A Play There Is - The Reflections of A Student-Director

I adore Shakespeare. It's no secret to anyone - I'm the go-to person to explain what a quote means in modern English; I can talk about his plays for hours; I can even recite large chunks of his works off by heart. So when I got the opportunity to assistant direct for my school's production of The Tempest, I jumped at the chance.

My first job was to help figure out the play's theming. So, I turned to what I knew. Two plays I had watched recently were the RSC’s 2022 Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well. Richard III was performed in period clothing, while All’s Well was performed in a more modern context. I decided to combine the two - a modern party yacht meets an island lost to time. My advice when deciding on setting is to think of what you have seen that is already effective and to mindmap how the aspects of it could fit into the world of the play. For example, I took the brightly costumed, high society court of All's Well and they became a high society court on a yacht, festooned in brightly coloured party gear.

A harder part of the process was casting. It was quite hard for me to narrow quite a few roles down to just one person. Due to the size of our cast, my Teacher-Director and I decided that creatures like Caliban and Ariel would be played by five actors, which both allowed more actors to have a big role and allowed me to not have to narrow down our immensely talented cast to one person. For other roles, I found it very useful when we had a workshop to come up with short variations of the opening scene. Getting to see what the cast's natural acting style was greatly helped to decide which character each person fitted, and I would heavily recommend it as a technique for anyone who wants to direct with the Festival but struggles with casting.

One of the biggest challenges for us was time - we had quite a few rehearsal slots that people couldn't attend and ones that were cancelled due to meetings and school trips. This ended up meaning we started off strong, as we had rehearsed the first few scenes the most, and finished off a bit more shakily. If I were to get an opportunity like this again, I think I would help spread out the scenes so that each one got an equitable share of rehearsal time.

I think my job was much more than I had first expected. I didn't realise how much responsibility directors have and how much they have to think about. The first few times my Teacher-Director let me fully direct a piece, I was a bit wobbly and uncertain. However, with practice I found myself becoming a bit more confident and better at making quick and effective choices. Sometimes I also found it hard to capture the attention of the whole cast, but I worked on that too and found that if I projected using my diaphragm and used visual signals like raising my hand I was better able to get the focus I needed to direct.

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