Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Field Promotions: Anne Bogart= General Insipidity, Don Hall= Colonel of Wisdom

I'm preparing to direct, so what better than to read A Director Prepares by Anne Bogart? Specifically, I'm directing two actors a few years my junior, and I felt it appropriate to try to better understand the vocabulary of actors with more recent training. I graduated in 2002, which was to my reckoning about six minutes before educators everywhere started thumping on Viewpoints like it was the Fourth Testament. Since then, I've participated in numerous productions in which the very word "viewpoints" became a director's short-hand for "disjointed exercises you won't appreciate because I myself don't understand why we're doing them." This observation can't be taken as reflection on the book or the technique as the author presented them: I understand that as well as anyone who has ever cringed or rolled his eyes at someone's usage of the words "Stanislavski" and "system". It did, however give me a (perhaps unfair) aversion to Bogart's work sight unseen.

I still haven't read Viewpoints. I'm pretty sure there's great stuff in there, but the most thoughtful reviews I've gotten are that there's nothing new or even new to me, that Anne just presented it in a new and accessible way. This jibes with a long paragraph at the very beginning of A Director Prepares wherein Bogart adulates Charles Mee for what she considers his unique comprehension of the role of the artist in shaping societal values. She doesn't seem to notice that she, through Chuck, has simply distilled Joseph Campbell's life's work in comparative mythology into a fragment too insignificant for a back-cover blurb.

I'm trying to make my way through the book. I really am. Everyone who knows more than me says that there is wealth in there and I'm not so myopic as to deny my intelligent friends the benefit of the doubt.

So far, though, it's kind of killing me.

I need you to reinforce me. Bolster my resolve! Maybe just hint at the magic to come further into the book. Tell me that reading the first eleven pages over and over again, plumbing for some meaning, is not the way to appreciate a text--because right now I just keep wrestling with the following passage:

"A scuba diver lies first in the water and waits until the entire ocean floor below begins to teem with life. Then the swimmer begins to move. This is how I study. I listen until there is movement and then I begin to swim."

...I mean...crickets.

If this had been followed by a winky emoticon, I would have been much less disturbed. I wouldn't have momentarily glimpsed the Art World as conservatives see it: a Bacchan cesspit filled with butterflies, zebras, moonbeams and rabid stupidity.

Please, if anyone ever hears me say something like that up there, make sure I'm joking or strike me about the neck and shoulders.

And tell me that Bogart gets better.

For Contrast:

Last evening at rehearsal for Devils Don't Forget, the following was bestowed upon the fortunate cast and crew by Mr. Don Hall (AWGiC and our very own Udo):

Right! It'll give her a moment to ffffffssshht!
And him a minute to thing...
And then a...and there's, and a...
It's a tableau?!?!
And in the background you hear buh-doom

He's not even the director, ladies and germs. That's just what he, as collaborator, has to offer to the process. Do we need to pay to read the hippy-dippy fantasias of every boomer who ever opened an E.T.C. when true insight--experiential wisdom--like Don's is right in front of us and free of charge?


  1. I wish I could offer some bolstering, but I am having much the same reaction as you are. I think I'd be prone to recycle the old quote that's always attributed to Olivier on the "Marathon Man" set: 'why don't you simply try ACTING, dear boy?'

  2. It gets better. I think it's a pretty damn good book--been a while though.

    And you know my thoughts on hackery in the name of viewpoints.. . .

  3. I think you're both right. I have soldiered my way to the second essay (maybe I just like that it's called "Violence") and when Bogart has occasion to talk like a grown-up her assertions are very interesting. There is a kind of wistful resign in her admission that decision-making is a necessary but destructive action, and I'm wondering if continuing the book will continue to follow Anne's journey into adulthood.

  4. It has been a long time since I read the book, but what I remember of it was that it is a sort of poor attempt to relate her physical approach to story in a literal way.

    However saying be observation and try as often as possible to act from the neck down...How do you stretch that into something book length.

  5. Also, I think "Don Hall - kernel of wisdom" would have been a better title.

  6. I'll call the next one Don Hall - Kernel of Sanders and the Tao of Tso.

  7. I like that Americans consider Colonel and Kernel homophones. It makes me hope people start saying "kernoscopy" and "Doctor, there's a gerbil lodged in my kern."

  8. I'm going to have to ask you to pronounce colonel next time I see you.

  9. I pronounce it the way the internet says Americans are supposed to. With an "R". In British RP, the "r" is silent...I think they started pronouncing the "R" during the Revolutionary War when one Colonel Ingus decided it was time to throw off the shackles of tyrannical teasing at the hands of Punny King George.