Ahead of Melbourne Talam’s Opening Night, Petra Kalive tells us about a day in the life of a director.
The thing I love most about being a director is that no two days arethe same. The skills I use in week one are completely different to the ones I use in our final rehearsals.
Yesterday was slightly more charged as we were doing a run of the play for the first time and we had some guests watching. It is the most vulnerable time of a rehearsal period as a director (except maybe for opening night) when the play is unfinished and the actors are still finding their feet in the work, to put all the pieces together.
Invariably (because there are still a few weeks to go) actors performances are patchy, they are trying to remember where to stand, what to say, who they’re saying it to and what happens next. The play runs for too long, the sound design is all over the place, the wheels of the play feel a little rickety, and yesterday, someone broke an essential part of the set. Nobody feels particularly good after a first run. This time I think I heard, ‘Well, I’m glad that’s over.’
The thing is, it is only after the first run that the play really begins to make sense. This day was no different. The actors looked spent and vulnerable. The observers left the room having thanked me for watching, but I could tell they were nervous; ‘Is she going to be able to pull it together?’ ‘They’ve only got eight more days of rehearsal.’ ‘What if, it’s a disaster?’ Ok, so that might be what’s actually going on in my head.
The thing is, after that awful, uncomfortable, vulnerable first pass at the show, things begin to get really exciting. Conversations from week one begin to inform moments in the most nuanced of ways. The idea that we thought was brilliant is thrown out the window and replaced by something far better.
Most exciting of all is that, the first run seems to provide cast and creatives with a focus. It might be wobbly, uneven, and some parts may not work at all, but everyone has a sense of what we are working towards.
Until then it has been an amorphous unknown. Now it has shape. We all have direction. We all take a big breath and I say, ‘Well done everyone. I have notes.’ I am regularly humbled by the people that I work with and their dedication to delivering a high quality product on time. I don’t think as theatre-makers we celebrate that fact enough.
There are so many variables that we are working with, much can (and does) go wrong, but the people who bring it to you are working so hard to realise the work and find a way to share it with you in the most impacting way. That is what keeps me coming back again and again. And the great thing is, I know tomorrow will hold something completely different.
Melbourne Talam plays at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler from 4 – 20 May. Book now.