Monthly Archives: June 2022
This started out as a three sentence message that took on a life of its own. Forgive me. Everything in this is useful, even the typos, and some people know this stuff. Other people might not. But this is a good time for me to throw some ideas out that I think will be very, very useful for you.
I got a question today from the stalwart Number One (the stage manager, Anna Grace) about the schedule.
No fooling, I am genuinely pleased with this level of forward thinking and enthusiasm. That said, I am far enough away from getting into the nitty-gritty of it that I can predict anything with much certainty.
Our choreographer mentioned to me an interest in working with some people on dance in the summer. I don’t have particulars on that, but if you know what your in-town schedule will be for the next month or so, feel free to email me with it and I will pass it along. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Put in the subject line “drowsy chaperone (your last name) (role)”
So, I would put “Drowsy Chaperone McCray Director”
We are not requiring any sudden appearances that will upset summer plans. So that request is simply out there in case you happen to be in town and would be available to get an early start on dance.
My guess is that most people are interested in the fall rehearsal schedule because they are probably trying to plan regular appointments and things like that.
Generally, we try to reserve Fridays and Saturdays as our days off. That gives you a block of time from 3:35 Friday afternoon until 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon in case you need to take a short trip or something like that.
However, I also understand that many doctors and other professionals who have standing appointments like to cut out early on Fridays.
At the same time, if people are open to a different weekday afternoon being opened up instead of Friday, I am happy to hear suggestions. If your concerns are centered on making some sort of regular appointment, the first thing I would do is honestly investigate if the people on the other end of your appointment can do Friday afternoon. If that absolutely, positively cannot happen, and if those cannot be put on hold for a couple of months, I am open to pondering a different day in the week.
The caveats with that are these:
1. I cannot make a switch if it will inconvenience anyone who auditioned with the understanding that Friday afternoon would be free. We ask a lot of you, and one of the minimal things that we can do on our end is introduced as few curveballs as possible.
2. If we were to make a switch, it’s not going to be something that will probably help everyone. So, it would be a matter of, “OK, the day off is now going to be Wednesday instead of Friday, so if your appointment person can’t make Wednesday, I am out of options.”
If not Wednesday, whatever day that would actually be.
In short, if a different day will be helpful, let me know, but do so with the understanding that I may not be able to help, as much as I would like to. Secondly, try not to mention a specific weekday that would be good for you. Simply let me know that any weekday other than Friday would be preferable. And it might not be, in which case, no bother.
For what it’s worth, we would probably begin rehearsing around the second or third day of school. The first rehearsal is a read through, and my personal preference is to do that without music. (But I’m open to other approaches.) The readthrough is really important for everyone so that we all have an idea of the sound and plot of the show all together. It’s especially helpful for aural learners such as myself.
If we approach it like we did the past show, I will try to knock out all of the basic blocking in the days after that. Now, all blocking is subject to change as we figure out what this particular production of the show needs and will feel like, so it’s all in pencil. But it at least give us a basic shape. I usually like to block about 10 or fewer pages a day. Some directors do entire acts in a day. Some directors will spend weeks chatting with actors seated at a table before they even get up on their feet. There are many, many approaches, and sometimes they get chosen because of the nature of a particular show or even the nature of a particular cast. That said, the next week or week and a half after the readthrough is usually spent blocking.
After that, it’s hardcore music and dance for many weeks.
Because you often see the same numbers repeated on a schedule, it can be tempting to see them as redundant. You know, “look, I already went to two rehearsals for this number, so it’s OK if I duck out one.”
Please resist this thought and communicate that same message to anyone who might be providing rides for you. Songs and dance numbers really have to be burned into your muscle memory so that you can actually perform while doing them. Even if you feel like you are doing very little in a number, there are countless things that are dependent on your active participation in the moment. If you take even the smallest cog out of a clock, it stops working.
The point of rehearsal is not to get it right. The point of rehearsal is to make it impossible to get it wrong.
There will be times when you might be called to a number and you do very little, and you might wonder why you are there. Trust me, your presence and availability and participation in the moment can have a vast impact later on. We endeavor to make a good use of everyone’s time. At the same time, assembling a show might seem like a recipe with a cookbook and stages of creation, and in some ways it is. But it is also a creative endeavor, and that can require the same spontaneity and freedom that a writer or a painter or a composer has. If you approach the process of playbuilding with the principle in mind, you will position yourself to be an outstanding collaborator.
I had a teacher once said, “organization is just an excuse for bad art.“
I disagree with him on this in a number of ways, but I will tell you that overly regimented organization is absolutely no guarantee of good art. Think of your favorite song. Now imagine telling the person who wrote that that they could only use a given number of notes in composing it.
In managing a large group, there is a fine line between being helpfully flexible and making changes that end up upsetting more apple carts than they settle. But if there’s a genuinely better day out there, we want to create a routine that allows you to do your best. Anyway, if you have any thoughts on this, feel free to send me a text. 865-748-3636. And you can also use that if you have any questions about the show or performing in it as we stumble along. I’m always happy to hear from you.
Maybe over half of the world that Drowsy comes from is Vaudeville. If we don’t have a really deep idea of what that means, looked like, and sounded like, the show is going to really ring false.
Even just a couple of decades ago, we had a much clearer familiarity with the heritage of our entertainment culture. It’s important to regain that with a show like this. The writers of the show were extremely familiar with what they were satirizing, and that gave it the precision that makes it funny. When you’re doing a satire, a certain degree of imitation is really important. However, make sure that your source material is the same source material that the writers used. If your research (and for most of us, that means watching YouTube) involves watching scenes from other productions of the show, the most that you can hope for is a copy of a copy. The person who watches other productions more than they watch the source material is a person who will, at best, serve the audience the acting equivalent of a bologna sandwich. Technically it’s food, but even fans of bologna sandwiches will admit that they would rather be eating something else.
If you ever have access to a xerox machine, try making a photo copy of a picture for my book. Then, make a photocopy of the photo copy. Then, make a photocopy of the photo copy of the photo copy. every time, you’ll see that the picture gets blurrier and grainier. The same is true when a performer bases what they want to do on what other performers have done in the same part.
The most basic level of professionalism is showing up on time, knowing your lines, executing your blocking accurately, and taking direction. All of that is important. And it will certainly strengthen your craft, but it has nothing to do with art. It just has to do with getting stupid lifestuff stuff out of the way of art. But the layer of professionalism that turns a craftsperson into an artist has to do with really aggressively understanding and drawing inspiration from the actual source material of the world of the play. And all of the cultural stuff that is in orbit of it.
The good news is that all of that researchable stuff is right out there. The more of your culture that you know, the better you will be.