When a man who lives 2,000 miles away asks you to direct his project, you should decline.
I just learned that lesson the hard way.
In early September, I was approached to direct a show. I agreed. While the show would retain the name of an earlier show, this version would be comprised of a new cast with new scripts. It’s similar to how Second City or “Saturday Night Live” retains the brand name, but the material and actors can be 100% different.
In November, we held auditions. And because of everyone’s crazy holiday schedules, we had just five rehearsals to pull together a one-hour live show to debut the first week of January. Five rehearsals. One hour of material. Do the math.
Against all odds, we put together a successful first show. And each week, we dedicated ourselves to adding at least three new sketches. That’s a ridiculous workload, considering we only had one rehearsal between shows. Somehow, we pulled it off. The shows got better and better and better.
And today, I got fired.
Apparently, some of the cast had problems with the way the production was being run. This baffles me.
Throughout the process, I solicited ideas and scripts from the cast. I constantly asked for their contributions. And when they didn’t chip in, I wrote like crazy to fill the gaps. We created scenes through improvisation. We incorporated songs. Anything the cast wanted to try, I let it fly in rehearsal. And the cast voted for whatever scenes they wanted to put in the show.
In short, I created the kind of environment I would want to work in if I were a cast member. And yet, the cast voiced displeasure.
I am vexed.
It would be one thing if the show didn’t get laughs. Or if the cast fought. Or if I were some sort of tyrant. Then, I could understand the mini-mutiny. All I did was write scripts, give a few notes and let the cast choose the scenes they wanted to perform.
Now, the man who asked me to direct had constant issues with the material. He felt it wasn’t up to par. He called the shows “weak.” After viewing cell phone video of our second-ever rehearsal, he fired off an e-mail with 2,366 words, telling us how to improve. He wanted to make adjustments to every single script, and never contributed any of his own. I shielded the cast from that. Without me in the mix, I worry how this will manifest itself going forward.
But it’s not my problem. I did the best I could. And my run with the team is over.
So I sit here the morning after a successful show, shaking my head and wondering where I went wrong. Apparently, the wrong step was in September, when I agreed to run the project in the first place.
But if anybody’s looking for a director who lets you create your own material and vote on what you get to perform, I’m available.