Rob ArbaughRob Arbaugh is originally from Michigan.
He is an actor, director, teacher, fight choreographer
and designer. Rob is finished his MFA in Acting
at Regent University. He is one of the founders of
Uncovered Theatre Company of Detroit and Chicago.
Rob, you once told me how a director has to look at the stage and “see” a picture. As writers, we have to help the reader “see” the picture in his/her mind’s eye. How do you do it on stage?
First, as I’m directing, I’ll see in my head what I think
a scene should look like. The whole play picture,
they become stills, each individual picture and then
I let that go and let the actor do whatever. Meld my
overall picture with their individual pictures to see
what I have to get. But then you have to let the actors
flow to be able to create themselves.
As a director, I let the world of the actor play into the story.
That’s interesting because as writers, our characters often take off, so to speak, and turn
into personalities we never expected.
It’s the same with an actor’s character, seeing what the actor will
bring to the table. It’s a collaborative process.
Sort of like the writer and character working together to create a “real” person.
Our characters often seem to have minds of their own, like your actors.
After this first step, I watch everything I’m creating and make sure every moment and every thing
is grounded in reality. In other words, don’t create a picture just for the sake of the picture on the stage.
It’s easy for a writer to get caught up in that and put in an action just for the sake of the character doing something during dialogue. When a crit partner tells us, we need some
action here, it’s easy to want tojust fill in. And sometimes that doesn’t move the story along at all.
Well, I had a professor once say, if you start with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be cool to…” then it’s probably not too brilliant an idea because you’re doing something just to be cool. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do this.” Whether it fits or not.
So there has to be a reason for every action/reaction on stage just like in a book?
Why did you choose the expression “a picture”?
Because a picture is used to reflect life back to people. So they can see life in a mirror. And take the message to instill it in their own lives. The picture grounds them in reality. A springboard for self-reflection.
I guess that’s similar to readers seeing themselves on the pages of the book. We can have reality
reflected back or the suspension of reality for a while, but still,we want to see ourselves in the characters. Okay, I realize scripts aren't filled with description,but what piece of advice would you offer from the director’s point of view to help us make our readers see what we want them to see?
I think from the directing side of things that you have to present real people, not characters. “Characters” are a misconception in theatre or any aspect of the arts. One of the biggest mistakes is that you play a mood or character stereotype. When you do, what you have becomes a two-dimensional object instead of being real. As a director and actor, you have to become a child of psychology, a student of human nature. I can imagine that would help the writer as well. As a director, my job is to bring a script from page to stage. I have actors to help me. For the writer, it should be the same thing. When I read a character in a book going through situations, I tend to cast the roles in my head.
How does your faith impact what you do?
I am faith-filled so everything I do is Christian. But truthfully it all comes down to speaking truth. God is truth, and whether the truth comes from a believer or a non-believer, truth still comes from God. Sometimes in the strangest places.
Rob, thanks so much for taking time from your schedule.
Do you mind if I shamelessly let you promote your site for Uncovered Theatre Company?
Not at all. Just want to say as artists, our whole goal in our company is to create art that helps people
self examine. I can send that same charge to writers; stories shouldn’t be in vain, just like shows on the stage. Be passionate about what you’re writing.
Visit us at: http://www.uncoveredtheatre.com/