Where do you look for inspiration?
This question asks us what sparks that creative flame which kindles the passion to make theater. So much inspiration surrounds us in our field, I never have far to look: the collaborative process that’s harmoniously generative, a performance that’s so magnificent it stuns the actor, writing that makes you cry, music that makes you aware of where your heart lives, and stagecraft that transforms everyday materials into a new world we can all enter.
For me, it’s less about looking for an impetus to create than finding the strength to follow it through. It takes an enormous amount of work once the fire has caught to focus that flame and keep it burning. This is my job as a director and at times it’s beyond exhausting. To be clear, exhausting is when you are running on (and running low in) your own inner resources. Beyond exhausting is when you have to go outside yourself to find the necessary fuel to keep the project going. It’s at those moments that I think about the audience. Not just the one I hope will see the piece I’m working on, but audiences I have known and loved. The couple who along with their serene seeing-eye dog navigated the obstacle course of a dilapidated midtown theatre to come to a new play from Argentina; a Chinese immigrant over-the-moon from seeing a multi-ethnic cast do a western classic; a seemingly disinterested twelve year-old who, during a Broadway student-matinee, added his own line of dialogue “Again!” just to bolster Juror #8’s climactic “It’s eleven to one.” I want to be true to these people.
I’ve been the person waiting hours for the box office to open, spending more on my ticket than I just earned, and choosing theatre when my knees would have preferred I stay home and ice them. In turn I’ve been rewarded by incredible theatre experiences. It’s this thought—that I could provide an extraordinary experience for someone else—that I turn to always when I need a lift, the inspiration to work just a little bit harder.
Gwynn MacDonald is a freelance director and the artistic director of the Juilliard alumni-founded Juggernaut Theatre Company. She has directed or produced theater, television, film and radio. Her work in television has received both Cable Ace and Emmy Nominations. Gwynn studied theater and film at Princeton University.