(„Diary“: without claim to completeness. Freedom of the imagination. Scraps of thoughts. Any resemblance to allegedly real scenes is purely coincidental).
Presentation of the concept (Konzeptionsgespräch). These introductions are important. But I don’t like them!
There is always the fear: will, what I present, be accepted? Will the singers like it and want to collaborate?
I prepare myself for at least a week. Everything is well thought out, rolled back and forth in my mind, and on paper. Trying to explain it as exciting and relevant, what I want to work on in the following weeks. These many expectant pairs of eyes, some very bored, some watching me in provocative way: „What has the director come up with this time?“ lurking for the concept to be attachable. At the end of the presentation of my concept, meaningful glances are thrown at each other: „Well, is this going to be something?“ But also – goodwill: „That was great, this insight“ and „We are looking forward to working together„. A weight falls off my shoulders: at least I could convince some of them.
Drama during the presentation of the costumes: the long-time Prima Donna of the house dries her tears: „There’s no way I can go on stage with a wig like that.“
The rehearsals begin: a singer is going to try a new role beyond his usual „Fach“. He finds the role „below his standards“ at the house, and makes everyone feel this constantly, loudly complaining what a mess it all is, everything is so amateurish, but: „what do you expect from this theatre?“
The old, well-known mechanism: belittling the other person in order to stabilize oneself and cover up one’s own insecurity. Hurtful. Tirelessly ranting on, attacking everyone in a respectless way. Thus own state of mind becomes center of focus, and the foul-mouthed behaviour is legitimized (often unconsciously).
I thought that only directors and artistic directors did that? No, fiddlesticks, it also works in the other direction – and much less rarely than commonly thought. We, too, are bullied, maltreated, dissed, and I don’t always manage to deal with it confidently. We „stage directors“ are human beings, too.
Most likely, singers suffer more from stage directors (and conductors) than vice versa. But the other way round actually exists, too! Is it related to the fact that I am a woman? I don’t want to believe that. In brief weak moments, I catch myself thinking that I would like to be beyond all doubt and that everyone would just do what I say without asking. But of course, I don’t want to work that way! I am interested in convincing my counterpart in exploring the piece, the role, together. As a director, I am not omniscient, not omnipotent, nor have I already asked myself all questions. I need the exploration in the rehearsal process, the creative atmosphere.
Can’t we go on a mutual journey with a piece? For example, how can it be that conductors always know exactly what the composers wanted? Most of the pieces were written by people we can no longer ask. Isn’t it presumptuous for conductors to think they are in a position to determine how something should be performed?
My optimal working conditions presuppose respectful, appreciative cooperation.
I am interested in what a singer thinks, feels, and associates with this role/the piece, especially if they have sung their parts uncountable times before. Singing is such an immediate, subjective and sensual experience that impacts the singer; how can and should I, as a director, who does not physically experience this moment, know exactly how to implement it?
Sometimes I have wonderful experiences with singers who sing and play impressively, intensely, beautifully. I am in awe of how they master this profession with its manifold demands.
We work in theatre because we deal with relevant social and/or human issues. But how can we often disregard these issues backstage so much? My socialization in theatre was dominated by male leadership. When I timidly said that I would also like to do a studio production one day, I was laughed at and the recently hired (male) colleague was preferred over me. Okay, that was many years ago, but is it really any different today?
In my opinion, we must communicate as equals and achieve a good, artistic result with the best will in the world.
My observation is that in recent years the sole rule of the stage director tends to be no longer tolerated. I think this is a reassuring tendency. Rehearsals are an extremely intimate process in which there should be no taboos and in which we can only achieve the best result through mutual trust. Both sides: Singers and stage directors must meet each other with respect.
It’s about time to establish more democratic and gender-appropriate structures in theatre, where gender and origin are only the subjects of discussion in the play scene.
There is still much to say, but this is a diary. Scraps of thoughts, strung together, without any claim to completeness, writing things off my chest; at some point, I’ll continue writing, just for me ……