Interesting post from Isaac about the role of the director (and part of the ongoing and much-commented-upon “director as creator” vs. “director as interpreter” debate. This bit struck me:
Directors often do a bad job by treating a script as bad, as a thing with problems that need to be fixed. If you’re condescending to the work of art that is the basis of your own work of art, bad, ego-driven work will result– IT’S MY JOB TO SAVE THIS PIECE OF CRAP FROM ITSELF is hardly a good place to make choices from…. There aren’t bad plays. There are hard plays. Some plays are really really hard. When you approach material as hard rather than bad, new possibilities open up.
That condescending approach is often what you get in writers’ groups, as well. And one reason I’ve very much liked the feedback approach we’re evolving at the Just Theater PlayLab.
Some groups immediately jump in with the “Here’s what’s not working and here’s how to fix your play.” Our group assumes that any questions left at the end of a piece are intentional until proven otherwise. We ask what effect you as a writer are going for and if we have any suggestions, it’s not “here’s how to fix your broken play” but “here’s an idea on how to do what you’re doing even stronger/quicker/etc.”
And we’re always quick to point out what we think is working really well. I’ve been in groups where the writer comes back with a new draft that cuts all the good stuff because they assumed it wasn’t working, since no one mentioned it. In the early stages of writing, especially when you haven’t even written a complete draft, it’s almost more important to hear what people are liking and being affected by than to hear an opinion on what each person thinks isn’t quite there yet.
Anyway, it’s nice being in a writers’ group where, at the end of the evening, the writers want to thank each other instead of wanting to kill each other.