There’s an old, weary, chestnut in the theatre — that deserves to be burned alive, eaten whole, pooped out and buried in the deep blue sea and then never spoken of again — that goes a little something like this, when directors say to Playwrights: “Never Speak to the Actors!”
Can you imagine the absolute gall of that statement in an Art Form that institutionally, and practically, forbids the original creator from speaking to those who are the dynamics of the final expression of the Playwright’s hopes and dreams and thoughts on a living stage?
The great contempt for the Playwright in the modern American Theatre is palpable as, for some reason, directors are given the greatest control over a new play — when the obverse should be true — The Playwright Writes; The Playwright Knows; The Playwright Decides!
Now I am Become Life,
the Inventor of Universes!
But woe will come hard and heavy to any Playwright who actually stands up for their own work and demands to be able to speak to the actors at will, unsupervised — and contemporaneously on the clock and off — because, you see, Playwrights are dangerous!
Playwrights are the creator of worlds, they are the instigators of death, they are the original, natural, power in the theatre, and so they must be controlled and managed and marginalized in order for the boring order to proceed to a predictable, impalpable, end.
This is why Playwrights must always direct the first vision of their plays on a live stage and then as much as inhumanly possible thereafter.
The stifling of the Playwright in discussion would be hilarious if it weren’t so real and destructive — especially in the memes of collaboration that are invisibly taught, but tangentially enforced — where everyone is equal, except the Playwright, who must remain mute, unless aided and non-abetted by a director who decides if the Playwright’s speech is safe enough to be shared, but only through the filter of a director’s redacted dialogue, and never via the actual author’s authentic voice!
Actors are not dumb and not easily confused. Actors can listen to a director and a Playwright and a producer and a technician all at the same time and then make choices and still do a right job — allow the actors to use their training to create the performance!
I love Playwrights, I love working with difficult people, and that’s why every young Playwright needs to understand their voice and vision does not end on the page — it lives in conversation and conversion.
When I direct new plays, I let my Playwrights speak freely and contribute as much, or as little, as they like to the rehearsal process — and I only direct their plays because they’ve been brainwashed by a training system that they’re “not allowed” to direct their own vision.
If a Playwright and I publicly disagree on vision or function, that’s fine! That’s the creative process and a true collaboration in every sense of the moment and, oftentimes, actors or lighting and costume designers, or producers have the answer to the problem because they’re smart, and they know structure, and they know all about collapsing drama and tension, too! It’s their job to know and to help make the play better, so let them do their jobs, too!
No Playwright is scared of processing too much information — but every director lives in fear of becoming overwhelmed and discovered.
The ultimate insult too many directors have no hesitation in saying to a Playwright is, “you don’t know what your play is about” and I urge every Playwright who hears that plaintive lie, to turn around and flee — and shut down the production, if necessary — because you’re in for a lonesome world of hurt when you are treated like an idiot and not the genius you are for creating something out of nothing that few people can do, and even impossibly fewer still can do, and then realize, in the end, to fill the empty space.