Monday, September 28, 2009

Never Fail

What am I doing wrong with this show? I've never felt so...powerless...when it comes to making a show a success. The success of a show lies in the director's hands, so it's up to me to motivate, inspire, lead these kids to something they can be proud of. I cannot just throw up my hands. I have to take charge and lead them. I have made them this promise--that they can be proud of what they've done. I'll work my hardest to help us all achieve this end.

I've never failed at this before. I won't fail now.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Choir Rehearsal/Blocking Slowly

We had our first choir rehearsal on Tuesday. Hudson is our choir director and young Evan is our accompanist. It was impressive. Hudson led them through some--what I considered to be--difficult vocal warm-ups, talked to them about how their mouths should be shaped when they sing, and then led them in "Silent Night". And it was beautiful. It was really a moment. I was impressed; other parents were impressed. Parents who have had some musical training (unlike me) were impressed. That makes me smile. And it makes me proud.


Honestly, there are going to be SO many moments in this show. They are coming to the surface already, like a polaroid photo slowly coming into focus. I'm getting good stuff out of the kids already.

We are blocking the show very slowly. There are huge numbers of kids in the scenes and it makes it really hard for ol' ADD here to focus and see the whole picture. But I like what I've done so far. The blocking part is tedious and slow, but when we get up to speed with the real action of the show, I think it will look great. Rachelle is great. Kelly is great. MEGAN is great!! The last couple shows, she's really just done filler roles for me, but this one was made for her. She's showing her 'training' and her leadership right now.

The trick--the really difficult trick--is going to be making all the scuffling and horseplay look real. So far it's looking pretty 'staged', but it'll become more natural as we go along. We were missing three key people last night and that makes it difficult to see the moving picture we're making here. It will be frustrating having to go back and bring them up to speed, but...what can you do? There are conflicts and choices made and I don't have any control over them. It just makes it hard on the rest of us....

Anyway...VERY excited about this show. Looking forward to sewing this weekend. Loving my theatre life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Magic of Theatre

I'm blocking "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" reeeaaaalllly slowly. The first night, we did only 14 pages. Last night, we did 7, went back and 'locked' them in, then went back and did pages 5-19 again.

Already, I'm seeing a vision of what this show is going to be. Everyone around me is itching and pushing to get to the details and the polish, but we really have to go slow here. The scenes have TONS of kids in them and the process of making sure they're all in the right place, and acting and in character, is tough.

There are lots of laughs along the way. I laugh and I get laughed at. Joe Siefker pointed out an obvious change--we should walk this way instead of that way--and it WAS so obvious that I was almost embarrassed. Frances, one of my new moms, started laughing and pretty soon, we all were. Fun and funny.

There are moments of brilliance--I've seen them in Ariel, in Megan, in Aubree, in Alec, in these early interactions between the Herdman kids. This is really going to be a good show. This is something I think a lot of directors don't know or don't pay attention to--things like tussling, chasing, play-fighting all have to be choreographed. Most directors just let the kids do what they want to and it ends up looking amateurish and unpracticed--because it is.

Rachel, our girl that plays Beth, came in so much better last night. She slowed down a lot in her narrator speeches and that's good. Rachelle is good, too. I'm just really pleased with everyone...

Now...let's start worrying about the costumes!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Everything Always Comes Together in the End"

"Everything always comes together in the end." I REALLY hate this phrase. I get this rather often from my theatre parents...and others...usually people who are distanced from the process, but sometimes from people who are not. Yes, usually everything does come together in the end--with varying degrees of success--but NOT just by thinking about it and hoping that it will. Not just by continually repeating this phrase. It DOES come together in the end, but only with good planning and hard work. Work that SOMEBODY has to do--and it's usually somebody that isn't standing around saying, "everything always comes together in the end".

I think that that's what Caught in the Act is suffering from right now: "Everything-Always-Comes-Together-in-the-End" Syndrome. I think that there are people in the cast and people around me who think that just because we SAY we're doing a show, and we have a director and a cast, that it will happen just because we have all the pieces. Nope. You HAVE to put the pieces together. Really, there's work involved. It needs work. It needs dedication. It needs ATTENDANCE!! I don't think I've had a rehearsal yet where everyone was there!! Silly me, I believe that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. I'm not convinced that everyone around me feels that way. And I simply refuse to throw it to the wind with 'a wing and a prayer'.

Well, I can only work with the hand that's dealt me. Is that a cop-out attitude? It's a realistic attitude. I'm just one person. I can't complete the puzzle without ALL of the pieces.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Week in Review

Caught is looking up. Wednesday and Friday were my off-book deadlines. Wednesday was good. Friday, not so good. I was surprised at both ends of the spectrum--by people who really WERE off book and people who weren't. It really can only get better. I'm not saying it's bad, but that's the nature of the beast--rehearsals are supposed to make the show better--and they do. I hope that I get to rehearse on stage on Monday--doubtful, however, because I think that "Peter Pan" call backs will not only pre-empt us, but take some of my actors.... Because after all, everyone CAN do EVERYTHING. I also hope that I get to rehearse with my sound cues. I'm a little....hesitant to ask SoundGuy to sit in rehearsal and run them. Is that how it's done at the high school? I know this is my second year there, but it doesn't keep me from feeling like a stranger in a strange land who doesn't really know the language, the rules, the protocols, or what expectations are really on me....I feel like the Rookie Show is the low man on the totem pole and everything else takes priority over it. Grumblegrumble. In any case, I praised them before I let them go on Friday and gave them three assisgnments: 1) get louder, 2) slow down, 3) enunciate. Those are our three issues. They were all looking at me and I felt they were internalizing what I said. I hope so.

We had our first blocking rehearsal for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Thursday. I wrote a little bit about it in my previous entry. It took us the whole two hours to block 14 pages, which is what I wanted to get through, but I had hoped to have time to go back and 'lock it in'. Hence, Block and Lock. The more people on stage, the more difficult it is to create my moving piece of art. I have twelve new families in KidsPlay and 21 new faces. I just hope the parents and the veterans can be patient while I teach the fundamentals to the newbies. Got involved in long discussions about the set, long discussions about lines, and costumes. Gave way on most; holding my ground on a couple....

This was a sewing weekend. I bought yards and yards and yards of white flannel for the angel costumes. I bought all that the east-side Wal-Mart, JoAnn's, and Hobby Lobby had and ended up driving down to Shelbyville to the only other central Indiana Wal-Mart that still carries material for another 14 yards!! I had good sewing help yesterday morning and again this afternoon. Thanks to Lais, Rachelle, Laura, Frances, Carie, and Shannon for your help. It was MUCH appreciated. I chose flannel because I thought it would be easier to sew with than the flimsy broadcloth, and you can't see through it.

Tuesday starts our first choir rehearsal. Wish us luck. <---and THAT'S a line from Caught. :-)


Sewing, sewing, sewing...
I'm sewing this weekend. We're making some 16 angel outfits. I picked flannel, much to some's chagrin. It was reasonably priced (with a coupon, of course) and it's thick enough that you can't see through it, unlike the broad cloth.

Photos are the 15th. HOW am I going to make that deadline?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Fall Projects

I'm actually directing two shows right now:

Caught in the Act by Pat Cook
Apparently I agreed to direct the Rookie Show for Greenfield-Central High School during a 2 1/2 minute conversation last November. I was very excited about it at first and there are moments when I still am--when there's a breakthrough moment during rehearsal, or when I see how earnestly the kids I'm working with strive for a positive comment. But there have been a lot of frustrations, too. We've gotten bumped out of the auditorium a few times. My supervisor schedules meetings and auditions that pull my actors away. There are delays in tech and actor absences. I'm working with beginners which is a challenge (but a delight when they stretch themselves). I didn't feel that I had enough time from the get-go to make good theatre, and these obstacles only enhance that feeling. I'm pushing my actors as hard as I think they will allow me to. It can only get better and it does.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
This is the show I'm doing with KidsPlay and CrazyLake--a joint production. Last week, we had auditions. This week was our parents meeting and our first blocking rehearsal. 40 people in the cast--two weekends, two day time matinees. A HUGE undertaking, probably the largest project I've taken on in theatre. "Jolly Roger" and "Three Tales of Christmas" come close, but I think this is the biggest. The first blocking rehearsal was long. It took 2 hours to block some 14 pages. All of the scenes have large groups of kids in them and the more kids on the stage, the more difficult and chaotic it is to block it well. I hope my adults are patient as I work with the kids.

So those are the two projects. You've officially been brought up to speed and you're ready now for subsequent blog posts about these projects and other future projects. :-)

A First Post

Yes, yes...most blogs are nothing more than 'vanity projects'. (See Reasons for Writing), and this one is no different. I simply decided I wanted another format (other than my personal blog) for blogging the progress of our productions, the joys and despairs of being a theatre person, and keep a record of our craft, so I decided to create "The Director's Journal".

For my first entry, however, I'd like to post a cut-and-paste letter from a previously started (and abandoned) blog, called "Love Letter to KidsPlay" I wrote back in March of 2007. This is a declaration of my love for what I'm doing, and a good way to start.

I think in my whole life, I have just fifteen minutes to myself every day, and that’s the time it takes me to drive to school in the morning. So it’s no surprise that this fifteen minutes of unstructured time is the time when I reflect on what I’m doing, the speed of my life, and how I’m spending my time here on earth. For me, there has been no greater joy than the privilege of getting to do what I do with you and your kids.

Some reflections from this morning’s drive…

I can’t remember when we have all worked so hard and been so…freakin’ happy about it. Everyone, I mean everyone, is walking around with a huge smile on their faces. I know that some of you have added the things you do for KidsPlay onto an already full plate, yet everyone seems so happy about the 2, 4, 6, 12 or 20 extra hours you’re putting towards KidsPlay every week. Please know that it does not go unnoticed.

Dennis stopped up after rehearsing with Donna for the Variety Show last night. He told me that he thought it was really starting to click. I look at him and he’s just beaming. Good heavens, I think, what was he doing before he found KidsPlay and this outlet for his considerable creative side? I mentioned as much to Donna on the way out the door last night and she said, “What did I do before all of you found ME?”

Some of the kids have already started their songs for the song contest. I haven’t even mentioned it yet in announcements.

We’re getting some outstanding work from the kids. I’m thrilled with the extent to which most of them know their lines. Sam is a little weak on the vocals, and Joe is still shaky on his memorization, but the two of them totally make up for that with the innovative stuff they’re trying out at rehearsal. They’re so into being actors and I LOVE it.

I finally decided, probably too late, to try to transition Blair away from the cockney, to a more genteel aristocratic British accent. She absolutely nailed it in the first act. Amazing. And Blair. Good heavens, I can’t believe this is her last show. [Yes, I’m going down this road already…] She’s been with us since she was a baby fourth grader. She has bloomed into such a leader for this group. What will we do without her?

And Sam. We haven’t had Sam long enough, and yet, he’s an 8th grader. I think that rehearsal will be a colder place without his absolutely irrepressible good humor. I think I could give him constructive criticism every 15 seconds, and he would just smile, make the adjustment and go on.

I can’t get over Wesley on the peg-leg. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s amazing. He walks on it, spins around, sometimes wobbles (only a little), but he doesn’t miss a beat. I can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction when he walks out on that stage. Surely, most adult theatres would not try this special effect (probably because adult legs couldn’t take what Wesley can do with his…). And he’s so matter-of-fact about it—doesn’t complain, doesn’t say it hurts (it can’t possibly be comfortable!!). He’s…just…making sacrifices for his art, is all.

There are so many other things: the kids’ obvious delight in their costumes; their comments and suggestions for improving the show—they have more ideas than I can process in any one rehearsal; their willingness to rehearse a scene or say a line, over and over again until I think we have it right; and the parents laughing and enjoying the scenes and the banter of rehearsal.

Sometimes I think that the stars have aligned to bring us all together combining all of our energies and our talents to create this wonderful thing that we’re doing. All this energy, all this fun and happiness and pride in our kids and in our own hard work. This is a great time for us. We need to soak up these moments while we can. There will be others, to be sure, but these times are golden--and they won’t come again.