Indy Fringe Festival opens tomorrow night, and in the midst of lines, costume changes, and choreography running through my head, I’m exceedingly grateful to have a director who has put in as much rehearsal time as my fellow actor and I to ensure a solid, entertaining production. Our director might not be on stage sweating through the whirlwind of cues and nerves, but he’s been fine tuning our performance for weeks, watching and evaluating the same story over and over again, gauging whether or not the humorous material is landing or getting tripped up in our delivery, keeping us safe and mostly sane, and more.
A writer is an actor telling a story, playing out a myriad of roles, and connecting with an audience, but it can be very hard for a writer/actor to see the proverbial forest when he/she is consumed with the bark of a single tree. It could be the tree upon which the entire plot hinges, a crucial element that rightly deserves the emotional and intellectual focus of creator and consumer, but too much attention at one interval drowns the entire story including the significant tree.
Enter the editor/director. Sure, a director potentially has far more creative control over a project than we might feel comfortable assigning to an editor and usually determines the role an actor may or may not perform. At the same time, the director cannot stand on stage delivering a soliloquy while also sitting in the audience, asking the actor to speak clearly for crying out loud! The editor is not the one telling the story but, like the director, can inform the writer/actor what is reading from the audience and guide them to a better means of delivery. Is the language understandable? Can we follow the story? Are the characters emotionally vibrant or stuck in a rut? Does the action suit the dialogue? Is the plot flowing at the right pace?
There are actors who can successfully direct themselves, but it’s a skill set developed over time and with extensive self-scrutiny. Similarly, there are authors who edit their own work so thoroughly that comparatively little is done on the editor’s desk. However, the author and editor should operate as a creative team. The editor is present to respond and guide the author. The author takes that input and translates it into his/her unique way of telling the story.
Neither party can take the place of the other. Progress becomes nigh impossible if they do. Anytime an actor sees a director as the adversary or a director considers actors to be the necessary evil of theatre, the story is not honorably served. Likewise, author and editor combine their responsibilities and abilities to nurture the manuscript into a well-executed book.