Coming Soon

Coming soon:

OurBestPosterBoard

Here’s a little graphic I put together about my upcoming show. It’s a collection of comedic and dramatic sketches I’ve written over the past seven years. My good friend Doug is directing Act I while I have the helm for Act II.

It’s going to be a bittersweet look back of what we have accomplished from an ensemble standpoint. Typically, RLT maxes out at 12 members, but we extended the casting for this very special show, and it’s worked out great. I have some directing insight I want to share on a later post. I’m finally figuring out what kind of director I am.

Oh, and look: Could that be our sometimes movie review guest columnist Inha Kim in the middle of that photo? Could be.

I can’t wait for this show: May 12-13 @ penangpac.

4 Weeks Off! Do you remember your lines?

Typically, when I’m directing a play, we will meet to do (hopefully) the whole play once a week. Then in the last month before the show, we ramp up the number of hours significantly and we’ll be ready.

This time was strange. In the past four weeks, there are certain scenes we haven’t practiced at all. At all! That’s not good!

What is the issue? Well, just the crazy school life we all live. We had Spring Break which took out a week. We had a photoshoot that took out another week. The other week we didn’t get through the whole thing. So today, I found my cast in the position of doing some scenes for the first time in 4 weeks! YIKES!

How’d we do? Not bad, considering. Lines are still memorized, except for an occasional needed prompt. The blocking needed work, but overall I’m pleased with the progress we had during out time of lack of progress.

Everything changes this Saturday as we’ll be having our first of three, all day Saturday practices leading up to the show.

The first Saturday must accomplish the following:

  • Do the complete script, front to back, twice.
  • Map out final blocking.
  • Map out lighting map.
  • Final list of props needed.
  • Work and re-work the final scene which is challenging because everyone’s on stage and a lot is going on. So far, it’s been terrible. But we’ll get there.

If we can accomplish all of this on Saturday, we’ll  be in good shape.

Have I told you how excited I am about this script? “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”

Three shows, May 13-14 @ the Penang Performing Arts Center.

Can’t wait!

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Mega Season is Upon Us

Each year for my drama group the RLT Players (Road Less Traveled Players), I institute mega-practices. A mega-practice is simply an extra-long, nitty-gritty practice focused on one particular short sketch for a show. Our new show coming up in December has 10 original sketches we are working on. Therefore, we will have 10 different mega practices to focus particularly on one of those. As I was organizing my binders, getting ready for our newest mega practice, I came across my mega practice notes from last year. Here’s what they looked like.

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What’s all included in those notes?

Title of Sketch (this photo was for “A Pinch of Fate” and “More Heart, Less Attack.”

Stage layout – you’ll see the triangular stage that we employ with RLT.

Running Time – I keep a list of running times, so we see if we are improving with firming up the sketch. Nothing is worse than a 6 minute piece which takes 8 minutes.

Performance notes – words like “enunciate,” “slow-down,” etc… – where the blocking went wrong.

We’ll work each piece for about 2 hours, and if we have done well, by the end of that time we will have succeeded in solidifying the piece and we will at that point be ready to perform it.

As you can imagine, 10 mega practices take a lot of time. That’s why we start them in September for a December show. The actors are required to walk into a mega-practice with their lines for that sketch completely memorized.

This same procedure could be done with a full-length play as well – having a mega practice per scene, if you will.

This is a procedure I have found to work very well. Chunk the pieces, get one done, maintain it overtime, and by show date, you’ll be ready to role.

Casting: The Worst Job in Theatre

I direct plays at the high school level. Why I haven’t “hired” someone to do my casting for me I’ll never know. In this type of setting, there’s nothing worse.

Pitting my own regular actor against my own regular actor. When we do large second semester productions, it’s like putting family member against family member when my tight-knit drama group, The RLT Players, audition against each other.

It’s excruciating.

I just came back from a call-back where I had to choose between two young, talented actors – one being my daughter. (I know, I know. I should have recused myself. But as director, I do want to have a say.) Oh well, I’ll take the blame no matter what happens. That’s the nature of a casting director.

I can’t imagine a person wanting a job where their main goal is crush people’s dreams. Granted, you get a lot of thank you’s along the way, but you turn down far more than are ever accepted.

You know what I do? I tend to think everyone needs to have a role, so I do my best to get as many people as possible involved. The musical we are doing this coming year, “A Tad of Trouble,” has 12 characters. Well, I’ve added four understudies, then I’m adding an angel chorus of 10 or so and then through some dancers in the mix and we are going to be hitting about 30 people or so – a record for one of my productions.

But no matter how many people I make happy, there are some who will never be satisfied.

That’s a good thing. An actor should never be content with a role until they get the role they want. Use that angst and dissatisfaction to fuel the future. Hurl those insults at the casting director (I can take it, even though I’m a nice person and don’t like it).

Now can I put all this behind me and produce a new show.

Let the fun begin, because there was nothing fun about casting.

Oops! My fault: A Director’s Mea Culpa

My new show opens in one week. It’s a series of 10 individual dramatic sketches. As I watched all ten performed as a whole on Monday, I realized that one of them was bad. Really bad.

It’s not the script. Actually, it’s an award-winning script which will soon be performed in Sydney. No, it wasn’t the scripts fault.

So what was the problem.

It’s easy to blame the actors. They are the ones performing it, right? They are the ones in the spotlight. If the intensity or timing isn’t there, that’s on them, isn’t it?

No.

It hit me on Monday evening that the fault rested entirely on me, the director.  And so I told them Monday we needed to meet today and plug up the many holes. Yep, it was my fault.

I often joke with my actors that when the lights come up, my job is done and I sit in the back next to the exit, ready to make a quick escape if something goes wrong. Hands off, I say. But like it or not, a director’s hands are all over a production and if it doesn’t work, chin up and take the tomato in the face.

When a script is good (and this one is) and the actors are talented (yes, this not a problem either) then there’s only one person to blame.

So I got myself back in the game today to figure out what could be done. First, we tightened everything. The dialogue has got to zip. We worked on the chemistry between the actors. Much better. We repeatedly worked timing on three of the more technical scenes which live or die with perfectly sequenced sound effects and actions. Then we put it all together and turned on the stopwatch.

We shaved off a whopping 2 minutes, or 18% from the running time! That’s huge, and suddenly the script started to soar for the first time. At the end of our hour and a half, I was quite pleased at our progress and we are once again ready to insert it into our lineup as an asset, not a drag.

Sometimes there is nothing to do but blame yourself, but make sure you don’t stop there. Reassess, readjust, rework, and get back in the game. It’s the only way to improve, and that’s what we are all striving for, isn’t it?

The Purpose of Dress Rehearsals

I’ve been directing stage plays for seven years now. I’m no professional, and I’ve learned a lot throughout the years. Dress rehearsals are the emotional peak that every director has to scale before a new show. Once it arrives and the actors poke through the clouds and stand on that emotional peak, a director’s job is, in essence, over. Not officially, of course. There will still be production meetings before each subsequent show, but the main work is done. Everything now rests in the laps of the actors.

Dress rehearsals accomplish a few important items. First, there’s the technical aspects of the dress rehearsal that must be perfected. In our productions, oftentimes, dress rehearsal is the first and only time the actors performing at the actual venue. This is, of course, stressful because the stage is different. We are working with lighting we haven’t seen yet and it takes hours for the actors to get familiar and comfortable in their new surroundings. As a director, I have to make this happen, step by step walking through the set, the new blocking, and the lighting scheme with everyone. I’ll be at the venue for many hours with the tech crew prior to the casts arrival.

Once the technical aspects of the performance is clear, I have to encourage the cast that they can, indeed, do this. And this, for me, is the ultimate meaning of dress rehearsal. Its instilling in the cast the idea that the show is now theirs -they are in control – they can be successful – they are prepared for anything to happen. This last point is key. In live theatre, the unexpected can happen at anytime. Dress rehearsal is instilling in the cast that they can overcome any obstacle, be it a missed line, a broken prop, or smudged make-up. No matter what is thrown at them, the show must go on.

I’ve had shows where the electricity went off in the final act. Yes, it was awkward. But the show must go on.

I’ve had shows where actors completely blanked out on stage.

I’ve had shows where actors forgot to bring a crucial prop on to stage.

I’ve had shows where a singer started off-key, or a backdrop started to fall. In this particular case, a quick thinking person backstage stood on a chair and held up the backdrop in excruciating pain until the end of the show.

This is what dress rehearsals teach – no matter what, the actors and crew can handle it.

So I love it when dress rehearsals are finished because my job is done. I can sit in the audience and enjoy the show and the actors can relax and have fun on stage.

Here’s to dress rehearsal day! Our show opens tomorrow.

An Indie-Author-Drama-Director Wannabe

I love writing.

No secret there. I love crafting stories, but I also love writing plays.

And then I love producing those plays and bringing them to the stage.

I have no business being a drama director. I have had no formal training in theatre and don’t pretend to know much.

But experience is quite a good teacher.

I have had the distinct privilege to find myself in a position where I not only get to write plays and musicals and whatever I like, but I, simply by the fact that I was in the right place at the right time and said “yes”, also get to bring them to light with a wonderful group of talented actors.

They deserve better than me; that’s for sure.

But I’ve never let a lack of credentials stop me from doing what I love. And as I have said, there is something to be said for experience.

I am now only three weeks away from producing and directing my eleventh full-length theatrical production which I have either written or co-written.

My, how we improve! And learn. And grow. And make mistakes.

But it is the process which makes it all worth it. It’s the smiling faces on the actors, the laughs we elicit from each other during rehearsal, and ultimately the buzz that I hear from them when I crack the curtain and check in on them during intermission. There truly is nothing like the theatre to stand your nerves on end and to elicit emotional responses which you never would have expected.

Theatre is a mirror into our lives, and I cherish every minute I get to spend writing, producing, and rehearsing with this amazing group of kids.

There is a long way yet for me to go, but I’m so happy how far I’ve already come. I never want to stop learning, and I hope no matter where I go from here in the future that the theatre will always be apart of my life.

Twenty-two days until the world premiere of “Boardwalk Melody: An Original Musical.”

I simply can’t wait.

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