- Chris Muirhead
Directing Actors by Judith Weston
The next book to guide me into this project was the remarkable Directing Actors by Judith Weston; an enormously generous book that appears to condense a near lifetime of experience into an easy-to-follow series of tools. A passionate guide to helping directors reach out and communicate meaningfully with their actors, and you can see why as you move through her process; the treasure that can be discovered when actors and directors are free with each other and able to help each other tease pure emotion and surprise from the script is exhilarating.
Once we had completed a couple sessions of the repetition, and getting to know each other, we were able to begin some simple improv scenes. Here I was able to begin trying out the tools described in these books. Actor A is in her apartment and needs to complete a dress design so that they can get it in for the deadline, they don’t like the company they have built, feel like it has destroyed her creativity, and taken advantage of her good will by guilt tripping her into working all hours. She is busy with an activity, she doesn’t have time to perform. Actor B is playing her business partner, we leave the studio and I tell him that he is going to sack Actor A, she has stolen from their company.
This simple set up was inspired by Actor's Art and Craft described before, there is a knock at the door, stressed out, A lets B in. the scene starts. Now I can get into the ideas put forward by Weston. In my position as observer are the actors listening to each other, are they responding to each other, are they playing up to the audience and distracted by the public nature of the scenario? We bring the scene to a close, the players have both settled into their new imagined roles quickly, its believable, they are bringing the characters into their own life, but it still plays a little flat.
Weston uses something called the Language of Permission as a directing tool, "feel free to move around the set" "if you have an impulse to shout here that is fine", which can be applied to blocking "if you like you can lean in to hear what he's saying"
She encourages asking questions over demanding outcomes 'did you feel like laughing at the situation, being sacked by your oldest friend and business partner?' 'are you secretly relieved by being sacked'? She also offers the use of 'verbs' to bring a scene to life, 'when you are telling her she is sacked, perhaps you are soothing her' or 'when you sack her, perhaps you are punishing her'.
Weston has so many ideas and delivers her advice with so much personable compassion I had to buy the audio book as well, so I could listen to her ideas when I am walking about. 10 Stars