One of my dear old mum's favorite phrases is “when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade”.
Yes, it's a cliché, but like a lot of clichés it also contains more than a grain of truth. Turning a sow's ear into a silk purse (there's another one...) is one of humanity's oldest pursuits. Entire industries (public relations and advertising) are based on it. Politicians do it so automatically that they no longer even think of it as lying. It's just “spin”.
I bring all this up because today a local theater company sent out a press release that is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of turning lemons into a tasty summertime beverage that I have ever seen.
The company, The Tin Ceiling, is presenting Sam Shephard's drama True West with a new twist: there's no director. Whether this was done as an experiment or out of necessity is perhaps a moot point. What's really rather clever is the way they handled the fact that, of the three reviews they got, two were positively negative. Here's the full press release:
Is this shrewd or what?
That said, I have to say that I've been in my share of shows in which, while there was a director of record, there was, in fact, no direction at all. One or two of them managed to be decent shows because the cast, out of sheer desperation, took turns directing each other, but generally speaking I think a show without direction is going to be a show with no direction.
I agree with Ron Himes' notion of the division of responsibility. The playwright's job is to produce a good script. The director's job is to realize the playwright's vision on stage. The actor's job is to create a character based on the director's interpretation of the playwright's vision. If anybody falls down on his or her job, the end result will suffer.
But what the heck - it's summer. Anybody for a nice lemonade?