From 2002-2005 and again in 2008 we had a very active and wonderful program of Stage Productions at our Studio, performed by Studio actors, and directed by Studio directors, with Judith as co-director. Below is a description of philosophy and guidelines for that program, plus archived notes and photos from the shows.
All actors should know at some point the thrill and creative inspiration of performing a thoroughly rehearsed production in front of a live audience. There is nothing like it!
And when film directors direct a theater production, they can learn a huge amount, on a very fast track, about working with actors.
Even though the focus of my teaching is on directing and acting for film and television, I believe deeply that working in theater is fantastic preparation for film and television work. And it is good for the soul. It is a great happiness to me to be able to offer my students something of the joy and freedom and growth as an artist and a person that I have gotten from working in theater.
Auditions are open to all actors who are in class with me. The productions have, as co-directors, directors selected by me from my directing classes. In each case, I am the other co-director, and I over-see each production, in order to make this a learning experience for both the actors and the directors.
If you are interested, read the GUIDELINES below, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please consider volunteering to work as Stage Manager or Light Booth Operator, as a way to begin getting involved.
I want to work with people who are committed and disciplined and interested in learning and growing, who put the play itself first, and who are interested, to paraphrase Stanislavski, in elevating the art in themselves, not themselves in the art.
Training for actors and directors should be accompanied by performance opportunities in an environment of high standards and total support. Two Lights Studio Theater is an extension of the classroom. This "Classroom Production Project" came out of brainstorming sessions in February 2002 with actors and directors in the Actor-Director Laboratory. The Actor-Director Lab itself, of course, emerged from pairing the actors of my weekly Scene Study classes with directors who had taken the Acting for Directors courses I've been teaching since 1988.
1) There are two central purposes of this "Classroom Production Project." One is the learning experience. Theater discipline is a superb preparation for many aspects of life - but especially for work in film and television. The other is the fun - the liberation, the connection, the high - that live theater uniquely offers.
2) There is no "producer." Everyone has to help out with finding props and costumes, building sets, folding programs, getting people to come, etc.
3) The amount of the budget is limited to what we can bring in from collecting suggested donations of $10 per person at the door. This tiny budget has been generously supplemented by the bounteous contributions of talented set designers and amazing donations of set and lighting equipment and installation. And by Judith and John's decision to increase the Studio's investment in leasehold improvements. We are proud of the professional look, modern technology, and convenience of Two Lights Studio.
4) But we also like its "home-made" feel. "Poor" theater is for us not just an economic necessity, but an aesthetic choice. Again - this is a learning experience. The point of sticking to a limited budget is not to settle for less than excellence - it is to learn ingenuity and stretch our imaginations.
5) The emphasis, for the actors, is on the freedom and confidence that comes from a serious rehearsal period and a significant run; and, for the directors, on their communication with the actors, and on learning to block and shape the emotional action. In other words, the hard work is meant to be its own reward. Solving the technical pressures of a fully mounted production, and dealing with the excitement and demands of pleasing an audience are definitely part of the fun and part of the learning. But we have to keep such pressures and demands in perspective - for example, by not getting too carried away with the technical side of things - because the best result is always achieved by attention to process.
6) There will be open auditions for all the roles, except in certain unusual cases that will be clearly announced. All actors who are currently in class - or have been recently in class - are invited to audition. This includes any of the classes for actors, including scene study, the Masters class, Audition class and the Actor-Director Lab.
7) Directors will be chosen from among directors who have taken the Actor-Director Lab, or the Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques workshops.
8) It was originally my intention that all actors and directors involved in productions should be in class during rehearsal and production. There were two reasons for this: 1) to foster a "family" feeling to the venture, rather than a "guest artist" feeling, and 2) to make the "Classroom Production Project" an incentive for people to take class rather than a reason for them to drop out. And I still think it's a good idea for people to stay in class while rehearsing and performing. But of course it is difficult to do a play and class at the same time. We are no longer insisting on this aspect of the Production Project - in effect it becomes a free class and free showcase for my students - but with the expectation that people will return to class either during or after the Production, whenever they can.
9) One-acts. Many of the productions we have done have been programs of 3 or 4 one-act plays - in order to give as many people as possible a chance to participate. All programs of one-acts will be performed on a unit set - that is, there can be changes of furniture and dressing between the plays, but no changes of set walls. So the directors of the one-acts on the same program will need to collaborate on a set design that works for all of them. Directors must also collaborate and cooperate on the casting, and on the allocation of studio space for rehearsals.
10) Directors and actors are invited and encouraged to submit ideas of plays to produce - or to write plays themselves. We can use part of the budget for paying royalties, where royalties are required, but of course if writers are willing to let us use their material without royalty, that will leave more funds for set construction and publicity.
11) The "co-directing" thing. All the directors involved in this "Classroom Production Project" are really co-directors, with Judith the other co-director on each production. That means that final decisions on selection of plays, selection of directors, casting, set design, and scheduling will all be made by me (Judith), as Artistic Director and Co-Director on all productions. Basically I get my fingers in all the pies - I come to auditions, and as many rehearsals and performances as I can manage - and I must be consulted on all important decisions. In rehearsal, I listen to the directors' ideas, and make suggestions if I feel I can be helpful in making the directors' ideas work. But if I feel that time is running out, or that something is going wrong, or that the co-director is overlooking something crucial - then I step in however I see fit. When there are differences of opinion between the director and me, we can argue it out, and let the best idea win. I am always willing to battle for excellence, to battle out ideas. However, I have learned that I can't afford to spend my emotional resources on battles for chain of command. So I will not be inviting autonomous "guest directors" to operate in my studio. Instead, I feel the "co-director" concept provides the best environment for the learning and creativity of the directors, the actors - and me.
12) The time commitment. Our rehearsal periods for the one-acts have typically been three times a week for three or four weeks, plus a big push during the last week before opening - set-building days, production meetings, and tech and dress rehearsals. A full-length play requires a more intense commitment. The productions have a four week run, Friday and Saturday nights.
13) It is not possible to do this without volunteer stage managers and light and sound operators - house managers and graphic artists too. So far we've had incredible contributions in these areas - the people who have made commitments to help out have been unbelievably talented, dedicated, resourceful, uncomplaining, and totally reliable - often way beyond the call of duty. I can't take responsibility for finding the technical support - those of you who want to act and direct need to take turns helping each other out, and/or finding the people who will volunteer to make those commitments. As far as I can tell, EVERYBODY who has volunteered as stage manager, light/sound operator, graphic artist, house manager, set builder, stagehand - has had fun, learned a lot, and been very glad they did it. And, although this is not a "policy," I'm only human - I do find that my gratitude to the people who do volunteer makes me eager to be sure they get their chance at acting or directing as soon as possible.
14) It is of primary importance to me that this should be an environment of total support, creative expansion, and commitment to excellence - free of jealousies, resentments and gossip. Maybe expecting that to happen in a theater group sounds like hoping to reinvent human nature - but I have no interest in doing this unless it is a happy and nourishing experience. We're all struggling to be heard, to be seen, to find our artistic voice. It's very helpful to do this in a community. One of my actors put it this way during the run of one of our plays: "Oh yeah! It's a competition out there on stage! But it's a competition of adoration."