Saturday, January 29, 2005

Clovers Clovers Everywhere

Glory be! We have an accompaniment!
Through a friend of a friend, Janelle found someone who had laid down piano and drum tracks of the Seussical score for a high school in the area. After some negotiating, we got the CDs. It is such a relief to have the music we'll perform set and ready to go!
Although there is little room for improvising with pre-recorded accompaniments, I think it is a better option than a live orchestra at this level. It lets the focus stay on the actors and the story, instead of being caught up in slow-tempo, off-key music. Our school's orchestra department does a great job on their own, but accompaning a show is an entirely different matter.

We've also begun work on the clover blossoms for Horton. I bought $30 worth of yarn at Wal-Mart on Monday, and since then my TAs and anyone else who's bored have been converting that yarn into pom-poms. We're about two-thirds of the way through the yarn, and we've filled an army trunk with blossoms.

Next week, we start making puppets!

Monday, January 24, 2005

A boy, an egg, and an idea

Hello all!
I am here with a few remnant cast members - a Mrs. Mayor, a Gertrude, and a Horton. We are chatting about kissing and "friends" and Spamalot and punishments for the Hortons. I have decided (wielding my director's power as I do) that my Hortons need some character development. So, they will "get" to carry around their prop eggs for a while (classes and all), and their prop clover blossoms for a while. Oh, how I love causing embarrassment among my students!
Speaking of embarrassment, we are debating if we should add kissing to the show; specifically, Horton and Gertrude or Mr. and Mrs. Mayor. I've already relinquished my other trademarks for plays (huge fight scene and a guy in drag). But a show with no kissing? Hmm. That might mean I actually won't get pulled into the principal's office and yelled at by outraged parents for once....
Here, I'm going to type the dialogue going on as I am writing this post:

Gertrude: I think it's great that she's making you (Horton) carry around an egg!
Horton: (taking my candy jar hostage) This is my new egg!
Mrs. Mayor: You know what I didn't know? That white thing inside the egg is the umbilical cord! You know that white thing that floats!
Me: Horton, you want to say anything else?
Horton: Me?
Mrs. Mayor: No, the other Horton.
Horton: Um... let's see.
Mrs. Mayor: I really didn't know that.
Horton: That's why you should get the unfertilized ones.
Mrs. Mayor: That's when they're raw. Yuck. That's gross.
Me: Hold on! Talk slower so I can type.
Gertrude: That's why I'm the smart one. I'm not talking.
Horton: (finding a cardboard poster tube next to my garbage can) What's this for?
Me: Some posters I got in the mail.
Mrs. Mayor: Oh my gosh, look at Horton.
Horton: (has inserted his arm into the tube and is now dancing)
Mrs. Mayor: Domo arigato
Gertrude: (joining in) Mister Roboto!
Horton: (whacks Mrs. Mayor with the tube)
Mrs. Mayor: Ow!

So, you see what kind of fun we have when I don't lock them out of my classroom after rehearsal. So much for grading the English papers I promised to hand back last week. Whoops.
See, this is why it would be a good thing if I only taught theater.

FYI, we rehearsed "Chasing the Whos" today sans sheet music (we forgot to copy it). It actually went really well! The chorus is finally picking up sound. Until we put them up on stage, that is. Oh well. 7 weeks to go!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Here's our set design! (copyright 2005)

The staircase pivots side to side....

Like this! Cool, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Checking In

Hello all!

It seems like it's been a while since I've written. We had a three day weekend with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (yea!), during which I went to see House of Flying Daggers (excellent fight scenes and coloration, as usual; but I liked Hero better).
Tuesday marked Day 1 of 3rd quarter at school, aka second semester. It was an English day for me (as opposed to a Theatre day, that is), and we kick started our unit on the Holocaust with a pretty good round of small group activities and discussions. Oh, we also had a warm-up discussion on the significance of MLK, Jr's work. To quote one of my beloved students "Martin Luther King is important because he made it so we don't have slavery today."
Oy I say.
Today was the first Drama day of the new semester, which meant I had two new classes. Big classes. My Drama 1 classes now number at 41 students and 38 students. Thank goodness we're on block schedule. Otherwise, it would take us the better part of a week just to get through monologue performances.
For Advanced Drama today, I took my students to see "Steel Magnolias" at the PTC. They actually really enjoyed it (yes, even the boys). It's great to see that they have progressed enough to really enjoy a good production, even if it's not your typical teenage fare.

As for Seussical, I spent yesterday's rehearsal working with some of the leads on their solo parts. We had fun - we were able to start doing some minor blocking and character work. The bigger achievement was that we directors made up a rehearsal calendar. It actually looks like we can get it all done in time!
(Mark those words - chances are I'll be recanting them later....)


Friday, January 14, 2005

They Made Me Stop

Week one - done!
We've spent the week working on the music for the show. "Seussical" is close to an operetta in the amount of singing, so we (Janelle and I) decided to dedicate the first month of rehearsals just to learning the songs. Unfortunately, this makes things a little boring for the kids (one hour of the same task!). I think it'll improve as they learn more of the music and find the fun in it.
Today (Friday) was a student non-attendance day, which I look forward to. It's amazing how much I can accomplish in a virtually empty school. To my dismay, though, I found out that the custodians would be locking up the school four hours earlier than I had planned. There goes my plans to finish the rehearsal calendar and costume designs in time to hand out on Tuesday!

I called my parents as I drove away from school at 2:00, having been escorted from my classroom to the door by the janitors in their efforts to get rid of me. As I complained about my principal's lack of consideration for teachers who need days like today to get things done, my dad pointed out that I was complaining about getting off work early.
So I made the best of it. I spent an hour browsing at Borders, then went to a matinee of "A Very Long Engagement".

(Quick review of "A Very Long Engagement": I do like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tautou's film-making, but Amelie is better. This was too much of a war movie for my taste. There are some lovely shots, though. It was particularly fun to play the "Hey, I've been there!" game. For example, see the photos attached below....)

Mom and Dad enjoying their meal at a restaurant recommended by Jackie (Dad's godfather).

A better shot of the interior of said restaurant in Paris. (Look familar, movie goers?)

And a picture of our waiter there.

Monday, January 10, 2005

And Thus We Begin.

I got to school this morning at 7:20 - 10 minutes before the students are allowed into the building. My plan was to laminate the cast list before posting it, to prevent "jokes" written by the passing crowds. So, after being ambushed by one of my auditioners in the parking lot as I pulled into a space, I headed straight to the office and switched on the laminator.

It took 11 minutes to warm up.

Papers laminated, I wedged my way down the hall, hearing the shouts as I neared the auditorium doors - "There she is! She's coming!" The crowd parted and I taped the papers to the door, then barely made my way out of the crowd as it surged forward to look. Cheers, shouts across the hall - "You made it!" "You're Mayzie!" Etc. The cell phones come out as kids call home. Fortunately, I don't see too many kids in tears or visibly upset- I always dread that part.

I did hear of some dissention in the ranks - kids saying we played favorites, casting students from my Advanced Drama class primarily. So the question - do we address these feelings or ignore them? I asked Janelle (the choir teacher) , and we decided to talk to the cast about it.
The thing is, I know it can help to have something like that to believe in. If you can blame the rejection (i.e. not being cast how you want) on a more external factor, it's easier to deal with.
But we didn't play favorites. All three of us directors collaborated on the decisions. There may be some benefit to having me as a drama teacher, since that means a) I have seen more of your talent over the semester/year and b) you have direct training in how to audition. However, many of my students ended up as extras and many students I have never had in class made bigger roles. The thing is, it's just up to the directors. That's the thing that sucks about auditions - you are being judged by people who won't or can't tell you why you're just not right.

Ug. Empathy.

The rehearsal went well, though. We reviewed what the characters are/do, handed out scripts, and started working on "Oh the Thinks" (the opening song). There is so much excitement and creativity surging through these kids!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Cast Away!

After three and a half hours of call-backs, and two and a half hours of deliberations, we've cast our show!

Having been there myself, I feel bad about making the kids wait over a weekend to find out the results. They were rather anxious, too. A group of them seemed determined to wait it out at school to see the cast list Friday. They gave us about ten minutes after we had dismissed them from the call backs before they sent one of my stage crew guys into the auditorium to ask us if we were done yet. When I tried to break up the group and send them home after discovering them in the hallway (still) a half-hour later, they begged to know the casting. I told them we were so far from being done that I would be typing up the cast list over the weekend. In dismay they thought about that for a moment, then asked if they could call me at home Saturday to find out the casting.
Aren't they cute....

The cast list is finished, though. Now comes the tricky part - waking up early enough on Monday to get to school before the students are allowed in the building. :)

By the way - with 152 in our show, that means over 1 out of every 10 students at our school will be Seussified for the next 10 weeks!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Onward to Call-Backs

Hours spent at school today: 13
Number of students who auditioned: 158
Number of students we called back for tomorrow: 46 (24 females, 22 males)
Height of two of the loudest female singers: 4'9"
Number of male students who acturately performed the entire dance: 1

So after 8 hours (spread over 2 days), we're now done with phase one of auditions! There were a lot of pleasant surprises. Some of my students have really grown between their auditions last year and what we saw this week. It's really interesting to see both talent and confidence increase over time. I also loved seeing the few students who have done the previous two after-school shows I directed at KJHS ("A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Guys and Dolls"). Not many 7th graders were in "Midsummer", and I find I have a soft spot in my heart for my "veterans". This show marks the first one with students who have been in shows all three years of their being at school here - an accomplishment for both them and me, I think!

Tomorrow we cast!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Auditions - Day 2

Alright. I now have an enormous stack of audition forms sitting on my desk at school (and a very furry kitty sitting on my lap right now). The great thing about this is the excitment in the air - the school is buzzing with kids talking about their auditions and talking their friends into trying out, too. Each of my English classes today wanted to talk about the show, and I know we'll be spending at least part of each Drama class tomorrow going over the dance and song auditions. I really am excited about this show, though. Far more than I was for "Guys and Dolls" last year. Strange.

So tomorrow the official auditions begin. According to the sign-up list, we've got auditions straight through from 3:00-7:30 both days. Oy!

By the way, my sister pointed out a rather pertinent piece of information I forgot to mention. The name of the show we're doing is "Seussical the Musical". :)


Monday, January 03, 2005

A Lemony Snicket-ish picture of the author.... Posted by Hello

Auditions - Day 1

Welcome to my Blog! Given the "adventures" I've had directing my last few shows, I thought I might chronicle the process of KJHS' latest.

Today, Monday, marks the first official day. Really, it began last August when we applied for the rights to do this show. However, today we began auditions.

Auditions actually take a week in our program. The first two days are for getting the information and learning the song and the dance. Wednesday and Thursday are auditions; Friday is call-backs, and Monday we post. So while the actual auditions aren't quite underway yet, today was good just to get some ideas.

Guessing from the number of blank audition forms left in the stack, I'd say we had about 150 kids show up to audition today. I was glad to see a good showing from my English classes, including some kids I didn't expect to be interested. Those are always fun discoveries.

The girls learned the dance and the guys learned their song today. And they sounded good!

All in all, things are looking good for the start. While I do dread casting (having been there myself, I hate making rejections), it also gives a nice feeling of coming together. Plus, after five months of planing, I finally get to focus on this show! (I just have to remember that I also teach English....)

So, check back again. Although the early hours of work have gone well, I can almost guarantee you that there'll be stories to tell. Who knows though? Maybe I'll actually get to direct a show here without having a lead drop out/be kicked out hours before a show!