Lorne Buchman, later in his artistic and academic career, earned a doctorate in theater at Stanford and chaired the theater department at Cal.
But since every Nobel Prize-winning poet has to scribble a first line, every director has to stage his first scene. And as an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto for whom the play was the thing but who had discovered that he was not really an actor, the time came when Buchman found out that his professor of literature Favorite, Francis âMartineau also taught a theater directing course, and he had a very specific approach to that course. There was no theoretical preparation. His attitude was simply this: if you want to achieve, go ahead and direct something. This is the only way to learn it, know it and understand the questions to ask as you delve into the art. It was perfect for me and for the way I learn. It was a pedagogy to do.
But as Buchman writes in his new book âMake to Know: From Spaces of Uncertainty to Creative Discovery,â published this month, âI had no idea what I was doing. I performed the piece and scheduled the first rehearsal. However, I had no idea what to do during this rehearsal. I didn’t know how to prepare. I read books. Talked to friends. But it all seemed mysterious to me.
âI walked into space and almost immediately experienced some kind of transformation. I can’t fully explain it except to say that something necessarily happened to me when I started this session. We read the text aloud. We talked about character. We got up and moved around.
By performing this scene from a Chekhov prank, Buchman immediately found his calling. And it was only by actually doing it – without imagining the directing, not to mention the directing, but rather the directing – that he found his profession.
Some have the chance to discover this reality of life very early on; others learn in a difficult school.
It’s a wonderfully told story over and over again in âMake to Knowâ, and it’s why Buchman has been so successful in so many areas. He happens to be artistic and academic – now longtime president of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, he’s also been president of a Jungian institute in the Bay Area and the California College of Arts and Crafts. , schools you might think are far from the theater in their purpose. But the lessons are the same for all of us in every human endeavor. Because that’s also why creatives are comfortable talking to other creatives in any field. Here, the medium is not the message, being another creator is.
Reading this book is like finding a self-help volume by someone who can actually write, and Buchman pulls appropriate quotes from others who can too: hard to prepare for inspiration. As Isabel Allende said: âIntroduce yourself, introduce yourself, introduce yourself, and after a while the muse appears too. Or, in the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, âAll doers must give way to acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to earn them. ‘ “
For spirits to move us, we must first be grounded. As Buchman directed this scene from Chekhov’s âThe Boorâ, he struggled with his ending: âThe more I tried, the worse it was. But then another surprise. I had a dreamâ¦ in which Charlie Chaplin appeared to me. I dreamed that the end of the play had to take on the quality of a silent movie. He woke up, cut the last few pages of the text and asked a violinist to express the end of the piece, without a word. He did it, he knew it. It worked.
Larry Wilson is a member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group. [email protected].