This is just a chance for me to share with you the things I care most about. This will include my family, the kiddos in the performing arts that I call mine, my faith, fabulous book I find, and more. I'll share with you what I'm doing to continue my goal of being a lifelong learner as well as keeping you up to date on my adventures as a wife, an empty nester, a mother of adult children, and a grandmother.
The first week in February was all about auditions! This will be my ELEVENTH show with the students at Fort Dodge Senior High and it’s a REALLY different choice for us.
The show is “Bright Star”, written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was nominated for several Tony awards in 2016. Unfortunately, that was the same year “Hamilton” was nominated for several Tony’s. (I’m just kidding – I LOVE the score of Hamilton and hope to actually see it someday!). The music has a very folk music/bluegrass sort of feel and it’s much more of an ensemble show than a “star vehicle”.
Usually our audition week goes like this – Auditions Monday through Wednesday (kids just pick one day to sign up for) during which everyone must sing and dance and then they may choose to read for a speaking part. Thursday is reserved for callbacks with the cast list going up on Friday right after school.
But we don’t need to hold callbacks this year!
I’m totally serious. The cast list is complete (with the exception of a few one line type roles from the chorus and assigning specific portions of the chorus to songs that don’t need the whole cast.) It will feel REALLY weird not to stay after school tomorrow – Thursday – and watch more auditions. The cast list will get posted in a couple of different online places and then we meet for the first read-through on Monday!
I live in a small town that has a big city love of the performing arts. With three community theater companies, two high schools and a community college with active performing arts programs, two museums and a variety of community music groups that perform regularly, the arts community has options!
Iowa Central Community College will be featuring a show written by Aaron Westrum who is himself an alum. The show is titled “Falling Awake” and opens this Thursday under the direction of my talented friend, Teresa Jackson. I had the opportunity to meet Aaron at a director’s workshop this summer – he’s a fellow musical theather director in an Iowa high school! – and it was such fun to hear his excitement. The show, in a nutshell, is about a girl who is in a coma but wakes up in a sort of “holding place”.
Fort Dodge Senior High presents “A Little Piece of Heaven” on November 1st and 2nd. The story is centered on a curiosity shop that always seems to have exactly what each customer needs. Even if they don’t know they need it. Students are hard at work bringing this touching story to life.
Whether you live in Fort Dodge, Iowa, or not do some digging and go out and support the performing arts departments at your local schools. Trust me – the performers will appreciate having you there!
It won’t be long and I will find some of my time occupied with teenagers preparing for Speech competition. Large group contest is up first which means I will be spending time working with groups of students preparing to compete with musical theater pieces. Staging, music, storytelling . . . the whole package presented for adjudicators with the goal of making it from District Competition to State. Once large group is over, it’s on to individual performances which means some one-on-one coaching with performers.
But what makes this speech season extra special is the fact that my youngest daughter will be coaching a team of her own! She is in her first year as a teacher, working at the local Catholic school where she will also be in charge of the speech team. As a first year coach, she has already warned her former coach that she will be asking all kinds of questions and, needless to say, her former coach is more than happy to help! And I’m looking forward to seeing her at speech events!
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.