Almost There!

Well, here we are, a week and half away from tech week.  Can you believe it?  I certainly can't.  In fact, I might be in denial...

Tech week is a lot of fun, which is funny because it's also a lot of work and really tiring.  Unfortunately, the amount of fun and the amount of work go hand in hand.  For example, if all of our tech rehearsals are amazing (everyone remembers their lines, lyrics, choreography, and blocking, allowing us to add layers to your performance, rather than fix things) this tech week could be the most fun ever.  However, if tech rehearsals are not so great (lots of lines missing, not a lot of improv to cover it up, choreography's a mess, etc.) you will not be having as much fun as you could be having.  Yes, this applies to the staff as well, but it mostly applies to you, the actor.

So in preparation for tech week what should you be doing?  Basically, the same stuff you've been doing, or should be doing:

1) Know your lines.  This week you have to be off book for most of Act 2.   That's in addition to all of Act 1.  Just because you are concentrating on memorizing these new scenes doesn't mean that you should stop practicing your old scenes.  All scenes are equally important and your brain is a muscle that must be exercised.

2) Know more than your lines.  What?  I know, it's a lot of work, but you can't memorize just your lines. You should know the lines before yours (these are your cue lines).  Side note: speaking of cue lines, understand that all of your lines are cue lines, but the most important cue lines you have are right before musical numbers.  Jane will be listening for these and therefore these are maybe the most important lines to get exactly right. You should also know what's going on in all of your scenes.  You probably think, I know what happens, but do you?  Let's say that you're waiting to come on stage and no one on stage is talking.  What do you do?  Well, first you wait to see if the people onstage can figure it out, but if they don't it's up to you.  I don't mean that you're backstage whispering lines, hoping that the people onstage will hear you.  I mean that you need to enter and help out your fellow actors (your teammates).  What happens if you're waiting to come on and the actors onstage skip your entrance?  You need to know everything around your entrance so you can still come on and say your lines or do your expected blocking.

Okay, now what happens if you are onstage and no one is saying a line?  Do you know what the conversation that's supposed to be happening is about?  Can you improv a line that makes sense and gets the scene rolling again without anyone panicking?  This is why you need to know more than just your lines.  Things happen in live theater, sometimes these things have nothing to do with actors.   For all you know, I could fall asleep at the back of the house and not cue the curtain to open or the lights to go on, but still, the show must go on!  (Don't worry - I wouldn't do that to you.)  Sometimes these things are easy to work around, sometimes they aren't, but the more you know, and the more prepared you are, simply by knowing the whole script and story (and not just what affects you specifically), the better you will be able to handle whatever comes your way when you are in front of an audience.

3) Know your lyrics and music.  Yes, this is kind of like knowing your lines, but you have to really know the music to know when to sing your lyrics.  You need to know the rhythm of the song.  You need to know which verse comes first, second, third.  We are, after all, putting on a musical.  The people are coming for the music just as much as they are for everything else (yes, I know, most people are coming to see you, but that doesn't mean that they aren't expecting a musical). I'm not the music director, so I can't speak to all of this, but I can tell you that's it a lot harder to improv your way through a forgotten song than a forgotten scene.

4) Know your choreography.  Honestly, if you don't know your dance moves you look sloppy and that can ruin the show - I kid you not.  If everyone's doing different things, or if only a couple people are doing all the moves, your audience will know that you don't know your stuff.  If you know your lyrics to the point where they become an extension of you, I promise that the choreography will be easier to learn.  And what's more, when your choreography becomes muscle memory for you, the lyrics will be easier to remember.  Ah, the circle of life...  Seriously though, it's true.  #3 and #4 on this list go hand in hand.  

5) Know your blocking.  You knew this one was coming, right?  It's last on the list solely because this will hopefully get learned as you go over your lines and as you work in rehearsal.  This is also one of the toughest things for NDW kids because our rehearsal space is completely different from our performance space.  I remember when I worked at North Shore Music Theatre.  It was an eye opening experience to see what a professional theatre did.  They also had a different rehearsal space, but it was theirs and they were able to mark it up.  If there was a platform, there would be tape on the floor indicating that.  At NDW for us to do that would take too much set up and clean up time before and after each rehearsal (not to mention a huge waste of tape).  And for a show like this, it might still be confusing because of the ramps.  We can mark them on the floor, but you still have to remember when you're going under them, which you can't do if they're just marked on the floor.  So it's extra important for you to know your blocking.  When we get to Kennedy, if you know where you're coming from you can figure out where you are actually coming from (or going), but if you don't it will be a mess.

Now, we have 2 Saturday rehearsals left and only a couple of scenes to block.  Your rehearsal time is there for you to rehearse and practice all the things that you need to practice to have a good show and tech week.  That doesn't mean you don't have to put your own time into this show, but the more you pay attention and work during rehearsals, the easier it will be for you to practice on your own (or at the lunch table with NDW friends) and the better your tech rehearsals will be. 

And they are your tech rehearsals, so make the most of them.

See you Saturday,

Debbi

Memorizing Lines

Hi Folks!

This isn't really a blog, so much as a passing along of information.  Today I stumbled upon some tricks for memorizing lines from Pioneer Drama (you know, the company where many of our musicals come from).  Since I know that everyone at home is working on this I wanted to share the Pioneer blog with you.  It can be found here.

Enjoy and see you all Saturday for our first off-book date!

-Debbi

Rehearsals 2 and 3

We accomplished a lot at Natick Drama Workshop this week!  Almost all of the music has been taught, our opening songs have been choreographed, and we blocked the first 4 scenes of the show!

What does that mean for our actors?  It means that from here on out there will always be “homework.”  It is really important that each actor goes home and “studies” what’s been learned during rehearsals.

I remember being in NDW as a kid and practicing my dances over and over.  Jane used to make cassette tapes for us and I would put the tape into my stereo system during the week and practice ALL the choreography that I learned.  The tape had 2 sides: one had vocals (Jane singing along), and the other side was just the accompaniment. When I was trying to concentrate on just the dance moves, I would listen to the side with Jane singing.  I would sing along, but I didn’t have to think about the lyrics until I was ready.   Then, after going over the dances a couple of times, I’d flip the tape over and dance while singing.

Practicing these things is really important.  From a staff/teacher perspective, it’s really frustrating when you teach something and then you have to re-teach it every week.  By practicing, you are ensuring that we won’t be wasting time re-teaching (although certainly we want to answer any questions you have so that you don’t learn things incorrectly over and over).  From an acting perspective, the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be onstage during the performances.

Imagine this: you are an actor with a smaller role and you memorized your 10 lines and you figure that’s all you really need to worry about.  During the shows you plan to sing quietly and have managed to get spots at the back of the stage during all the dances so that you won’t be seen.  This way, you don’t have to worry about learning the lyrics or choreography and you’re all set.  Except that you’re not.  Your parents, friends, grandparents will find you on stage and will be watching you not knowing what you’re doing.  You could also throw off your fellow actors.  By not knowing what you’re doing you risk getting hurt or hurting someone else (an extreme, but not impossible).  At best, you might throw off someone’s concentration or confidence when they see you doing something other than what they are doing.  And, worst of all, your fellow actors, once they catch on to you, will realize that you don’t care and are not a member of the team.  The entire cast is a team and each member needs to do what’s expected of them so that the team can stay whole and continue to work together.

It may seem tedious to go home every day after school (and whatever afternoon activities you may have) and do homework, and then have to work on this show, but your effort will pay off and you can do this homework with the aid of friends, and you’ll feel a lot more confident at rehearsals and, ultimately, during the shows.  It’s a win-win.

So, when we ask you to read the entire script, or review your blocking, or choreography, or to start memorizing your lyrics – do it!  It is for your own good and for the good of your team.  The more you do all of this, the happier you will be at NDW – I promise!

-Debbi

Read-through and Rehearsal #1

We are off and running!  There were actors singing and dancing all over Cole this past Saturday.  Songs have been learned, dance moves have been reviewed, and soon, before you know it, we’ll have a show.

The first thing we did this week was hand out scripts to our actors and had our read-through.  “What’s a read-through?,” you ask.  Well, all the actors sit in a circle and read the script out loud.  It’s the first time that the actors speak their lines, but it’s also the first time that the cast gets to hear others speak their lines.  One thing I love about the read-through is seeing who is already in character.  Usually, the 8th graders step up.  Many of our actors take this seriously (as they all should) and really get into it.  Shout outs to Jessica, Ryan, and Rebecca for already being in character, although they weren’t the only ones.

Now actors are asked to re-read their scripts.  The more familiar an actor is with the entire show, the better rehearsals will go and the more each individual part will make sense.  For example, in reading just your own lines, you aren’t seeing how your character could be interacting with other characters and actors.  Who else is on stage in your scene?  What just happened before you entered?  All of these things affect your character. 

In life this is true, too.  Let’s say you walk into your classroom just as the bell rings and your teacher seems angry.  You might think the teacher is mad at you for not being in your seat as the bell rings, or you might just think that your teacher is having a bad day.  Now, as a person, you don’t know what happened before, but maybe if you knew that a student walked in, knocked the teacher’s coffee all over himself and the floor and then yelled at the teacher, rather than taking responsibility, you would react differently than if the teacher just really hates it when students aren’t in their desks when the bell rings.

In this case, you don’t have the script and you can only react to what you’re given.  However, in a play, you do have the script.  As a character, perhaps you are still clueless, but as an actor you have more power by knowing the whole story.  If you are a fairy tale character you know that at some point in the story things get messed up and nothing happens like it’s supposed to.  This is important information.  As a character you are only concerned with what’s going wrong in your own story, but as an actor you know to be in a certain place so that Jack and Jill can have their moment to show what’s wrong, just as they know to move aside for your character when the time comes.  You also know that there are things that happened offstage to your characters that the audience doesn’t get to see.  You, as an actor, get to use your imagination to fill in those gaps (within reason) and make character choices based on what you decide.  For example, how did Mary and Little Bo Peep’s sheep get lost/mixed-up?  What happened off-stage that we didn’t see?  As an actor you need to know the whole story from both sides and then pretend to know only what your character knows when onstage.

Boy, this acting can be a lot of work.  But, it’s fun work.  Just like school there’s homework: you have to know the play and reread it several times, memorize lines, blocking, lyrics, choreography, and make-up back stories.  But it’s worth it.  Acting can be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it can also be the most rewarding.

See you Saturday,

Debbi

Auditions

Hi everyone!  Great job at auditions Saturday.  I say this every show, but I really love watching our cast audition.  I always learn a little something new about our returning actors and it’s a great introduction to our brand new actors.

For this show, casting went by really quickly, in part because our cast gave us a lot to work with and showed us (the staff) what each individual brings to the table, so to speak.  When casting there are always so many things to consider, which is why I always say that casting is like a jigsaw puzzle.  The directors have to line up the actors in the roles in a way that fits, not just for each individual actor, but also for the whole show. 

For example, we usually have a few actors that could pull off each role.  But we can’t cast 3 people in each role – that wouldn’t work at all.  So we have to figure out combinations of people and see what works and what makes sense.  Sometimes, in order to do this, we have to change casting that we thought we had already figured out in order to make something else work that wouldn’t otherwise.  This is the tricky part, but in the end, I think we usually do a good job.

Let’s say that you are going to cast Mickey Mouse and his friends as characters in a production of Robin Hood.  How are you going to go about this? 

First, these are the roles that you need to cast:
Robin Hood
Little John
Will Scarlett
Friar Tuck
Maid Marian
Sheriff of Nottingham

Second, here are your actors:
Mickey Mouse
Minnie Mouse
Goofy
Donald Duck
Chip
Dale

You might think that Mickey is going to be Robin Hood, but maybe he did a really good audition for the Sheriff of Nottingham, too.  And then perhaps you would want Goofy to be Robin Hood.  You have to think about all the possibilities.  Perhaps, after doing this your casting possibilities look like this:

Robin Hood – Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Dale, Minnie
Little John – Goofy, Mickey
Will Scarlet – Chip, Dale, Minnie, Donald, Mickey
Friar Tuck – Mickey, Chip, Dale
Maid Marian – Minnie
Sheriff of Nottingham – Donald, Mickey, Goofy Chip

Now you have to narrow it down.  Since Minnie is the only one that you, as the director, see as Maid Marian you can take her out of the running for everything else.  You also see that only Goofy or Mickey could be Little John.  Mickey is listed as a possibility for all the parts, but Goofy is only listed for 3 roles, so in order to figure that out you need to decide which you’d rather see for that role.  After you think about that you need to make sure that there is still a part for the other person that makes sense.  So I think our director would probably write down Goofy’s name for Little John, but only in pencil, just in case the director changes his/her mind.  That leaves us with this:

Robin Hood – Mickey, Donald, Dale
Little John – Goofy
Will Scarlet – Chip, Dale, Donald, Mickey
Friar Tuck – Mickey, Chip, Dale
Maid Marian – Minnie
Sheriff of Nottingham – Donald, Mickey, Chip

Okay, so now what?  I think it’s important to look at the villainous character, because not everyone can pull off being the villain.  The director thinks about the possibilities (Donald, Mickey, and Chip) and realizes 2 things: 1) Mickey has a hard time not smiling, even though he did have a really good audition, and 2) Chip is a newer actor who did an okay audition, but maybe isn’t ready for such a big role.  However, the director isn’t quite ready to cross Mickey’s name off the list, so this role is now between Donald and Mickey.  That means that Chip has to be either Will Scarlet or Friar Tuck.  Thinking about what Chip brings to the table, the director decides that Chip would be a really good Friar Tuck because he shows the ability to be both serious and funny.  Now your cast list looks like this:

Robin Hood – Mickey, Donald, Dale
Little John – Goofy
Will Scarlet –Dale, Donald, Mickey
Friar Tuck –Chip
Maid Marian – Minnie

Sheriff of Nottingham – Donald or Mickey

Now, of the remaining 3 roles, Donald or Mickey could be any, but Dale is only listed as Robin Hood or Will Scarlet.  So now there are a couple possibilities based on how we place Dale:

Possibility #1
Robin Hood –Dale
Little John – Goofy
Will Scarlet –Donald or Mickey
Friar Tuck –Chip
Maid Marian – Minnie

Sheriff of Nottingham – Donald or Mickey

Possibility #2
Robin Hood – Mickey or Donald
Little John – Goofy
Will Scarlet –Dale
Friar Tuck –Chip
Maid Marian – Minnie

Sheriff of Nottingham – Donald or Mickey

With Possibility #1 you are left with Mickey and Donald as Will Scarlet and the Sheriff.  You don’t mind that, but both are really good actors and Will Scarlet isn’t as big a role as Robin Hood.  But Dale would make a really good Robin Hood.

With Possibility #2 you are left with the hero and the villain role for Mickey and Donald.  From there this becomes much easier as you know that Donald would be a great Sheriff (and you could make the role a bit more comedic) and there was never a doubt that Mickey would make a wonderful Robin Hood.

However, what makes sense for Dale?  Is he ready for a leading role? Are there any benefits to seeing him as Will Scarlett over Robin Hood?  Or in having him play Robin Hood over Will Scarlett?

This now comes down to a couple of things.  One – Possibility #2, with the added commentary above, does make a lot of sense to you and the cast seems to be rounded out.

Possibility #2
Robin Hood – Mickey
Little John – Goofy
Will Scarlet –Dale
Friar Tuck –Chip
Maid Marian – Minnie
Sheriff of Nottingham – Donald

Possibility #1, on the other hand, will allow an actor who had a good audition a chance to shine, and can focus on other aspects of Mickey and Donald’s talents:

Possibility #1
Robin Hood –Dale
Little John – Goofy
Will Scarlet –Donald
Friar Tuck –Chip
Maid Marian – Minnie
Sheriff of Nottingham –Mickey

Mickey rarely gets to play the bad guy, and if he could just stop smiling so much… but maybe he could smile evilly… he could be great.  And Donald can be really funny.  Giving him the role of Will Scarlet will give him the chance to be comedic, a second banana, if you will.

When considering all these things, the director decides to take a chance on Dale as Robin Hood.  It might not be what people expect, but it allows certain actors the chance to try something new and hopefully shine at it.  And since Robin Hood always ends up with Maid Marian, you know that Dale and Minnie are good friends who will work well together, but they are just acting.  At the end of the day, it is still Mickey and Minnie forever with a big heart.

So you see, there are several things to consider.  And the end result of both possible casts will work, as long as the director has faith in his/her actors.

Do you agree with my Robin Hood casting?  If not, tell me why (I am curious).

Next up, the read through!  Be glad Donald Duck won’t be around – he spits a lot!

See you all on Saturday,
Debbi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of Summer Preparations

Hello everyone and welcome back to Natick Drama Workshop!  I hope everyone had a wonderful summer filled with adventure and fun.  In a little over a week we will be back at NDW for the fall show and I thought that perhaps it would be helpful to write up some audition tips to help both our new and returning actors get ready for our fall musical (no, I can't tell you what we're doing).

Tip #1: Have the right attitude.  Smile and be polite.  
What does that have to do with acting?  Nothing really, but whenever you audition, interview, or are trying to make a first impression you should always make people think that you want to be where you are and that you're happy and excited.  If you get nervous it helps to remember this, so that you can get over some of your nerves by acting like you're happy.  And when you smile, your mood can change!
Cindy, Lisa, Jane, and I notice when you look unhappy or when you're not polite.  So put your best face forward, behave and say please and thank you!

Tip #2: Smile while dancing and keep on moving.  
This one sounds like the last one, but is more specific.  When you do the dance audition you might not remember all the moves, or you might mess up, or maybe you just aren't the best dancer.  That' okay.  What we want to see is someone who can move and act their way through the dance combinations.  Obviously it helps to be able to dance, but it's not completely necessary to have a good dance audition.  Pretend that you are at your dance recital and smile like your grandparents are watching and then relax.  Do your best and don't freak out or lose the smile if you mess up.  Sometimes we see someone who doesn't do all the dance moves, but keeps smiling and bopping along and we know that there's something we can do with that person that will feature him/her.  Plus, it means you have a good attitude and that is a must for all theater endeavors!

Tip #3: Act your song and sing it loud and proud.  
While I'm being specific, let's talk about the music audition, which tends to be the scariest.  When I was in NDW it was the scariest part for me, too.  Believe it or not, I was a quiet kid and didn't always project during my singing auditions (which our "new" musical director, Jane, can attest to), but I wish I did.  Here's the thing - your signing audition is also an acting audition so we need to hear you, even if you're off key.  We also need to see you do more than just stand there with your arms at your side or crossed in front of you.  We know your nervous and that's okay, but please do your best to show us that you care.  What is the song about?  Can you put in a dance move or a gesture that will show us that you're invested?  Can you assume a character or an attitude to help get the point of the song across?  At the very least - smile!  And don't forget to project.
Tip #3a: Sing by yourself.   Yes, you are allowed to sing in a small group of 2 or 3, but sometimes that means that we can't hear you at all.  If you are in 7th or 8th grade, specifically, just try to sing by yourself.  That way, it is easier for us to cast you whether you are the best singer in the cast, the worst, or somewhere in between.  

Tip #4: Make choices and commit to them 100%.  
When you act you have to make choices.  We go over this at auditions, but sometimes I'm not sure everyone understands.  And more importantly, this isn't just for the acting audition.  It is also for singing and dancing, but I will speak here about making choices in terms of the acting audition.  You need to decide what to do.  How will you say a line?  Is there a word that you want to emphasize more than another?  How will you use your face?  What gestures or body language should be used to convey your choice?  Do you need to use a certain tone or inflection with your voice?  As an actor this is all up to you.  During the rehearsal process the directors help with these choices, but during an audition it is for the actor to make decisions in a way that will help to showcase his or her individual talents.
The worst thing you can do is nothing.  In doing nothing you are making the choice to show us that you don't care.  Now maybe you are shy or don't know how to make certain choices - fine.  That is totally understandable, but if you don't try something your audition falls flat and it becomes very hard to cast you in the correct role.  It is better to try something, commit to it 100% and have it fail, than to make the choice to do nothing.

On that note I leave you.  I look forward to seeing you all at auditions.  Good luck!

-Debbi

Rehearsal 3/18

Can you believe that tech week is next week?  I can’t.  I love tech week, but I feel like our Saturday rehearsals have gone by too quickly.  That being said, we are in good shape.  There are only 2 scenes that we haven’t really blocked yet, the dances are looking good, and now that kids are remembering their lyrics, our music is in good shape, too.

So what is tech week?  For any newbies, I will explain.  Tech week (or technical week), known by another name for older kids, is meant to be the week where all of the technical stuff – sound, lights, etc. – are used for the first time and all the kinks are worked out.  In an ideal world, the show itself is pretty much ready when this happens and the adjustment has more to do with the actors working with the tech for the first time, and adjusting blocking and choreography for the set and stage, as this is the first time that the actors have the stage to work with as it will be in the show.  Generally speaking, at this point all major props and costumes would have already been a part of the rehearsal process and shoes would have been worn by actors at all rehearsals starting on day 1.  Tech week, therefore, is more for the crew than it is for the actors in a lot of ways.  However, in telling you all this, I am telling you how tech week works at a higher, more professional level. 

At NDW, tech week is a little different.  Some things are the same.  For example, we have the set for the first time and our actors have to adjust to that.  We also have crew figuring out the flow of the show, and we add in lights and sound.  But our tech week is more for the actors than for the crew.  Our crew of parent and alumni volunteers work around us, making it much easier for us to get our actors ready.

The biggest thing about tech week is that we hit the floor running.  We are up on the stage adjusting blocking as needed, figuring out spacing things or difficult blocking that requires timing based on the Wilson auditorium (like our protest scene in this show).  Dances get fixed and practiced over and over, and for singing, we bring in other band members for the actors to work with during their musical numbers (this is a feature of all musical tech weeks, as well).  There can be a lot of down time, as we focus on just one thing here and one thing there, but the kids have to be ready to jump up at a moment’s notice when their scenes/dances/musical numbers come up. 

Generally speaking, we try to divide and conquer when we’re not just running the show from start to finish.  For example, this week you might see Lisa working with kids up on stage (with Chris there as well), while Cindy will take some kids into the hallway to run a scene and I take other kids into another hallway to run another scene.  And, while all this is going on Chris is practicing the music with our pit band while Cindy and I field questions about scene changes, props, costumes, and more.  When at Wilson, I even design lights and help to train our light board person.

For the Friends of NDW board, they do so much during tech week I don’t even know everything they do.  Some are helping with the set and with stage crew.  Some are taking care of ticket sales.  Some help with costumes.  Some make sure that everything is ready for concessions.  Everyone is there to support everyone else. 

And really – that’s what tech week at NDW is all about: support.  We have volunteers who come every night to help all of us get ready for the show.  The staff helps the actors be the best they can possible be during tech week (assuming they listen to us).  The actors help each other, and more importantly, they bond with one another.  Tech week is a time when everyone bonds.  Actors, parents, staff.  This is the time that we all get to know one another because we spend every day together!

And so, as we get ready for this fun and fast-paced week, please remember to stay healthy.  Eat right, not junk.  Stay hydrated.  Do your homework before rehearsal so that you can go to bed a reasonable hour (and get enough sleep).  And most importantly – get ready to work hard and have a ton of fun!

See you Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal 3/11

It seems so odd to me to think that two weeks from now we will be in tech.  I mean, on one hand, we’ve had a good amount of time to rehearse and are in good shape (especially considering that we still have 2 Saturdays to go), but on the other hand – yikes!

So, what should you do to prepare for how quickly tech week is coming up?  First of all, get some tissues ready for the 8th graders, cuz you never know when that bunch will start tearing up (just like all 8th grade groups before them).  Then, start getting your head in the game – practice, practice, practice.  And finally, enjoy every single second because, before you know it, the show will be over and you will have a long summer to wait for the next NDW show to begin in the fall.

Things to enjoy:

1)      Warm ups with Chris.  Even as an adult I have fond memories of warming up before diving into music with Jane Raithel, who was musical director not only back in my day, but in Chris’s day, too!  Sometimes I even warm up with you guys from the table because I miss it so much.

2)      Watch rehearsals now because soon you won’t be able to.  This is important for a few reasons.  I mean, you can’t be in a show and watch it at the same time – so now’s your chance!  More importantly, it will help you get the flow of the show.  We’ve run Act 1 a couple of times now, but if you haven’t actually taken the time to watch it, you have missed something that leads into something else that will affect your character.  And, on top of all that… if you’re busy watching rehearsal, you’ll be too busy to talk and annoy the staff and your fellow actors (definitely a bonus for me)!

3)      Enjoy being at Cole.  Let me tell you a story… Once upon a time there was a little girl named Debbi who went to Cole Elementary School.  She loved it there.  In kindergarten she even had a school assembly in the gym where her entire class sang, “We Are the World,” which used to be a really well known and popular song.  When she went to her Natick Park & Rec theater programs as a child, she went to the old, red, wooden, Murphy School building.  And then one day the town decided to tear down the old Murphy School and put the park & rec programs at Cole.  Now Debbi had to go to a school further away.  And although she loved Brown School as well, Cole was still her favorite school.  When she got to 4th grade and started NDW, she got to go back to Cole and spent all her time in the gym there and then she was happy again.  So, in honor of that amazingly awesome little girl – love and appreciate Cole School!  And, in all seriousness, Cole is where you make most of your NDW memories so don’t forget to appreciate the place along with those memories.

4)      Listen to the music for our show as often as you can.  Yes, it’s true, you should be listening to the music in preparation for our performances, but listen to it for fun, too.  In less than a month the show will be over, so spend as much time as possible soaking in how fun this music is before you move on to other things.

5)      Enjoy your friends – but not to the detriment of the show.  Look, NDW is a great place to make and hang out with friends.  But if you spend the whole rehearsal talking you miss out on #2 on this list.  And you annoy the staff.  And you’re being disrespectful.  So here’s how you enjoy your friends: bask in their talent.  Each one of our actors is unique, special, and awesome.  Watch them act, sing, and dance.  Appreciate the acting talents they have and give them high fives after a job well done.  Then, during break, chat away about everything else.  The more you appreciate your friends’ talents (and the more they appreciate yours) the richer your friendships will get.  Most of my friends are people I’ve done theater with from high school friends to college friends to community theater friends.  They are all talented and I love watching them do their thing.  As a result, I want to be their friend and learn from them, and bask in their awesomeness.  And based on the fact that friendship is a 2-way street, I’m pretty sure they feel the same way about me.  Mutual awesomeness and stuff in common leads to the foundation for years of wonderful friendships.  But my friends and I also know when to be quiet!  (Sorry – I had to slip that last line in there….)

Follow these simple guidelines and you will be happier and far less sad when NDW comes to an end on April 2nd because you would have spent the time to appreciate NDW and all that it has to offer.  NDW is an amazing program, but can you truly appreciate it if you only pay attention to what you want to pay attention to sometimes?

See you Saturday, when I will be appreciating all of you!

-Debbi

PS: That little girl named Debbi has more Cole stories.  For example – what was the NDW office when Cole was a school?  To find out you have to ask!

Rehearsal 3/4

This week at NDW we talked about community.  We had a guest come in from the Natick Service Council who explained what the NSC does and how NDW can, has, and will help.  NDW, over the past few years in particular, has really put itself out there as a community organization.  By extension, anyone connected to NDW is now connected to the community in a way that goes beyond a home address.

I talk a lot about what the ‘community’ in community theater means and how Natick Drama Workshop is like the ultimate community theater program for kids (as well as parents!), but this is a different kind of community.  Usually, I discuss the bond that our members form and how we are our own little community.  With our food drive and annual telethon appearance we are more than just a community of people.  Rather, we are a group of people within a community.  And, more importantly, we are a group of people who help the community that supports NDW.  It’s all very full-circle!

We have been doing a food drive, at least once a year, since longer than my adult tenure at NDW.  When I rejoined Natick Drama Workshop as a staff member we did a Super Bowl themed food drive once a year through our then musical director’s church.  I’m not sure how long that had been going on before I got back to NDW.  I certainly don’t remember doing it as a kid, but maybe we did and I just forgot about it.  At some point, we stopped doing that and started collecting food and other items for the Natick Service Council once per show.  That is also when we started doing things by mentor group.

At first it was mentor group versus mentor group in a way that ended up not being fair to everyone, but ended up with great results.  Instead of putting all the donation items together in one big pile, the kids would add the items they brought to individual mentor group piles.  The group that brought in the most items won.  This extra competition always brought us a ton of donation items.  However, there were two problems with this competition: not everyone was able to bring in more than a couple items and siblings would have to split donations.  Some mentor groups would have a couple kids that wouldn’t be able to bring in a lot, or would have a couple of kids who brought in over 50 items each.  It wasn’t fair and it created a competition that, although spirited, was not in the NDW spirit.

Now, as many of you know, our competition starts everyone off at the same place.  All donations are put together and each mentor group guesses how many items are in the big pile.  You know, like the jelly beans in a jar contest.  The only disadvantage to this is that we’ve been getting fewer and fewer items the past couple of years.  It is a shame that a competition that brings out the worst in people got us better results in helping out our fellow community members, but I digress.

Whichever mentor group wins, gets to eat first at our breakfast buffet, and can choose to get a sneak peek at the set.  I like to think that everyone wins though.  First of all, we now have a breakfast buffet!  (Granted, it is at snack time…) Second, and really, more important than the first, everyone contributes to the community.  There’s a really nice feeling that comes from helping out your fellow man.

So, as we get closer to our show dates, remember that not only is NDW a community, but we are also part of a larger community.  One that helps us as much as we hope to help them.

See you Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal 2/25

I love it when we get to run an entire act – and that’s what we did this week!  Act 1, although not perfect, is done and that bodes well for us.  This week also saw the start of working on Act 2 and I can tell you that everyone is putting in a lot of hard work for this show.  I would like to remind everyone that you have to keep going over lines, lyrics, and all movement (blocking and choreography) or you will start forgetting and all your hard work will be for naught!

This past week, during school vacation, I had a really great experience with several NDW people.  I ran a 36-hour musical program at Cole, in which we had 3 days from auditions to performance to get everything done.  Of the 13 kids who signed up for the program, 12 were NDW kids (some current, some alumni).  The one non-NDW kid was a sibling of an NDW alum, so he sort of counts as an NDW kid.  This program wasn’t set up as a workshop, but it was clear to me that NDW had trained these actors well, and things went very smoothly.

During the 2 ½ day rehearsal period my actors went between learning music or choreography with me, going over lines by themselves, working with Kiva or myself to figure out costuming, and going through the blocking of the entire show.  When nothing specific was assigned for the actors to do they were instructed to review.  The kids took it upon themselves to go to another room and work on a dance or practice a song.  Several times I loaned out the vocal score to aid in reviewing music.  All of this happened because these kids knew what it takes to put on a musical.  They understand the amount of work and dedication needed to have a good performance and they took it seriously.  Was there silliness that needed to be reined in?  Of course!  But overall, these kids worked hard.  And what impressed me most was that they went home and practiced.  After spending an 8 hour day with me learning the play, they went home, practiced, and came back for another 8 hour day more prepared than when they left.  Now that’s dedication!

At this point you’re probably thinking – wow, those are some rare kids! To which I reply, of course – they’re NDW kids!  You are probably also thinking, “If they spent 8 hour days with you it’s not like they had other commitments during the week, of course they went home and practiced.”  And that’s a valid point.  It is hard to expect kids to spend a lot of time studying a script when they have homework, extra-curriculars, and family expectations.  However, doesn’t it make more sense for actors with 1 rehearsal a week to do some work on the side to help them remember what is given to them every Saturday than for actors with rehearsals every day to do extra work in the few hours they have between rehearsals?

The 36-hour musical program was reinvigorating for me on so many different levels.  The thing that I am taking away from it right now though, is what happens when a group of dedicated people with one common goal can achieve when they put effort in above and beyond what is expected.  There are always NDW kids who skate by in our program, never downloading music, never doing anything other than what they are told to do while physically in rehearsal.  These kids are doing our program wrong.  They are doing theater wrong.  And they are missing out on the fun and the high that come from a job well done.  Be part of the team and do your part.  Listen to the music and sing along.  Dance along.  Know all the lines that surround your own.  Make sure you review your blocking.  Surely, when you know what’s going on you can enjoy it more.  That is what some actors have taken away from this program.  It is what I took away from this program 20 years ago, and I know that some kids will still be taking this away in another 20 years.

See you all Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal 2/11

This week at NDW we did a lot of scene work.  We touched almost every scene in Act 1 – yay!  This is great, especially considering that we are off-book for Act 1 this week.

What is off-book you ask?  Simple, it means that we are no longer using our “book” or the script for Act 1 – which means every actor must know their lines, music, blocking and choreography.  Of course, if some thing hasn’t been learned yet, actors are allowed to have their scripts in hand, but should still know all lines and music by heart.

During the rehearsal process, after actors are off-book, they are allowed to mess up (that’s why we have rehearsals – to practice).  In fact, in theater there is a tradition of saying “line” when you forget a line.  When you say that magic word, the stage manager will respond with the line, which the actor then repeats and the rehearsal can continue.  Of course, once we get to tech week, this all changes.  At some point, actors can no longer say “line” and will have to figure out how to get out of jams onstage with help only from fellow actors within the context of the play.

This brings me to Adele.  Yes, you read that correctly – Adele.  When you do a live performance there is a chance that you will mess up: forget a line, not enter at the right spot, skip a line, or something similar.  However, during a performance you must keep going.  Never, have I seen a play start over because someone messed up.  Adele, for this same reason, did something extremely unprofessional at the Grammy’s the other night.  A few years ago, in the middle of performing at the Grammy’s, Christina Aguilera fell onstage.  No one stopped the performance to ask if she was okay.  She didn’t ask to start over so she could watch her step.  Yet, Adele stopped everything, apologized, and started over.

We do not do this in theater.  Anyone who does this in the professional world (other than Adele, apparently, and maybe Beyonce) would not have a job in the future.  Have you ever heard the phrase; “The show must go on”?  This applies to so many things, one of them being messing up onstage during a performance – in front of an audience.  At NDW, we want our actors to learn theater the right way, and I fear that anyone who saw Adele’s tribute to George Michael, did not learn how to perform correctly. 

So, as you learn your lines, and continue practicing them, understand that you will mess up and be okay.  But under no circumstances should you follow Adele’s lead and start over.  During rehearsal, one of the directors may decide that we all need to start over, but that is at the discretion of Cindy, Lisa, Chris, and myself.  During a performance if you mess up, you do not start over.  You continue –as that is the mark of true performer and professional.  Our actors may not be in high school yet, but when the curtain goes up on March 31st they are professionals in the audience’s eyes and should act as such.  They always have in the past, and I know they will continue to do so in the future.

See you Saturday,

Debbi

 

 

Rehearsal 2/4

We’re off to a rip snortin’ start at NDW (although sometimes rehearsals can feel a bit more wild and woolly)!  All the music has been taught and now it’s up to our actors to practice their songs at home.  Choreography has started and the kids are looking good.  They now have to master dancing AND singing at the same time!  And as if all of this wasn’t enough, we have started blocking.

In honor of the Super Bowl this past Sunday I wanted to write something about the “Super Bowl of musical theater,” but what is that anyway?  Is it the Tony Awards?  That seems like the obvious answer, but maybe that’s too obvious.  There are lots of high schools and youth theater groups that compete, so maybe that has something to do with the “Super Bowl of musical theater,” but that doesn’t feel right because not everyone knows about that.

Here’s what I’ve landed on – the performances themselves.  As artists we are constantly competing against ourselves, striving for each performance to be better than the next and doing what we can to sell out shows and get the community involved.  Here at NDW, this is especially true.  If you saw one of our Saturday or Sunday shows this fall, you know that there were little kids dressed up as pirates who were invited onstage at the end of the show.  We performed not only for ourselves, but for those kids as well.  That’s the community piece of it.

Our tech week is like playoff season.  While we aren’t competing for a spot in the “big game” we are working towards the “big game” all week long.  We work hard, we’re finding our strengths and improving upon our weaknesses.  Come opening night our “Super Bowl” has begun.  From the minute the lights go down and the performance starts, our actors are doing what any football team does best on any given Sunday.  We’ve prepared, we’ve reviewed our playbook, and now it’s time to put all that hard work to the test.  And more than that – we do it as a team.

A lot of people forget that theater requires just as much teamwork as any sport (more in fact as we don’t have a 2ndstring waiting in the wings as an understudy).  I probably write something to this effect in this blog every week, but it’s an important point to stress and I’d be remiss for not mentioning it while comparing theater to the Super Bowl.  While I’d like to tell you that every performance is perfect - every kids knows all of his lines and when to speak, comes on at just the right moment, and never gets sick show weekend – that is just not the case.  Without the team that our cast becomes, we would never get through a show.  When a line is missed, another team member finds a way to continue the play, which could mean skipping the missed line, but it could also mean saying something that’s not in the script in order to help jog her fellow actor’s memory.  What happens at least once a year, though, is that someone misses an entrance and other cast members have to cover.  Sometimes they are able to say all the lines that would be missed, sometimes they have to stall for time by creating new lines.  Either way, this is only possible because our cast is a team.  Okay, practice also has a lot to do with it!

When you get to the Super Bowl, or World Series, or whatever, you want your team to be at its best.  You’ve been working together towards this common goal all season and it’s finally here – so you’re more than prepared for it.  All the long hours of reviewing tape and plays works for people in sports, just as all the time spent reviewing lines, blocking, choreography, and music works for us in theater.  Even some of the worst tech weeks get us to a great opening night (and unlike in sports, if we mess up we still get to perform)!

The other thing to keep in mind is that we’re not done after we open.  We still have 3 shows left to go.  None of our actors think, “Okay, I got through Friday night, now I can take it easy and not care as much.”  Rather, our actors continue to improve upon what they started.  Sometimes this is an internal thing, sometimes directors are asked for help and guidance.  No one wants to let down their teammates, their family, here at NDW and no one wants to be the one messing up on stage during “the Big Game” performance weekend.

So as you think about the Super Bowl and the Pats incredible win this week, keep in mind that our personal theater super bowl is right around the corner and time to lay the foundation for our great performance weekend is now.

See you Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal 2/28

What is one of the hardest things to do in life?  Smile – even when you’re not feeling it.  This is one of those life skills that some people never quite master, myself included.  However, whenever I’m on stage smiling suddenly becomes really easy.  Why?  Perhaps it is because I love acting and the chance to be another person for a little while.  Perhaps it is just the magic of the stage – that elusive special thing that all theater recognize as truth, but can’t quite explain to an outsider.

But that’s me.  I’ve found over the years that the magic that pushes me to smile has worn off on NDW kids.  Whenever they get onstage (whether at Cole or at one of the middle school) and sing and dance in a group number it looks like a funeral.  It’s weird.  It seems like the most natural thing in the world to smile in this situation, yet it doesn’t happen.  At this stage in rehearsals I know that part of the problem stems from concentration.  Kids are learning the dance, trying to remember the choreography, and on top of that, trying to do the choreography while remembering the words and the tune, but still… no smile?

I know that our kids have fun at rehearsals and enjoy being at NDW, so where’s the smile?  It’s out in the hallway, in the costume room, backstage, but nowhere to be found onstage.  I hope that whatever prevents our kids from forcing a smile doesn’t prevent them from pretending to be happy in life.  While there will always be people in your corner, you can’t always show your true feelings to everyone in every situation, and as sad as that can be, a smile can not only help you get through something quickly without people knowing about your inner turmoil, but can also actually make you happier.  Truly.  If you’re in a bad mood try smiling.  You might not be cured, but you’ll feel slightly better at least.

Maybe we can all work together this show to encourage kids to smile until their faces hurt.  What do you think?  If anyone knows the answer, let me in on your secret.  In the meantime, think happy thoughts and watch these videos:

https://youtu.be/I_CE7GqqrvY

https://youtu.be/I3Xd34w5F7s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NI8WJ85EVw

 

Rehearsal 1/21

When I explain NDW to someone who doesn’t know anything about the program, I usually tell them that it is a musical community theater group for kids. Then I’ll go on to explain the workshop piece of it. Theater is a huge community. Anywhere you go in life you will find a community theater and you will find people that you instantly feel comfortable around because they are theater people. NDW at its core is part of this special community.

Inside NDW there are different groups of people that come together to put on a show. There are people from Kennedy, Wilson, Ursuline, McAuliffe, and many other schools. There are families that are new to town and families from town that go back centuries. There are actors who are triple threats, actors who excel at comedy, actors who excel at dancing or singing. Beyond that we have incredible volunteers who form their own community while building the sets or making costumes. NDW is special.

Everyone knows that we are special, and you could say this about many different groups. One thing that adds to our community is our mentor group program. For those unfamiliar, we mix the kids up and then split them into several groups. Each group has kids from each grade and is led by the older kids. When our actors and alumni say that NDW is like a family they mean it because we force them to be together and get to know one another. If an actor is in our program for 8 shows (the max possible – unless of course you repeat a grade) she will meet so many different people and actually get to know them all because of our mentor groups. If an actor only does one show with us, his mentor group during this show gives him a new set of friends that he can hang out with and learn the ropes from.

This week we assigned mentor groups and had each group work together to come up with a name. Each group had a chance to talk, to learn each other’s names, and to “become” a human knot. The foundation has been laid for our actors to chat with different people and get to know some of our newer members.

These mentor groups are helpful in a few ways. For the staff it makes it easier to take attendance, but we don’t have mentor groups for us! As I mentioned, kids get to know different kids. But that’s not all. These mentor groups serve as a way to get information about the program. Any questions an actor has about the way things work can be directed to other members of his or her group. Now, of course an actor can still come to a staff member or go to one of our wonderful FNDW Board parents, but isn’t it nice to go to a peer? Another reason for the mentor groups is to help problem solve. If one of our actors has a problem sometimes it’s hard to go to an adult (or maybe the problem is with an adult). With mentor groups, actors are encouraged to talk to them if they don’t feel comfortable coming to us (the staff). I don’t know how often this happens, but we have very few problems at NDW – perhaps that’s because NDW is such an awesome group and mostly problem-free, but perhaps it is because the kids go each other and problems are solved without our knowledge.

NDW has just started and there is still plenty of time for our actors to chat*, get to know one another, and hang out. At least now, with mentor groups, we know that even the shyest person will get to enjoy this part of NDW – truly making us a community.

See you Saturday,

Debbi

*When I say “chat” I obviously do not mean during rehearsal. We love that our actors love each other, but we do expect them to use non-rehearsal time to be chit-chatty.

Read-through

One thing that I love about the rehearsal process is that it is just that: a process. When you are cast in a show you have time to get to know your fellow actors, as well as the script. There is time to find your character and time to try out different choices for that character on stage before the curtain goes up.

The first part of this process is the read-through. Actors gather round a table (or in our case, form a circle on the floor), open up their scripts, and read the play for the first time. Not only is this a chance for one actor to acquaint himself with the lines written for his character, but it is also a chance to learn about all the characters and the actors that will be joining him onstage for this wonderful experience.

A funny thing happened this Saturday during our read-though: one actor used a “western” accent and it spread like wildfire until a good portion of our actors all sounded western! All of our actors observed a choice that one actor made and used that to inform their own readings.   Like I said – it’s a process.

The read-through, however, is just the beginning of that process. At NDW the next step is character work. When you add the blocking, choreography, and music to that you have a show. It’s a lot of work to find ways to incorporate your character into all of these aspects, but that’s what the rehearsal process is for.

First, make a choice. Come up with a backstory. Figure out who your character is. We will be doing this with many of you on Saturday, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it on your own time. It is tempting to come up with a silly backstory, but try to come up with something that makes sense for your character within the context of this show. Many professional actors actually do research to help with this. (Yes, they hit the books and give themselves homework!)

Take our last show for example: If I’m playing Captain Bree I want to think about how and why I became a pirate. Pretend for a moment that I, Debbi, am going to be playing this character. My version will be completely different than Alexa’s version. I’m making the choice and deciding that my Captain Bree is from England. She was born Brianna Smith and her father was a blacksmith. She learned all about swords from watching him work. Sometimes, her father would even let her hold the swords and when he wasn’t looking, she would practice fighting. Then, her father got sick and his apprentice took over the blacksmithing business, leaving her and her family destitute. Her mother moved in with her older sister and her husband and Brianna was left with a decision: marry for money and security or try to make it on her own. She was all set to marry when she overheard two pirates fighting over money.   She offered her services to them as an accountant – a skill she had learned from watching her mother take care of the household and from her father as he took care of his business. Since she could read and do math, the pirates took her on. After a while at sea she realized two things: she really liked being a pirate, and the men she worked with enjoyed the fight too much. When she had saved enough money she decided to set out on her own, finding her own ship was easy once she found her crew. As she was a natural leader she was able to convince some women to join her on her voyage. Together they captured a ship and set sail. I could go on. But this backstory is just the tip of the iceberg. How did Jane become her second in command (something I might want to discuss with the actress playing Jane or keep to myself)? How does she feel about the other pirates? Who does she tell her secrets to? Who does she admire? If she could only save one of her pirates who would it be? And this is all before she meets Captain Jennings.

Coming up with this backstory was easy. I know the show, I know enough about the time period, and there are certain things that I, Debbi, believe about the character. You might disagree with my backstory for Bree and that’s okay, but you can’t dispute that it fits with the script I was given, as that is the starting point.

So, now that you’ve created a backstory for your character what do you do with it? This is the hard part. As you go through the script you use the backstory to think about why your character does and says certain things. How does the backstory inform your character’s actions and reactions? (Hopefully your character’s actions informed your backstory, which makes this a little easier.) As your character sings and dances, how can you infect each step with your character? These are the things that take some time, but the good news is, we have time. We have several rehearsals for you to try and feel that out.

What to do now? Make a choice. Decide that your character walks a certain way or talks a certain way or something. Try it. If it doesn’t feel right, fine, try something else. The worst thing that can happen is that one of your directors tells you not to do it. If you disagree and you really, truly believe it is necessary, find a time before or after rehearsal to discuss with Cindy or myself, or Lisa or Chris, why you believe that.   Just be open to hearing why we think the opposite.

As you are developing your character remember that your fellow actors are doing the same for themselves. Is there a way for the two of you to work better together? What are you noticing about the other person and their character that can help you? Maybe you want to try having a conversation with the other actor. Remember in the last show when Fergus was continually tapping Jennings on the shoulder? We had to stop rehearsal to make it work better (which is part of the process). The two actors took that time to take from the script what they had to and make it work as a team.

T = Together

E = Everyone

A = Achieves

M = More

True for theater, sports, and life.

I look forward to helping you discover your characters and bring them to life. See you Saturday,

Debbi

Auditions

Well, we’re back at it!  Another New Year, another show, which for me is always something to look forward to.  Cindy, Chris, Lisa, and I met in December and discussed the pros and cons of different musicals before finally settling on an “old” favorite – The Wild, Wild, Wildest West.  

On Saturday we announced this show and the kids seemed pretty happy about it, so I guess we’re off to a good start.  If you ask any NDW kid (and probably any theater person) what they’re favorite part of the process is you will not hear any actor say auditions.  Most will probably say tech week.  I am the same way – when I’m an actor.  

When I’m working behind the scenes my point of view changes and I really enjoy auditions.  I like seeing what all of the actors bring to the table.  In some cases I know all (or most) of the actors coming in, but there’s still an excitement in seeing what people do.  Will this actor burst out laughing in the middle of the audition due to nervousness?  Will that actor try something new or play it safe?  Has this actor improved since I last worked with her?  Auditions answer all of those questions. 

While working on this play I am going to be prepping for directing Shakespeare with a community theater group this summer.  With those auditions there are certain actors that I know will be auditioning for me once again and I’m looking forward to hopefully working with them again.  I’m also looking forward to seeing new talent and how the new and old will mesh together.  At these auditions each actor will be given a cold reading to do (similar to what we do at NDW, a monologue or scene is given out and the actor has a short amount of time to figure out how to act that piece), but will also be invited to prepare a monologue.  I personally hate preparing monologues – they have to be memorized and when you’re nervous it’s hard to remember stuff (especially Shakespeare!) so I always give it as an option only.  Some people prefer the prepared monologue to the cold reading because there is ample time to prepare and plan exactly what to do and how to act out that particular piece. 

When an actor comes into the theater for an audition I start judging immediately.  Did the person say hello?  Is he nice or all business?  I look to see if the person is nervous as well, that way, I can tell if nerves are interfering with the actual audition.  I can adjust my judgment based on that because, let’s face it, everyone gets nervous and no one likes to be judged.  If an actor is nervous and the performance suffers as a result there may be a glimmer of something wonderful that allows me to look past the nervousness.  And then, when the audition ends, how does the actor leave?  Is he smiling?  Does he say thank you?  This last piece is key by the way: always be polite at auditions. 

In community theater not every actor gets cast in the play (there are exceptions to this, though, of course).  So the audition really matters.  At NDW the audition matters, but some of the pressure is off because you already know that you made it into the play.  Aside from that, NDW isn’t that different. 

While NDW gives out monologues and a song for actors to audition with, we give our actors the tools to understand how to audition in the real world.  Actors can choose a monologue and are told to make choices about the delivery.   For this play students were given nursery rhymes.  It is up to each individual to decide what emotion to put behind the rhyme.  How to move, what gestures to use – all of that is up to the actor.   While in the real world actors are always asked to bring in their own song for musical auditions, we do try to have all actors pretend they are doing that at our auditions.  When an actor walks on the stage for her singing audition at NDW she must say her name and the title of the song.  Of course we know what the title is – it’s the same song that everyone is singing, but this is a good habit to get into.  By the way – we especially like it when actors walk in and say, “Hi” before introducing themselves and say, “Thank you” as they leave.  Hint hint.

Our dance audition is pretty typical as well.  Depending on the audition sometimes dancing is left for a callback, but generally speaking it follows the same model.  Actors line up and are shown the choreography, have some time to practice and then audition in groups, usually with numbers as identifiers.  We don’t have numbers and we give more practice opportunities to our actors, but other than that it’s the same process. 

Throughout the whole audition process there are two really important things to remember.  First, first impressions matter: be polite and smile – even when you mess up.  Second, make big choices and commit to them.  What do I mean by this?  Well, it depends on the audition.  One good example for musicals is to infuse everything with your personality.  When I sing at an audition I act out the song as much as possible, treating the song like a monologue.  When I dance I know I might miss a step or two, so I move no matter what.  I find my movement/dance strengths and I make sure that I freeform dance when able in order to show what I can do and mentally prepare to fill in an accidental missed step with something that won’t throw me off and shows my personality.  A lot of people forget that you don’t have to be 100% perfect at auditions – you get to practice a play for a long time before opening night – we just want to see your potential.  

With that in mind I move to casting.  We have a lot of talented actors that could play several parts, but the job of the professional staff is to figure out the best possible combinations of actors that allow them to shine, while also making sense within the show as a whole.   Casting this week was hard because it was done remotely.   Usually, Cindy, Chris, Lisa, and I remove ourselves to a quiet room and talk for what may be hours about all the possibilities.  But this week the snow came and separated us and we weren’t able to discuss as freely as possible.  That being said, I think we did a pretty good job.  We still managed to discuss a few different combinations before settling on the right one.  

What other part of the rehearsal process do I love you ask?  The read through!  And that’s next week.  I look forward to seeing everyone one read the play for the first time.  I love our actors’ reactions.  I also really enjoy when our actors are able to jump right into it and start putting voices and personality into the characters.  With that in mind I leave you until Saturday. 

Have a great week, 

Debbi