A memory of John Hirsch

In the early 1980′s I attended a director’s workshop hosted by the Seattle Repertory Theatre. John Hirsch was leading one of the sessions. He was there to direct Our Town for the company. There were about 80 of us directors gathered in the theatre that morning for a session with John about how to direct crowd scenes. In the morning papers was a scathing review of a play he has just directed at Stratford. We were passing around the reviews from several papers, American and Canadian. The dull roar of gossip in the room became hushed as John walked on to the stage. He was carrying the same newspaper we were all reading. It was an awkward moment, as we all knew, he knew, we knew. He started by saying the purpose of the workshop was how to direct crowd scenes, but he knew we were more interested in talking about the show he had just directed, and what had gone wrong. He sat at the front of the stage and began to take us through the process he had been through. He said that, as a director, you make your choices with your team, and you commit to them. Then you enter the “dark tunnel” of rehearsal and creation, where you begin to doubt. He said that he began to suspect that he was wrong on the path they had taken. But he had had that feeling before, and stuck to his path, and things had gone well in the end. That is the risk to you take. To “change trains” in the dark tunnel, was to ensure mediocrity. That the real risk was to stick to your first instincts. You might have a great success or a gigantic failure. He said that days before they opened, he knew it was going to be a disaster, but he had no regrets as he has stuck to his path. That he had gone through the “dark tunnel” and come out the other side. It was hard, but that was the only way to make great work. Those words have always stuck with me and served me well. He then went on to lead a very lively and informative workshop on staging large crowd scenes, as if the review were water off a duck’s back. Also, something I learned a great deal from. He was larger than life.

 

Kim Selody

Kim Selody

Artistic Director
Presentation House Theatre

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