Cyle Raving: ‘On the Brink of the Waterfront’ by Cyle Durkee

There are few relationships as complex as those that are created by actors and directors working together.  They’re soggy with shared experience and emotion.  They’re dry and cracked like the kindling that bursts into flame when the match is struck (the match being any other human in the room that dares to speak when the two of you are having a “discussion” {yes, screaming matches about your character that degenerate into an acrid commentary about the sexual proclivities of parental units can [technically] be called a “discussion}).  And they take such solid root in your heart and mind that, given time, they can destroy just about any emotional wall or pretense that you might care to offer up to the gods of theater. So this should be interesting.

Knowing that I would need some help traversing this spiky (though, somehow welcoming) landscape I decided to knock upon the door of one Kathleen Akerley.  First, let me say that if you ever need to be shaken free of your own pretensions, she can do it in three sentences or less.  So she was a great choice to help me clear the fog that surrounds the shifting (I would say “unmapped”, but the maps have been written {though altered so quickly and thoroughly as to make them unrecognizable to their own cartographer within approximately 15 minutes}) face of this beautiful, if bizarre and complex symbiosis.

About Actors:  Dear God. Dear God help us all.  I have been (and am), directed, worked for, and dated them (the first two are great, the second two…not so much {though I’m sure YOU are a total catch and have no issues or drawbacks….except that one thing that we talked about earlier [being a pyromaniac]}). I will sum up in a few sentences the things that must be said here.  No one is at “fault” because your opinion didn’t line up with someone else’s. And, by that same token, no one is at “fault” when they explain to you that everyone else in the room doesn’t need a diatribe on how EVERY play you have EVER been in is pertinent to the three lines you have in this scene.

Cyle Durkee

And here we are at the first component of the director/actor relationship: Censorship. Part of the job of the director is to censor you without censuring you.  They must shape the play without confining an actor or stifling their creative abilities. This is a knife’s edge that every show must maneuver (and many shows julienne themselves on the sharp edges of spiny egos {leaving the audience with something akin to a half skinned rabbit to stare at on stage [don’t let it happen to your show as julienned rabbits and mixed metaphors are unattractive]}).

To Directors: Yes. All actors are, in fact, working in tandem to ruin your day. They have not done their homework. They don’t know their lines. They are late, lippy, lazy, lackadaisical landscapes of lethargy and libido. And you have to convince them to do what you want them to do, by helping them realize that they actually want to do it themselves (and then deal with the fact that they are now totally certain that it was their idea all along).

So here we are at the second realization about this relationship.  No one is ever going to be able to meet every single initial expectation of anyone else (except for that one time that you managed to get your leg all the way behind your head).

Kathleen Akerley. From Adam Szymkowicz.

Creation takes a caring, strong hand. You cannot create with a fist (though it’s a great tool for breaking though facades and allowing truth to shine through). As you careen through the dance of artistic expression, expectations fall away while the basis for a play is sculpted. And those expectations that do make the leap into reality through the rehearsal process then grow reefs of thoughts and interactions. And slowly, using both the forces of creative freedom and controlled shaping, a show develops in the waters of inspiration.

If all parties remember that they are not the only artists in the room, and accept the help and thoughts of those they are working with this reef can become something extraordinary. What began as a stone sculpture in the mind of the director can be given life.  Using it as a seed and as a base, a beautiful, coral ecosystem will emerge. As it branches and evolves it attracts life and beauty in a multitude of varieties. New facts emerge as families of fishy backstories and shark infested interactions create an entirely new biosphere that surrounds, engulfs, and invites the audience.  And, in the end, a thoughtful and wistful guardian allows the new world to float off on it’s own as its emotional gravity creates a swirling atmosphere of art.

Now, I’m going to eat some sushi (because some of those thoughts need to be caught and eaten before they have a chance to reproduce).

Thanks Kathleen!!

Kathleen Akerley (Artistic Director for Longacre Lea Theater Company) is currently directing On the Waterfront for American Century Theater.  Next up for this whirlwind of talent is Sam Shepard’s Tooth of Crime to be committed by WSC Avante Bard at Artisphere. And the final feather in her trifecta of shows for this season will be Goldfish Thinking for her fabulous company Longacre Lea. In addition to all this Kathleen is in her final semester at Massage Therapy School.  Let her get her hands on you and you’ll feel true artistry! See you all at the show!

Check Out what Cyle’s doing next!

On The Waterfront
at American Century Theater
March 30 to April 28, 2012
Directed by the Fabulous Kathleen Akerley.


Read an interview with Kathleen here.


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