Monday, October 1, 2007

In Praise of Simplicity: Or, Dean and Carra Might Be Right After All

There’s an old directing textbook called Fundamentals of Play Directing by a couple of guys named Dean and Carra. It’s standard reading in most directing courses, and it’s about as dull as a book can be. It lays out a series of aesthetically pleasing ways to arrange people on the stage (most of which involve triangles), and explains that successful directors should use these positions only.

My classmates and I all read this book holding gigantic grains of salt. After all, it was over sixty years old. Contemporary theatre was loose, free, natural, postmodern; people could turn their backs to the audience and roll around on the floor and move in sinuous curves and do anything they wanted! It wasn’t all this triangle mumble-jumble and these series of strict positions.

Due to a combination of the language barrier and the fact that my students don’t have a lot of experience moving around on a stage (I had to convince them that it was okay to “cheat;” that the audience would still understand that they were talking to their scene partner, and even still I’m not sure they all believe me), I found myself blocking very simply. In… a lot of triangles. Position-cross-position.

About halfway through I realized that I was using Dean and Carra’s rules and then I began to apply them specifically. Get the person in power to the position of power, and don’t try to postmodernally “trick” the audience by placing them somewhere else.

Damn cleanest show I ever blocked.

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