This weekend, I saw renewed evidence of the difference a good director can make in the performance of an actor.
There is a performer that I have seen multiple times over the years. She's quite skilled and is willing to take risks and be big. However, more often than not, her performances have annoyed me because no matter what the role she's had, she's always played it so that the focus was on her, regardless of the story. When there was a choice to be made, the choice was always made for the cheap laugh rather than for the more authentic storytelling that can have a deeper effect on the audience.
What I saw her perform this weekend was the best that I'd ever seen her do. She took all of her wealth of acting skills and talent and performed in a disciplined fashion. By cutting back and doing less, she put in a powerhouse, memorable performance.
Much of the credit for this goes to the actor herself, but I would also guess that one of the reasons she blossomed in this show was because she had the benefit of a very strong director, one who worked with her and helped her to perform as a part of the play rather than simply be amused by the bits and business that this creative performer was able to produce.
It is said that stage is an actor's medium whereas film is a director's medium. Perhaps so, but even on stage, directors are able to make incredible differences in individual performers when they are skilled at teaching and the actor is responsive to the direction.