It was a long journey from late January to the tech week of my playwriting and directorial debut. A very long one. One of the most important lessons I learned very early on in the process was: if someone’s unnecessarily messing with your vision, set them straight and keep it moving.
As an artist, the only thing we have that keeps us separate from all the other artists running around is our vision. Without our vision, without the concept in our brain that makes us excited, without the ideas that what we want to put forward, we are nothing. We’re just people with a craft who have no idea which direction to go in. Do not — and read this very carefully — DO NOT back down when someone is messing with your vision. DON’T DO IT.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up to someone and not only fight for your right to be an artist, but also fight for your right to have a vision and have it executed. You might sound like a diva. You might question yourself and whether or not it’s worth the stress. You might attempt to talk yourself into backing down, but please, for the love of all things artistic, don’t do this. Don’t compromise when there’s no need to compromise.
I talked about this briefly in a previous blog article, but in a different manner, and I think it relates to how we as people, and especially women in general, are conditioned by society. One of the things I struggled with as a director was taking charge. Now, don’t get me wrong: when I’m given a task, I step up to the plate and I deliver the best I can. So, when I had to direct for my directing class, I had to let that fear and doubt go and realize that I had to direct these actors in order to get a decent grade. When it came to Orchestra Seats, that was a choice. Me producing a full-length play was a choice of mine. I wasn’t doing it for a grade. It was a choice, and I had to reconcile with that on the daily, the fact that I made the conscious decision to be a leader of some sorts and make my vision a reality. Not only did I deal with the doubt of whether or not I was a good director and if I even had the skills to be directing something, I had to deal with this on the other side of the production as well, as the producer.
There were many times throughout the process where a member of my production team and I butt heads. Many, many times. There were times where I had to make tough decisions, such as letting go of a stage manager during our tech week because they were not showing up to the rehearsals and felt that the play was “pointless” (I’ll also add that they came to the play when it opened and had the nerve to come up to me and congratulate me #FAKE).
On the matter of me butting heads with a member of my production team: there were instances where I thought: “Maybe you should just give up this one thing, Tiya, so you stop stressing over it.” This is an actual thought I had that I promptly scolded myself for. I was so used to asking myself Who am I to want these things for my vision? when the real question was: Who were they to try and commandeer my goddamn production?!
Excuse you (prepare for a rant)?
Who wrote the play? Me.
Who was putting out money from their savings to produce the play? Oh, yeah, that would be me…again.
Who was at every rehearsal piecing together a two-hour play? That would be me.
Whose name was on those fliers as not only the director but also the playwright? Oh, would you look at that: me.
Who spent countless hours during their winter break reading the play over and over again to grasp a better concept of the characters she created so that she could offer insight and direction to actors? Yup, you guessed it: me.
And once I realized this, I was golden. Telling people that I wanted something done and it was going to get done that way was easy. I had very few “demands,” in hindsight, and it was because I had so few, that I held on to them dearly. I was flexible with the set, the props, the costumes…I was very, very flexible. More flexible than I really had to be, if I’m being honest, but I realized that we were limited in our options. So, when I had something that I could most definitely control and shape to my exact liking to create an experience, I wasn’t going to give it up or drastically alter it just because someone on my production team thought it was a better idea because “every other show” at Purchase has done it that way. Honey, I don’t giving a flying rat’s behind what every other show at Purchase has done. I really don’t.
As an artist in a leadership capacity, I realized how easy it is to fall into the trap of wanting to please everybody, even at the risk of your own vision and what you want. I had to constantly remind myself that I didn’t decide to direct a play so it could become everyone else’s dream; I was directing my play so I could live out my own dream and see my own vision come to life. I realize now that setting someone straight when they’re messing with your vision not only applies to other people, but it also applies to oneself, as well. We are our biggest critics, and I know that I critiqued myself many times as to whether or not I was being immovable and hard to work with. There’s a difference, however, between being flexible and compromising your vision, and I believe that a director should never compromise their vision for the sake of someone else’s feelings and ideas. Because, to be honest, if they wanted to put on their own production, they should have done it themselves.
And you might sound harsh. You might sound mean. You might sound completely crazy and irrational, but if something matters to you, you must protect the integrity of it at all cost. You don’t owe anyone an explanation because something being your vision is a valid enough reason. I know firsthand that as a director and/or producer, it’s easy to want to give up for the sake of the process being easier, but at the end of the day, you are the one who needs to be satisfied, not everyone else. So, if someone’s messing with your vision, bite the bullet and set them straight.