The following is a fairly detailed document. It is under copywright protection and is for information only.
My coaching philosophy...
My job is to help actors give the directors what they want in the best way possible. I am not here to impose my aesthetic on the piece. When I come into a production space, my work is entirely guided by the vision of the director.
In an ideal world, everything is working beautifully and I can just offer some guidance to the actors to flesh out their performances, giving additional richness and shape to the piece. This is always done honoring the direction the director is going.
I am not attached to my ideas. I am there to serve the piece. I will not be offended if we try something and the director says “No, I don’t like that.” Honestly. Communication is key here. Do not be afraid to tell me what you like and don’t like.
With that said, give me some time to work. I usually take actors “too far” in the direction we’re going to establish freedom and then when they come back into the piece their work is richer. So if we seem to be overdoing or going too far, be patient for a bit. My belief is that the director can always pull something back, but it is very hard to get actors or a piece to stretch if the actors aren’t showing the director where they can go!
The Ideal Coaching Scenario:
1) If I have never worked with these actors before, I’d like a few minutes with them doing warmup so they learn who I am and so I can see who they are: how they move, how they speak, and what their group dynamic is. This doesn’t take long - 20-40 minutes is fine, depending on how much time you have.
2) Show me something that’s working, let me watch a little. I’m very good at discerning your style and vision. If you show me something that you LOVE I can more easily bring what you don't love to that level. I am fine with just watching some of the piece run - I can usually figure out what you’re going for by watching the work.
3) Talk to me about what you see as the challenges - preferably before we are with the actors, though directors have different styles, so I’m very flexible on this.
4) Show me what’s not working - or just what you’d like to be “better” in some way. Feel free to tell me your dreams for the piece, the moment, the actor (in a positive way, if the actors are present, please.)
5) Know that I will always tell the actors that we are playing and that the director and I have already discussed that if he/she hates something we do, it’s gone. I will not make the director the “bad guy” who won’t let them do some fun thing. They will know I am there to serve the piece, the directorial vision, and their work (as it serves the piece and the directorial vision.)
6) We will play for a while. How long depends on what’s needed. Tell me how long I have and I will work accordingly.
7) There are two things that happen next and it depends on how long we have and where the piece is in the rehearsal process. It also depends upon how much input you want from me.
Option 1: After I work with them, exploring possibilities, they get some time to live with what we’ve done before the next rehearsal. In an ideal world, we work and then they go away and live with the “play” we’ve done for a while and then come back to the next rehearsal and you, the director, shape it to suit your vision. In this scenario, they have 24 hours with an expanded idea of what they can do and then when you come back to put it on it’s feet and shape it in the next rehearsal you will get more out of them. This puts the responsibility of shaping our work on the director, and that is fine with some directors. If you’d prefer to shape it with me there, that’s fine too - in which case we do the next option.
Option 2: We play a bit and then run it again - put it on it’s feet - while I am still there. And the director gives me feedback. And then we shape it together.
You can decide beforehand which of these ways you want to work, or we can see how time goes and you can choose how you want to proceed as I work with the actors. That’s usually what directors do the first time we work together.
Other things you should know:
I love collaborating. Shaping a piece with a director, in a way that honors the director's artistic vision is my favorite thing to do. I am invigorated by the creativity and challenge of working within another's vision. I am not attached to my ideas and really love the "play" aspect of my work.
Your actors will feel supported. My style is definitely “I am here to help you guys take this everywhere the director wants it to go and maybe we can find some cool things that make it better than anyone thought it could be! And the director is totally the boss and can throw away anything we do and that’s okay too. Anything we do together will make the piece richer and deeper even if we don’t keep any of it.”
I am always open to suggestions. Please ask me anything you want to know and feel free to tell me what you think and what you see happening.
And, by the way, as you work with me, if you think there’s something I should add to this document to help future directors, please tell me and I will add it. Including comments you have that you’d like to stand on their own as ‘quotes’.
Thank you for your creativity and commitment to our craft.
Input from Directors:
“...Elizabeth showed a remarkable ability to respond instantly to what she saw (obviating the need for discussion beforehand), working from the moment and making adjustments and suggesting alternatives with great efficiency and minimal uncertainty. She is a model of the expeditious, concentrated use of time.
For me, Elizabeth has been an ideal “outside” coach, in that she can make actors whom she doesn’t know and who don’t know her feel very much at ease and receptive after only a few minutes. Before the end of the first session she is working with them as if she is part of the college’s theatre faculty, and relating to them individually as if she has been observing their work for a whole semester. The fact that she acts herself certainly helps this.” - Michael Page
“When the rehearsals are turned over to her, I always stay to watch her work, whether she is teaching dialects or working with fans, canes and corsets. The breadth of her knowledge is extraordinary and she generates enthusiasm and passion in the students for the work. Her technical knowledge is superb, but equally impressive is her ability to deal with the psychology of performance, overcoming personal limitations, and achieving ownership of one’s heart, mind and voice. When she is not at rehearsals, the performers continue her exercises conscientiously because of the tangible results they experience from her work with them. “ - Jim Daniels