I've been directing plays now for nearly a decade. That sounds a lot longer than it feels; at the same time, I'm having trouble remembering a time when I wasn't fixated on the next project, the next production, trying to tweak whatever we were working on to make it a little better. I can't remember a time when it didn't recharge me to spend an evening or afternoon doing Shakespeare with a bunch of kids, when choreographing a knife fight or fixing a scene didn't feel more fun than a party.
Still, lately I've been a little burned out. Not on directing in particular, just in general. I work full time (not at Bards) during the day for an actual paycheck, something we've not yet been able to finesse out of the Bards bank account. There are 4 adolescents living in my house. And I'm in my final semester of graduate school. And yet, there's this play hanging in there, demanding attention, like a persistent toddler.
"Romeo and Juliet" is both one of my favorite and least-favorite plays. I loved it from the time I was 14 years old and pretending to be Juliet on the balcony adjoining my parents' bedroom. The language is unparalleled, and possibly uniquely among Shakespeare's plays it strikes a perfect balance of tragedy and comedy. Yet it's so overdone - everyone thinks they know it. Everyone's heard so many of the key lines, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
So I keep thinking, what can this burned out director bring to this overdone play that makes it fresh and new and interesting?
About a week ago, I came to the disheartening answer: nothing.
There is nothing I can bring. Fortunately, this production doesn't rest on my back. It is in the infinitely capable and creative hands of a (mostly teenage) cast, a cast that keeps asking the right questions and finding new insights. In a vaccuum, I am no more than the average amount of creative. Paired with these formidable young minds, we create new landscapes, find new truths, and make used words fresh again.
It doesn't hurt that as my assistant directors I've got Steven Cullen and Charlie Coulter, who are both brilliant at mining Shakespeare and pushing the boundaries of the actors. Steven always has an idea about a problem scene, and Charlie's where I send the actors who are struggling to find their feet or their voice.
If I look at this production, or really, any production, as MY work, it's likely to come off stilted, limited, and reeking of my own difficulties and insecurities. However, as I come at this play as a manifestation of the best work that we, collectively, have to offer, we're likely to continue surprising ourselves. And I have no doubt we will - pleasantly - surprise our audiences.
Here's to looking at old things a new way, preferably through someone else's eyes.