30
Mar
10

The Director’s Wife

Contrary to popular belief, being The Director’s Wife is not an advantage during the production process, in fact; it’s quite the opposite. I have found, several times now, that it is in fact, a distinct disadvantage to be married to the director. It doesn’t make the casting process any easier and if cast, it means a roller-coaster of a ride ensues! Nancy Allen recognised it long before I did! She and Brian de Palma divorced in 1984.

As well as trying to manage – wait, let’s just say find a reasonable balance between – the home, the theatre, the husband, the daughter, the work, the errands, the sanity (the list goes on)…one must also take on the following roles:

Directorial Consultant

(Sounding Board)

Sam: Hey honey, what if everybody is made up like in Rocky Horror?

X: Um. No. It should be beautiful, not grotesque.

Sam: Right. Okay. So everybody will be made up like in Rocky Horror…

Dramaturg

(Late night Google Girl)

Sam: HONEY! Can you get off Facebook and find all the adaptations of La Ronde and who did them and when they were done?

X: *opens new tab*

Personal Assistant

(The Maid)**

Sam: Baby, do you want coffee?

X: *saves draft and gets up to make coffee*

Personal Secretary

(Human Answering Machine)

Everybody, every time they call: “Hiiiiii! How are yooou? Goood!  Goood! So…is Sam there?”

X: *has already walked to where ever Sam is and handed him the iPhone*

Sure, I know, the director’s focus should be on the show. He has every right to live and breathe it, think and talk about only it, relate everything to it and take notice of how everybody else feels during the process, not to mention plan way ahead in case it takes off and tours the world…but only if he is unmarried. If you are the wife of a director it will drive you MAD.

Or it will drive you to come up with an Oscar winner. Just sayin’.

N.B. I have to include this because it was inspirational in the development of Scene 2. And because sometimes I feel like I’m being flung about, physically and emotionally, just like Ms O’Connor, both on stage and off (though she is much more elegant and beguiling and beautifully, delicately damaged than I and also, I tend to exaggerate for the sake of the story).

I love my husband.

Sometimes he remembers to tell me later, long after the rehearsal or the performance, that he loves what I’m doing. Other times…he is busy reminding somebody else to resist changing anything after Opening Night, or helping to strike the mirrors or, a week ago, twice (this is true), on the iPhone doing a radio interview instead of the usual morning coffee. He didn’t even have a coffee in hand! Now, I know there’s a multi-tasking issue there too…but there’s something a little amiss about this picture from the outset. You should know that Sam doesn’t skip that first coffee of the day for anybody. Suddenly, during this rehearsal period, he’s omitting it from the routine in order to gesticulate and concentrate on what he’s saying live to air before 9:00am! Unbelievable! I feel duped! I have been led to believe, for all these years, that my husband simply cannot function in the morning without coffee. Or sex. Or, preferably, both.

Don’t try to tell me that we are not, each and every one of us, completely and inexplicably, obsessed with our art.

We have at home, a little pre-cursor to every conversation. It’s quite simple and I think you’ll find, if you employ a similar measure in your own happy/unhappy home, it’s a strategy that aims to clarify and appease at the base level of every marriage and/or working relationship. I think, like most obvious solutions, we stumbled across it right before a shouting match conversation over coffee. I simply enquire as to whether I am being consulted as The Wife, The Cast Member, The Mother or The Social Media Marketing and Publicity Officer. I cannot help but think of Ko-Ko advising The Mikado.

Disclaimer: It was completely unnecessary to post all of these clips. Part 3 is the relevant, albeit slightly obscure reference, pertaining to an advisory role. But are they not delightful? Was this production not pure delight? Have you not enjoyed the little break from living and breathing and reading La Ronde?! Ladies and gentleman that was interval. And now it’s over.

Aside: My music theatre and operetta loving siblings and I watched this production over and over for years! It must have been shown on the ABC and my music theatre and operetta loving father must have recorded it on a video tape. That’s right. It was the eighties. It was VHS.

Right. What was I saying? Oh yes. I don’t always feel that I am in the best position to advise the director. I feel conflicted. No, not afflicted, conflicted; there are conflicts. Sometimes I try to be the objective Wife With Nothing to do With the Show. And then as The Director’s Wife who was Cast in the Show and Accepted the Role Against Her Better Judgement, I argue the point that will invariably make or break a scene.

Sometimes we actually agree.

After a questionable start to our scene work (he wanted me to be pathetic. I wanted to win a little bit), Sam has trusted me implicitly in the development of my character and he has, as part of the process, allowed me opportunities to explore possibilities and approaches to my scenes that were not obvious to him at the outset. Of course I share his vision; we all do, after just 8 weeks, rehearsing only in our pairs and fitting rehearsals in around our work, friends, family and other “real life” commitments, as we do when we are not making an income from this theatre thing. We are a close-knit little company now, having collaboratively re-written and re-shaped a good 60% of the original text. And having pulled an all-nighter to film the production for the documentary.

My interpretation has always been swayed by the desire for beauty to have an emotive effect on the audience (I’m a bit old-fashioned and feminine that way), as well as the need to portray my character as someone with stronger and more intriguing qualities than just those of a long-suffering victim (I’m a bit contemporary and feminist that way). Sam has wanted the physical,emotional and intellectual power play within each vignette to achieve the same results, challenging viewers to really feel something, even if they are unsure about what it is they are feeling. Originally, Sam wanted my character to come across as genuinely pathetic and without any power at all, just by the end of the scene with Shane. He wanted to save my “win” for the following scene. I argued the point with the same stubborn resolve I was looking to find for the character…and I hope I’m now getting across a win – of sorts – because my objective throughout has been to get him to love me. And I have to believe that he does.

I think that, almost by accident, we found that in my scene with Sharon, our different approaches amounted to the same thing. My objective would be the same: to get her to love me. But Scene 3 was always intended to be The Beautiful Scene. We were told when cast that having a relationship outside of the theatre was going to prove to be either a complete disaster or the best thing for us. For some reason, this comment infuriated me and I thought at the time, “What a ridiculous thing to say! What does he mean? This is Freudian! This is code! This is excessive use of the exclamation mark! He knows Sharon and I will be fine. He’s actually referring to our marriage and this show will be the end of it after all” (I’m a bit melodramatic that way).

The truth is that my husband, The Director, realised at some point (I don’t remember when, I blocked it out; there were tears) that he had been directing me very differently, communicating with me differently to the way he communicated with the other actors…because I am his wife. He was over-compensating and speaking to me more harshly because, for some reason, I should know better. Or he should set an example. Or something. Of course, being his wife, I should be able to read Sam’s mind. I should have somehow absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, his preferred creative vision and direction for me. Oops. My bad.

Another thing. Very interesting. Because I am The Director’s Wife, Shane was hesitant at first about really working our scene. From his perspective, having never worked with Sam before, he had a really scary scene to do! He was pretty reluctant to viciously and violently overpower me, throw me to the floor and carry out a simulated rape…in front of my husband. Once we had convinced Shane that I was fine with the evil intent and the physical nature of the scene (and that Sam and I had experienced this very issue before, when I was Fantine on a stage in Mt Isa) we came up with a terrifying encounter, which makes it relatively easy for Shane to fearlessly assault me and for me to show real fear, leaving the audience cringing and me shaking. I will save the breakdown of my substitution, inner objects and the moment before for another time, like, for the launch of my posthumously-published memoirs…

So anyway, before we had Leah Barclay‘s stunning original score, this was the inspiration for Scene 3. Simple. Whimsical. Beautiful. I insisted on using it to underscore the scene during rehearsals, until we had the actual piece, written by Ms Barclay in India and sent to us via email, after just one meeting with The Director, during which he described the mood and movement of the scene.

It seems Sam and I approach the work, like marriage and like raising a child, very differently sometimes. Sometimes the fact that we disagree is what works, forcing us to reconsider our perspective and our respective priorities. And sometimes it’s a matter of just knowing when to choose our battles. It’s just marriage, after all.

There are also times when, despite my best intentions, passion and dedication; I’m just an ordinary housewife and mother and The Director’s Wife is just another multi-layered part to play. And there is really very little acting involved.

** I play The Maid both on stage and off.


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