This post didn’t quite go as planned last week – so here’s another attempt!
In honor of audition week . . .
One of my favorite moments happened this past week – the first meeting with the cast of a show I’m directing.
This particular show is a twist on the Russian folktale that most of us know as a ballet frequently staged at Christmas time. In THIS version, Fritz is the focus. Obsessed with beating the next level in his favorite video game, he accidentally frees the Mouse King who is determined to destroy Christmas. As in the traditional story, the Nutcracker is determined to stop the Mouse King. But in THIS version, the Nutcracker is a girl.
I have a cast of 39 ready to start rehearsals this coming week. Some of them have been on stage a few times before while others are gearing up for their very first show ever. They range in age from Kindergarten through high school (I believe the oldest performer is a Junior). Some of them are old friends or family – have a few sets of siblings and even a set of cousins – and a few have even shared the stage together before.
I am facing several hours of rehearsal, teaching rookie actors what terms like “blocking” and “counter cross” mean, designing and painting the set, deciding on costumes, collecting props, . . . and I cannot wait to get all the insanity started! Watching students hone and polish their performance skill is always such a fantastic experience. And a show during my favorite holiday of the year? Sounds like perfection!
Shows end. It’s a fact. Kind of a “duh” statement. And to be brutally honest, every once in awhile you run into that show that . . . . well, . . . is more of a toil than a treasure. When that sort of show ends, it’s almost a relief! But for most of them – for me, anyway – the end of a show is rather sad. It’s the knowledge that this specific group of people will never be assembled for this exact purpose again. Oh, you may work with some of those same performers again. But not on this specific show in this specific time and space.
Such is the story for me right now. The last performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is over and done. It was my fourth show with Iowa Central Community College. I’ve loved all four experiences and there have a been a few tears shed as it came to an end tonight.
But I can’t mope for long. Music rehearsals for “Damn Yankees” have already begun and Saturday morning gave me my first chance to run a rehearsal with some of the cast – choreography, to be specific. I will miss “my” kids from “Drowsy” – some of them I’ve worked with before, some will be moving on to other experiences next year, and for others it was my first time working with them. But as much as I will miss the cast, the production team, my spot in the pit . . . it’s time to move on!
“Damn Yankees” rehearsal will start to occupy my time and I couldn’t be more excited!! It’s my sixth show with Fort Dodge Senior High and it’s the largest cast I’ve worked with at FDSH. Choreo is underway, music rehearsals have been held, the parent volunteer meeting is set for Monday . . . while I say goodbye to one show, it’s time to turn my focus and energy to another. Not much down time really . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!
It’s that time of the year again. The cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone” performed this morning for a large group of middle schoolers. That means no rehearsal tonight. Trust me, that isn’t a bad thing. One last “dress rehearsal with an audience” during the day instead of running late into the night right before we open?! Kind of brilliant for resting some worn out performers.
I’m tired. I mean, “I-can-barely-keep-my-eyes-open-and-I’m-not-sure-how-I’m-still-holding-my-head-up” tired. This night owl may find herself in bed surprisingly early tonight.
But, as I say every time a show gets to this point, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And by “it” I mean . . .
. . . getting to work with some of “my kids” again.
. . . pushing myself to conquer those difficult musical passages.
. . . hearing the positive comments from the audience members about how well the actors did.
. . . hearing the same jokes and laughing just as hard as I did the first time.
. . . that moment near the end when an amazing young actor brings tears to my eyes.
. . . the hugs, the smiles, the words of encouragement from both cast and audience.
. . . the knowledge that even if this particular show is done a thousand more times in a thousand different places, it will never be exactly THIS show with THIS pit.
Yes, this crazy theater life wears me out. Yes, I would have more free time in my evenings if I stopped doing shows. But I wouldn’t be nearly as content as I am right in this moment.