Film and theatre critic Douglas Singleton examines Anne Bogart’s A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theater as a text not only concerning the role of the artist in society, but of individuals confronting life in any context, especially in these times.

Anne Bogart is the Artistic Director for the seminal SITI Company, which she founded with Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki in 1992. She runs the Graduate Directing Program at Columbia University and has been the recipient of two Obie awards, a Bessie award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Recent works with SITI include the Leonard Bernstein rumination, Score, at New York Theater Workshop, and bobrauschenbergamerica, staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.


Seven Essays on Art and Theater


Memory—draw upon the past for instruction, knowledge and inspiration in the artistic process. Draw upon history. Draw upon your own past and memories. Focus attention on the history of theater and performance.


Violence—dive in and aggressively engage the creative process. Take chances—“violent” chances—do this in order to spark creativity.


Eroticism—there is an eroticism to the artistic process that should be acknowledged and to an extent exploited—between performers and audience, between actors, between director and actor. The artistic process is sensual, stops you in your tracks, draws you in, exudes a sense of energy and power, disorients you (like love), responds to your first “contact,” engages you in extended intercourse, and ultimately, changes you forever. This process is erotic.


Terror—to undertake the artistic process involves a level of “terror,” confusion, fright, danger—in art’s truest manifestations it does. This energy should feed the artistic process. Complete terror of the artistic process and how your work be received should feed and strengthen you.


Stereotype—in Bogart’s parlance a stereotype is a “container of memory.” The origin of the word “stereotype” refers to solidity. If we enter into these culturally transmuted containers, heat up and awaken them, perhaps we might re-access the original, true meanings and histories they embody. Creativity occurs in the heat of spontaneous interaction with set, known, common forms.


Embarrassment—every creative act involves a leap into the void. In the midst of this leap there are no guarantees. To leap can often cause acute embarrassment. Embarrassment is a partner in the creative process—a key collaborator. If your work does not sufficiently embarrass you, then very likely no one will be touched by it.


Resistance—every act generates resistance to that act. Resistance should be cultivated. To meet and overcome resistance is a heroic act that requires courage and a connection to an engaging reason for the action you are attempting to accomplish. The action of pushing against resistance is a daily act and can also be considered a necessary ingredient in the creative process—an ally. How we measure ourselves against the natural resistances we encounter every day determines the quality of what we accomplish. How you meet these obstacles set before you, in light of any endeavor, determine the direction of your life and career.