NDW Rehearsal #9

Things are starting to come together. Which is good because we have one more Saturday rehearsal left. Can you believe it? This week we ran all of Act 1 (although not in complete order), worked on Act 2 some more (we have only 1 ½ scenes left to touch/block), reviewed songs and choreography, and finally revealed that Fresh and Fruity was the winning mentor group in the guess-how-much-food-we-donated contest.

We also had a chat about why actors should not talk during rehearsal. The 8th graders were present for part of this, but not for all of it as they were getting their pictures taken in costume. The gist of the conversation was that by talking during rehearsal you are distracting your fellow actors and setting a bad precedent for when we have an audience that will be able to hear you backstage. We also discussed the fact that we have very few good role models, and that as a result, bad behavior gets passed down from class to class, group to group. All of these things were volunteered by our actors, with me leading the discussion and reframing some things that were said. Of course, in the end, none of this made a difference and our actors continued to talk during rehearsal.

I’m really hoping that this does not happen during tech week, but I know it will, which is highly unfortunate. As a couple of people brought up during the discussion, talking during rehearsal also eats up rehearsal time. Every time we have to stop to ask folks to be quiet is another minute lost. In fact, without all of the rehearsal talking, the discussion wouldn’t have happened and that time could have been used for a theater game to help prepare our actors for the inevitable improvisation that comes with live shows. So maybe, just maybe, our actors will be quiet and we’ll get a ton done during tech week… maybe.

I’ve already talked about tech week, so this week I think I want to talk about the 8th graders. Not our particular group of 8th graders, but 8th graders, as our graduating class, in general. This Saturday marks the last Cole rehearsal for Natick Drama Workshop for our 8th graders. Sure, they can come back as alumni next year, but for some that will be hard with set building, speech tournaments, and other high school related weekend commitments. And it won’t be the same for them. Some might not even be able to get themselves out of bed on Saturday mornings come fall! So, this is a really big milestone. In fact, from here on out, everything about NDW will be a big 8th grade milestone. Last first day of tech week. Last cast dinner. Last time Cindy/Debbi/Will/Lisa has to yell for quiet. Last tech rehearsal. Last opening night. Last everything – all leading up to the final performance and the festivities that follow.

I’m not trying to make anyone cry, but I am trying to explain how important this upcoming week is, not just for our 8th graders, but for all of our actors and parent volunteers. There are a lot of lasts coming up for a lot of people and a lot of faces that won’t be back in the fall. But fear not, because wherever you go, you will have Natick Drama Workshop.

I should know – I’m a proud NDW alumna. I can’t quite explain the full influence of this program on me. It was certainly different in the 1990s than it is now.

I can tell you, for example, that I learned theater terms from NDW (like blocking). I learned how to audition, what tech week is, and to always angle out so as to not upstage myself or another actor. But those are tangible things (I mean you can’t actually touch any of those examples, but they’re all practical skills that can be applied elsewhere). I can also tell you that NDW helped me grow more confident, but even that isn’t what I’m getting at here, as truthfully, most of that growth happened, for me, in high school and college.

What NDW leaves you with are fond memories and a community that will last a lifetime. Not all of my NDW memories are happy – I’m sure I’ve mentioned to several people over the years how I was teased by certain people throughout this program. But most of my memories are happy. Some memories aren’t full, they’re just glimpses. Every Saturday morning I woke up, knowing that Natick Drama Workshop continued, and even as I moved on, that was a nice thing to think about.

I was in the program with people who had younger siblings, or were a younger sibling themselves, and NDW was a place for families, or generations, as I call it. I’m an only child, but the girl I babysat for, and many of her friends, joined NDW after me – she was my legacy.

After NDW I went to high school and had classes with people who were in the program with me. Some did theater or speech team with me, but many did not. I can only think of one NDW person that I was actually friends with in high school. Yet, those NDW people, especially those that were in my 8th grade class, are people that I will forever be linked to. At high school reunions when asked what I’m doing, I always mention Natick Drama Workshop, and those same people are a little bit in awe that I’ve managed to hold on to this wonderful program. We keep in touch via Facebook and I know that they’ll always be people I can reach out to because of this shared experience.

Beyond that, I meet people who were in this program that I don’t know and we share an instant bond. I once hunted down someone who worked on a boat that brought people to the island where I work during the summer because I knew that he had been an NDW kid. When we finally met we talked about the program (and about Cindy). I know that wherever I go, if I find myself with an NDW person, I’ll be okay because I’ll have them. That’s the ultimate community.

So, as we go into this last week, don’t be sad – think about all the memories you’ve made, friends you’ll have forever, and skills that you’ve learned. And remember that the safe space that we created for you (hopefully) at Natick Drama Workshop never goes away – we’ll always be your community and we’ll pop up at strange and wonderful times to reminisce and keep you company.

Alright, time for more 60s songs and clips.  I’ve tried really hard to post things in my blogs that are referenced in the show and there are two big things that I kept forgetting about. One is The Beach Boys (more on them below) and the other is In Like Flint. This is one of two spy parody movies (think James Bond, but sillier).  I remember flipping through the cable channels at my house once, back in the day, and stumbling upon this movie. I don’t remember much about it, and think that this should be my wake up call to rewatch from the beginning, but in the meantime, here is the trailer, from 1967. It’s a little long, but you’ll get the idea from the first 1 minute and 10 seconds.

The Beach Boys are also referenced. There are many from my generation who remember this singing group from their appearance on Full House when Stephanie referred to them as “Big Boys!” – you know, cause they’re adults and not actually boys. In the 90s they had a little bit of a comeback with “Kokomo” and Uncle Jesse himself played drums for them on occasion. I was lucky enough to see them live when I was in 8th or 9th grade when they performed at Brandeis University. I had of course known their music from when I was a little girl, and although not my favorite group from the 60s, certainly in my top 5.

Growing up, I used to listen to Oldies 103.3 on the radio when I was getting ready for school and camp. One morning, I was listening and a song was dedicated to someone named Debbie on her birthday. I thought, “What a coincidence – It’s my birthday, too!” Yep, later that morning my parents asked if I had heard it and I suddenly realized that I was that Debbi! The song my parents dedicated to me on my 14th birthday was “Little Surfer Girl”. My favorite songs by The Beach Boys, though are “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Fun, Fun, Fun”. However, I would be remiss for not sharing “Good Vibrations” with you. Off the Pet Sounds album, this was one of many songs that was influenced by The Beatles. Pet Sounds, in return, influenced The Beatles’ Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Interestingly enough, during the height of Beatlemania and the British Invasion, The Beach Boys tended to be the only American Band to beat out some of those British bands on the Billboard charts. So, if you’re ever looking for the perfect 60s group to play on the 4th of July, The Beach Boys will always get my vote.

I would love to give you a whole list of other 60s bands to check out, but that would take forever. So instead I will leave you with one of the only 60s songs that I hadn’t heard before a cover of it was on the charts. Tommy James and the Shondell’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” was covered by Tiffany, the queen of the mall herself (and not to be confused with Debbie Gibson), in the late 1980s. (BTW, I saw her live, too!) I loved her version of the song and when I heard the original version, I loved that too. Tommy James and the Shondells (not to be confused with plain old Tommy James, who did make some good music after going solo, as well) are a great group and one that I think gets easily overlooked. During the 80s, at least one other song of theirs was covered. Do you know which one? I’ll give a high five to the first person who can tell me what song it was and who covered it.

Okay, that’s all I have. I hope you enjoy all the music above!

See you Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal #8

Be honest. Who else was looking outside at the snow on March 2nd hoping for more snow as a justification of no NDW? I say this knowing full well that the right decision was made to cancel NDW based on the timing of the snow and what had been forecasted. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t thinking the whole time that I could totally drive to Cole without any problems. But what can you do?

We made the best of a New England winter situation. This past Saturday we blocked the first three scenes of Act 2, and started on the fourth. There are 5 total, so that’s pretty good! We even ran the first few scenes of Act 1, worked on choreography, reviewed songs, and snuck in a tiny bit of character work. It was a successful day.

Also a success? Our food drive. I’m sure the total will be announced at the telethon, but since we didn’t announce it at rehearsal (and therefore no one knows which mentor group won the guessing contest), I won’t reveal that number here. It is so important to support our community. Aside from it being the right thing to do, it’s important to remember that we are, essentially, a community theater group. When we have a show weekend there are plenty of people from our community that we don’t know who come to see our shows and support us, right along with all the community members that we do know. Being part of a community is reciprocal – we support each other, that’s what it’s all about. So, doing this food drive once per show is crucial for our involvement in this reciprocal community that we all call home.

As I write this I am looking at a calendar. We have rehearsals on the 16th and 23rd and then it’s tech week. The third Saturday will be our 2nd and 3rd shows. That’s insane! I’m not ready, not yet. It is crazy, though, how time sneaks up on you. Although we’re in pretty good shape, we still have a lot to accomplish during those last 2 rehearsals.

In an ideal world, tech week would be all about adjusting to the space and getting used to using the set, props, and costumes. That requires all actors to be completely off book in terms of, not just lines and lyrics, but also blocking and choreography. It assumes that all the nuances and layers have already had time to be added and worked on, so that now those things would just need to be tweaked. It assumes that our actors only need guidance in so far as it applies to adding the technical aspects of the show.  That’s not how NDW works though. And we should be grateful for that, because there is still so much to do.

We can finish blocking Act 2 and run the entire show before tech week starts, but it’s in those NDW tech weeks that we usually have the chance to add those layers, those nuances. If tech week were mostly just tech rehearsals, our actors would get very bored, very quickly. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in past blogs that I’ve had tech rehearsals in which the actors would be sitting around doing nothing until 1 am, and that’s when we’d start acting on stage (granted it was in college, but still – rehearsal started at 7 pm). At NDW we are quite adept at having tech rehearsals take care of everything. We fix things with our actors - whether it be blocking, music, or choreography – all while getting kids in costumes, having them use props for the first time, and having them work around stage crew. And of course, during our tech week it’s not just the actors that work hard. There are so many things going on backstage to put the finishing touches on costumes, props, and of course the set, too. All the elements needed for a good show.

Alright, I have no clever segue into this week’s pop culture segment of this blog, so here you go. At one point in the script, Max King bemoans Simon & Garfunkel. Here is their song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” This is such a great song, if you don’t know it you should.

Something else referenced in the Flower Power script is the television show Gunsmoke. This show ran for 20 seasons. Twenty! I’ve actually been meaning to sit down and watch it, but somehow never have, although I’ve seen clips here and there. Here for your enjoyment is the theme song. Gunsmoke is also an influence for NDW past show The Wild, Wild, Wildest West, along with several other westerns, of course. Westerns were still popular in the 1960s – my favorite was Bonanza (okay, this is actually the only Western-themed tv show I’ve watched, you caught me). My favorite characters are of course Little Joe and Hoss!

While we’re talking about 60s tv show themes, I have to include my three favorites (other than The Monkees and Batman, which I’ve already shared clips from). Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale of Gilligan’s Island (fun fact: this is actually not the original theme song, the original did not list all of the characters), and for people who like a little light feminism, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie were two shows that gave women all the power without intimidating men (which was important back then). I was very lucky to have these shows in reruns while I was growing up (thanks Nick at Nite!). Fun fact about Bewitched: there are two different actors who played Darren, both similar looking and both named Dick. Dick York became too ill to continue on the show, so Dick Sargent was hired to take his place. I suppose you’d like a fun fact about I Dream of Jeanie now, too, huh? The two leads were reunited for an episode of the 80s tv show Dallas. Larry Hagman has become more recognizable for his role on the latter, and Barbara Eden, Jeanie herself, was in an episode (or maybe two?) of this primetime soap.

And one last video before I go. I heard this song this past weekend and forgot how much I always enjoy listening to Gerry and the Pacemakers. When people think about the British Invasion they tend to think of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but forget about all the other wonderful acts that came from Britain. Gerry and the Pacemakers were one of those chart-topping bands. Here is a live performance of “How Do You Do It” from a show in Sweden.

Enjoy and see you Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal #7

As usual, there was a lot going on at NDW this week! Some actors worked with Lisa, some with Will, and some with Cindy or myself. At one point, our production Assistant, Bella, was even running lines with a group of actors. We are busy, busy, busy.

Putting on a show is no easy feat. I think we have a lot of fun doing it, which makes it seem easy, but there’s so much that goes into every single aspect of the show. And, the closer we get to the show, the harder it can get, even as other things seem easier.

For example, now that lyrics have been learned the songs should be easier. However, now we’re adding choreography and blocking to those songs. That extra layer will make the show look better (I mean, you wouldn’t want to watch people just standing onstage and singing, with no movement, would you?), but it requires more effort. Even within the songs themselves, Will is teaching more harmony parts, changing what some kids already learned in the name of making the show even better. Along these lines are also all those onion-like layers I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The more you know, the more you can add to the show, thereby creating more work.

When I took acting classes in college, I often felt like those took more work than my standard academic classes – and theater was only my minor! There’s a mental exhaustion that comes with theater and it’s wonderful, but it’s what the audience doesn’t see.  Our job is to make acting look easy – but it isn’t, not always.  As a staff member, although we’re not the ones memorizing the lines and lyrics and putting in all the hard work on stage, we’re the ones that do all the prep work and are constantly working to tweak things to make them better.  That takes the same kind of energy sometimes.

I’m sure the parents and alumni working on costumes, sets, and props will tell you the same thing.  Getting ready for a show is fun, but it’s a lot of work. And just when you think you’re done, there’s more to do.

Theater truly is a labor of love – that’s what makes it special and keeps people coming back for more.

I had the opportunity to do character work with some of our 8th graders this week. I love getting the chance to work with just 8th graders because we can get into it. We really dug into their characters more than I am able to do with some of the younger cast members. These guys put the work in, and because they’ve been doing this since 5th grade, they have more tools to work with when it comes to developing their characters. This may not seem like work, but it is, especially if, as an actor, you’re able to take that work and infuse it into what you do onstage.

Part of understanding one’s character is understanding the world your character lives in.  This is why I’ve been sharing videos in this blog each week. As fun as it is, the 1960s were 50 years ago! Growing up as a child of two boomers, I learned 60s culture vicariously, listening to my dad’s music, watching re-runs, and hearing my parents and other older relatives talk about their childhoods and teenage years. And yet, there’s still so much that I will never understand about this decade because I wasn’t there. But the more I learn about it the closer I get. So, having said that, here are this week’s videos.

One of our characters makes a joke about Clearasil. This is a brand that I grew up with, but I thought it might be fun to share a commercial for the product from the 1960s. This is certainly retro!

American Bandstand was an extremely popular music and dance show that was on for decades and hosted by the late, great Dick Clark. Here is a great example of 60s fashion, dancing, and music coming together. American Bandstand sometimes had dance contests (similar to what you see in Hairspray) and here is a clip that shows one part of the contest finals. Which couple do you think should win?

Alright – see you all Saturday!

-Debbi

Rehearsal #6

This week at NDW we ran the whole first act for the 2nd time!  That’s pretty exciting.  Our actors also reviewed most of their songs with Will, and Lisa continued to teach choreography. Our show is definitely coming along, but now we have to be careful to not get complacent.

This coming week, the rest of Act 1 has to be off-book and I warned our actors to not sacrifice the hard work on what has already been memorized in order to add new information to their brains. This is one of the challenges any actor has when memorizing a script.  How to not lose old memorized lines while memorizing the new ones.  In a musical there is even more to consider than just lines.  Lyrics are just as important, and choreography has to practiced right along with blocking. So how do you set about accomplishing this task? Well, first and foremost, don’t stop practicing the things that have already been committed to memory. That is the easiest way to lose lines and have to start from scratch with memorization, thereby creating more work for oneself.

When I’m in a play I practice my lines whenever I have a chance or a quiet moment. In the car I’ll recite my lines while driving.  When getting ready in the morning I’ll recite my lines. If I have a moment at work where I need a break and can take one, I’ll pull up a blank document and type my lines.  If I notice that something is wrong, I can send the document to myself to check against the script later.

When it comes to music, there are these wonderful devices that did not exist the last time I was in a musical – a smartphone!  (No, I’m not kidding – I haven’t been in a musical for a very long time.) These magical devices can store music on them.  Amazing isn’t it? If I were in a musical, I could very easily pop in some headphones and listen to my music.  Even if not singing along, this will help accomplish two things: getting the music in my head will help me be more comfortable with it and I can practice choreography either in my head or with small movements as I go about my day.  Of course, if you’re able to sing along that would be best. Either way, listening to the music will help to keep lyrics and choreography in your head – whether you’re listening to the vocal or instrumental versions. At some point, it is important to listen only to the instrumental versions of songs so that you don’t learn to lean on other people who have memorized their lyrics.

One thing that’s really cool about putting all this work in is that you’ll find that you will know more than your own lines. This is really important for any live show. What happens if someone forgets a line or misses an entrance? If you know what needs to happen and/or be said, you can easily create an improvisation that matches the show perfectly and keeps everyone else from missing a beat.  Can you imagine if the entire cast were able to do this? The entire show could be done as improvisation if necessary! Although, if everyone knew everything this would, obviously, be unnecessary.

It’s important for the staff to also not get complacent.  There is still so much work to be done during rehearsals (I mean, we haven’t even started blocking Act 2 yet). We, the staff, need your cooperation to continue down this wonderful path we’ve started, but we know that we still have work to do, too. So help us by doing your part, and we will help you by doing ours.

This week I thought that I would share a video of a 60s dance move with you, but not just any dance – the Batusi! That’s right, it’s Batman’s very special dance that he does.  Batman is my 2nd favorite show from the 1960s and provided me with love for comic books and superheroes.  This video has two clips, the first is from the very first episode back in 1966. If you’re ever looking for some fun 1960s culture, I highly recommend this campy show.  I’ve been lucky enough to have met Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) in person. The two nicest happened to also be the actors who played my two favorite characters on the show? Any guesses who those two characters might be?

And now for a music clip or two.  Here is Paul Revere and the Raiders singing “Kicks” – my favorite song by them – on the Ed Sullivan Show. They were a real group, unlike what Crusher things in our play, and they had several hits.  A few years ago, I went to a rock show with my parents that featured musicians from the 1960s and Mark Lindsey, the lead singer of the group (Paul Revere was the keyboardist) was there and I heard him perform live. Also at that concert? Flo & Eddie.  You may have never head of these guys, but they were also members of The Turtles, a group that I wish more people knew about today, and the only ones who continue to tour today.  Their most famous song is “Happy Together.” The Flo & Eddie guys, by the way, are the lead singer and the guy in the orange – you can tell that they love what they do – no wonder they continue to tour happy(ily) together today. Enjoy!

Until next time,

Debbi

Rehearsal #5

This past Saturday, we not only ran the off-book scenes, but we also blocked through to the end of Act 1!  Woo hoo!  Our cast ran with music and dancing and after all of that, we still had time to get some new stuff in.  Lisa worked with our bikers on their big number and I did character work with most of our 5th and 6th graders.  They have great backstories, by the way.

Recently, I was complaining to a co-worker at the school where I work that I don’t have enough rehearsal time for the spring musical.  She said back to me, “Well, is there blocking in the script? I’m sure the kids can just learn it on their own.”  What?  Um, that is not how it works.  I informed her that if that was the case ,then a director would not be necessary.  The thing is, sure, there are some stage directions in the script, so actors, in theory, could do all of this work at home and teach themselves blocking, but a play is so much more than that.  Not to mention that the script’s stage directions don’t always match the director’s vision, set, etc.

So, what can a director offer that the script can’t?  All of the little moments.  All of the extra stuff that happens.  All of the background in a scene that isn’t mentioned in the script. This is also what rehearsal is for.  Act 1 may be blocked, but it’s not done, not by a long shot.  There are character crosses that have to be put in to add atmosphere to the scene, there are nuances that need to be added to line readings and reactions, and so much more.

Every scene is like an onion.  On the surface of a show like ours you have the blocking, singing, and dancing.  The next layer down is the background stuff that some audience members might not realize they are watching.  The layer after that might be line deliveries or gestures that add something different to the basic words on the page.  All of these things create the full onion – the full show.  If one layer is missing, something will feel off.  Maybe the show won’t even feel real, allowing the audience to come out of the trance that theater holds over its audience.

As our actors rehearse and practice everything on their own more of these things will be added.  The more comfortable they are with the show, the more they will be able to contribute to add these layers, as well.  We’re just getting started and we still have more than a month left – imagine all the layers we can add!

I’ve been inspired by our bikers to share a movie clip with everyone this week.  I grew up watching several Beach Party movies from the 60s starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon (as well as my uncle’s 3rd cousin – Donna Loren).  In all of these movies, there are incompetent bikers who cause trouble and get in fights.  In my head, these are the guys (and gals) I picture whenever I think of 60s bikers.  Here is a clip from Beach Blanket Bingo

I also want to share some music with you this week, as always.  At one point during our show, Max is talking to Grace.  Who’s Grace?  Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane and here is one of their songs.  Max also talks to Janice – that’s Janis Joplin.  Janis Joplin and the Holding Company sang a Kris Kristofferson song called “Me and Bobby McGee”.  I hope you enjoy both of these songs.

Until Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal #4

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be in a play. She loved going to rehearsals and saying her lines and singing and dancing. She shared this experience with several of her friends and every rehearsal was a chance for them to catch up and make new memories.

When each rehearsal ended, this girl went home, ate lunch, and then forgot all about her rehearsals until the following week when it was time to go to rehearsal once more. And again, this girl loved being at rehearsals with her friends, but forgot all about the play when she arrived home.

One day, she woke up for rehearsal and found that she was no longer allowed to use her script. She didn’t know what to do! She needed her script to say the lines she loved saying so much. She needed her script for singing all the lyrics required for the songs. She also needed her script to remind her of her entrances and exits.How would she ever get onstage if she didn’t know where and when to come in?

To make matters worse, because this girl didn’t know her song lyrics, she found that she was a beat behind everyone with her dances, as well. She had to watch the people in front of her and to her side and try her best to copy their moves. By the time the rehearsal was half over, the girl was very sad and for the first time, found that she could not fully enjoy the rehearsal.

Has this ever happened to you? I hope not. With our first off-book date this weekend, I imagine that a lot of our actors will be in this position. It’s very easy to go home Saturday afternoon and think about anything other than NDW. There’s homework to do, friends to see and talk to, errands to run, television to watch, games to play, books to read… the list goes on and on.

No one expects an actor to leave rehearsal and think only of what s/he worked on at that day. It is expected, however, that some time during the week be spent thinking about the play. You can’t learn lines without going over them over and over. You can’t learn songs or choreography without repeated practice. Of course, no one expects everything to be perfectly memorized right away either. What is expected, is that each actor tries. There’s a reason why “line” is an accepted way of receiving a forgotten line - if every actor would be expected to be perfect, no such practice would be in place.

Let me back up for a minute. What do I mean by “off-book?” Simply that all lines, lyrics, blocking, and choreography is memorized and no book (or script) is needed. When an actor is off-book, if a line is forgotten, rather than saying, “I forgot my line,” or, “I’m sorry,” an actor is expected to simply say, “line.”

Now, let’s tell the above story a different way:

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be in a play. She loved going to rehearsals and saying her lines and singing and dancing. She shared this experience with several of her friends and every rehearsal was a chance for them to catch up and make new memories.

When rehearsal ended, this girl went home, and went about her business. The following day she found herself to be bored, and knew she had at least 10 minutes to spare, so she went to her room, took out her script and tried singing some of the songs she enjoyed singing with her friends at rehearsal. She had a little bit of trouble with one of the songs, so she took out her computer, downloaded the music, and sang along to the song until she felt more comfortable with it. Then her mother called her away and she put her script down.

The next day, the girl got home from school and needed a break from doing her homework. She decided to put on some of the music that she had downloaded and practiced a dance that she had learned at the last rehearsal. After about 5 minutes of practice, she felt ready to do her homework.

The girl continued to practice for the play she loved so much throughout the week. When it was time to go to rehearsal once more, the girl felt more confident and could enjoy rehearsal and spending time with her friends even more.

After rehearsal, and during the whole week following, the girl continued to practice for the play she loved so much on her own. She continued to do this week after week, rehearsal after rehearsal.

One day, she woke up for rehearsal and found that she was no longer allowed to use her script. She didn’t care though. She knew the lines she loved saying so much and the lyrics she loved to sing. She even felt confident in all the dances. As she danced, she noticed that others were watching her movements and copying her. She felt so proud that she could hold her head up high and be an example to others. This rehearsal turned out to be the best one of all!

Do you see how easy it is to find the time to practice at home?By doing this just a few minutes every day or so, you too can have a wonderful off-book rehearsal!

Now that all the music has been taught, the dances will hopefully become easier to learn the more confident you become with the music itself. Now that we’ve blocked 4 1/2 scenes (the pre-show, and Act one scenes 1-3, and a little of 1,4) being off-book shouldn’t be too scary if you’ve put the work in. And remember, you can always call “line”!

And now it is time for another 1960s music lesson. The Ed Sullivan show was a staple in many homes for years. It was a family friendly variety show on Sunday evenings.  Many popular music acts of the day performed on the show, bringing them into living rooms across the country.  On occasion, because it was a family show, Ed Sullivan would ask some artists/bands to change the words to their songs.  Here are two such examples:  the first is The Rolling Stones singing “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” That wasn’t wholesome enough, so they were asked to change the words to “let’s spend some time together.” As Mick Jagger sings the chorus, you can see that he is making faces, but he did change the words and The Stones were invited back onto the show in the future.  The second example is when The Doors sang “Light My Fire” on the show.  They were asked to change the lyric “girl, we couldn’t get much higher” to something less offensive.  They didn’t and were not invited back on the show.  Ed Sullivan was a huge influencer, but luckily, I don’t think The Doors disobeying Ed Sullivan lost them too many fans.  After all, going against the man was part of the counterculture. 

Until Saturday,

Debbi

Rehearsal #3

Well, another week and more things to practice (see my last blog for more information on that)  Will has taught almost all the music and Lisa taught some more choreography.  Cindy also placed actors in our opening number and gave a little blocking leading up to it.  I’d say we are off to a good start!

Cindy also took some time to talk to the cast about the set. It’s really hard to imagine what the set is going to look like until you see it.  Some people are better at this than others – I am not one of them.  I always understand how I think the set is going to look, but spatially it’s always really hard for me to picture. Thankfully I’ve done enough of these shows now that I at least have a general idea based on drawings and past shows at Kennedy and Wilson.

The problem is that the Cole gym and stage is so radically different from a school auditorium.  This is a somewhat amusing statement as I happen to know, first hand, that the Cole gym used to also function as a school auditorium (and cafeteria).  We do our best with what we have, which is too much space.  How do you go about picturing the stage?  How do you go about figuring out where offstage is?  Where is the front row of the audience and the edge of the stage? How do I know where to stand if I’m entering through an aisle or on the Loge?  Well, we do our best.  Sometimes we are able to put up markers, but I never know if these are in the exact same place from week to week.  So, we all do our best and WRITE DOWN OUR BLOCKING, hoping that the transition from Cole to Wilson (or Kennedy in the fall) won’t be too difficult.

And that brings me to the importance of blocking notes – you know, in case you missed the fact that caps lock was used for a bit in the last paragraph.  What is blocking?  Glad you asked.  Blocking is where the actors move on the stage and when they make those moves.  Generally, blocking consists of entering, crossing, and exiting, but there are other levels of it as well.  It might be a gesture you give or a glance at another character at a specific point in a scene.  Sometimes songs are blocked, rather than choreographed, with precise movements given instead of dance moves.  A good example of this would be “Cinderella Do This (Bob Do That)” from Twinderella.  Cinderella and Bob had to walk at certain points during the song, hold an arm up here and then put it down there, etc. You could refer to this as choreography, but there weren’t any traditional dance moves involved.

Blocking is given for a reason.  In some cases, the reasons are obvious.  If a character has a line, it would help if they entered the stage at some point to deliver it, for example.  You could perform a play in which everyone is on stage at the same time and they only move forward when they need to say a line, and move back when they are done.  That would be pretty boring though. 

A lot of times, blocking is given for character reasons, rather than practical ones.  For example, if a character is charismatic and can get the attention of anyone from anywhere, the approach to that character launching into a speech might not be the same as a shy character (say Gloria from Mirror Image) who would need to be centrally located in order to get the attention needed from other characters. Tiny movements and gestures also fall into this category.  Sitting and standing usually falls into this category, as well.

So, when an actor is given blocking, it is crucial that s/he writes it down.  In our case, because we rehearse in a different space than our performance venue this is key.  As we build up muscle memory at Cole, we all learn our blocking a certain way, but when we get to the middle school for tech week, our muscle memory might hinder us, as we are now in a new location with an actual set and levels and doors.  By writing blocking down, one can look at her notes and reassess where to go during a scene or how to exit now that you aren’t just on a gym floor.

How does one record blocking? I think everyone has their own way of doing this, however, there are some things that are pretty standard. “X” is a big one – this means “cross,” as in Character A crosses (or just X) to Character B.  I also usually use an arrow instead of the word “to.”  I also abbreviate characters, but as an actor I’m probably only writing my own blocking, so I would have less character names to write down. The other pretty standard blocking shorthand are the quadrants of the stage: C (center), SL (stage left), UR (upstage right), DC (down center), DL (down left), and so on and so forth.  For entrances, I usually just write “ent.” and for exits I usually write “ex.” For things like gestures, I do write that full out usually, but you can develop your own shorthand for these things.  However you choose to write down your blocking is up to you, but I strongly suggest that it does get written down, in your script, where it happens.  (In other words, don’t write that you enter from UR at the top of the page if you actually enter halfway down.)

The more effort you put into all of these little things – writing down blocking, practicing your choreography, etc. – the easier the tech week transition will be!

Now, as promised, more 60s music!  Sonny and Cher are somewhat spoofed in Flower Power! In the form of Lester and Hester who go incognito as Sunny and Clair.  Their song “Oh, My Honey Babe” is strikingly similar to Sonny and Cher’s most well-known hit, “I Got You Babe” and so it’s only fitting that you be able to compare the two!  Here is a performance from a British show called “Top of the Pops.”  This was a really popular music show on the BBC that lasted from 1964 until 2006.  “I Got You Babe” is from 1965, so this was a pretty early episode considering how long this show was on the tele (British slang for tv).  Sonny and Cher’s hit is still popular today.  To try to explain its popularity, here is another video featuring Beavis and Butthead.  I must say that while I did grow up in the 1990s, I never really liked these guys, but this is pretty funny and awesome.  And finally, this video (right before the 2 minute mark for direct access) is from the 1980s and was a really exciting moment – the only time that Sonny and Cher reunited to sing – and guess what song they sang?  Enjoy!

Until Saturday,

Debbi

Flower Power! Daydream Believers

This week at NDW we continued our preliminary work on Flower Power!  Will taught “The Hippie Generation” and reviewed the title song, Lisa choreographed “Flower Power” and we started doing some character work with folks.

At the end of rehearsal, we actually had our actors perform “Flower Power” – doing the dance while singing along with Will on the piano.  What a great start – our opening number is sure to be great since we’ve already accomplished so much with it!

While we ushered kids between Will, Lisa, and costumes, I worked with several of our actors on character work.  Here, actors have to explain who their characters are (rather than what their characters do).  This can be tricky as it’s not always obvious, and actors are still getting used to the script.  Towards the end of rehearsal, I took character work to the next level and played a bunch of 60s music (courtesy of my smart phone and YouTube) to get them used to the music of the decade.  It was nice to see so many of our kids grooving along – and in many cases, already knowing the music.

One of the reasons we start rehearsals with song and dance (and not blocking) is that these tend to be the things that need to be practiced most.  You start with the songs.  Once you learn each song, it’s much easier to learn the lyrics and once you have the lyrics, it’s much easier to learn the choreography. 

This week, at my school, we have our performance of a musical called “Learning to Learn” which is all about the fact that you can learn how to do anything – as long as you practice.  There’s a great scene where some knights are explaining to our main characters that you have to do the work and repeat it and then it will become easier.  The song they sing has these lyrics:

            Focus, just concentrate

            Practice, and you’ll be great

            Repeat until you’re in the groove

            That’s how you improve.

This may seem obvious, but we find that a lot of our actors don’t practice and repeat what they learn on Saturdays.  It’s really hard to commit a musical to memory, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.  Ten to twenty minutes every night (yes, on top of all that homework) is all that’s required.  Sing through what’s been learned with Will.  Then practice choreography given by Lisa.  Then, if you feel comfortable with both, try putting them together.  As the weeks go on, you’ll be able to practice the older songs more easily (and quicker) and can then focus on newer songs and try to commit those to memory.

For example, if I were in the play, last week I would have sung “Flower Power” over and over.  This week, I could just review it and then go over the choreography for it and then put the two together.  Once I felt good about that and tried that a couple of times, I could move on to singing “The Hippie Generation.” Next week, I’d do the same, but add to it whatever else I learned from Will and Lisa (and eventually add in blocking to this routine of course).  “Flower Power” would be easy to review because I’ve already practiced it so many times, so instead of practicing just the singing and then just the dancing, I’d start off by singing and dancing to “Flower Power” – it would be reviewed nice and quick since I already know it.

Now, of course, you may forget some things between rehearsal and practice time at home.  If it’s the music, hopefully you’ll have access to the songs and can listen to them.  The following week you can always ask Will or Lisa to review what you’ve forgotten or are unsure about.  And, let’s not forget – you can ask your friends!  Why wait until Saturday when you can ask another NDW actor who you go to school with – maybe s/he remembers what you don’t, and in turn, maybe you can help him or her remember something else!

So – practice makes perfect.  Keep that in mind.  The sooner you get into a routine the easier it will be to learn everything and to eventually be off book.

Now, I promised that I’d share different 1960s music at the end of each blog.  This week I’m sharing two videos with you.  The Monkees are my favorite group of all time.  Based on the idea of The Beatles, they were a family friendly version of rock ‘n’ roll that was formatted as a half hour television series.  The actors played characters with the their own names and eventually went on tour together as The Monkees (they are still touring today, in fact).  Some say they weren’t a real band and I say that’s up for debate.  Either way, they were a huge part of pop culture, whether you consider them just for their television show, or for that and for their music.  Here is their first single and hit – “Last Train to Clarksville.”  I love this video – it’s so silly and very Monkees.  Also, did you know that this is a protest song?  And the other video I want to share is “Daydream Believer.” This is a classic, but I’m sharing it because they all get rather silly towards the end, making this another typical Monkees moment.  I also enjoy watching Mickey play the tambourine.  If you watch closely, you’ll see that he misses it at a certain point.  By the way – both of these songs went to #1 on the Billboard Chart. Enjoy!

Until Saturday,

Debbi

Flower Power - Readthrough #1 and Meet the Beatles!

We have officially started our rehearsals for Flower Power! We started our day with kids getting their scripts and then sitting down for a readthru before the song “Flower Power” was taught.

The readthru can be difficult for some, as they’ve never seen the script before and don’t really have time to preview (or pre-read) their lines ahead of time.  On top of that, when we do a period play, some of the language is unfamiliar to our cast.  For example, this time around, the word “kook” tripped up some cast members.  Sometimes, when we have some absent actors, I end up reading a part or two, and even I find myself tripping over words and I’ve already read the script – more than once! However, despite any difficulties the kids also get into character.  For example, Peter, who is playing Lester, said all his lines with a British accent (which is required for that role) and Anna, who is playing Starpetal, really emoted during her lines.  These things are hard to do upon a first reading and all our cast members did really well.

How did our cast members react to the play? Well I hope they liked it – it sure seemed like it.  There are definitely some jokes in there that we are going to have to explain, but I think that by the time tech week rolls around our actors will know a lot more about 1960s culture!

After the readthru the soloists in “Flower Power” worked with Will, while Bella and I played two games of Zip, Zap, Zop with the rest of our cast.  I think I explained this theater game in a blog during the fall show, so I won’t do that again, but I will say that it’s a fun energy passing game that requires focus.  Also, I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is a music teacher (not at the same school where I work, though) and he started telling me a story that involved this game.  He paused and looked at me and said, “Do you know the game Zip, Zap, Zop?”  I was honestly a little offended – I am a grown-up theater kid after all!  I told him that not only did I know it, but I used it while teaching, too – at which point he was like, “Oh, of course you do” – duh!

We then brought the whole cast together and Will taught the rest of “Flower Power.” Hearing the ensemble sing – in harmony – was so nice.  It’s a really good start to a fun show and I hope that everyone ends up loving this show as much as I do.

Okay, I should probably stop and explain my love of the 1960s… growing up I listened to the music that my dad played.  Sure, he played some 80s stuff (ask him what I used to call The Bangles and Boy George), but he mostly played oldies.  In the car, we almost always listened to Oldies 103.3 (a station I still miss dearly).  On tv, I watched a lot of reruns and my favorites when I was really young were “The Monkees” and “Batman” (also “Happy Days,” but that was a 70s show about the 50s so ignore that one).  I also really loved “I Dreamed of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” and “Gilligan’s Island.”  As a result of all this, I am well versed in 1960s pop culture.  I’m not an expert, but I’m always willing to learn more and I hope our kids are too!  I will leave you with this video and a fun fact!  This is The Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and during this same episode, the company of “Oliver!” performed some songs.  Playing the Artful Dodger was David Jones, an actor/singer who in a couple of years would be one “The Monkees.”

That's all for now - see you Saturday,

- Debbi

Flower Power! Auditions - A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

NDW is back and we are ready to start rehearsals for Flower Power!  I’m sure by now you are all aware that we are doing a show that has never been done by NDW before.  Flower Power is a somewhat silly take on the culture of the 1960s.  The show culminates at a music festival of sorts and the characters we meet along the way all represent different people you would have found during this decade. I can’t wait for our kids to read their scripts and find out just how fun this show is going to be!

At auditions this week we definitely had our work cut out for us.  As usual, we split the cast into 3 groups and rotated them through their audition workshops.  While one third of the cast was learning their audition song with Will, another third was with Lisa working on choreography and the last third was with Cindy and me (and our production assistant, Bella) discussing how best to choose and deliver a monologue.  Once all the groups had “attended” each workshop we got started, each group rotating through auditions, costumes, and the NDW welcome meeting.

During auditions Cindy, Lisa, Will, and I were all very impressed. One great thing about auditions at Natick Drama Workshop is that, because our actors grow up in the program, we are constantly surprised by them.  By the time the kids are in 8th grade they are more comfortable auditioning for us and really allow themselves to shine, which in turn helps us cast them in roles that are best suited for them. The best thing though, is the change between the fall show and the spring show.  We might think we have all of our returning kids (and especially the 8th graders) pegged, but then they audition and blow us away, having gained extra confidence and abilities since the audition in September.  It’s amazing really.

After our actors leave, we, the production staff, sequester ourselves in a room and throw out a lot of pros and cons and various casting scenarios in order to find the best overall cast.  I always say that casting is like a puzzle.  Imagine having various pieces, several of them may seem very similar, but yet all are unique.  You sit down to put all the pieces together and you think one piece would go really nicely in this one spot, but there might be another piece that fits there even more perfectly.  As we cast, we have to keep moving all the pieces (our actors) around to find just the right fit in order to create a finished puzzle. 

Many times, and definitely this go around, we have more than two actors who could easily play one or more parts.  How do we then go about deciding which actor would be best for each role?  There is no simple answer as we have to look at a lot of factors. Aside from talent (which includes the three separate abilities of acting, singing, and dancing), we take into consideration things such as personality (for example, would a super bubbly person be better suited for this role?), how actors work together (when casting families or couples this is important), and sometimes even looks (how believable would this actor look in this role, next to this other person?).  There is a lot more than this, these are just the things that are easiest to describe to someone about casting.

After several hours of going around and around we usually have a complete cast assembled that we are happy with. Sometimes we go home to think about everything and spend a good part of the next day continuing the casting session over the phone.  No matter how long it takes, we do our best to take everyone and everything into account.

And so, this Saturday, we will see how our Flower Power puzzle looks for the first time.  Our actors will read through the script together and we will start to add color to this puzzle that will eventually become a huge, colorful, and layered performance.

Catch you on the flip side (okay, that’s more 1970s lingo),

Debbi

Rehearsal 8

We are in the home stretch NDW friends!  We have one more Saturday rehearsal and then we are on to tech week!

What is tech week and what is so special about it?  “Tech” week – or technical week – is when all the elements of the show are put together into what will become the final product after daily (and longer) rehearsals.  Tech week is known by another name as well, but I won’t put that here just in case it offends somebody.

During our NDW tech week a lot of the work is done upfront.  With load-in on Saturday, the set is mostly completed by the time our first rehearsal starts and we don’t hang lights, so a lot of what we do is make small adjustments as we go.  One thing that does get added that can sometimes take several rehearsals is sound.  We need to get the mics in order and get all of our sound cues ready to go.  And of course, the costumes are used for the first time during this week.

The point of all of this is to get the actors ready for opening night (and show weekend) by giving them everything they need to finish creating their characters and the show.  In addition to the technical stuff, we also work to get our actors truly off-book (although they should be already), fix what needs to be fixed in terms of acting, blocking, choreography, and music. 

Speaking of music – this is also the week where the actors get to work with a drummer (and sometimes other musicians as well).  I won’t say that we never use the boom box during tech week, but for the most part the actors get to work pretty exclusively with live music.  

It’s an exciting week.  And the thing that most people take away from tech week has nothing to do with the reason behind having tech week.  It’s a great week to be social.  A lot of cast (and crew) memories are made during this week.  After all – you see each other every day and there’s a lot of that whole hurry up and wait thing going on all over the place.  

So as we get ready to do a lot of work (and it is a lot of work), remember that it can be fun, too.  Let’s have everything ready to go and bring our best attitudes and then, starting on Sunday, you’ll have a great experience and will understand how sad it is when a week after tech week starts, the show is over and we have to part ways.

Until Saturday,
Debbi

Rehearsals 6 and 7

Time has really flown by this fall.  Can you believe that in 2 weeks we will be in tech?  We’ve accomplished so much, but we still have so much left to do.

All the musical numbers have been learned, the first act has been blocked, and many dances have been taught.  We still have much of the second act to block, a few dances to learn, and a lot of layers to add.  It can seem overwhelming, but I know that our kids are up for the challenge!

There are a lot of other things going on at NDW, aside from what the actors are doing.  Pam has been busy, with the help of her parent volunteers, getting costumes done.  Whether that means fitting items to actors, buying new pieces, altering what we have, or some good old-fashioned sewing, they have been working hard to get our actors looking the part.  We also have parents who have been working in the back on props (like our Narrators’ books) and set pieces.  Whether building, painting, sawing, or other construction like things, they are busy making sure Wychwood-Under-Ooze looks just right.  (Don’t know what Wychwood-Under-Ooze is yet?  Just another reason to see our show!)

In order to put on a successful production, all of these things need to come together.  Usually, the director has a vision and works with designers in the set, costume, and lighting departments.  After they create their designs and have approval from the director a whole bunch of people come together to bring these things to life.  And while the designers are busy overseeing the director’s vision, the director is free to work with actors and bring the author’s words to life with their performances.

There are some productions in which the actors don’t have sets or costumes or even props.  Sometimes it is a budgetary or time issue, but sometimes that is the director’s vision.  For example, sometimes Shakespeare is done on a 3-sided set with all white walls where all the actors wear black.  Now – even in this instance set and costume design are required, but on a much smaller scale.  The director might choose to go this route to help highlight the actors’ performances and the author’s words without other things getting in the way.

I myself was in a play in which I played a chair, a bed, and a table with a bowl (my hands were the bowl).  This was in 8th grade when NDW did The Trial of Goldilocks.  I had other things to do, but during the reenactments of what happened according to, first Goldilocks, and then the Bears, instead of having set changes, the director decided to use actors.  It was a choice.  I’m not sure it worked, but these are all things that can work to benefit a performance within the director’s vision.

At NDW today we are all very lucky to have the wonderful crew that we do.  Everyone works with Cindy to come up with something that matches her vision, and we allow for some creative license as these things are happening.  We owe so much to what our parent volunteers do, but we, the staff, and the actors don’t always get to see these things until tech week.  There was a time when I would have a chance to go down back or hang out in the costume room, but that hasn’t happened for a while.  I’m sure I’ll get there soon.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve forgotten all the other things that go on behind the scenes, like fundraising, but I wanted to talk specifically about the production process that goes behind what will be seen during performances.  These are the same things that the actors will combine to create their world: direction, costumes, sets, and props.

In my life I have been lucky enough to act, direct, build and paint sets and props, and help with costumes (my least favorite – I usually get stuck ironing).  My favorite thing is directing, with acting not far behind – in case you were wondering.  Due to my experiences I understand how things work backstage, but I know a lot of people have no idea what goes into these things.  Hopefully you’ll all have a better understanding now.

Until Saturday,
Debbi

Rehearsal 5

Can you believe that we are only a few weeks away from tech week?  A month from now the show will be over and we’ll all be sleeping in on Saturdays. 

Before we get there though we have a lot of work to do.  We’ve done some great stuff thus far, but there are still dances to learn, music to practice, and lines and blocking to memorize.

Speaking of memorization… this Saturday is the off book date for Act One.  What does “off book” mean?  It means that you’re lines (and lyrics, blocking, and choreography) are all memorized and you don’t need your script (or book) in your hand anymore.

Memorization can be a daunting task.  I’m a big fan of repetition.  Just say your lines over and over again.  Sing your songs in the shower, go through choreography in your head while waiting in line – find moments to practice.

What happens if you’re trying to remember something and you can’t and your script is nowhere nearby?  Do your best and then check with your script when you are able.  It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you are constantly fixing them.

It’s pretty easy to learn things incorrectly, so do check your script occasionally, even if you think you have everything just right.  I’m a big fan of finding someone to run lines with and having them stop you each time you make a mistake – no matter how small.  That way, you are forcing yourself to learn the author’s words correctly.

When it comes to music, have a dance party in your room.  You have access to the music, so use it.  For songs that require singing and dancing you can take turns focusing on singing or dancing, but make sure that you also practice doing both together.  I know it’s hard to sing when you’re concentrating on the steps, but unfortunately you do have to be able to do both at the same time!

Whatever you do, practice, practice, practice.  Repetition is key.  And the reward is peace of mind, knowing that the hardest part of memorizing one’s lines is done.  Of course, if you don’t continue to practice you’ll have to go through it all over again – so keep practicing, even when you think you have everything 100% learned.

See you Saturday,
Debbi

Rehearsals 3 & 4

We finished Act One!  Well, mostly.  We’ve touched upon all of the first act and have given actors their blocking, but that doesn’t mean that it’s “finished.”  

This weekend, our actors were busy.  Not only did we get through a lot of blocking, but Lisa also taught a few more dances (most notably “Work t’ Do”).  And Will taught the rest of the songs (well, except for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” but everyone knows that).  See what can be accomplished when we work together – and have 2 rehearsals in one weekend!

Will was telling me that in trying to get our Evil Step-Sisters to be more evil that they should sing like the witches in Hocus Pocus.  Apparently, the girls didn’t know what Hocus Pocus was, let alone who the Sanderson sisters are.  This was appalling to the both of us, so I am putting in a link so that everyone can be introduced to this wonderful movie (especially now that it’s October).  This particular link is the big musical number in the movie.  After you watch this, please spend some time watching Freeform this month, as the movie will not only be on a lot, but will also be accompanied by a 25th anniversary special.

Okay, back to Twinderella.  After all the blocking has been given and a scene practiced, how do you get it to the point where it can be considered “finished”?  It’s possible that the answer is never, depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, but I’m here to tell you that a scene is “finished” after layers are added to it and everyone is doing more than just the blocking.

Every scene is like an onion.  If you peel a layer, there should be more there.  Sometimes this applies to what the ensemble is doing in a scene.  For example, during the ball there is dialogue between Cinderella and the Princess.  However, these characters aren’t the only ones in the scene that matter.  Everyone else on stage has to be doing something to help bring the ball to life.  Maybe one of our 5th graders is pretending to have a conversation about where her ball gown came from.  Perhaps the Duchess and Countess are politely laughing about how ridiculous the Step-mother is.  Maybe the Lady in Waiting is telling another character about the delicious food set up in the next room.  All of these little interactions help to add something extra to the scene – to help it come to life.  Without all of these little interactions, the show is very one-dimensional.

Sometimes the next layer down has to do with how an actor approaches the situation.  One big factor that most, if not all, professional actors consider is motivation.  Or, put simply, the want.  What does the character want in this moment?  In this scene?  From this particular character?  From that other character?  What is the characters goal for the whole show?  The King, for example, starts the show wanting his shoes to be tied.  By the end of the show, he wants to tie them himself – and he does.  When does his motivation change?  Was it when he witnessed both Cinderella and Bob losing their shoes?  If so, all of the second act should be subtly different from the first as the King now has a different agenda.  That being said, the King might have other wants during the show.  For example, in his first scene, while talking with his family, maybe he wants his children to be happy and have a good birthday.  Maybe he wants to be as smart as his wife.  Maybe he’s hungry and he really wants a PB&J (that one’s a little out there, I know).  Whatever the King wants, that gets put into the play and now there’s something more interesting going on – even if the audience doesn’t realize it.

There are so many other ways to add layers to a scene, but it all boils down to actors filling the space in a positive way to breathe life into every inch of the play.  When that is accomplished, then we will be “finished.”

Until Saturday,
Debbi

Rehearsal #2

With only about a month until tech week we have a lot to accomplish, and we did just that this past Saturday at NDW. 

Will taught my favorite song from this show – “Stroke of Twelve” – to the Godparents and also worked with the step-families on their songs.  I really do love the music in this show.  Every number is different, but all are fun.  I challenge you to not leave the theater humming one of these of songs!

Since the song “Twinderella” was taught the previous week, Lisa started to teach the choreography for it this week.  If you still don’t know what this show is about, listen to this number – it tells you all you need to know.  Also, you will never hear the name “Bob” the same again.  Lisa also continued to work on the waltz for “This is Love.”  I know that some people are being very middle-schoolish about partner dancing, but you just can’t have this show without the ball scene!  (Or the base-ball scene.)

While those things were going on I worked with a few more of our actors on their characters and then played some improv games.  This week’s improv game focused on trying to create a full scene in one minute – not an easy thing to do.

After break, Cindy and I started blocking the show.  We got through the first 11 pages of the script – which is huge.  Does that mean that those 11 pages are done and we don’t have to go back to them?  Of course not, but we were able to lay the foundation which will allow us to add layers each time we work on it.  The first scene is pretty long, so by getting through those first 11 pages we are getting right into the story and could finish blocking this long scene this weekend.

For those who are unfamiliar, blocking refers to where you go and what you do onstage.  It includes exits and entrances as well as things like Snow White tossing an apple up and down (yes, that will actually happen in this show).  I don’t know where the term “blocking” comes from (I mean, I could Google it, but where’s the fun in that?), but I could give you my take on a possibility.

The stage is divided into 9 sections.  Each side of the stage is divided into 3 sections.  So for the upstage part of the stage you have upstage right, upstage left, and upstage center.  The same for downstage (downstage right, left, and center).  Then there’s also a strip in the middle of the stage.  The middle of that strip is center stage, with right of center and left of center next to it (usually just referred to as stage right and stage left).  Not to confuse anyone, but you’d get the same sections if you split the stage the other way (Stage Right would consist of down right and up right, Center would have upcenter and downcenter, and Stage Left would have up left and down left).  If you imagine each of these 9 sections as a block, the blocking tells you which of these 9 to stand or walk to.  That’s probably not where the term comes from though… 

When you’re writing your blocking (as all actors should always do), it’s not necessary to write everything out.  Upstage right, for example, would just be UR.  Here is a list of abbreviations to help you out:
 
UR – Up(stage) Right
UL – Up(stage) Left
UC – Up(stage) Center
DR – Down(stage) Right
DL – Down(stage) Left
DC – Down(stage) Center
C – Center Stage
SR – Stage Right
SL – Stage Left
AR – Aisle Right
AL – Aisle Left
LR – Loge Right
LL – Loge Left (this is only for spring shows at Wilson)
X – cross
Ex. – exit
Ent. – enter
Plat. – platform

Some people might use other abbreviations and that’s fine, as long as you know what you mean when you choose your various abbreviations.  When I write blocking I write down what everyone’s doing, so something in my script might look like this:

Cind. ent. SL from behind plat to chair.  Lucy ent. AR, X to Cind.  Cind. X Þ Lucy.

If you are playing Cinderella, you might just write: “Ent. SL behind plat. to chair.“  Lucy might write: “Ent. AR, X to C.”  It’s that simple!

Now a lot of people get upstage and downstage confused.  I do know the actual origin of this, so allow me to enlighten you and prevent any further confusion.  Back in the olden days, stages were slanted to allow the audience a better view of the stage.  The back part of the stage was higher than the front.  Therefore, if an actor were walking to the back of the stage he was literally walking “upstage.”  Similarly, an actor who needed to walk to the front of the stage was literally walking “downstage.”  And that is where those terms come from.

Now that you have all this fancy new theater jargon in your vocabulary why not try it out at the next rehearsal?  I can’t wait to hear you use these terms.

Until then,
Debbi

Rehearsal #1/Read-thru

This week at Natick Drama Workshop we got right to work.  We started off with the read-thru and ended our day with various actors learning music, dancing, and doing character work.

The read-thru is the first time our actors see the script.  It is also the first time that we have the cast “perform” together.  Sure, they’re sitting in a circle and not putting too much effort into it, but from the read-thru you can get a sense of what the final product will sound like.  It’s always nice to see our actors get into it and not just read the lines on the page. 

Our actors all worked together to learn “Twinderella” – our first ensemble number of the show.  This song will really get stuck in your head!  Other songs learned this week were “There is Love” (which was also the audition song) and “Cinderella Do This (Bob Do That)”.  Cinderella and Bob also worked on their solos in “There is Love” along with the Prince and Princess down in the music room.

Lisa was back this week and jumped right in, teaching the waltz to several of our actors.  The waltz is a big part of the ball scene and our actors need to be able to dance while singing “There is Love” so it’s good that they got started on that right away.

Any actors who weren’t learning music with Will, or choreography with Lisa were either trying on costumes or in the middle room with me (assisted by our new Production Assistant, Bella) doing character work.  Character work this early in the process consists of actors introducing their characters and telling us all about them.  Sometimes I ask questions about how certain characters get along, and every now and then I have to correct the answers given, but for the most part, actors have free range in how they think of their characters.   

Character work is really important, not just for the individual actor, but also in adding layers to our show.  For example, if all of our kid characters had the same personality, that wouldn’t be fun to watch.  So by talking to all of our “kids” we can figure out who the sassy one is, who’s curious, who’s a know-it-all, etc.  When we get into the “kids’” scene work, this will help.  This is the same for the townspeople as well. 

This also helps with characters who have very clear personalities in the script.  It’s good to talk to the actor playing, for example, the King.  He spends the majority of the play needing to have his shoes tied and being confused.  Talking to the actor about this shows that he “gets” his character and from there we can expand into relationships easily.  The actor playing the King will also have a better idea of how to approach his character when we do start to work on his scenes.

Speaking of scenes – while we were all hard at work this Saturday, Cindy was meeting with various people working on scenery (scenery-scenes – that’s my segue) and costumes.  These are things that happen behind the scenes, but are just as important to the show.  The whole show is based on the director’s vision.  So when Cindy directs actors, she is doing so with a plan in mind.  Similarly, the set and the approach to costumes are all based on that same plan.  Having Cindy meet with set and costume folks is what allows us to have the best set possible and the best costumes possible.  Now, these parents can be backstage working on various non-acting aspects of the show (that all come together during tech week) knowing that their creations will fit into the larger concept of Cindy’s vision for Twinderella.

Well that’s all from me this week.  On Saturday I look forward to seeing everyone in their mentor groups, getting to know one another and continuing to work together to put on our best show yet.

-Debbi

Auditions

Well, by now I’m sure you’ve seen the cast list for Twinderella and are hopefully getting excited and looking forward to rehearsals starting.  It’s important to remember that you won’t understand the full extent of your role until rehearsals start.  Even during the read-thru next week, some of you might not realize how much you get to do during the show until you are actually doing scene work.  So please, get excited, but if for some reason the cast list has had the opposite effect on you take heart – everyone will have a ton to do in this play.  And remember: there are no small parts, just small actors (and no, that is not a reference to our 5th graders).

Every show I try to write a blog that explains the casting process, as it is somewhat mysterious to those who have never been on the other side of the table before.  And every time I write this blog I talk about how much I love watching auditions – this is no different!  But first, a real-life Debbi-auditions story:

So this past May I auditioned for Othello with the community theater group that I’ve worked with for over 10 years.  Due to my summer schedule I put on the audition sheet that I would only do the show if offered the role of Emilia.  Usually I don’t care who I play and am willing to take any role, but with a tight summer schedule I only wanted to commit to the rehearsal schedule if the role was worth it.  For those unfamiliar, Emilia is the 2nd biggest female role.  It is not in my nature to audition for the lead, and so Desdemona was not even on my radar.

In order to prepare for this audition I had to have a Shakespearian monologue ready to go.  I had grand plans of learning something new, but found that with limited time I would have to go back to my standard monologue from A Taming of the Shrew.  I worked on this monologue, not just to rememorize it, but to bring something new to it.  I had faces that I was picturing while saying certain lines, associations that I was making to show particular emotions and I was really proud of myself.

I got to auditions, saw some friendly faces and then went in to the auditorium to audition for the director, producer, and stage manager/assistant director – all friends of mine (two of whom I had directed in the past).  I said hello, got onstage and started to say the monologue.  And then I realized that I was nervous.  Really nervous.  I did my best to stay on track, but I suddenly could not recall the faces I was supposed to be seeing or thinking of the things I was trying to think of and, although I didn’t forget the monologue, I was unable to bring to it all the emotions that I had been working so hard to muster.

And then I didn’t get the part… which was okay, and honestly, probably a good thing considering how busy I was.  At first I was really bummed though.  I thought about telling the director that I’d take any role – I just wanted to act and work with all my friends on this play.  But I stuck to my guns and waited by my phone for the news.  When the cast list was posted I saw that a friend got the role I had auditioned for and I was happy for her.  I went to see the final performance of the play and it was wonderful.  (It is possible that I would have gotten a smaller role had I been willing to take anything from the get-go, but there’s no way of knowing.)

The point of all of this is that everyone gets nervous, and you can’t always be perfect.  However, we always ask that you do your best.  When I realized I was nervous I didn’t stop.  I kept going and I did my best to hold on to the emotions I had.  When it was over I smiled, thanked my production staff friends and headed out of the room.  I saved my disappointment until they couldn’t see my face.  At Natick Drama Workshop though, things are much different.

First of all, everyone gets into the play, so you don’t have to be nervous about that.  Second of all, you don’t have to prepare anything ahead of time, which means no memorization.  And third, everyone has had the same level of preparation, meaning that no one has an advantage over anyone else.  Additionally, because everyone is doing a cold reading (a monologue given at auditions for auditions), no one has the chance to do a ton of work, so you just do what you can do and make the best out of it that you can. (By work, I mean preparation.)

And that’s exactly what everyone did at NDW this past Saturday.  And that is why I love auditions so much.  It’s especially great to see how our returning actors have grown since the last show (talent wise, as well as in terms of height and confidence), but it’s also nice to see what our new cast members are going to be adding to this program. 

And then, at 12:30, all of our actors get to relax and it becomes the staff’s turn to sweat.  Casting can be fun, but it’s not always easy.  It’s a puzzle, and this puzzle of 60 actors felt more like a 1000-piece puzzle at times.  Why?  Because everyone’s so talented!  And we want to make sure that each role matches the actor.  We don’t want to give anyone a role that they can’t handle.  That being said, sometimes we give out roles that are a bit of a stretch, knowing that the actor can handle it.  

The really tricky part is when you have several actors who can all play the same few parts.  That’s when you have to really batten down the hatches to figure out how best to cast people.  At that point, sometimes it ends up being about the actors around them.  For example, if we were doing Bye Bye Birdie and had 3 actors who could easily play Conrad, Albert, and Hugo, sometimes you have to look at the other actors that have already been cast.  Or sometimes, it comes down to something as simple as vocal range.  I mean you can’t cast a bass as Randolph MacAfee – you know?

Okay, so going with this example you have actors A, B, and C who would all be equally fabulous as Conrad (the teenage heartthrob of a singer who has to kiss Kim on live tv), Albert (the lead and a romantic interest to Rosie), and Hugo (a love struck and jealous teenager, dating Kim).  So what do you do?  You’ve already talked about who has the most swagger, who is best at playing awkward, and who could most easily carry the show, but all 3 actors are pretty even in each category.  So now, you look at the actresses playing Kim and Rosie and figure out if maybe Actor A works best with one of those actresses.  Or maybe, one actor doesn’t seem ready to pretend to be in love onstage (I mean all of our actors are in middle school after all).  If that’s the case then that actor might be better suited to be Conrad.  But then again, the person playing Conrad has to be able to flirt with every girl on stage.  (We really do try to look at every angle while casting.)  Well, then, maybe that means that Actor C, who always seems to be comfortable around girls gets the part.  If so, that means that the roles of Albert and Hugo could go with Actor A or B, which is somewhat more helpful. 

Now the problem is that you have two actors vying for the lead and the (something like) 4th best male role in the show.  If both actors are equally talented how do you decide who gets the lead and who doesn’t?  Is it fair for one of those actors to have a smaller role, even though you know he could handle the lead?  Well this is where the whole “no small roles, just small actors” thing comes into play.  After all, a good actor can turn even the smallest ensemble role into a scene stealing opportunity.  And realistically, both these roles are still good.  Even if Hugo isn’t the lead, it’s a great part to have. 

Okay so you’ve gone over everything over and over and over again.  You look at the music to see if one actor would be able to better sing one of the roles.  You look at the surrounding cast to figure out if one actor would work better with the Kim actress than the Rosie actress.  You talk about the actors’ individual personalities and how they’ve taken direction in the past.  You compare dancing (Albert does have to be the better dancer after all).  Finally, you make a decision.  You decide that Actor A will be Albert and Actor B will be Hugo.  It’s not a reflection on Actor B that he didn’t get Albert, but rather a decision based on the whole picture.  And in some cases, it’s possible that Actor B got the role of Hugo because he’s so good that the directors know that he’ll make the most of it. 

Either way, this is when casting gets stressful.  At the end of the day though, a beautiful cast has been assembled, with everyone getting a part that will allow them to shine.  The wonderful thing about this program is that we really do put a lot of thought into casting.  In adult theater, if you had 3 actors vying for 1 part, chances are 2 of them won’t get cast as all – even though all 3 are wonderful actors.

Having said all of that, I’m glad that the cast list is done and that it is up on the website.  I can’t wait for our cast to assemble for our read-thru this coming Saturday.  And I am very much looking forward to seeing all the work that our cast will be putting into this incredibly fun show.  I love this show.  I love the story, I love the music, and I love NDW.  So let’s get this party started already!

Until Saturday,
Debbi

Preparing for Auditions

Hello everyone and welcome back to Natick Drama Workshop!  This blog is an edited version of a past post.  If you read it before I strongly suggest reading it again before Saturday!

In a little under a week we will be back at NDW for the spring 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 spring musical (no, I can't tell you what we're doing, but you will be happy).

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, Will, 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!

*In the past there were a few 8th graders who did not do this and it did affect how we cast.  I'm not telling you this to call anyone out, but rather to encourage everyone to remember that how you present yourself during auditions matters.  In the fall the attitude presented by these people filtered down to the rest of their auditions.  That is why this is #1 on my list!

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!

*Additionally, think about it this way - during the performance what do you do if you suddenly forget part of a dance?  You don't just stand there looking miserable.  You keep on smiling and do something subtle until you can pick up the dance again.  Think of your audition like a performance and improv your way through it if necessary.  Of course, by the first performance I know this would never be an issue because you've been practicing your dances for months...

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, but I wish I did.  Here's the thing - your singing 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.  

*I would like to add a non-theater story here.  Despite having done musical theater since elementary school, I was really nervous the first time I did karaoke by myself.  I picked "Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks as my first song and was literally shaking from the time the song started to the end.  How did I get through it?  Well, I acted the song out as I went.  I turned it into a story and I smiled.  Now, I'm much better at doing karaoke because I got my jitters out by acting and hamming it up.  Why don't you see if you can act through your nerves as well?

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.

*Remember how I mentioned that some 8th graders didn't do so great with #1?  Well those same actors didn't do so well with this one either.  They chose to not have great attitudes and that was the entirety of their auditions.  The two are always connected.

Tip #5: How you stand matters.
I've already talked about presenting yourself and making a good first impression, but I haven't mentioned stance specifically.  Unless you are making a character choice (see above) you should be standing up straight.  No slouching, no leaning, no going back and forth from foot to foot.  This isn't easy because we are all hardwired to fidget, especially in situations that make us nervous.  This is something you can practice on your own.  In your room stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and plant your feet (actually imagine that they are planted or superglued to the ground).  Put your hands by your side and have a conversation with your imaginary friend (or better, invite a friend over and you can have someone to talk to and call you out on your fidgeting).  Once you've mastered this you can try standing like different characters and practice what it feels like to slouch on purpose!

Tip #6: Enunciate!
When you are speaking, whether as part of your acting audition or when you're introducing yourself to us, make sure you can be understood!  Speak clearly and slowly.  Make sure we hear your consonants!  

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

-Debbi

Rehearsal #10

This week’s rehearsal was… interesting… Well, let’s just say that our actors found out what it’s like when their fellow actors don’t know their lines.  Normally I would sugar coat this a little bit more and write a blog about memorization techniques, but I’ve already written that blog.  So instead, I’m going to give you the truth – this week’s rehearsal was painful.

However, there were some bright spots.  Certain actresses knew their lines and should be role models for everyone else.  Lady Merle and her Ladies knew their lines, as did Maid Marian, Bridget, and Annabel, as well as the Sheriff’s Wife and Daughters.  Thank you to those of you who were on it.  There were a few others who seemed to know what was going on – thank you if you were one of them.

Now, let’s put that behind us, and focus on the positive, shall we?  With all the time that we’ve had to get this show ready I think this is the first time in years that we’ve been able to do character work with every single actor.  That’s pretty amazing with a cast of 79.  Now is the time to start putting that work together with the lines, blocking, and choreography.

What do I mean by that?  Most professional actors will tell you that a lot of work goes into each performance.  Most professional actors do prep work when they get a role and put notes in the script about their characters’ motivations and objectives (what they want and why), as well as things like beats (natural pauses), memories, relationships, and back stories. 

Let’s say that I’m playing a villager in this musical and I have my one line, plus various ad-libs throughout the play.  My villager (and I’m making all of this up in an effort to not take an existing character) is named Gwendolyn and she is a cobbler (shoe maker).  My line is, “The Sheriff is the one robbing us blind.”  (Again, that line is not in the script, I’m making this all up.)  From that line I know that I have very little money.  Because I’m a cobbler I know that I work with my hands and with leather from animals.  Perhaps I can no longer afford to buy the leather I need from the tanner (someone who prepares the leather).  I’m now going to have to take the cow I own and use it to create the leather I need to make shoes, which will mean less milk for my family.  Of course, in order to sell shoes, someone has to buy them from me and money is scarce all around.  So at the fair, when I see the golden arrow, I day dream about what it would be like to win the archery contest and the arrow, but I know that I would never actually win, so instead, I want Robin Hood (well, Cedric) to win.  That way, at least the Sheriff’s man doesn’t win the golden arrow.  My character is invested in the archery contest for this reason.  That is why Gwendolyn pays attention, and why she cheers and boos when she does.  This is also why she decides to join Robin’s merry band.  She can repair his shoes in exchange for food and shelter, while sticking it to the Sheriff.

Now this is just a small piece of the work that many actors do to prepare for their roles.  You may think that you don’t need to do any of this work because you have a small part, or because acting comes easily to you, but none of that matters.  A true actor knows his character inside and out and has a reason behind all of the actions that a character chooses to take or not take – even though the actor is not the one who wrote the script.

So, I challenge you.  As you continue to memorize your lines (and re-memorize them), review you lyrics, blocking, and choreography, take a minute to figure out why your character is doing or saying something.  You can’t use the excuse that “that’s what it says in the script” or “Cindy/Debbi/Lisa/Jane told me to do it this way.”  See what you come up with.  Giving your character purpose is extremely rewarding and will make your performance that much more believable.

See you Saturday,
Debbi

Rehearsal #9

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter and Chag Sameach to those still celebrating Passover!  Having a week off from NDW was weird!  Maybe you didn’t notice, but I did.  Saturday seemed much longer to me.

At our last rehearsal our actors did a lot of everything while also getting in and out of costumes for our Debsan Window Photo Shoot.  (Doesn’t it seem more fancy when every word is capitalized?)  I can’t wait to see how these pictures turned out.  I know that many of our actors weren’t at this rehearsal, but fear not – you’re turn is this Saturday. 

I’m always amazed by how time moves.  Just a couple weeks ago it seemed as if we had a huge amount of time left to rehearse.  Yet, when we return on Saturday we’ll be less than a month out from our show.  That’s right, we have 4 Saturday rehearsals left.  That’s it.  Now the good news is that all the music has been done and our basic blocking (or first layer of blocking), at least, has been done for all but the last scene of the show.  Choreography is moving along, and will continue to do so now that Lisa is back, and almost all lines will be off-book (right guys?).  So why do I feel like time is running out?  Because it is.  There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

In addition to blocking the last scene, almost all of the fights need to be blocked, the fair scene is still a work in progress, and not all the dances have been learned.  Can we do this is 4 weeks?  Yes – if everyone cooperates.

Now let me tell you all a story.  Last year I directed, choreographed, stage managed, produced, etc. a play for the school where I work.   The cast was made up of 15 teenagers from grades 5 through 8.  And they were awful.  They talked, they didn’t listen, and it was super challenging to teach the boys how to do a jazz square (something I take for granted at NDW).  On top of all that, because of the way the school and our venue had to schedule things, we only had 1 true tech rehearsal.  I told my parents not to bother going to the show (granted, they wouldn’t have anyways, as I work over an hour away from Natick) and I was sincerely afraid that my boss would see the show and decide not to rehire me.  That’s how bad it was.  I worked Memorial Day weekend (and Memorial Day) painting the set, as I couldn’t get any help from the school’s art teacher, let alone any one else.  I was prepared for this show to be a disaster. 

At some point, these awful students (who are great individually in a classroom setting) realized that they were going to have to do this in front of the entire school and their families and decided to take the show more seriously.  Did rehearsals go smoothly at that point?  No.  But they started to be a little bit better.  I did have one girl who kept asking what would happen if she got sick and couldn’t do the show (her family allowed her and her brother to be “out sick” the day of the chorus concert so that they wouldn’t have to participate).  In my head I was thinking that I might have to prepare to go on stage to take over her part.  I truly believed that she might not show up.  Luckily, the rest of the cast talked her out of it.  They may have been forced to do this show, but they understood the importance of it.

We got to our tech rehearsal and it went pretty well, all things considered.  The person running lights and sound had no idea what was going on despite having had a script for months (because she was also the musical director), and lines were skipped, but we had a show and I could finally relax a little bit.

Then it was show time.  The kids thought they did an awful job, but they pulled it together and I thought, considering what we had all gone through, that it was great.  The next day they did an in school performance and it was even better – and they all felt really good about themselves.

So, why tell you all about this awful experience?  Because, no matter how little time there is, no matter how much work still needs to be done, I know that if I was able to get those kids to pull off that show, that we can do everything and anything.  Seriously.  We have 4 weeks, plus 5 tech rehearsals.  We have behind the scenes people who know what they are doing and want to help out.  And more importantly, all of our actors want to be in NDW and are invested in this show. 

So no matter how much time we have left, I know that with a little hard work and a dab of theater magic, 4 weeks is plenty of time.

See you all Saturday,
Debbi