Directors Lab West 2012, Days 5 and 6

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Rex Camphius and Aloysia Gavre’s Troupe Vertigo in rehearsal

(All this week LA STAGE Times has presented coverage of Directors Lab West 2012 with reports from DLW’s production coordinator Doug Oliphant and intern Danielle Oliver. CLICK HERE to view Days 1-2, or Days 3-4.)

Wednesday, May 23 by Danielle Oliver


Movement Workshop: Jen Bloom (DLW ’10)

“I was impressed that everybody was willing to put the same thing down their pants.” “”Lab member during Jen Bloom’s session “Insta-Plays!”

Directors in a tableau for Jen Bloom’s Insta-Plays!

Jen Bloom’s morning class taught us how to utilize movement to create dynamic storytelling. We were instructed to create “tableaus” in groups, often working against the clock to complete our visions. This was one of the first times we’ve been able to collaborate as artists since the week began, and it was a fascinating learning experience that taught us much about imagery and the physical body’s power onstage.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Discussion: Troupe Vertigo’s Rex Camphuis and Aloysia Gavre

“Take the work seriously, not yourself.” — Rex Camphuis (Troupe Vertigo)

It’s a rare opportunity to be able to observe circus performers in rehearsal, but that’s exactly how we were able to spend our Wednesday afternoon. We silently witnessed a bit of Troupe Vertigo’s artistic process unfold in a Hollywood studio run by partners Aloysia Gavre and Rex Camphuis. The performers were practicing for Nighthawks, a show based on Edward Hopper’s painting of the same name. We watched in awe as they flew through the air, often defying gravity — all the while making it look way too easy. After a talkback with Gavre and Camphuis, a few of us even tried the trapeze!

The Michael Chekhov Technique

Workshop: James Haffner

“The brain is not invited to this party.” — James Haffner (DLW ’02)

James Haffner leading the directors in Michael Chekhov exercises

James Haffner, a director and educator often involved in opera, led Lab participants in a session that centered on Michael Chekhov’s performance techniques. To demonstrate the aspect of Chekhov’s “concentration,” we did several exercises with balls and rings to teach us about nonverbal communication and partner focus.


Performance: Center Theatre Group (Ahmanson Theatre)

“I mean, you grow up hearing it’s the little things that count, turns out it’s true.”Buddy Plummer (Follies)


After a full day of moving and shaking, we left Pasadena for Downtown Los Angeles, where — after a speedy dinner — we saw Follies at Ahmanson Theatre.

Thursday, May 24 by Doug Oliphant

Roundtable No. 2

“I find it absolutely terrifying to go into a room and not control it.”  — Megan Finlay (DLW ’12)

Directors gathered for a roundtable discussion

You know that feeling you get around 2 pm, after you’ve eaten lunch and have returned to work, but try as you might, you can’t get yourself as energized and motivated as you were a few hours before? Well, Thursday was the equivalent of 2 pm on any given day, and we needed to be reinvigorated. Steering committee member Kappy Kilburn came to the rescue and started the day off with an exercise called “corn-popping.” In it, two people would stand before the group, one would radiate their energy facing the other, who would completely physically and vocally embody an emotion, before a drumbeat would prompt the emotional one to throw their energy to the other and they’d launch into a new emotion. Flailing arms, sobbing, laughing, and floor-pounding ensued, and after most directors had their turn in the spotlight, we concluded the exercise and launched into discussion. This roundtable brought up two major topics: collaboration among the entire creative and administrative staff, and the director’s role in marketing the show.

The Car Plays

Performance: Moving Arts

(Describing being in the Car Play The Audience) “It was the most awkward 10 minutes of my life.” — Daniel Stone (DLW ’12)

Moderator Cindy Marie Jenkins with “The Car Plays” creator Paul Stein, producer Cece Tio and the actors

Earlier this week, we had a session on devised theater, and elements of site-specific work came up and got a very enthusiastic response from this group of directors. It was therefore no surprise to watch the group engaged in passionate discussion after experiencing “The Car Plays.” Quite simply, “The Car Plays” is a series of five 10-minute plays performed for an audience of two inside actual cars, in an actual parking lot. The series was created by Moving Arts’ former artistic director Paul Stein. The DLW directors were able to see one play each before heading back to the Pasadena Playhouse for a post-show discussion with Stein; producer Cece Tio; directors Kiff Scholl, Casey Stangl and Ron Klier; and the actors. Everything from logistics to how the idea was originally conceived was discussed, and we all left with our faith in the 10-minute play restored.

Beyond the Press Release

Panel: Steve Julian, Ken Werther, Jim Halloran, Brett Chapin, Gregory Crafts

“We are doing Little Shop and we will partner with a blood bank. I want to figure out how to get people to donate blood “˜during’ the show.”  — Gregory Crafts (Theatre Unleashed)

Social Media Masters Cindy Marie Jenkins, Steve Julian, Ken Werther, Jim Halloran, Brett Chapin and Gregory Crafts

Everyone has an opinion on social media, the changing trends in printed newspapers, bloggers, hashtags and tweet seats. Where they fit into theater was the topic of conversation in this session, and this panel of social media masters, moderated by social media queen Cindy Marie Jenkins, dug into the changing times of today’s media and gave the directors guidance on how they may take advantage of the tools they have available to them. Gregory Crafts shared his successes and failures in marketing for his company, Theatre Unleashed. Brett Chapin spoke on his experience with his radio show LA LA Land, Jim Halloran on his experience marketing for Center Theatre Group, Ken Werther on his 30-year career in LA theater publicity, and Steve Julian on his experience as a radio host on KPCC and his many duties on behalf of the LA theater community. To some, the information was overwhelming, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone found it illuminating to hear from the working experts on the marketing/publicity tools that exist and how we can best utilize them.

The Children

Performance: The Theatre @ Boston Court

(About The Children and all plays) “Ultimately it is about my belief in how story saves us.” — Jessica Kubzansky

Directors entering cars for Moving Arts’ “The Car Plays”

The evening concluded with a trip back to Boston Court where we saw Michael Elyanow’s The Children, directed by Jessica Kubzansky. While I’m no critic, I can say that I absolutely loved the production and its beautiful poetics, combined with Greek mythology and modern-day context. I’m also just a big fan of all the risk-taking theater Boston Court produces, but while sometimes the risks can fail, I thought this one succeeded brilliantly, keeping me on the edge of my seat, leaning forward, my brain always one step behind the action of the play, but never two. After the show, Kubzansky spoke to the entire audience about her directorial process on the show, which was programmed long ago by Boston Court and just coincidentally coincided with DLW. It’s evenings at theater like this that I cherish and that inspire me in my own work.

Directors Lab West is a forum that brings theater directors together with peers and seasoned professionals for an opportunity to collaborate and grow together as artists. Directors Lab West is modeled after the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York City. Like its NY counterpart, the Lab is a series of discussions, working sessions, panels and symposia with some of the nation’s and region’s leading directors, playwrights, designers and other theater practitioners.

***All photos by Danielle Oliver

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Doug Oliphant and Danielle Oliver

Doug Oliphant and Danielle Oliver