A good director can say ‘I don’t know’

Actor Kate Mulligan of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival recently played Maria in “Twelfth Night.” Mulligan has been part of OSF’s

Kate Mulligan

acting ensemble for the past eight years. Before that, she worked in film, television and with an experimental theater, The Actor’s Gang, in Los Angeles. This is a second of a two-part column. The first part was published on Oct. 31.

EH: What do you value most in a director?

KM: I love a director who says, “I don’t know.” A director who thinks that they have it all figured out is not going to be a joy to collaborate with. Sometimes, anybody in a leadership position is afraid to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing. Somebody right in front of them might have the answer they’re looking for, if they just have the lack of ego to ask.

Kindness and great communication goes a long way. Then being a great leader saying, “We’ve shaped this. This is what we’re going to do. Do it again and again and again. Remember why you found this beat. Remember why we chose this moment to be the way it is,” so that you’re not recreating what you did yesterday, but re-finding it so you can make it new.

EH: Tell me about fear.

KM: A lot of actors have tremendous stage fright. Sometimes you’re backstage, being a fighter, and you’ve got your (imaginary) manager in the corner saying, “You can do it.” When you’re out doing something you’re desperately afraid to do, sometimes every day, you have an opportunity to feel proud of yourself. It’s never perfect. There’s no such thing, because it’s art.

EH: What do you look for in a fellow actor?

KM: A sense of humor and a tremendous sense of play. I love actors. I think they’re brave. I think they’re crazy. If I’m in a play with an actor, and rehearsal is beginning, day one, and they’ve already made decisions about how they want a scene to go, then you just want to say, “That’s swell, you should just go and do your one-man-show. Because that has nothing to do with me sitting right in front of you, giving you real energy and real conversation, but you’ve already decided how you are going to answer this question, because at home, it sounded nice to you in a specific kind of way.” That, to me, is not an actor.

There’s a term that we used at The Actor’s Gang, you just, “throw down.” There’s no ego, there’s no pretense, no preplanning at home, you just enter a room, you see who you’re with and you’re like, “Let’s spar; let’s play; let’s have fun.”

EH: How is it working in repertory at OSF?

KM: You create these wonderful relationships. Throughout the rehearsal process, you bare everything you are, in order to create these real people. Sometimes that comes from, “Here’s what my personal experience was.” People reveal themselves, and you have to be there to support and love and never judge. And then you’re lucky enough to call upon them when t

there to pick the ball, and you can breathe through it. We have a family among us.

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