Third and final in a series.
Marcus and Rachel Stevens, directors of the Mainstage production “Fiddler on the Roof,” talk about the amount of work that goes into directing a show, how the two work together, and how they are applying their New York city theatrical experiences.
How much work goes into putting a production like “Fiddler” together?
MS: We started working on this in January! And every night after the show, every night before the show, we have a meeting. There’s so much work outside of rehearsal that a director has to do.
RS: It’s a lot of work!
MS: It’s just interesting, people don’t put together the fact, they think, “you just rehearse the play” but there’s so much you have to do before you go into rehearsal.
RS: Prep for rehearsal is just as much if not more of the work than the actual work of putting something up on its feet. If you don’t do your preparation and you get into rehearsal with fifty really seasoned young actors who are ready to go, you’re wasting time. It’s like a well-oiled machine; you’ve just got to keep going.
How have you two enjoyed working together?
MS & RS: We hate it! (Both laugh)
MS: This is the first time we have actually co-directed.
RS: For “Hairspray,” last year, Marcus did most of the structural prep work. He worked with the costumers and all of the designers. And then when he had to leave [for “Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking” in NYC]. I took all the prep work Marcus had done and basically directed the tangible show. So it was a joint effort…
RS: The thing that people don’t realize is directing is not just [working with] the actors; it’s everything. And that’s one of the things that’s so interesting about this process. It’s the set, it’s the lights, it’s the costumes. We all work in tandem, so it’s not people on their separate islands doing work. We have to be in unison and understand each of those components.
MS: We’ve collaborated together since we were really young.
RS: The great thing about the way we collaborate is we usually have the same impulses. So when Marcus needs something…we don’t need to actually say anything out loud. The imagery that we’re attracted to is exactly the same. So when it comes to stage pictures, to entrances and exits, the esthetic of what we like to see…it’s exactly the same.
Rachel, what have you taken from the Actors Studio and how are you applying it here?
RS: What I’ve learned at the Actors Studio is how to personalize the text you are given and to filter it physically through your body. You learn to personalize something that you may not relate to, by physically feeling it. I’ve been able to incorporate that concept in our rehearsal process is by taking our actors through some of those exercises to get them to a deeper level.
MS: It sounds like science fiction, but when you break it down, it’s amazing!
RS: It does. When I say things out loud it sounds…
MS: No, I know exactly what you’re talking about! I’m sure someone who is outside of theater is asking, “What does that mean?” For example, Rachel did an exercise where she taught the guys how to physicalize drunk without being drunk. Which is so cool.
MS: One of the major things I’ve learned is how to play comedy. And there’s a lot in “Fiddler.” The most important thing: don’t play the comedy. Don’t try to be funny. Play to the impulse of the character and the need of the character. If the need of the character is strong, and the situation is ridiculous, it will be funny. Once you can express what it means, it will be funny.
To learn more about the show, CLICK HERE.