Over at Parabasis, guest blogger Abe Goldfarb takes A C Douglas to task for a decidedly uninformed post responding to Isaac's comments on directing. Douglas' hobbyhorse are directors (in his case, opera directors) who see themselves as creative artists instead of "servants" to the play. He gets bent out of shape by "Eurotrash" directors who use the text as a pretense for their own theatrical meanderings. Well, me too. Nobody should accept a director who dismantles a play or an opera in order to strut their egos. However, the alternative is not seeing oneself as a "servant" of the play.
The director is creating a new work of art, not interpreting a pre-existing one. To interpret a play would be to describe in words the play's meaning, significance, etc. But a director transforms the text into a new work of art: a performance. He or she works with words, pauses, inflection, breath, facial expression, movement, rhythm, images, sound, lights, music, costumes, and sets to create a new work of art that lives and breathes. The play on the page is a work of literature; the play on the stage is a work of theatre.
The play provides only the barest hint as to the moment-to-moment artistic decisions that a production demands. Take the simplest of theatrical moments: a pause. How long should it be? Should the actors remain still or move during it? Should they be close together or far away? Facing each other or facing front? Take a simple line: which word should be emphasized? Should it be shouted or whispered? Said quickly or slowly? No script provides the level of detail needed to turn the director into a servant. People who talk about directors as servants are ignorant of the sheer number of details provided by the director, not the playwright.
A director should have artistic ethics. If you are doing a production of Hamlet, you should direct that text, and not use it as a pretext to riff on some personal hobbyhorse. But a servant acts on the orders of another person -- the master; the text of a play is not directive enough to be a master. Instead, it is suggestive. To that extent, the director should see himself or herself as the playwright's collaborator. But servant? No, Mr Douglas, you misunderstand what a director does. And the fact that George Hunka, a working playwright who has had several of his plays directed by Isaac, agreed with Isaac's statements about the director's relation to the text should have made you think a bit more before blasting your opinion to the blogsphere. Frankly, there was something kind of canned about it.