This was a crazy busy summer and one of the very cool projects I got to work on was at Fullerton College's Director's Festival with Candice Clasby.
As a summer class, this festival was, as Candice called it, "radically student-centric". Which I loved, the short plays were all written by students (some writing for the 1st time) directed, performed, designed and managed by all students. Faculty was around to serve as guidance and support.
I was 1 of 3 judges who attended 5 nights of original theater with the final and 6th night a "Best of Fest" based on our "scoring". After each performance, the 3 or so directors that had pieces performed that evening meet with the adjudicators to give some feedback.
This was, I imagine, a rough process for the students. Just coming out of their one and only performance after having etched all day, I know I would be incredibly raw. These students were mostly open to suggestions and observations.
The one aspect I had a hard time with was that some of the feedback was very "Well, if I had directed it...." in nature which I think makes it difficult for someone to apply in their next attempt. It made me realize that I was fortunate in my own directing education at UNCG and the lengths that Preston Lane went to find out our intentions or objectives in telling the story. It's not really helpful to hear a ton of really great ideas and problem solving solutions if you have not been in the process and know what sort of obstacles the production faced.
I tried to ask the directors "What were you trying to say with this story?" or "What were some of your challenges?". One student was so grateful for the opportunity to talk about it all the concepts they had hoped to achieve but hadn't been able to. A great question from one of the students was regarding dealing with a production team member and having artistic differences. I was really surprised to hear both of the other adjudicators say to assert your authority and I was slightly horrified. I may have overstepped when I launched in to diatribe about collaborative art and the importance finding diplomatic ways to work with your team. (Looking back, maybe this was a little too soap box-y? Ugh, probably).
To be honest, I said one of the best go-tos in a conflict during collaboration is to ask the other person to articulate their artist choice. Sometimes that gives your collaborators a chance to explain why their thinking differs from yours and you can have the conversation from there. "I now understand what you're saying, and I hear that. But that's not quite reading to me, is there a way we can try to execute that more effectively?"
It's actually really hard to talk about directing. It's actually very difficult to talk about art at all - especially the process. It takes practice, it means doing it regularly and it requires the permission to mess up or stick your foot in your mouth. I do hope the feedback after their productions was somewhat helpful if not totally awkward and not too demoralizing. The work i witnessed was really innovative, bold, wacky and done with a lot of heart.
This opportunity was a great reminder and was an awesome chance to see a fully produced show and discuss it with the students.