“Bugsy Malone Jr.” closed a couple of nights ago. This was the 6th summer that found me spending a chunk of my time working with young people in the world of musical theater. Performance week is exhausting, to put it bluntly. After getting all the lines, lyrics, and choreography down we add in set pieces, props, lights, mics and sound cues, AND we moved into a performance space that was completely different from our rehearsal space which always means some adjustments as we adjust to a bigger performance area.
As I entered the space to get ready for the closing night performance, I braced myself. In the midst of mic checks, greeting the guests, making sure my keyboard was ready for me to play and all of the other “stuff” that goes into making the curtain go up, I was very aware that there was a statement coming that always come at the end of the show. And sure enough, within minutes of the show ending and the cast entering the lobby to mingle with their guests, a parent approached and uttered the words I hear at the end of every show.
“I bet you’re glad this is over.”
I get it. To someone on the outside, they think of all the things about doing a show that are not necessarily convenient –
- 2 hours of rehearsal on three nights of each week – that’s time that could be spent doing other things.
- 29 teenagers to keep on task and focused – challenging even if you love the age group.
- Performance week usually means that the director sees more of the cast and crew than his or her own family.
- The lengthy “to do” list can sometimes wake the director up in the middle of the night.
- The varying degrees of experience and skill mean that dance numbers must be repeated again, and again, and again to make sure that everyone is able to do the steps.
- Mics, lights, props, set – there are so many things that could go wrong and just the possibility keeps the director’s adrenaline pumping throughout tech and performance weeks.
All of that is absolutely true. But there is another side to the whole experience that keeps me coming back again, and again, and again –
- If you’re really lucky, and I was this year, the cast becomes good friends and enjoys being around one another. Granted, my cast this year got super chatty as a result of their friendship so my biggest “discipline” problem was getting them to be quiet when they were offstage.
- There were singers who struggled to believe in themselves and it was a joy to watch their confidence grow as the summer went on.
- I get to see the progression from the first rehearsal through the beginning of blocking and choreography to opening night when everything is in place and they are ready to shine.
- I watch young performers breathe life into their characters and grow as actors.
- The performers learn about the technical side of theater and become more knowledgeable about how mic checks work, how scene changes function, and the finer points of performance nights. This makes them better overall performers down the road.
Yes, I’m exhausted. For me, the Spring usually means back to back shows so I’m pretty worn out by the time the summer program ends. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I’ve watched a certain young man go from an audition where he said, “I’ll sing anything you want me to sing, but please don’t make me say any lines” to more recent shows where he’s had significant roles.
I’ve watched singers blossom, gaining confidence in their own abilities and finding the courage to keep pushing themselves.
Actors who courageously take on roles that are nothing like their own personalities, cast members who start out as strangers and become friends, young men and women who tell me “I can’t really dance” that go on to learn choreography that they thought was beyond them.
Closing night was Saturday. As I type this, it is mid-morning on Monday. I have relaxed, caught up on some reading, took a walk with my husband, and rode along in the golf cart as he played a round of golf. But I suspect that at some point tomorrow night I’ll look at the time and think, “This was rehearsal time for the last 8 weeks. I miss my kids.” Yes, the down time is nice. But working with young people in the world of musical theater carries rewards with it that make every single minute of the work worth it.
Can’t wait to do it again.