San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY–A Production Update from Playwright AND Director Steven Oberman

on August 7, 2014

 flier photo

In two previous blog posts (see links below), we have followed playwright Steven Oberman in the process of bringing his new play, The Man Who Was Thursday, to a local stage. An adaptation of G. K. Chesterton’s novel of the same name, the play is a witty and wild adventure about anarchists in Edwardian England, and will be presented at Vista’s Broadway Theater starting on August 21. Oberman not only wrote this new adaptation, but he also directs the production.

Playwright Steven Oberman

Playwright Steven Oberman

 

Q: How did you end up directing your own play?

A: Well it seemed to be the natural choice. I’ve been living with every aspect of this book in my head for the last two years, picturing every scene and how it would play on stage. And when I was promoting the idea of the play to the Broadway Theatre, I had to come up with preliminary set designs and how it would work in their space. So when it came time to discuss with Broadway Theatre’s Randall Hickman who would direct, we both agreed that I had the clearest vision of how to tell the story. And luckily I could draw on my experience of producing three of my own plays and co-directing one of them.

Members of the cast: (left to right) Larry E. Fox, Todd Kravitz, Santino Torretti, Cambria Rose Ruth, Sean Boyd, and Colton Apodaca (not shown: Danny Deuprey and Steven Oberman)

Members of the cast: (left to right) Larry E. Fox, Todd Kravitz, Santino Torretti, Cambria Rose Ruth, Sean Boyd, and Colton Apodaca (not shown: Danny Deuprey and Steven Oberman)

 

Q: So what are the pros and cons of directing your own play?

A: I think we have all read or heard warnings that playwrights should not direct their own plays. I’ve yet to experience anything to give credence to that warning. But I should note that since this play is an adaptation, and I’ve included a good portion of Chesterton’s lively dialogue right from the book, there is a sense that I’m directing someone else’s piece.  That said, one of the pluses definitely is being able to change lines on the spot in rehearsal.  Only a couple of days ago I had to rewrite lines that end one scene and start the next to fix the transition between the two, and it only took about 15 minutes and it was done. If you have two different people as director and playwright, that could take a couple of days to reach an agreement and make the changes. On the down side, it is hard to see the work with fresh eyes since I know every aspect of the story and I may not appreciate if an action or line needs more explanation to someone unfamiliar with the text. But that’s when I ask someone (such as my wife) to sit in a rehearsal and get that person’s impressions. That helps a lot. Oh, and the other challenge is that I have a small role in the play as well. So to be on stage and try to imagine what it all looks like can be difficult.

Q: Describe your optimal director/playwright collaboration. 

A: First of all, I think for a good director/playwright partnership you need two people who know each other really well. There must be a connection or level of understanding, not just of the material, but of each other, that goes beyond what we say to each other. When I have worked with directors I have just met, there is a level of uncertainty, so that I may think “Wait, was that sarcasm?” or “I don’t know him well enough to tell him what I really think.” Knowing your director well also serves you in the actual rehearsal and working with actors. Understanding the director’s process and how he guides the actors can save a playwright an embarrassing moment of butting in when he shouldn’t.

Q: Would you recommend other playwrights to direct their own plays?

A: That’s a hard one to answer. I hesitate because I feel there is a whole lot of mechanics that goes into directing. One needs to understand thinks like stage picture, beats and movement and how they all help to bring life to the dialogue. And then there are all the technical aspects to be incorporated into the whole concept of the play. Now, I have no formal training in directing, but I do have a few decades of experience working in the theatre so that I feel I can handle the job with a certain amount of confidence. You’ll just have to come out and see the show for yourself to answer whether I should have paid more attention to the “playwright, do not direct thyself” warning. Regardless, to use a line from the play, I promise you “a very entertaining diversion.”

Thanks for the update, Steven! Congratulations on finding your play a home. Break a leg!

The Man Who Was Thursday runs August 21-24 at The Broadway Theater, 340 E Broadway, Vista 92084. Performances are Thu-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun & Sat at 1:00pm. Tickets are $10 at www.broadwayvista.com or call 760-806-7905. For more posts about the show visit www.facebook.com/manthursday.

https://sandiegoplaywrights.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/finding-baby-a-home-an-interview-with-steven-oberman/

https://sandiegoplaywrights.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/an-update-from-steven-oberman/

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