I was on the EDGE! The challenge of directing a short-play
Edge is a challenging short play written by Emily Brauer Rogers. I directed and produced it as part of the Brisk Festival in Los Angeles, California. Personally, this play reconnected me to my love for theater in 2023.
In only 10 minutes, we shared on stage the story of two women who decide to unalive themselves by driving over a cliff and end up getting stuck at the Edge. That’s when curtains open, and the characters share their vulnerabilities, fears, and hopes with the audience.
When I first read the play I loved it. The possibility of an alternate continuation of life in a premise inspired by Thelma and Louise was exciting. And what is theater if not the game of “What if?”
So in the play, we imagine the possibility of not ending one’s life, but starting over. While they decide, a recollection of the difficulties of being a good woman keeps the conversation going: to selflessly give until your own pockets, heart, and body are empty.
Because for a lot of women, that’s what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a teacher. Procure the well-being of the people around you, and not only that, but go as far as making yourself small in size, the quietness of your voices, and physical appearance and opinions, as if to be a woman was to be – An invisible giver- I wanted to direct Edge.
I reached out to Emily, and I felt an immediate connection. Marilyn Sanabria and Remy O’Brien joined as cast.
We had wonderful rehearsals with music, conversations, questions, discipline, tears, and laughs. We were surprised by how deep we had to search for the right spot between the comedy and the drama. One of the hardest dramedies I’ve ever worked on!
As a producer, the efforts are focused on everything pre-production requires, which may be less costly and demanding than a full-length play. I’m specifically referring to the number of actors, rehearsals, costumes, stage settings, and props.
Producing a short play brings the difficulty of convincing people to buy a ticket and commuting from their location to the theater, to see a very short show and support your work. From my point of view, that’s why a festival is an ideal place for this kind of performance. Local theater companies join efforts and bring in their guests, who get to enjoy different pieces, genres, and styles. It makes the effort worthwhile, and the general experience more entertaining.
When you’re working with a 90-minute performance, for example, you have more than enough time to develop characters, action, the main storyline, and possibly side ones for supporting characters.
As a director, you get to explore and play with the rhythm, tension, movement in the space, and general flow of the elements that create the fiction and engage the audience.
As an actor, you have a chance to develop your character, and find the continuation of the thoughts, emotions, and desires that sustain you through the duration of the play, may it develop in a day, or several years within the story. But how do you achieve all of that in 10 minutes? Achieving a potent narrative in a short amount of time is incredibly difficult.
My recipe is:
A well-written play
Disciplined generous actors
Build the relationship between the characters
This last ingredient is vital! The relationship between the two friends, who were so hurt by the world that wanted to abandon it. Still, they sustain each other in their possibly last minutes of life. As a director, my focus was to help the actors build complicity, the story and depth of their sisterhood, and their shared pains.
Of course, we all experienced the process differently, with life circumstances that were in movement while we prepared the play.
In my case, I lost someone two days before our first in-person rehearsal. My grandfather passed away, and it was heartbreaking exploring the topic of death, and desire to live. Pedro was my father figure, and it was unavoidable to have a wave of memories and emotions with each run of the play. I wanted to stay strong and creative, and in my heart, I dedicated this project to him.
At home my husband Mike, as always supportive, helped me with the design of the poster and the construction of the wheel, our only element on stage besides some cubes the festival provided for the companies.
While I acknowledge the artistry behind a well-crafted stage design, I’m inclined to work with minimal elements, a philosophy espoused and explored by Peter Brook.
“I can take any empty space, and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space, someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theater to be engaged.”
Edge had two wonderful actresses, sitting down on the cubes, surrounded by a blue light. One of them with her hands on the wheel, both holding an emotional bond that taught us about sisterhood, love, life & death. I believe that when you have a good story and great actors, you don’t need anything else.
We had a great response from the audience, who approached us at the end of the performance to congratulate us and let us know how much they enjoyed the play. We even received a mention at StageRaw. This is the first time I have considered not being underwhelming as a compliment. They said we shined, I agree.
Thank you world for the gift of theater!
Written by Emily Brauer Rogers
Directed and Produced by Nora Isabel Cross
With: Remy O’Brien and Marilyn Sanabria
Logline: When two women get stuck on a cliff after trying to kill themselves like Thelma and Louise, they have to decide if they want to move forward or go back. Dramedy