination and feel confident again. Something about knowing she was new too reassured me. I would always talk to her in rehearsals, mainly because I didn't really have anyone else to talk to.
I discovered we had a great deal in common and began to admire her strong sense of self and independent character. I felt connected to at least one person and was able to open up and perform, regardless of the strangers around me.
Back to my introduction, when I spoke of picturing situations. The beautiful thing about your first director is that they'll probably never know they were. They may never know that they were the ones who gave you the initial spark and confidence that got you so much further.
The only way I imagine it is crediting them in a Tony Award acceptance speech, but there's some typical teenage actress dreams for you! The point I want to make is, can you remember who directed your first show? Or even, who inspired you to get serious about acting? Think of what may never have happened if you hadn't known them. I encourage you to get in touch with them and let them know. Who knows? They may even have a few tales to tell you...
Photo: Westhampton Beach High School, music teacher and theater director Linda Howard. The South Hampton Press