Monday, September 28, 2009

Post-Kafka 1: Directors During Performances

For my first post-Kafka ruminations, I thought I'd talk about the role of the director during performances. That was, after all, my vantage point on the Kafka Project over the last week, and I've tried to take a different tack from directors.

The first type of director I remember working with, when it comes to performance, is the director who keeps on directing during the performance. I worked with a small community theater in my youth in the city of Lakewood, and our director--a tall, butch man who wore cowboy boots and chain-smoked cigars--would always come backstage at intermission and after the show with a big legal notepad of notes. In the middle of a show, while you were trying to focus on Act Two, he'd come in and berate you about being in the wrong place in Act One.

This isn't always a bad thing, giving notes during the run. Some notes have to be given, such as general notes like about energy, projection, etc. Also there are often safety notes, where if nobody steps in someone might get hurt. Otherwise, things like line notes or acting adjustments are just liable to derail an actor working along.

The second type of director is the cheerleader. Shows up each night, rallies the troops, bites through their nails each night, comes back and tells the cast how amazing each show was, trying to keep their energy and their spirits rolling. Probably one of the more helpful ways a director can relate to a cast during a run.

The third (and the last type of director that I can think of) is my least favorite kind of director, the kind of director that you get in more professional settings, is the director who kisses the play goodbye at final dress and maybe sees one or two performances before moving on to the next project. The cast takes full ownership over the show, and the director gets down to business with the next one.

My history as a performer makes me feel uncomfortable with each of those kinds of directors. The latter two options feel too disengaged, and the first one feels too intrusive, in the non-positive sense.

In the two shows I've directed that were entirely my creation, I've decided to place myself in an active role in the performance of the production. Not by putting myself in the "cast" per se, but simply placing myself in an important place in the production, so I have a task to focus on to help making the show succeed. Therefore I'm available to channel my positive energies to the cast (the cheerleader), and I get to put in a tangible benefit to the production.

Usually, my choice for how to include myself in the production has been in some position that puts me in direct contact with the audience. In Orchestration, my pre-Organs production (but some consider it Organs' first draft), I ran the projections, from a position onstage, at the control of my lead actor. It put me in a place where I was just a part of the show, but in a position where I could watch the faces of the audience. I also was briefly integrated into the production, because the last moments include the lead actor throwing the tech crew out of the theater--namely, throwing me out of the theater.

In the recently-passed Kafka Project, I took a similar tack on that. In that production, I was the House Manager, and although I was at points integrated into the production, I was still mostly separate. Whereas the other performers performed from in front of the audience, my position in the show was largely behind and above the audience, in a fake position of power. Whereas the ensemble was largely embodying the stories, I was pretty much acting in the Brechtian mode, providing snippets of narration and acknowledging the fact of the play directly. Most of the time, however, I was merely watching--watching the show and the audience (hence my position behind and above).

For me, this is largely to do with learning. Directors often create a show, and focusing on the craft and performance of it. They don't really get to study the response, except by reading the critical reviews. I think a lot of directors would be much better served by watching the faces of their audience responding to their production in real time. You learn incredibly quickly when you know what action provokes which response, and whether that's a constant or it's a sporadic response.

It's also good to gauge energies, different audience types. It's a huge learning experience. In future posts, I hope to get into what I picked up watching the Kafka audience, and the Orchestration audience. It's very enlightening.

And the last thing that I do as a director is greet my audience on the way out of the theater, and thank them for coming. In a way, it's a sort of Director's Curtain Call (I'll also discuss curtain calls in a future post, I think). In a certain way, it's my attempt to take direct responsibility for my work, and to interface with my audience on a personal level. It's also an attempt to create a certain atmosphere, a relationship between myself and the audience, which can't happen when I'm absent and distant.

This was especially important for me at the end of Orchestration. As I mentioned, the tech crew is thrown out by the lead actor at the end of the production. The lead actor also ejects the audience (verbally, not physically) from the theater, forcing the production to a close. My father (a computer programmer), saw that in the script and pointed out--quite rightly, that such an interaction leaves the audience with a certain response and relationship with the company. Namely, they might feel attacked, hurt, and otherwise negative about the experience.

The "Director's Curtain Call," greeting the audience at the door as they leave, was my way to balance the artistic need (the story was absolutely hinging on this aborted ending) and the human need (my father was absolutely right). At the door, I was trying to convey to the audience that however distancing or disturbing elements of the production are, we are not a combatitive, negative company. We hope to be generous, and we appreciate our audience and their presence in our theater.

Well, that was the first stab at shedding some light into the Organs of State creative process. Hope that you found it a bit enlightening.

Guy Yedwab
Artistic Director

Wrapping Up The Not Nearly Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka

Well, The Not Nearly Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka is over, and we're taking a breath between shows to take a look at what we're going to do with our lives. Thank you to anyone who came, and we hope you'll continue to follow us and support us.

This blog is not going to be a news ticker (although we do intend to post our news here as well). This blog is a space for members of the company to talk about the work we do in a more long-form setting. Hopefully not in a pretentious way, but in a way that hopefully will bring us into conversation with our fans and colleagues about how we make work.

Before I get into that, I would like to state that we've got some projects up-coming, that you should follow further either on Facebook, Twitter, or our Website:

1) Our sub-program, IndyMill Publishing Company (FB, Twitter, Web), is hard at work designing for publication the print edition of The Not Nearly Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka. For those of you who missed the show, or for those of you who would like to take a second look at it, it's a good way to dive back into a show you've seen. There will also be footnotes from the director, in much the same way that DVDs have DVD commentary.

2) We're in the early planning stages of a big fundraiser blowout to raise some seed money for the company. Updates pending!

3) Company member Ines Garcia is beginning work on a pair of dance pieces scheduled to go up in November. We'll fill you in as that process unfolds as well.

Other than that, thanks for tuning in, and we hope to see you around a lot more in the future!


Guy Yedwab
Artistic Director

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Hey everyone, I'm live-tweeting tech for Kafka over at @organsofstate ( ). Take a listen!

Saturday, September 12, 2009



You are INVITED to the FIRST THEATER PERFORMANCE of ORGANS OF STATE, the new theater company in New York City.

Our first performance will be THE NOT NEARLY COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF FRANZ KAFKA, an ensemble-devised piece based on the unrecognized shorter fiction of the great master.

Using a variety of found text and personal experiences, our talented ensemble has been exploring the world of battered children and broken toys as they interact with Kafka. Games will be played, stories will be told, rules will be made and broken.

PERFORMANCES HAVE LIMITED SEATING. Because there will only be room for 40 seats in theater, it is important to reserve tickets early!


September 22nd - 26th 8PM
September 26th 2PM