This morning Victoria and I jumped on a plane to Canada. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, and spent our seven-hour plane ride chatting with our neighbouring traveller, reviewing lines from the script, and drinking several glasses of white wine. Hey, it helps the process.
I have to admit, I’m a little terrified. In Ottawa, I was known as a publicist and reviewer rather than a director. I worry that all those years of analysing and occasionally criticising plays will come back to bite me since I’ve now directed one of my own. Especially since I’ve been promoting the show as a ‘hit’ in London. I remember when another reviewer in Canada spent a few years in London, and upon his return people accused him of having developed a sort of snobbery. Not that I’ve ever been afraid of being called a snob. In fact, I’ve tended to regard it as a compliment.
Still, I am nervous about showcasing my work to my friends and colleagues back home. We’re going to be playing in some unfamiliar venues, and since this particular production is so reliant on the atmosphere of each venue, we’re going to have to work fast to make sure everything still plays well. Where will the door be? Where exactly will the audience be? Will we be able to have the same lighting plot? Will the scaffolding that we’re picking up tomorrow work the same way?
It’s been difficult for me to promote the show from afar: I’m not acquainted with reviewers and journalists in Toronto and Montreal, so I’ve been relying on personal contacts to get the word out. Will we have full houses for every show? Plenty of people have said they plan to attend, but plans do change. I doubt myself time and again, acknowledge that I could have done more to ensure sold-out performances, media coverage, and sponsorship. Maybe I should have made t-shirts and buttons. Or, maybe, the show will speak for itself.
I love this play. I watch it, yes, because I’m the director and I need to take notes. But I also watch it because I love watching it. I love that I’m the only person, aside from Victoria, who knows all the lines, all the beats, when the mood changes, where the ropes should be, and how it should feel at every moment. I love watching it because I learn something new about the text every time. I learn something new about the text and how it might be performed and how it might be improved. I learn things about myself, and how I engage in relationships with other people.
I have a personal attachment to this play, of course. But I also think it’s rather good. I may be new to directing, but theatre has always been in my life, and I’d say I’ve seen more theatre productions than most people my age. I watch and listen and I learn quickly. I’ve learned from the best. Even as a publicist, I would make a point of attending rehearsals for shows I was working on, to get a full sense of the play and how to promote it effectively.
But this show is mine. It’s something I’m proud of. It’s something I’m proud to have worked on with a fantastic actor and a remarkable production team. Though it’s just me and Victoria this time, trekking out on our own for the first time, embarking on our first ever ‘indie’ tour. We’re probably going to make a ton of mistakes, but I’ve always figured that my twenties are my time for making mistakes, and my thirties are a time for making them better. Or for making more mistakes, until I figure things out.
One of the reviews said the show was ‘written, directed, and executed with passion’, which is a key thing for me. If a play doesn’t excite me, then I can’t bring myself to direct it. As with most things in life. And I know ‘passion project’ is often used as a derogatory term to describe something that has sentimental value to its creators, but very little external value to its viewers, but – for me – passion is the only raison d’etre I have, and I think it shines through.
So I’ll say this: I am passionately in love with this production, and I am thrilled to be bringing it to Ottawa, my hometown that will always be my first love.