The following are the director of Collected Stories’ (Anne Marie Cummings) late night ‘epiphanies’ to the actors in Collected Stories (Barbara Adams and Helen T. Clark), via email…

Email #1
Notice how act one scene one is almost like two scenes mixed into one. It goes back and forth from we-are-getting-to-know-each-other / friendship mode to you’re-here-for-your-writing-lesson-and-we-have-to-focus-on-the-task-at-hand mode.

Not long after the introductions it’s like a seesaw where for 10 or 12 lines the two of you are talking about Ruth’s writing, and then Ruth steps into teacher mode and takes the reins, so to speak. Then Lisa takes the reins and talks about something and Ruth joins in, but then checks the time and gets them back on track with the lesson. But every time the two of you get caught into talking about something other than the lesson, the more and more the two of you become friends.

Last, something to remember and never forget Barbara is this – Ruth is lonely. She lives alone and likes her own company, but she’s lonely.


Email #2
By the way, I really love Act Two scene one. This is, by far, the most intimate scene in the play and it’s really lovely and so well written. There won’t be too much blocking in that scene. It’s very touching. I didn’t realize how much until I sat with it for a while last night. I encourage you both to do the same. I feel very lucky to be directing this powerful play. It’s really a conversation between two women. The more both of you listen to each other and just keep it authentic and conversational, the better.


Email #3
Just had a thought about Ruth and Lisa. They very quickly become friends. And what makes them friends is the fact that they disagree with one another often throughout the play. Lisa challenges Ruth as much as Ruth challenges Lisa.

So Helen, this is a real indication into the kind of character you’re playing. She’s not entirely naïve at the start of the play. I think you can play around with the idea that she’s a little more thick-skinned and straightforward with Ruth. Just something to think about.


Email #4
As you can probably tell by my emails, I sit with the script quiet often and think about the scenes and overall picture as part of my directing process.

It occurred to me when reading Act One, Scene Three, that on page 31 when Ruth learns that Lisa’s piece was published…part of the reason it’s difficult for her to hear is because she knows this means that Lisa will be moving on, she won’t be “taking care” of her the way she has been. Lisa’s “growing up” as a writer and as a woman.

And, as I got around to reviewing the last scene in the play I realized that what Ruth is so upset about in that scene is her legacy. Lisa is hurting her legacy and her reputation by what she’s done. And, while Lisa says to Ruth that it’s her illness talking – don’t believe that, as Ruth, not for one second.


Email #5
As is typical when I’m directing, I was relaxing and reading and a thought came up about the last scene in the play (this occurs frequently in the beginning phase of my directing process).

Interesting that Ruth tells Lisa that she spent “too many years nurturing other people’s gifted children.” In Act One, scene one, doesn’t she say she loves teaching?

Could it be possible that by the end of the play Ruth resents Lisa? And that by the end of the play Lisa represents to Ruth the hundreds of students that she nurtured while neglecting to nurture herself? Here she is, sick by the end while Lisa flourishes.


Email #6
That was a good first run through, as rough as it was in a number of places.

My overall note for both of you is this – identify more with your characters. Right now what I’m seeing is the outer work (and a lot of acting going on), but not the inner workings and inner pictures of the characters. What’s going on underneath? That’s something both of you need to continue to make richer so that there’s an emotional foundation for what you’re saying.

Barbara, you asked me about the process. The process is to get closer and closer to your character so each rehearsal that’s what I see and that’s what you feel. The way to get there is a lot like spending time with someone you’ve just met.


Photo of Anne Marie Cummings by Raquel Reis.

Posted September 04 2013 by Anne Marie Cummings

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