There always inevitably comes the phase in the rehearsal period, sometime sooner, sometime later, when the first flush is gone. The phase of instant comprehension is no longer instant, the head now gets in the way of first instinct, as we all try to comprehend more deeply what is going on with these people, Ezra and Elizabeth. And what it is they want at any given moment. Or what they resist, or what their mood is on this particular visit, and why Ezra would like to talk to “Liz Bish” about a dream but not about his writing. And what happens to a writer when he cannot write? And why is lineage so damn important to poets? Hayley, for instance, really doesn’t like Rimbaud, but has a thing for Blaise Cendrars. Well, Elizabeth Bishop had a thing for Pound long after it was cool to have a thing for him at Vassar. She even bought a clavichord to be more… musical.
From Hayley I also know that poets are not at all polite about what they think about poets they’ve decided they don’t like. Poets sure are not lyrical, but whenever I confess that I’m on my third glass of something fermented, Hayley will tell me: “Finally you drink like a poet!”
So has Bishop stopped drinking for a while, that when one visit to Pound is particularly ornery, she comes home and unearths the bottle behind the books in her bookcase?
“No.” Lisa says adamantly. The way she sees her Bishop, she hasn’t stop drinking.
Ok then. While some things become more labored – and I know it’s a necessary phase, I suppose I become more labored as well – the upside is that the actors slip more and more into a deeper knowledge of how their characters operate, like slowly slipping into a jacket. Taking your time, as the material is so wonderful and the fit so intricate.
“This does feel like doing Shakespeare.” Lisa said once, while we were working on a monologue. And I assume Hayley wouldn’t object, as she has Pound say that Shakespeare was “one of the few good English poets, there’s fuck all after that.”
Do directors have lineage? Certainly, if they’ve come up through a straight line of assisting one big guy/gal in the business. In the German theatre world I can tell if someone’s been a Neuenfels assistant, or Konwitschny’s, or Ruth Berghaus’ (though those get on a bit), and it usually annoys me, as the original is so much more powerful. Since that was not my passage, I guess I’m a jumble of influences. Rather than following one director from job to job, I was assistant director at a theatre, the Opera of Frankfurt, and it was the directors that came and went. So I got to work with quite a grab bag of styles, different ways of working, of communicating, and since I’d graduated by then, I didn’t latch on to a mentor. I picked and chose what inspired me. Some of the directors I admired most I could take hardly anything, because what they did was so different to my way of thinking. Wittgenstein wrote once that one’s philosophy depended on one’s character, and I do strongly believe, as a director you can’t really help the way you direct. Sure, you can increase your knowledge, add to your technique, improve your communication skills and bag of tricks, along the way hopefully getting rid of what REALLY doesn’t work, but in the end – you are how you direct. There’s humility in that. But also pride. For the reverse is also true. I can’t do what they do, and they can’t do what I do. On a good day, that’s real comfort.