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October 25, 2001
Vol. 28, No. 12



The politics of interpreting Islam

UT scholars: World events challenge journalism ethics

Archer Fellows serve in Washington, D.C.

ExxonMobil gives $158,500

UT staffer gives $700,00 for scholarships

UT team seeks to save Ukraine historic site

Inaugural D. Harrington Symposium Nov. 2

Longhorn Halloween Oct. 28

Dr. Laura Flawn dies in collision

UT's bell ringer making music for nearly 50 years

Professor Jaime Delgado dies

UT grad students empowered in wake of Sept. 11 tragedy

UT researchers discover wood pulp replacement

UT engineers unlock defense body's protectve systems

New process detects cancer's ability to spread

Dr. Wood leads team in $80 million quake study

Undergrad biomedical engineering program created

FACTS brochures available

Faculty Council

News Briefs


Hearts of TX Campaign ends Oct. 31

UT book de-mystifies directing


"" ""

Book by university professor takes mystery out of directing

By Nancy Neff

For all the actors, playwrights, screenwriters and set designers who have ever uttered the phrase, "But what I really want to do is direct" — take heed. University of Texas at Austin Theater Professor Michael Bloom has some practical advice.

Michael Bloom
Michael Bloom has advice for directors.

In a new book being published this month, Bloom details a comprehensive technique for directing that covers every stage of a production — from the director's first reading of the play through the final rehearsals. Thinking Like a Director: A Practical Handbook addresses directing as a craft that can be taught.

"Technique and craft are what many directors lack, and what a handbook can effectively present," said Bloom, an awarding-winning, nationally recognized director whose productions have been seen Off Broadway, throughout Japan and at most major regional theaters in the United States. He is head of directing for the university's Department of Theatre and Dance, which is the largest in the country.

"If professions move in cycles of desirability and glamour, then directing is surely in an ascendant phase," writes Bloom, who has directed such actors as Michael York, Linda Purl and Christopher Reeve. "In theater and film, training programs have burgeoned, while writers and actors by the dozens parlay their success into directing. Directing is a means of creative expression, allowing a single artist a significant measure of control."

According to Bloom, the key to directorial thinking is a dual-perspective vision, an ability to focus both on the play's internal facets — the inner life of each character — and on its external or structural elements. In this manner, he writes, all of the key elements for dramatic interpretation and working with actors are integrated into a single method.

Bloom says this bifocal vision clarifies the director's responsibilities to the play and to the audience, with one perspective acting as a check or balance to the other. He illustrates his techniques by using the play "The Glass Menagerie" as his primary touchstone.

cover of Bloom's book

In using the phrase "thinking like a director," Bloom said he doesn't mean to imply that directing is merely an intellectual process. "Rather, successful directors have a theatrical mindset that includes thoughts, feelings, impulses and sensory responses," he said, adding he believes his book differs from directing textbooks, "which rarely reveal the connections between a director's many roles.

"By demonstrating how directors make choices and form instincts, I hope to convey the experience of directing," Bloom said.

With the exception of an orchestra conductor, no other artist is as dependent on the contribution of others as is a director, he writes. "Ultimately," Bloom said, "the director is a creator of communities — someone who can recognize talent and inspire the very best from other artists, lead them, but welcome their contributions and make everyone feel they are important partners."

The book is intended for students at all levels of experience. Although it is barely a century old, stage directing has quickly transformed itself into a complex art, said the author. According to Bloom, books on directing — as late as the 1950s — consisted mostly of technical instructions for staging.

"But as the 20th century promoted the interpretative function as essential to nearly all human endeavors, directors developed a greater sophistication in analyzing texts and working with actors," Bloom said. "These two subjects form the core of this book because I believe the best directors possess a thorough understanding of how an actor creates a performance."

The nature of a director's work, most notably in the theater, remains surprisingly vague and mysterious, Bloom said.

"How a director fares is greatly dependent on who that person is, his collaborators and the project at hand," he said.

"But it would be naive not to believe that most successful productions occur because of the intensive efforts of a skilled director. As my book's title suggests, a crucial step in acquiring and utilizing those skills is developing a particular way of thinking."

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