Play by Lauren Gunderson
In the Autumn of 2019 I enrolled in a Directing I course as part of my BA in Theatre. For this course, we learned techniques to address action verbs, sectioning a script to rehearse, ran a crash course in casting, stage configuration, creating images, sight lines of the audience, which stage configuration to best suit the story, and many others. The knowledge was broad spectrum to give us the best overview possible. 18 weeks does not allow time for a more in-depth look at each segment which, itself, could encapsulate a lifetime of study.
We referenced A Sense of Direction by William Ball but also looked at many excerpts from Anne Bogart’s A Director Prepares.
Our end-of-term outcomes included a ‘directors book’ and the showcase of a 10-minute scene excerpt from a play we direct. We dipped toes into the experience of casting, managing our schedules with our actors, and reserving spaces to rehearse in. Each week, the goal was to rehearse at least once, for at least an hour and a half. I managed one two hour rehearsal each week, and doubled that time during our ‘tech week’ before showing. We had roughly 8 weeks to rehearse. Before the process began that seemed an inordinate amount of time. After, when faces with all the minute details and shifts that affect not only the visual of a performance, but its possible story impact; less than 40 hours was inconsequential.
Before touching casting, however, we had four options to select a play from. Each touched on major genres in theatre; we had comedy, tragedy, contemporary realism, and a softly absurdist play fueled by the poetry of speech.
I selected Exit, Pursued by a Bear written by Lauren Gunderson, a tragicomedy with roots in realism and driven by narrative, particularly the narrative of Nan. She is the protagonist of the play subjected to domestic violence.
Exit Pursued by a Bear used a meta-theatrical device – the ‘play-within-a-play’ – as a means to teach Kyle, an abusive husband the wrongs of his actions. It handled themes of domestic violence, sexism, toxic masculinity, sex shaming, and to a lesser degree homophobia.