Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good Enough: A Director's Perspective

Welcome to part three of our Good Enough Blog Series. Leading up to the world premiere of Good Enough on May 14, we are offering a weekly glimpse into the creative process behind crafting and staging a show that chronicles the true stories of five women living with depression or bipolar disorder. This week, we hear a director's perspective - specifically, that of Good Enough director Genevieve Thompson.

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I think in my next life, I should be a detective.

I find that I am very interested in the research aspect of my directing work. In the past, most of my really successful work has been in historical dramas -- meaning, stories of fictitious characters taking place during historically significant times (ie, the migration from the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression or the centuries-old battle for land in the Appalachian mountains or the collapse of the British Empire in parts of Africa.) My preparation process for these projects has always been very research-oriented. I tend to read the play, make a very long list of questions, and then throw myself into research until all of my questions are answered.

I find that a slightly different preparation process is necessary for Good Enough. While I have certainly made my list of questions and researched the scientific aspects of depression and bipolar disorder (diagnoses, causes, treatments, prognosis, etc.), I find myself spending a lot more time looking for clues in the words of the text. My primary goal with this production is not to put a spotlight on the illnesses, but on the people, on their stories. Which are far more interesting and relevant to us than statistics, I think.

So, the first step I took was to read the complete unedited interviews. The main thing I was looking for were clues about who this person was. Their archetype, if you will. For instance, the things someone repeats over and over again? Those are the things that they don't feel heard about. Those are major points of frustration that no one seems to ever really get.

I studied the parentheticals. For instance, in the texts of the interviews, it says things like "(laughs)" or "(takes a long pause before continuing)." I consider each one of those parentheticals a clue. Those are what we call subtext. For instance, there is one woman who, whenever she says something almost unbearably painful, she laughs. But later in the text, when she is talking more lightly, it indicates that she begins crying quite hard. Or there is another woman who begins her interview with pause after pause after pause. In those parentheticals I find hesitancy. A desire to choose her words carefully. But later, as she seems to become more comfortable, her words come fast and furious and there are no parentheticals anywhere, just talking talking talking the story cannot come out quick enough oh my god finally someone is really just sitting there and listening.

After reading the full interviews, I was able to listen to the sound recordings of a few of them. I listened to the depth of the speaker's voice, the volume, the ebbs and flows of how they speak. I heard the women cry and laugh and was able to get a better sense of how they present themselves to the world vocally.

My final preparation is one that I do with almost all of my scripts, no matter what type of show. For each character, I create a chart. In one column, I list all the things the person says about themself. In the next column, what they say about others. In the final column, what others say about them. It is a tedious process, to be honest, but one that reveals so much about how to approach the performance of the piece. I look for repetitions and opposites. I look at the number of items in each column. Which column has the most number of things in it. For example this person has 30 things in the column What She Says About Others and they are all positive things, but she only has one thing in her What Others Say About Her column and it's negative.

Everything's a clue, when you get right down to it. I hope that I've found enough of them to properly serve the women who so bravely have shared their stories with us.
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Good Enough is sponsored by Rebecca's Dream and runs May 14, 15, 21 & 22 at 7:30pm at Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theatre. We hope you will join us! For more information, click here.

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