Unlocking LiFT 1

Hello LiFTers and everyone else! Matt Powers here, and I’d like to take a moment to tell you about a series we’ve created at LiFT. We’ve dubbed it “Unlocking LiFT” and it will focus on the ins and outs of theater, commentary on plays and acting, ruminations on art, and give all of you an insider look at how LiFT does what it does. I’m shooting to post twice a month, but that may go up. So stay tuned for new posts! And feel free to ask questions or request topics!

With the Mad Hatter Tea and “Where’s the Script” in the rear view, it’s time to take a breather before Shakespeare season. Auditions are coming up, and, I don’t know about you, but auditions are not my favorite part of the theater making process. Necessary? Sure. Just not that much fun. Speaking as an actor, they are often stressful, but you have to hide the nerves and project your confidence. Though sometimes if you know the panel, or have an amiable panel, you can relax and actually have a bit of fun and perform your best.

Speaking as a director, the process is draining. During auditions I tend to take copious notes, listen very carefully, and stare somewhat uncomfortably because I’m solely focused on the performance. At the same time my inner monologue runs a series of questions about character, acting chops, rapport with me and others, movement, ideas I have for the show, and so on to capture and round out my impressions. Even if I know the actor well, each show is different and requires different things. Besides, no actor is the same actor year to year – because life.

To help with this process I’ve developed a series of informal questions I ask myself when auditioning actors:

  1. Are they nice?
  2. Can I (and the cast) work with this person?
  3. Can I help this person be a better actor?
  4. Might this person help me be a better director?
  5. What do they bring to the group?
  6.  Might they help others with their performances?
  7. Where would this person fit best?

And so on. This may sound a bit blasphemous, but, as I see it, the role of the director isn’t just to produce the best show possible, it is to foster a healthy, collaborative environment, where people can have fun, make mistakes, improve their acting, and add their voice to the show. It is the responsibility of the director to do their best to create an atmosphere conducive to creativity, and, personally, I never lose sight of that. I am a director, not a dictator. And I like to have fun. If making theater isn’t fun, then why do it?