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The Role of the Director in the Post Modern Theatre

The Role of the Director in the Post Modern Theatre: A Study of Oteh Partick Jude and Kenneth Uphopho

CHAPTER ONE

1.1   Introduction

The theatre requires three elements; actors, play and audience. For theatre to actualize its potentials, a person would need to oversee all aspects of the production and that person is known as the director. A director is not only in-charge of all the aspects of production but as an artist he ties all performance elements together for him to succeed and stage a successful production. If a director must be a super artist, then he or she must have a sense of direction, and a personal dedication that will correlate with and unify all artistic elements at his or her disposal.

According to Robert Cohen, “The art of directing is an exercise in leadership, imagination, and control, in the director’s hands, finally rests the aspirations, neuroses, skills and ideas of the entire theatrical company” (503).

Directing as an act becomes salient during the late nineteenth century although the concept of the director had existed in one form or another since the Greek classical era. To buttress this Cohen posits that, ‘the Greeks called the directors, “Didaskalos” meaning ‘teacher.’ (171)

Similarly Debra Bruch observes that:

The medieval era performers were entirely designed to bring closer to this creator. Hence, the church established precepts and theatre companies were used for the glorification of the church doctrine. These established convictions had to be adhered to guide the performers not to go astray that person was called conductuers de secrets (2).

Shakespeare and Moliere directed their companies respectively during the Elizabethan age, and then from mid 18th century, the actor/manager emerged.

Two major forces helped highlight the need for a director at this time, the development of scenery and scene shifting, and the focus on production over play script. As the era of the director’s dominance became more and more glaring, the director gradually became a separate and important entity that impacted the theatre world. Thus, the personality of the director began to gain prominence beginning from 1874 when the Duke of Saxe Meiningen toured Europe with his troupe. Helen Chinoy notes that:

May 1, 1874 has come to have a special place in history of the director, for on that date: the duke of Saxe Meiningen brought his unknown troupe to Berlin to display the unique accomplishment of a director’s theatre. The Duke of Saxe Meiningen utilized all the innovations…intensive rehearsals, discipline, integrated acting, and historically accurate sets and costumes to create realistic stage pictures (22).

The tour popularized the values and artistic opportunity a director could have. The director’s function is to ensure the quality and completeness of a theatre production and to lead the members of the creative team into realizing their artistic vision for it. The director therefore collaborates with a team of creative individuals which includes the stage managers, set designers, costume designers, props mangers, actors, lighting designers, make-up artists, sound designers for the production. Different directors occupy different places of authority and responsibility depending on the structure and philosophy of individual theatre companies and particularly the period and era within which they exist.

The director therefore in his quest to carry out his artistic responsibilities develops a directorial concept which guides all other production crew members it is this concept that unifies all the other production elements to make the production one artistic unit. The   director according to Peter Brook “sees himself not as a god but his role implies that.” (127). Hence every other artist is imbued to accept his ideas and methodological approaches collaboratively to achieve the vision. According to Milly Barranger,  “actors, directors and designers are often treated as servants to the director’s concept and are expected to deliver the ‘look’ and meaning of the play’s  world as specified by the director.” (94).

This concept as conceived or envisioned by the director is basically considered as crucial or vital to the dramatic or aesthetic value of the play produced.

Directorial concepts according to Edwin Wilson should be:

Derived from controlling idea, vision or point of view which the directors feel is appropriate to the play. This concept reflects through the setting of the plays, the language, the costume, the make-up a given societal idiosyncrasies, which in real sense, contribute to the aesthetic of the play (147).

Directorial concepts which are the definite messages that various directors encode in their works whether applied consciously or unconsciously stands as a towering stride that must be followed by all the production crew to arrive at a climatic end.

The twentieth century theatre with its numerous revolts ranging from realism, symbolism, expressionism and other movement gave birth to new approaches which also featured styles of directing peculiar to each new movement and among these new approaches is post modernism.

Post modernism is a term which describes the post-modernist movement in the arts, its set of cultural tendencies and associated cultural movements. It is in general the era that follows modernism, its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as twentieth century post structural thought. Jon Whitmore quoting Gaggi defines post modernism as “differing from modernism because it carries modernist principles beyond anticipated boundaries or because it rejects modernist principles altogether (3).

Post-modern theatre is a recent phenomenon in world theatre, coming as it does out of the post modern philosophy that originated in Europe in the middle of the twentieth century. Post- modern theatre emerged as a reaction against modernist theatre. Most post-modern productions are centered around highlighting the fallibility of definite truth, instead encouraging the audience to reach their own individual understanding. In essence, post-modern theatre raises question rather than attempting to supply answers.

The post modern director has introduced startling effects through scenery, set, costumes, lighting, make-up, semiotics and the entire production. Post modern theatre strive towards the representation of ‘truth’ the way it should be represented through the post modern director and his works.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Among all other artists of the theatre, the director stands out as a result of the nature of his job which ranges from play selection and casting, to the rehearsals process culminating in the production. In addition to this, the director co-ordinates all other artists of the theatre for the realization of an ideal production.  French director Ariane Malouchkine describes his work thus:

I’m like a midwife; I help to give birth to the production. The mid-wife doesn’t create the woman and she is not the husband. But still if she is not there the baby is in great danger and might not come out. I think a really good director is that. (321)

 

It is the realization of this task in this post-modern period in theatre history that becomes the challenge. Most directors are subjected to a particular convention and theatre age. This research work is set to explore the intricacies of the post-modernistic theatre and the challenges they pose to the post-modern directors. The pluralism and multiplicity in style, approach and over all process that characterizes the post modern theatre become a new stumbling block for the emergent director of the era.

1.3       Aim of the Study

This research seeks to unravel the role of the director in the post-modern theatre. The researcher intends to help emergent directors in this post-modern era to understand the nature of their task and obligation. The study is also expected to stimulate further research in the area.

1.4       Significance of Study

Theatre practitioners have recently been faced with trends of “post-modernism’. This newest and fast dominating movement in theatre practice has gained global recognition in almost every part of the world, Nigeria inclusive. As a result it becomes pertinent for academic and practical awareness to be created on the modus operandi of this movement. For this reason, the significance of this study remains undisputed, since the researcher want to make available tools in form of ideas and postulations that would enhance directing in this post-modern era. The study would also serve to encourage up-coming directors to venture into this practice that has become more interesting in this period.

1.5       Scope of the Study

This study is delimited to the study of post-modern directing in the activities of Oteh Patrick Jude who practices in Jos Repertory Theatre as a director, and Kenneth Uphopho who practices in Performing Arts Workshop and Studios,(PAWS) Lagos state.

1.6       Limitation of Study

During the course of this research, the researcher found it quite difficult to get in touch with the personnel involved in her case studies because of the distance, thus making physical communication almost impossible.

1.7       Research Methodology

Data for this research work will be collected and analyzed authoritatively. The researcher will consult published books, relevant journal articles and other documented sources. The researcher will also conduct interviews with Oteh Patrick Jude and Kenneth Uphopho at their various places of practice respectively in order to acquire first hand information about the case studies. These two directors were chosen because of their creative and interpretative works to post-modern directing.

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