Friday, September 28, 2007

In Which We Switch to Product, And The Team Becomes Angry

We are at one week, today, until Tempest opens.

We've been working, during our rehearsal time, on building the set. I hate to use rehearsal time, but I learned "the hard way" that the students need constant supervision. That is, they will tell me that they will build something on their own, and then it won't happen, for whatever reason. (The students who took the responsibility of refusing the ladoos, for example, still haven't finished building the hut that they promised would be done five days ago.)

So I said "okay, we will spend one rehearsal all building this set together." And then it became two rehearsals.

And yesterday, for the first time perhaps, I switched completely to a product-based mode of directing, and my students didn't particularly like it.

For example: we need, in this play, four glasses and a plate with food. Easy enough to find. I probably could have gone to one of the mess halls and begged and borrowed them. However, my Iraqi student wanted to make them himself. He drew me pictures of these beautiful goblets, and told me he wanted to carve them for me out of Thermacor (read: Styrofoam). He said he would make sure they got done in time.

I told him he could do that, no problem. They were beautiful designs, after all, and I'm all about empowering my students to take charge of their own play.

Of course, they never got done. And here we were, yesterday, and my Iraqi student has commandeered four other students to help him carve things out of Thermacor, and I realize just how long it takes to carve something beautiful out of Thermacor. At the end of our session yesterday, we had two goblets done. They were really lovely to look at, but... it took two hours to make each of them.

In the meanwhile, I took charge and built Prospero's staff. (We had several students working on other projects, and I was also supervising them.) I found a long dowel and a battered mask, wrapped the mask around a lump of Thermacor, painted the entire thing blue, and glued it to the dowel. Took... fifteen minutes.

My students flipped out. "We were going to do that!" they said. They showed me, once again, the on-paper drawings of the staff they wanted. It looked really cool, but was full of carvings and feathers and complicated parts.

"How many hours will that take you to build?" I asked.

They thought.

"Include the time it takes you to find these materials," I said.

They thought again.

"Five hours," they told me.

"We don't have time to spend five hours on one prop," I explained. "Not anymore."

If I were to do this project again, I would have them start working on the set/props from the very beginning, because they clearly have creative ideas that they want to put into action. And, looking at the two goblets that they made yesterday, they also have some artistic skill. But, at this point, it's all about time, and allocating resources, and triage. In short, it's about product now. We either have props, or we don't. And it's my job to make them realize that.

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