Tag Archives: Director

2016 – a Year in Review – what a year!?!

Last year, I was inspired by my friend, Kerry Hishon to do a year in review… and this year I waited with baited breath for her post. It didn’t disappoint. So now, I am going to attempt another of my own to reflect on the highlights from year that was… and what a year it was.

January

Like so many years in the past, my January began slowly. I was in recovery mode after a very eventful December. Isn’t everyone’s?
But in all seriousness, I directed, (and choreographed) and epically funny production of The Trials of Robin Hood by Will Averill. It had a tremendous cast and crew who adored the process, the product and each other. They, and I shed many tears upon the closing of that gem.

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But, I didn’t have much time to recover, as I was already busy choreographing a delightful production of She Loves Me. It was a bit of a bucket list show for myself and my friend, Kristina, as she and I had been talking about our love for this gem of a show for many, many years. It was also one of the first productions I ever saw on Broadway. My work on that also partially inspired a past blog I wrote on the Copywrite of Choreography…

And if that wasn’t enough… I began work on another Original Kids production of Once Upon a Mattress – GTKY, an edited version of the full musical that was made for young performers. No rest for the wicked, right?

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Once Upon a Mattress – Gorgeous Set Design!

 

February

February saw many more rehearsals, the start of a new semester and the beginning of my work to support a production of The Little Mermaid at the high school where I teach. I had been tasked with choreographing a few of the numbers, (the biggest ones, yes…) and creating a number of puppets to add dimension and magic to the whole production. This took ages… and ages… and though many people offered their assistance, it became quite apparent, that because I cannot open up my brain and show others the workings of my thought process, that trying to explain what I think, I might want to do and translating that into discussion for how a person might help me realize that… is a futile effort.

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Mini-octupi…. Mr. and Mrs. They were adorable.

 

March

March was pretty restful – in the sense that I didn’t travel anywhere and March Break and Easter were all in that month… but there were rehearsals and rehearsals and, oh yes, more rehearsals!

I also managed to sell some items that I wasn’t needing or using anymore. This allowed us enough savings to put money together to replace our aging refrigerator. That was a joyous experience. You don’t know how important that one device can be to the overall happiness of your kitchen – until you change it.

April

By April, I had a number of projects in very good shape, lots of teaching on the go and my husband had a pile of combat related projects that he had been supporting. It came to the point that we had to choose how and where we’d support the different productions we’d been helping. He got to see Heathers and I didn’t, I got to see Mary Poppins and he didn’t… that sort of thing. But it was an active time of year that kept us hopping, leading up to …

May

In May, we took students on an amazing trip to Walt Disney World! I’d been trying to make this happen for my students for years and we finally had approval and everything worked! It was a tremendous trip. The kids were great, the parks were great, the weather was – hot! But we had a superb time visiting and learning and pointing out to our performing arts students all the skills that they had, or were learning, that were being used by cast members all over Disney World. It was truly incredible. I look forward to doing that again.

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June

June is the winding down time of the year for teaching, but it is also like a break neck race to the finish to get as many things crammed in as possible before the exams and the clean up and commencement.

This year, my seniors planned a Drama Nite, to showcase their talents and perform for family and friends in our school’s courtyard. It was a great evening. It was a HOT evening with a lot of sunshine and the threat of thunderstorms, but I was immensely proud of the final product and the work my kids did to make it happen. They really pulled together on that project.

Aside from all that, I began rehearsals and planning for a dream show, that I will tell you more about later.

July

July had us travelling. My husband and I went to Great Britain for three weeks. We were primarily in Wales, Cornwall and a few days in London. It was a wonderful trip. A gift from my parents that meant a great deal to the two of us. The portion of the trip to Cornwall was planned by my husband as he has done the research into the history of his family and discovered that his lineage is entirely from Cornwall. He enjoys research, planning and lists. He’s exceptionally good at them. What we discovered he doesn’t enjoy, is driving on the left-hand side of the road. I, on the other hand, don’t mind it. I really enjoyed driving in Great Britain. I found it quite sensible and easy. The navigation, I left to him. He was exceptional at that.

By the way, I love Cardiff. I really do – and if you do, (or if you haven’t been there, go!), you can show the world how you love Cardiff, buy purchasing items from http://ilovesthediff.com

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Mevagissey… where my husband’s ancestors are from…

 

August

August saw us visiting family, friends and attending special events. We had four weddings through August and September. It was wonderful to celebrate with special people.

Not everything in our year was happy, of course. Many sad things happened, but the only one I’m going to mention is the passing of our beautiful and loving cat, Willow. He left us in August. That kept us busy for a good while. And we still think of him, daily.

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Mr. Pooperhead. The best cat ever.

 

September

By all accounts, September was pretty normal. There were rehearsals, for that project that was alluded to earlier. There was the return to school and all materials that are associated with that. There were two large purchases – a vehicle for each of us. Original Kids rehearsal starting up and general life. It all seems like a blur. Good thing there’s Google Calendar to help to remind us of what we have done!

October

October is where life started to ramp up! The Performing Arts kids at my school planned and performed our best Haunted Hallway to date – sold out! Our theme was a graveyard and their characters were the best so far, and so was our transformation of the simple drama room, into a spooky environment. They built a tree, used shadow puppetry and had tombstones, dead leaves and corn husks to help mark the path of our visitors to the event.

We also hosted The Young Americans at our school in October. It was a pretty amazing event. I have seen their work and been a part of the experience in the past, but no one else at my school had. My colleague deserves an immense shout out for her organization of the whole event. She hadn’t been involved in any visit by them to another school before and yet she took the task on and planned the whole thing with style and grace. It was an incredible experience for our school and our kids. I look forward to when we can host them again.

Also in October, my production of Silverwing took to the stage at Original Kids. It was a wonderfully weird little play that the kids completely embraced. They performed beautifully and expertly this adaptation of a Canadian novel, that really was a film adaptation. More playwrites need to learn that taking a novel and just putting into play format does not really make it a play. Usually, it just makes it an awkward film script that needs an editor. Sheesh.

November

In November I started to get memory posts from Facebook about doing puppet workshops with TAG at Original Kids with Kerry Hishon… so, I just showed up and did more workshops! No, not really. But clearly there’s a theme to how my year goes because right when I was scheduled to do workshops for Kerry this year, my memory feed reminded me that I’d done these sorts of workshops for her in the past. Isn’t that interesting the way life has patterns? Speaking of patterns, in September of 2016, Brock, (that’s my husband) and I, went to see an Opening Night performance of Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers SIX YEARS TO THE DAY from the Preview performance of our life changing production. That is life repeating itself. Ripples and spirals…

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Their 3M…. Not ours…Ours was better.

 

December

December saw me moving stuff – literally – in a moving truck, into The Arts Project to set up for my bucket list production, (that I alluded to earlier) of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer. I saw this show in New York City in 2008 on a trip with Original Kids and I was amazed by it. It has stuck with me and sat in my brain ever since. I have been waiting for the perfect situation to come along so I could direct this play. In July, Brock and I extended our stopover in Dublin, so that I could visit some of the areas where the play is set. We were in a pub that is mentioned in the script and met the owner. She said she used to be friends with the playwright. The first part of December was about set up, final rehearsals and the Opening Gala. The second week was about savouring the whole thing before it disappeared into thin air, and the final weeks of the month were filling time between remembering the sweetness of the process and production and real life. Sure, there was a holiday assembly and a pretty sweet Coffee House in there, plus some Christmassy celebrations and a wedding anniversary, but since the show is set on Christmas Eve… it permeated almost every waking moment of December. It is a production of which I am immensely proud. I am pleased that I had wonderful friends to help me make it a reality.

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The Seafarer Boys… at their best. I love them.

 

 

And STILL more things that will happen at rehearsal…

The score won’t match…

When doing a MUSICAL…. or even a Play with Music… I promise you that whatever they have said in the script or written in the score – IF there IS a score… will not match any of the following…

a) the CD

b) the current script

c) the director’s vision

e) all of the above

Add to that… the cd won’t match…anything. Frequently it is a concept CD and that means it is very, VERY different from the production you are doing. The production that got altered before Broadway, before the Tour, after the Tour and before the release to amateur companies. It will be extremely different. Don’t count on it – in fact… the best advice is don’t use it. At best it is a basic, simple reference. Move on.

The script will NOT make sense… why would it? I mean, you paid for it, so it should… but believe me, it won’t. There will be typos for sure, but then there will also be ridiculous stage directions – that can only be done on MASSIVE Broadway budgets – and even then they are probably stupid stage directions, so Ignore them and do your own thing. Aside from that… there will be lines attributed to the wrong character or a missing character or someone you didn’t know was in the show… (seriously… ALL of these have happened in shows for which I have paid royalties to perform “their script word for word”) There may EVEN be stage directions that appear as dialogue… yup.

$h!t will be missing… Like a song you expected… or a character in the description list will be missing from the show… or an ENTIRE scene.. yup, once a script went from scene 7 to 9. We all wondered “What happened in Scene 8?”

Here’s the thing…. you roll with the punches, you do what is necessary to create your vision, you IGNORE the stage directions – and if possible, get your cast to ignore them as well and you make the best show you can. Even if it means you have to tweak a few things. Tweak away and get that show done!

 

Things that will happen during the rehearsal process…

When you start a show, you have happy thoughts about the final product… how the show will be a HUGE hit, the tickets will be selling like hotcakes, (why do hotcakes sell so fast anyway?), and the cast and crew will be ready to go on tour for the rest of their lives.

But here’s the thing… stuff happens. It always does.

Some of it you can deal with, but much of it you cannot. You just have to be ready for it because “it” will happen. So, what do you do?

Well, first off… you need to know what might happen, so here’s a few ideas of what you can expect.

First of all… the cast you begin with is likely not going to be the cast who will finish. Someone will get sick, get married, be transferred, get a new job, get another show, move out of town, or just be disgruntled with the production and leave. It will happen. There is probably no way to be prepared for it, but you need to know that it will happen and often with the actor that you don’t expect to lose. Audition, choose the best, treat them well and cross your fingers that nothing happens in their life to mess up the process. But be ready – cause it will.

Secondly… people will get sick. They will have conflicts with the schedule – sometimes many more than you ever thought possible – or they’ll have something big happen in their life and it will mess up your schedule. Just be ready – that’s all you can do. It isn’t their fault. They didn’t make this happen. They’d probably rather be at rehearsal than dealing with pneumonia or going to a funeral or visiting emergency. Stay calm and trust the theatre gods that they are on your side.

Third… you are going to get tired. No matter your plan, no matter how well you manage the other parts of your life – YOU – the stage manager, the director – whatever you are, are completely human and susceptible to fatigue. It will happen. Be good to yourself and take the time you need to recover because you are useless to the show if you get sick or can’t function.

That’s the big deal, right? Staying on top of things. So be ready. Get yourself psyched so that you are ready for the challenges of the process – cause it is totally worth it.

I promise.

Ghostlight

Auditions: The Callback – getting ready on both sides of the table…

So, you’ve made it through all the auditions and now you have to prepare for the callbacks… What the heck, you say? More auditions – yes… sorry, more auditions.

So, if you are behind the table, what do you ask them to do? What do have prepared for them? What are you looking for from these talented people? Do you have a list prepared? Are you ready to make the tough decisions? Do you even need to have the callbacks? And if you decide that you do, can you ensure that the process is rewarding for your actors and everyone else involved? Cause it isn’t an easy time, so at least make it fun!

FIRST – be sure you have some material ready from the show (this goes back to making sure you read the script, right?), material that is challenging, fun and will show you what you need to see to make your decisions.

SECOND – have that material prepared and ready to share with your people. Is it digital? Copies? How many? Do they need accompaniment? Can you provide it for them to prepare? What is the easiest, and classiest, way to share this with your people? Whatever you do, don’t make it difficult for your actors to prepare. Ensure that they have a really good experience getting ready to sing, dance or act for you. They might not make it to the finish line, so you want them to at least have a good time at the race.

THIRD – be ready to make choices. The choices are tough and if you agonize over them too long you will start to second guess yourself. This is dangerous. Go with your gut. Return to your list of a dream cast, return to your notes and continually tell yourself…. “I have to judge them based on what they showed me today at these callbacks.” That’s all you can do. Then, make the decision and be ready to back it up.

Director-chair-Small

So, what if you are on the other side of the table?

FIRST – celebrate!!! You’ve been asked to a callback. That’s impressive. No matter what the role or what you were hoping for from the audition team. You impressed them enough that they wanted to see more, so feel good about that.

SECOND – prepare! No matter what your hopes are for the show, prepare yourself to show your best performance and in your best light. You might not get the role, you might not even get the show, but if you impress, it could bode well for your future. You could be offered a role from the very first audition the next time the team sees you – people remember good work and professionalism.

THIRD – have a good time! The audition is your time to play. To show off your skill and to explore a character you may or may not get to play. Have a good time and don’t consider the outcome, you can’t control that, you can only control what you put into the audition and how you feel about it. Make it the best you can and be proud of whatever comes from it!

So, people… what are you waiting for? You’ve got to get ready, don’t you?!?

Auditions are nerve wracking… for everyone.

Did you know that when you audition for a show, the people behind the table are REALLY happy that you are there? Do you have any idea how happy they are that you decided to take the risk to come out and show them what you’ve got? It’s a pretty big amount of dependency on their part to even hold the auditions, and believe me, they are really, very glad that you are there.

Auditioning is stressful – for everyone. But for the people who are behind the table, they are extremely nervous that you WON’T show up. Think about it, they’ve chosen a show, or been given a show to produce/direct/choreograph, etc. and they don’t know if the right people or ENOUGH people will walk through that door! When YOU walk through that door and bring in your positive attitude and your energy, they are excited to see you and very, very hopeful that you will be the answer to their dreams.

You could be the boy who can sing that one part of the song that is integral to the show. You could be the girl who can do the right amount of acrobatic movement to sell the big production number, or you could be the person who wants to work behind the scenes to make everything better for all the people involved in the show. And in reality – when you show them that glimmer of what makes you special – the “scary” people behind the table are absolutely THRILLED to have met you. They just can’t show it, because they are supposed to remain neutral until the whole process is resolved.

If you are lucky, you might hear some stories later on about how happy they were when you arrived, but in reality, you may never know how important you were to the production. Just always think that to yourself when you audition – “I am super important to this production. And I just need to show them that!”

If you do, you’ll be an asset to any show. I promise.

Why you should (almost) always audition…

I’ve been on both sides of the audition table. I’ve done the bit where you are new and you try to break into the group, where you are experienced and hoping for a bigger role and when you are a known entity and are experienced enough to know that the community holds a dozen more like you who are just as hungry for the role.

I’ve also done the artistic team side of the table. I’ve done it when the cast is fed to you and you just need to decide where everyone fits. I’ve done it when you have a clear idea of who may be right for the part – and they may or may not decide to audition. I’ve waited in the “audition hall” hoping for the right new person to come in the door and knock our socks off so we can have an incredible production and I’ve been on that side of the table when not enough people have heard about the auditions or been inclined to show up to commit to the production. I’ve also been incredibly lucky and had the opportunity to see amazing people come through the door and had an incredible time debating over who is just right to create the magic we need for our show.

My message is clear on this though, AUDITION. Always audition.

When you have another commitment, but you really love the show – audition. They might need you and accommodate you.

When you LOVE the part, but are afraid they’ll choose someone else – audition. You might change their mind.

When you are afraid of the show/role/team/time (or whatever) – audition. You will almost never regret it.

When you are inexperienced, but think it could be fun – audition. You have nothing to lose and they might adore you beyond belief.

In short – don’t be afraid of the audition. I know it is terrifying. I’ve been there. Especially when there is a lot at stake. But even if you don’t win the role, you can OWN the room for a moment and take something from the experience on to the next audition.

Regardless, always go into the room thinking, “They need me.”

Cause it’s true.

An Original (Kids) Peter Pan???

We are a few weeks into our process at Original Kids and the troupe is picking up the material quite quickly. When actors are young like that, they are often very sponge-like. The material gets soaked into their brains super fast and with great clarity. So, the director is ploughing ahead with all the blocking and character work and the music director is already reviewing material and refining their singing. This means it’s the choreographer’s turn to jump in there and give the kids some movement vocabulary. Time for something new and fresh and NOT THE SAME AS EVERY OTHER PETER PAN?!?!?!? What?

Yeah, that’s a challenge, you know? Making it fresh and fun and organic when it is for a story that has been told 1000 ways in 1000 different cities with different songs and versions of the story and yet, certain movement just seems to be dictated by the characters, the story and the situations of the Lost Boys, the Indians and the Pirates.

So, what do you do? Do you force choreo into a situation, just so it can be different? Or do you accept your fate and go with the tried and true movement that you know has been done before? Well, for this very youthful version, I opted to go with what is going to work for the performers – and that’s simple, effective and funny choreography and blocking.

Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan

Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan

We are already close to having finished the initial blocking and choreo for the show and the kids are loving it. There are a pile of jazz squares, (a move that is classic! – and in this case quite funny) as well as some silly hijinks in the movement, because that is what the director wants. Ms Kerry Hishon enjoys the silly. The sillier the better and for this show and these kids, it really seems to be working.

So, here’s hoping those 7 or 8 jazz squares with the crazy eyes and sparkle fingers work for the audience, too!

It’s lonely at the top…

It can be very lonely being the director.

Once the show is open, your job is done and you don’t feel needed anymore. You miss out on all the backstage fun, shenanigans in the dressing room, headset chatter, inside jokes, etc. It’s a very strange feeling because you’ve been so involved for so long and now you aren’t part of the final execution.

Sometimes you can even get filled with great anxiety over the performance itself. If something goes wrong, you are powerless to help. When the lights flickered due to dimmer patch problems in my production of Gondoliers, I was quite stressed and couldn’t sit still in the audience as I was desperate to help the show in some way. You really shouldn’t be trying to help anymore as your people should be completely equipped to deal with any problem, but that doesn’t change how you feel when you are helpless in the audience. You always wonder if you did enough for them and if you could have done more – and if so, what?

Of course, there’s the insecurity as the show progresses with regards to the work itself. Is it good? Will it hit the mark? Is it rich enough?

Perhaps that’s why I feel so compelled to attend most, if not all, of the performances of my show. Maybe I’ll get more confident as I progress. We shall see. Til then, I’ll sit in the audience and imagine what I’m missing behind the scenes.

Backstage

Here comes Tech Weekend!

There was a palpable energy in the theatre when I entered tonight. The cast was a buzz, the musicians were all present and the load in of some more last minute pieces were happening. More painting had happened, costumes were arriving and more details were being added to them. I’d stopped at Fabricland to pick up foam to repair a piece of furniture and all seemed to be on schedule. There was nothing particularly special about this night… but there’s something undeniable about the last rehearsal before tech. No matter how tired actors may be, they always want to give that little bit more in this rehearsal as they seem to realize that the focus for the next little while will be elsewhere – other parts of the show are needed to be brought up to snuff, really, really quickly in order to match all of their months of efforts.

Personally, I know it is one of my last chances to give my people on stage any more advice that I have left to improve their performances and I’m always reluctant to let go of the whole project, even though I know it is completely necessary and part of the process. It’s a very draining and energizing process at the same time.

Our production is a show within a show – a backstage story that examines the beginning and middle and end of things. That’s always the way of life, isn’t it? One thing starts and another ends… Just as my job is almost done, the show opens. Just when actors memorize their lines, the characters come to life. The performance itself has a beginning a middle and an end – each character in the story does as well. We cycle through it all and experience each phase.

Even productions as a whole… we finish one show, celebrate it’s ending with a cast party… take a little break and then begin the next one.

That’s the key, isn’t it – relishing the process and each phase along the way. It moves quickly, so you’ve got to pay attention, or you’ll miss it.

beginend

 

4 Weeks! You rehearse and rehearse!

Here I am again… spending my evening in a darkened theatre preparing for an opening.

My job as the director is almost complete, but the final stretch is the busiest with all the tiny details coming together. It’s frustrating and exhilarating and you always wonder if it will ever come together. But somehow it always does – “it’s a mystery.”

i cant its tech week

In Kiss Me, Kate! a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew the cast sings of their nerves before the show opens.

Four weeks! You rehearse and rehearse…

Three weeks! And it couldn’t be worse…

One week! Will it every be right…

And out of the hat is that big first night!

So… soon it will be first night. Very soon. There’s always nerves involved and there’s always something that you wonder if it will ever work or ever conform to your vision, but time will march on no matter what efforts you may make to the contrary. So you do the best you can and you spend all your free time with your team and your cast and crew to get every last detail perfect. Each show has it’s own particular hurdles, be they technical or artistic and no matter what, you cross your fingers that the efforts of your team will be fully recognized.

Perhaps that’s why I feel the need to attend almost every performance of the shows I direct. I get so connected to the entire project and feel the need to morally support it right through to the end. I suppose if I directed shows that lasted a whole lot longer, I wouldn’t attend all the performances, but here in my community, most shows run for about 8 performances, maybe 10 and it’s over before you feel it’s even started. You’ve got to make the most of it.

That’s a good life lesson, don’t you think? Making the most of something because you know it isn’t going to last – no matter how hard you try.