Adventures in New York (Part One)

So what does any good director do after tech week? Go to New York, of course! Well, I wish I could go after every tech week, but time doesn’t allow such luxuries!

Every year Music Theater International puts on a workshop called Broadway Teachers Workshop. I had the opportunity to attend last year and decided that this is something I really should attend every year if possible. So I packed my bags and flew out Saturday morning. I decided to add two extra plays to the experience. So, over the next couple of days I am going to let you share my experiences.

First night….Frozen! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The moment the lights came up I was enchanted by Zoe Glick and MiMi Ryder who player young Anna and Young Elsa. They were so precious and did such a fantastic job of portraying the young girls exactly how I envisioned them.  The audience loved Olaf and Sven and were really caught up in all the beloved characters. (one of the things I love about a New York audience is the way they applaud when each new character enters the stage for the first time.)

After seeing the movie I was so curious as to how this production could ever happen, but Disney did it again. The special effects were amazing and we all looked in amazement as the stage turned into an “ice place.” Cassie Levy left us breathless at the end of the first act when she belted out, “Let It Go.” Causing us to say, Idina who?

The one moment I didn’t care for was during the second act when the ensemble sang “Hygge.” At first the ensemble had towels on as they came out of the “warming house”, but on their next entrance they removed their towels and had leaves in both hands that they used to cover their private areas in a choreographed routine. I’m just not sure why that was necessary. I was quite distracted by it.

At one point I looked across the aisle and saw a women a little younger than me singing and smiling with reckless abandonment. That’s why we do it, folks. That face said it all. If you get a chance make sure you see this show. It’s that good!

Sunday.

On Sunday morning I attended a one day director’s workshop. Our speaker was Peter Flynn (most recently credit was directing an off-broadway production of Ragtime at the Ford theater.)

I should write a whole blog post about this one day. He was so fantastic! Here are the highlights:

  1. There are no absolutes.
  2. We don’t tell the story. We interpret the story.
  3. Directing a show is not about our comfort, but rather our clarity.
  4. Always remember we are in a service industry.
  5. Be specific and authentic.

And so much more…. He was so good.

Next I went to see Harry Potter parts One and Two. For more on that check out this video from The Potter Collector who joined me on this adventure! https://youtu.be/o8OqodytIDE

If you’ve seen any of these plays or have comments about Peter’s workshop make sure you leave a comment!

Until next time!

The Battle Known as Tech Week

I have been silent lately. There is a good reason. We opened our summer musical last Friday. The opening went great! The energy of the cast was spectacular and the audience laughed and enjoyed it and we even received a standing ovation! You might be thinking, “That’s all good, right? So why have you been silent?”

Tech Week.

For those of you involved in the theater you know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t well….there are no words.

Tech week is the week before a production opens. This is the week that all the remaining elements are added. (Lights, costumes, set pieces etc) In all fairness it is stressful for everyone involved. People who are normally the most loving and gracious begin to survive on coffee and energy drinks. No one wants to put pressure on anyone else but you can almost hear the very air surrounding you whispering, “When is that going to be done?” The cast who has been perfect starts to forget lines and not make entrances on time because we keep throwing new things at them–like costumes, lights and even new set pieces. And I begin to feel terrible. All these wonderful, talented people from designers to actors, from seamstresses to stage crew–I feel that I’m not giving them the very tool they need the most. Time. (Well, maybe help is a close second.)

Theater is a set of building blocks. The director sets the vision. The designers then create from that vision. Then people start sewing and building and lastly the technical elements can be put into place. Acting is the same. You build your character based on the building blocks of what you discover either from lines your character says or what other characters say about you. When the actor gets to step into costumes and make-up it is the last building block.

So you see why tech week is so important? It all comes together right at one critical moment.

Half way through the week I realize most of us have slept less than 15 hours all week and when they did sleep it wasn’t it their bed! Some of us haven’t even had time to shower. Anyone who walks into the theater is immediately put to work and we don’t even have time to go pick up the playbills.

It is truly a wonderful experience. I look around at all the people who sacrifice and pour their hearts into making the perfect set, having the perfect costumes, adding the magical technical aspects and I say, “Thank you.” Thank you, for loving theater, this theater.

Thank you to those actors who come in and walk the space and think through their lines in an effort to make sure their characters are performance ready. Thank you to the set artist, designers who repaint because the set just doesn’t look like they wanted it to. Thank you to the technical directors who rehang the snow machines because the snow doesn’t hit at just the right angle. It’s really a very special kind of passion.

The result? A beautiful powerful production that brings a laugh and hours of enjoyment to our audience. Those smiles make it all worthwhile. We are fortunate enough to have another benefit. The cast has become incredibly close. We have cried together, prayed together and rejoiced together. And on opening night we celebrate together.

I’m very thankful that these are the people who surround me.

If you haven’t seen it Seven Brides for Seven Brothers runs for three more weeks. overshadowed.org

Do you have any stories about tech weeks that you have experienced? Or tips to help survive one? I’d love to hear from you!