September 9, 2010

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View from the director’s chair
Local pros reflect on the job
Adam Coughlin acoughlin@hippopress.com.

There are many parallels between theater and sports. The actors, like athletes, train together for months, creating close bonds, before an important performance in front of a crowd. And the director is like a coach who works with the actors but once the show starts has to sit back and watch. The only difference is that once the curtain rises, a director doesn’t get to call time out.

Judy Hayward, a musical director in Nashua, said that before a show opens, the atmosphere behind the curtain is very similar to that in the locker room before a football game.

“The director usually gives a pep talk and tells the actors to go out and give it their best,” Hayward said.

Hayward said she doesn’t get nervous but is anxious to see the audience’s reaction to the show because so much is resting on the director’s shoulders. She said the week before a show can be stressful. This summer, all three leads in Into the Woods developed laryngitis and Hayward wasn’t sure if they’d be able to perform. Luckily, after much Vitamin C, everything worked out fine. But such headaches are part of the director’s job. It is a job most believe ends once the show starts.

“Sometimes you spend years with a script or an idea and then you hand it off to the cast,” said William C. McGregor, who is directing A Streetcar Named Desire. “But you have to have enough confidence. The last rehearsal is a director’s last day on the job.”

“Once the show opens it belongs to the actors and stage managers,” said Lowell Williams, who recently wrote and directed Six Nights in the Black Belt.

If on opening night, a director’s job is done, what are they thinking when they watch all of their hard work performed live in front of a crowd?

McGregor said on opening night he likes to arrive at the theater early and sit in the house. He described it as his most cathartic moment. But once the show starts he has a hard time enjoying it. McGregor said everyone puts their trust in the director, who can only hope the play is well received. Williams said he sits in the back, often at different angles, to see the audience reaction. As the writer of Six Nights in the Black Belt, he enjoyed watching the performance and actually surprised himself by thinking, ‘hmm, that’s pretty well written.’

Matthew Cahoon, who is directing Hedda Gabler, said the most important thing for a director is audience’s reaction. He said the relationship between the actors and audience is like an electrical circuit and it can’t be complete without the two parts.

That is why Cahoon, who leads theatre KAPOW, hosts audience talk-backs after many performances.

“I like being part of that process,” Cahoon said. He said it helps both the actors and him to improve performances for the current show and future shows. But Cahoon said he never goes back stage and makes suggestions during an intermission.

“The actors are so focused that it would be intrusive at that point,” Cahoon said. “It is as much their break as it is the audience’s. But we’re discussing the show constantly.”

This restraint by directors doesn’t mean everything goes perfectly. McGregor said at one show an actor decided to dump a glass of water on his head, even though the play was about a drought.

“I’ve seen my share of snafus but every time I go through this I learn this is an art form,” McGregor said. “It is never going to be exactly perfect. There are too many variables. Early on, I had a hard time accepting that. But if you prepare well enough, you’ll be ready when something goes awry.”

Despite all the invariables and nerves, when it is all said and done many directors feel “show remorse.”

“Theater is a collaboration and we miss getting together,” Williams said. “But most of us aren’t professionals and so there is a mix of relief so we can get back to our regular life.”

Cahoon said, sometimes, even before a show ends, he is already planning and thinking about the next one.


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8/26/2010 Popular Shakespeare
8/19/2010 Keene activist remembered
8/12/2010 Alice sings
8/5/2010 Curtain calls
7/29/2010 Comedy, no errors
7/22/2010 Waking up the theater
7/15/2010 Curtain calls
7/8/2010 Free musicals in the park
7/1/2010 Acting careers lofted
6/24/2010 Andy's 40th summer
6/17/2010 Theater as sport
6/10/2010 Free Shakespeare
6/3/2010 Seacoast soap opera
5/27/2010 Curtain calls
5/20/2010 Curtain calls
5/13/2010 From screen to stage
5/6/2010 Drama and dessert
4/29/2010 They want to be big
4/22/2010 Curtain calls
4/15/2010 Grils! Girls! Girls!
4/8/2010 Curtain calls
4/1/2010 Curtain calls
3/25/2010 Part of the action
3/18/2010 Goings on
3/11/2010 Curtain Calls
3/4/2010 Curtain Calls
2/25/2010 Measuring success
2/18/2010 Curtain calls
2/11/2010 Growing up
2/4/2010 Curtain calls
1/28/2010 Curtain calls
1/21/2010 Winnipesaukee Playhouse rolling forward
1/14/2010 Curtain calls
1/7/2010 At the Palace, a comedy
12/31/2009 Musicals, edgy dramas and the Gay Bride of Frankenstein
12/24/2009 Stilts and dalmations
12/17/2009 Curtain calls
12/10/2009 YTP at the Hunt
12/3/2009 Drama and a bunny
11/26/2009 Golda on stage
11/19/2009 One last time
11/12/2009 Chicago and Psycho Beach Party
11/5/2009 Coming up
10/29/2009 Curtain calls
10/22/2009 Stephen Schwartz comes to Stockbridge
10/15/2009 Curtain calls
10/8/2009 Return to Laramie
10/01/2009 Page to stage returns
9/24/2009 Curtain calls
9/17/2009 World War II and hair salon
9/10/2009 Curtain calls
9/3/2009 Curtain calls
8/27/2009 Curtain calls
8/20/2009 Letter from backstage
8/13/2009 Curtain calls
8/6/2009 Curtain calls
7/30/2009 Finding direction
7/23/2009 Theater on the grass
7/16/2009 Germany, France and England
7/9/2009 The Bard and Disney!
7/02/2009 Robots!
6/25/2009 Curtain calls
6/18/2009 Altered souls
6/11/2009 Curtain calls
6/4/2009 Curtain calls
5/28/2009 This one time at theater camp ...
5/21/2009 Curtain calls
5/14/2009 Curtain calls
5/7/2009 Review:Actorsingers produces The Producers
4/30/2009 Journey to and through Motherhood
4/23/2009 Concord does the Full Monty
4/16/2009 Courtroom drama
4/9/2009 Scotland- bound
4/2/2009 Curtain calls
3/26/2009 The original sitcom
3/19/2009 Palace to produce The Producers
3/12/2009 British farce and new romantic comedy
3/5/2009 Curtain calls
2/26/2009 Serious stories
2/19/2009 Curtain calls
2/12/2009 On Golden Pond writer honored
2/5/2009 Divorce and death
1/29/2009 Red carpet?
1/22/2009 Curtain calls
1/15/2009 Money, powqer and family
1/8/2009 Offer your two cents
1/1/2009 Tapping into the spotlight
12/25/2008 Curtain calls
12/18/2008 BIg things that come in envelopes
12/11/2008 Curtiain calls
12/04/2008 Remains of an affair
11/27/2008 Ballet — not for the faint of heart
11/20/2008 Mary's new home
11/13/2008 Company, Secret garden and Doubt
11/6/2008 That Broadway sound
10/30/2008 Curtain calls
10/23/2008 Busy theaters
10/16/2008 All in one weekend
10/9/2008 Merrimack Rep at 20
10/2/2008 Curtain calls
9/25/2008 Curtain calls
9/18/2008 Stage sports
9/11/2008 Second Life to the rescue
9/4/2008 Curtain calls
8/28/2008 Tennessee Williams at Weirs
8/21/2008 Change for the moment
8/14/2008 Curtain calls
8/7/2008 Wicked experience
7/31/2008 Merry tales
7/24/2008 Review: the great outdoors
7/17/2008 Curtain calls
7/10/2008 Musical monsters
7/3/2008 Curtain calls
6/26/2008 Curtain calls
6/19/2008 Summer stock
6/12/2008 Curtain calls
6/5/2008 This one time, at drama camp...
5/29/2008 Curtain calls
5/22/2008 Making it big
5/15/2008 Curtain calls
5/8/2008 Curtain calls
5/1/2008 Forging ahead
4/24/2008 The Bard, condensed
4/17/2008 'Balance' in Bedford
4/10/2008 Curtain calls
4/3/2008 Singing for a cause
3/27/2008 These aren't recitals folks
3/20/2008 Albee at MRT
3/13/2008 Murder and rhinos
3/6/2008 Murder and rhinos
2/28/2008 The art of theater criticism
2/21/2008 Breaking the cycle
2/14/2008 Curtain Calls
2/7/2008 NH Theatre awards sixth year
1/31/2008 Elvis fans and ghost stories
1/24/2008 Building an audience
1/17/2008 Curtain Calls
1/10/2008 Fate of Annicchiarico
1/3/2008 A little confidence
12/27/2007 Stage notables in 2007
12/20/2007 If all they want for Christmas is two good seats ...
12/13/2007 Summer stock vs. southern NH
12/06/2007 Curtain Calls
11/29/2007 Curtain Calls
11/22/2007 Broadway composer and actress hit Granite State
11/15/2007 One-man play turns audience into students
11/8/2007 Curtain calls
11/1/2007 First times
10/25/2007 Curtain Calls
10/18/2007 Curtain Calls
10/11/2007 American History
10/04/2007 Active in the community
9/27/2007 Stringing single
9/20/2007 Curtain Calls
9/13/2007 Free range
9/6/2007 Curtain Calls
8/30/2007 Curtain Calls
8/23/2007 Curtain Calls
8/16/2007 Curtain Calls
8/9/2007 Curtain Calls
8/2/2007 That deaf, dumb and blind kid
7/26/2007 Potty humor
7/19/2007 Ease on down the road
7/12/2007 Jekyll vs. Hyde
7/5/2007 If it's free, it's for me
6/28/2007 Transformations
6/21/2007 Curtain calls
6/14/2007 No really, you'll get it
6/7/2007 Curtain calls
5/31/2007 Curtain calls
5/24/2007 Putting the camp in camp
5/17/2007 Curtain Calls
5/10/2007 Curtain Calls
5/3/2007 Curtain Calls
4/26/2007 Still going strong
4/19/2007 Vietnam the the Palace
4/12/2007 Confluence
4/5/2007 First look
3/29/2007 Reluctant star
3/15/2007 In a town far away
3/8/2007 Curtain calls
3/1/2007 Into the future
2/22/2007 But will it play in New Hampshire
2/15/2007 Curtain calls
2/8/2007 Family affair
2/1/2007 Curtain calls
1/25/2007 Curtain calls
1/18/2007 Curtain calls
1/11/2007 Curtain calls
1/4/2007 Fork in the road
12/28/2006 Standout performances of '06
12/21/2006 Curtain Calls
12/14/2006 Players remember Peter Bridges
12/07/2006 Young talent
11/30/2006 Lighthearted farce for the holidays
11/23/2006 Curtain Calls
11/16/2006 Good theater
11/9/2006 Preview roundup
11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
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10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother