When the director says you gave a fantastic audition, you usually didn’t get the part. And I didn’t.
But this one had a surprise for me.
“I wonder if you might be interested in being the assistant director.”
My response may have set land speed records at Daytona.
After a long time away, I was back on the bridge.
If your life hasn’t included the wonderful vistas of community theatre, you may not be aware of the invisible world that exists away from center stage. (You may also be a lot less sleep-deprived and have a much more normal sense of humor, but I digress.) Behind the performers who spin the stories and create the characters are an entire army of people, all of them dedicated to keeping that secondary reality alive and vibrant.
Most of those folks have pretty specific jobs – the light designer, the props master/mistress, the crew chief for building the sets, and so on. Some are wider-ranging: the producer who oversees the logistics, the stage manager who keeps the show running smoothly when the curtain rises, and of course, the director who brings it all together with their own unique vision.
Assistant directing is a little different. The job has basically two pieces:
- Whatever the director wants it to be, and
- Whatever you make it, within the constraints of part one.
A few directors turn this into a “gofer” but most know better. In essence, the AD is a second brain, a second set of hands and eyes, and a filler-in of missing pieces.
A director who’s more creative than organized may have an AD who helps create plans and schedules.
A director who’s not technically savvy may choose one who can translate their ideas to the technical director (or in smaller companies, may also BE the technical director).
And any director who can’t be everywhere – which is all of them until we manage to invent that pesky time machine – benefits from having someone who can see the action from a different angle, think about the scene from a different perspective, go over the notes and say “Have you considered …?”
Speaking as someone who’s been a director long ago and far away (in that otherworldly dimension of Kansas), those gifts can be invaluable. It’s that “click” that creates peanut butter and jelly, John Williams and Star Wars, three-day weekends and a full tank of gas – good by themselves, but even better together.
And the best part is, you don’t have to be a theater person to get it.
Most of us have the chance to be someone else’s missing piece, if we think to look for it. A lot of us don’t. We focus on our own needs, we look for familiar situations. And when we do team up, we often look for someone just like ourselves – no risk of conflict, but limited chances to grow.
It’s when we step outside what we’ve known that the magic can happen. To not just pursue our own needs and visions, but help others with theirs.
The more we do it, the more opportunities we see. And the easier it gets to accept help when we need it ourselves.
And personally, I can’t wait to see what this opportunity brings. My notebook is ready. My eyes are open. My mind is eager.
The invisible world awaits.
Let’s go set the stage.