A guest series by Bonnie Baldini, Production Dramaturg
This Week: A discussion with David Girard
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens tonight! Among the excitement, it is only fitting to receive the insight of director David Girard. The insight into the production process he shared with me did not come from one sit down meeting. Rather, it is an accumulation of discoveries through conversations we have had since the beginning of the process to create such a rewarding piece.
David spoke with me about his issue with the term director, asserting it is not an active enough term to describe the necessary mindset he feels is essential in the creation of a successful piece. He discovered a better term for what he does, half as a joke with a friend, remarking that he was a “facilitator of drama.” But upon further contemplation, he found it to be true. The term director often evokes an image of a stern face and a pointed finger, telling this actor to stand there. It lacks imagination.
Once you let go of that term, you realize that you are not the most important person on the room, and you are able to understand that, as David put it, “theatre is about creating an ensemble with all members.” It is about coming together and solidifying a vision. This process does not only include the director and the actor for David, but extends to all of those involved in the production, including designers and other staff and crew members.
David attempted to ensure that “everyone has a voice in the room.” This is what is most important. He shared that this collaborative style can make it difficult for a director to “call the shots and get everyone on same page with your vision.” Collaboration is enforced by choosing artists who could lend themselves to it and according to David, it is “easier when actors have been educators.” He cited Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which has an ensemble with a blend of experiences. Actors in the piece are professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students.
David offered that the need for diverse experience within a cast in crucial, particularly in an academic setting, because the actors are always learning from each other, and thus collectively raising the level of professionalism and investment. Having professional actors in a cast with younger actors guides everyone to rise to the level of their peers daily. According to David, simple things like actor Charlie DelMarcelle’s arriving early to the Adrienne Theater to warm-up shows the actors that it is okay to get comfortable on the stage before pre-show calls. Such a simple act unlocks a boundary younger actors may not notice by themselves. In the long run, an actor’s basic stretching onstage fostered cast unity and overall comfort in the space.
The concept of the director as a facilitator revolutionizes the rehearsal process. It does not take away power from the director, but rather shares the responsibility with the rest of the cast, and thus raises the integrity of the ensemble.
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens this evening at the MainStage @ the Adrienne Theater and runs through September 27th.