Design and Direction, Two Heads in One

Posted in vladimir on September 28th, 2008 by jerry

I have been a director/designer my entire adult life. A director/designer? Please explain. It is one who incorporates design
into direction, and direction into design. On the conventional stage, there is a director and a designer in collaboration with one another.
it is common for the director to impact his influence on the designer with his vision. Not too often does the designer impact his influence on the director. Impacting in your head becomes a fusion.

My most well known fusion was my production of “No Exit” I hate that show, because it is literally “hell” to direct. Anyway, back to bragging, My “No Exit” design was a platform that balanced on a center point. A 17′ square that floated in space. When one actor stepped off center the entire stage floor tipped. The entire world tipped. A plane adrift in a black void. It was a beautiful metaphor for the play. The set and the play were one. My director-self and my designer-self were in partnership with the existentialism of Sartre’s text. I don’t think
I could have achieved that by working with a designer outside my head (unless they were my twin.) I have never accomplished that kind of fusion since.

In “Vladimir Vladimir” there are two worlds. In this case I collaborated with the writer within me. In “Vladimir Vladimir” the scenic design has an ego and and also an alter ego (like the play.) Thus it has a two personalities. Like the title, it has two faces - “Vladimir Vladimir”

The show opens Oct 2nd.

More Later.

Character and Personage: The Dilemma at Imago

Posted in vladimir on September 28th, 2008 by jerry

As I work on the play “Vladimir Vladimir” (opening Oct 2) with Pat Patton as Co-Director I am examining my background with Jacques Lecoq and how that differs with Pat’s background in regional theatre. What rises to the top is the difference in how we approach character development, or in the Lecoq world it would be called character “state.” This is becoming very apparent in how I am directing actors and how Pat is directing actors. Both are important and valid.

What are these things on the stage we consider characters? They are not real human beings. If so, it would not be theatre. If they were real, it would be boring. Time is capsulized on the stage. We see not a character in real time, but a capsulized “slice of life.” For example, if we were representing a play of the man called Einstein, We would not play it out in “real” time. If we did we would see long uninterrupted mundane episodes of Einstein, where nothing really happens - like Einstein waiting at the bus stop, Einstein in the bathtub, Einstein at the dentist. (I would venture to say here that many experimental theaters venture into this realm, but let’s avoid that area for the time being.) My point is that theatre is not “real” Which leads to the question - So what then is character in a fictious arena?

I don’t know. However, I do know a few things that contrast Stanislavisky “method” based characters and Lecoq “state” based characters.This is by no means a scholarly analysis, but purely my own feeble observations. Quotes indicate what the actor might be thinking as he or she is applying either technique.

Method - Psychological

State - Non-psychological

Method - character has a past, present and future.

State - state has only has a present.

Method - a psychological person (”what’s my motivation?”)

State - a being (”I am this, this is what I am.”)

Method - “This is what I think of myself, so this is how I walk.”

State - “I walk this way, this walk defines who I am.” (actually, the state would not think this, but walk it, since the state is in the moment, then there is no “self talk”, that voice in your head. That voice in your head is what Lecoq would consider psychology.)

Method - “Another character is speaking, I am listening but only through the perspective lense of my character”

State - ” I listen, move, and exist within my state. Listen! I hear someone speaking.”

All I have written so far seems, well… difficult. Difficult to imagine from a non-actors stand point. So let me try to make it clear. Imagine… (now here in this description you might understand why Imago shines with animal or inanimate states). Imagine… a method actor as human, and a state actor as animal.

All of a sudden… we can see the difference. The human has a past, with problems, hopes and dreams. Regretting the past and dreaming of the future. The human dilemma.

The animal state exists, well because, it must. It’s alive in the space of the theatre. If another being enters the space of the stage, the animal states reacts with its senses. If left alone on the stage, the animal, like a dog is left alone, …and would be itself. With a dog’s rhythms; a dog’s moves and a dog’s sense. But a dog on the stage is not acting, I speaking about theatre. Thus, this is an actor as a dog. (Now I lost you.)

If the lights of the theater grow in intesity, the animal state experiences the lights and reacts and squints. The human actor, in contrast, ignores the light and remains in the fiction of the moment. “I am Hamlet in turmoil over my father’s death, the light from the stage is shining into my eyes, but I will notsquint, well… because I am Hamlet, I must stay in the moment of the play and not in the moment of this space.”

So back to “real” and “fiction” - seems like I’m saying that method actors are in sort of a fiction, but state actors are reacting to real moments and thus are real. Well no, they are not, it is acting. It is theatre. When I am in a state, I am not Jerry. I am Jerry in a state, and that is not real.

I’m sure I have confused you. But before you go, think about this: In “Vladimir Vladimir” Carol and I are working in both “method” technique and in “state” technique. Fail or succeed, that is what we are doing. (Now I’m sure I have you confused.)

More later.

“Vladimir Vladimir” opens Oct 2.

Realism at Where? IMAGO?

Posted in vladimir on September 28th, 2008 by jerry

In some ways “Vladimir Vladimir” is the most realistic piece Imago has produced. By inviting Pat Patton to direct, Imago has opened
itself up to realism. Funny how realism to me is alien. Isn’t that strange? Carol and I live in what we call a realistic world, but we seldom venture close to realism in our stage work.

Mr. Patton’s vast experience on the traditional boards of Ashland, Portland and throughout the country is a pleasure
to have at Imago. He is a wonderful director. We are privileged. The work is strenuous. Detail after detail of little moments of motivations, nuance, action, relationships. It’s work. And lots of it.

Watching Mr. Patton direct you can see that he uses his aural skills well. He listens and reads. He mines the play for language. He listens to every actor’s syllable and breath. Its all about language. Someone said, I forgot who, that theatre is to be listened to, and film is to be watched (I don’t fully agree.)

Mr.Patton has a keen sense of action and the physical space. He is a vaudevillian. He understands the physical world of theatre. However if I were forced to describe a variation in our approaches it would be that Mr. Patton listens, then watches. Imago watches, then listens.

Mr. Patton’s collaboration with Imago will be both seen and watched. Mr. Patton has provided great ears. Imago has
provided wonderful eyes.

“Vladimir Vladimir” opens Oct 2nd. Co-directed by Pat Patton and Jerry Mouawad. Written by Jerry Mouawad.


Posted in vladimir on September 28th, 2008 by jerry

I was looking into the mirror in our living room. I saw something quite unusual. Our living room. For years, I had seen the bookshelf,
the couch, the window, the drapes but still something strange happened. I saw it for the first time. It was a new place. I had not seen this place. Through the mirror it was not the same room.

It brought back a dream I had 20 years ago. All vague in my memory but this memory stuck with me, nagging to be a play.

I began to write.

My previous writings had been plot driven and lacked character. I was determined to make this both plot and character driven. I drew on
characters from my Lebanese family and from stage characters in another one of my plays (characters in “Serial Killer Parents”)

I can’t remember much of the writing process. Odd since it was only a few weeks ago that I wrote the play. Perhaps because when
the show went into production - casting , set design, hiring creative staff, - everything escalated. The writing got swallowed up by the
making of a play.

I remember enjoying the writing, and finding ways to make a puzzle fit. I remember discovering as I was writing a reason for it all.
How it ended up in Yugoslavia - I don’t know.

“Vladimir Vladimir” opens in two weeks (Oct 2nd). I don’t know if there a mathmatical relationship to art. But I do know that within the last
last week of play’s development an explosion takes place. Good, bad or ugly, what happens in those last 7 to 10 days is the
equivalent of what takes place in the previous 8 months of a plays life.

Plays are organic. Unlike film, or any recorded medium, they are alive, like plants. They come to reach a peak. When the timing is
right, the peak is when the audience is invited. Unfortanately in the United States…(oh no, Jerry is going to go off on the
horrible funding for the arts in our country) …as I was saying before I almost interupted myself, in America, we don’t put plays in
front of audience when they’re ready, we put plays in front of audiences because we have no choice, when the money runs out.
Ready or not. Is that why my play is longing to be in a non-existant Yugoslavia?

More later.

Four Plays Distilled Into One

Posted in vladimir on September 28th, 2008 by jerry

In November of 2007, I began to write a play called “BEDS” a sort of sex farce that turned tragic.  I held several auditions (Imago is known for having auditions for plays that never get produced, you can probably see this pattern in the news archives of the city, its not that we are not intending to do the show, its that the show is not intending to have itself produced, anyway I’m rambling)…

I had several auditions for “BEDS” and it didn’t seem to “have it”.  Plus I never really found the right cast. So I shelved it.

Months went by and I was still jazzed from doing “Serial Killer Parents” with Carol so I thought “Hey maybe, If i take ‘Beds’ and have Carol and I  do all the parts. Maybe that it!”  (Writer/directors are always looking for the next ‘it’)

I un-shelved “BEDS”, read it and re-shelved it. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t any good.

I was determined to write a play with the intent that Carol and I would play multiple roles about male/female relationships.

I didn’t want to write in a vacuum. So I posted a notice on Craig List for writing consultants. I was flooded with submissions (’everyone wants to be a writer’ is not a cliche).

I assembled some smart writers.

From May to August I wrote four full length plays (yes four, I’m usually good for one play every four years).  Each play was reviewed and criticized by my writing consultants (rather harshly, at times,  which I encouraged.)  Some  of the plays were given staged reading which I directed.

The plays were:

  • “Dangerous Calzones” - a sort of caper motif, where one couple cons another (Carol and I to play both parts)
  • “Janus Victorius” - a sort of split personality piece, in which a woman (with split personality disorder) can’t determine her identity and seeks help from a psychiatrist who also may be her estranged husband (Carol and I play to both parts)
  • “The Trailer” - a couple stranded in the desert begin to act out movie trailers and scenes from movies and eventually trap a passerby to join them in this ‘play acting’ which quickly turns to a  dangerous pyscho-drama (Carol and I play most parts, I might return to this play some year)

and then…

I some how came out of this world wind of writing to write “VLADIMIR VLADIMIR” which opens in less than three weeks (Oct 2)

What’s most interesting about the process was that with the feedback, each play had a set of problems, and with each new play I tried to resolve the set of problems created by the previous play, but not with re-writes but by writing entirely new plays.

More later.