Many people ask me what it's like to work with Diane Paulus, our Tony nominated director whose recent Broadway revivals of "Hair" and "Porgy and Bess" each won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical. I must say that being in a Paulus-helmed show is an incredibly gratifying experience. The working environment is professional but intimate - a sort of hard working family feeling. Diane utilizes a lot of group discussion often leading the company in verbal explorations of particular parts of the script. We discuss the underlying messages and concepts so that a collective understanding can be reached about what we are trying to say with the piece and how we will say it.
She also begins much of her staging with structured improv. This allows the actors the freedom to explore the material in an organic way. Diane will eventually create specific staging that is tightly coordinated and intricate, but the rawness, intimacy, and even silliness that emerge from the initial discussions and improvs carry over. The result is a genuine depth of emotion and a sincere connection between the actors - even in comedic scenes - that is difficult to manufacture. This is part of why her work sucks people in so much, makes them feel something so potent (I cried for the entire second act of "Porgy and Bess"), and makes them really care about what happens to the characters in her shows.
She has such a clear vision of both the world she wants to create for a show and the way she wants that world to make the audience feel. She explores continuously until she finds the perfect elements to complete that world. She is not afraid to try unusual ideas which can often end up yielding the most poignant, funny, or effective moments in the show. And she is not afraid to move on and try something different if that first idea is not successful. She is constantly reassessing the "story telling" to make sure that each beat and each moment is as clear as possible, as honest as possible, and as effective as possible. And she is always striving to make what she has created even better.
For this reason, having the chance to go back into rehearsal for a few weeks before opening on Broadway has proven to be very valuable. Since the entire cast from the American Repertory Theater production remains in tact, we have already established strong relationships with each other - both on and off stage. Now, under the guidance of Diane and the rest of the artistic team, we can take what we have created together and deepen it. We are very fortunate to have this time to clarify, to enhance, and to add new elements to the wonderful world of "Pippin."
This week's photos are courtesy of photographer Kevin H. Lin who was also our music assistant at the American Repertory Theater. More of his fantastic photos will appear in the next post!
Diane Paulus rehearses with the cast
The cast of "Pippin" in rehearsal