Directorial Debut: Part II Blocking

Dee Dee O'Connor

  • Washington State Columnist

As soon as I got the set design plans from my Set Designer back in mid-October, I began mak-ing blocking notes. Moving people from one part of the stage to the other and finding the motiva-tion behind the moves was challenging and fun. I approached it carefully and thoughtfully. My auditions had gone well and I ended up with a very talented cast. Since I had worked with other directors who made blocking look easy, by the time our first rehearsal rolled around I felt fully prepared and eager to start. With the first scene, I quickly understood that blocking was not near-ly as easy as it looked and what you have in your mind, doesn’t always translate to the stage.

It didn’t help that our first blocking rehearsal was downstairs in the reception room. The current show still had two nights to run and I didn’t want to disrupt their set. Not being on our stage messed with my head to the point that stage right and stage left were a jumbled mess and my vision for the blocking faded in and out. By the end of the rehearsal, I was hot, sweaty, and ex-hausted.

Fortunately, the second night of blocking rehearsal was on our stage. My Set Designer taped the outline of the set and everything clicked into place. My confidence fully restored, we rolled through the blocking with only a few changes to my initial plan. But it wasn’t without issues. One of my actresses dropped out due to an illness in the family and I didn’t have a replacement for rehearsal. (Better two days after casting than two days before the show opened!) Thankfully, it wasn’t one of the key roles so picking up the blocking would be relatively easy for whomever I recast and I already had a line on a replacement. At least I wasn’t a sweaty mess that night.

As if losing an actress wasn’t stressful enough, the following day we got hit with three inches of snow and a bitter cold snap. It doesn’t take much snow up here in the Pacific Northwest to make traveling dicey, particularly outside the city, where half of my cast resides. So with most of the city shut down, I erred on the side of caution and cancelled rehearsal. With one actress gone and a day behind, I’d be lying if I didn't say I felt some stress. But mostly undaunted, I was ready for the last couple of nights of blocking rehearsal.

Blocking got easier each night just as the picture itself became clearer. I have to give credit to my very supportive cast and the experienced crew who have put their trust in a new director. It’s still very challenging but that’s all part of the fun.

Photo: Win Goodbody