Even more things that will happen in rehearsal….

So… You are into rehearsal and things seem to be going well – or are they?

Sometimes this happens… you think everyone’s happy, but they aren’t. And they aren’t telling you. There can be lots of reasons for this, and there’s actually no point going into all those reasons, cause you’ll never list them all, but the point is – you need to have your Spidey-Sense tingling so that you are aware if there are disgruntled members of your cast/crew. You might not be able to do anything about it – but awareness is the key.

Illness can do it. If they feel sick, or tired or worn out or under-appreciated, (or any other version of illness that you can imagine), that can affect their mood and contribution to the project. Remember, any show should be uplifting, not a drag, no matter whether it is professional or amateur/volunteer. If someone is coming to the process and for whatever reason, they’d rather not be there, that will affect the positive atmosphere. Be ready to question it, and then, be ready to do something to affect change. That can be hard part. But, believe me, it’s worth it!

Lots of things can contribute to the atmosphere, and while it may seem like a big deal, you do need to pay attention to, and manage, the atmosphere. Plan an outing, arrange a potluck, ask people out for drinks or bring in some snacks. Even the smallest thing can make a really big difference, so do the little stuff, cause it can help you in the long run.


Some thoughts for people holding auditions… (make your job easier)

Auditions are HARD!!! For EVERYONE!!!

People always think about the folks up there showing they can sing, dance, act or whatever… but it is just as hard and nerve-wracking for the people who are casting the show – the ones who supposedly, “hold all the cards!” It isn’t easier on that side of the table at all!

Here’s a few tidbits of advice from my experiences….

1) TELL PEOPLE!!! What’s the point of auditions if no one knows you are having them? You need a lot of people for any show – even a simple little two hander. You want choice, right? You want selection? You want word of mouth? TELL PEOPLE! Don’t hold secret auditions. Don’t have them on a tough weekend, like a holiday or when the super sale at the mall starts… pick a good time – far enough in the future and PROMOTE IT!


2) Tell people what the show IS! Sure it might have a title they recognize, but maybe it is a different version, or maybe you are planning to set it post-apocolyptic, (please don’t), or maybe you want TWICE as many actors as normal… if you don’t TELL THEM…. they won’t come.

3) Hold the auditions at convenient times. Evenings and Weekends work for community theatre – and make sure to mix that up. Don’t do just a weekend or just the evenings. Give people multiple chances to get out to see you. You need them, don’t you?

4) DON’T hold the auditions too far away from the show. You are only hurting yourself. If your show is in December, seriously, what is the point of auditions in January? So much can happen to people in between the time of the audition and when rehearsals start. Heck, they might even forget they are in your show! About 4-5 months before your show is fine, with rehearsals starting shortly after you cast it – but remember, if they don’t know about it, it doesn’t matter when you hold the auditions.

5) TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE!!! If it is singing – tell them what style. Provide examples if you can. Do they need to dance? Tell them. Be ready to teach that. Do you want a monologue? Comedy routine? Improv sessions? Don’t be afraid to shake it up and do something different – just be ready to answer their questions – cause they’ll have them!

6) Make your requests make sense for the show. Don’t ask for a WICKED inspired power ballad if you are doing a Shakespeare, and if the show is comedic, what IS the point of a classical monologue? Seriously, know what you are looking for when you prepare that audition statement.

7) Sit down with your team and discuss your dream cast. When I say dream cast – I mean it. Dream big! Who would you cast from all time of all the famous actors you and your team know? Build that EPIC cast list, (with options) and know what it is you are hoping to see walk through that door. Be ready though – cause it just might! OR – even more exciting – something you didn’t expect will show up and knock your socks off!!! Be ready for that.


8) Prepare your banter. Know what you plan to say to each candidate and be ready with that. Have questions. Read their sheets/resumes/questionnaires. They took the time to come out and fill out those forms, have something you’d like to know about them. Be curious. Be genuinely interested in them because they are genuinely interested in you and your project. It’s the least you can do.

9) Be ready for the hard decisions. Here’s where it gets tough. The person you thought would really “bring it” might not. The unexpected will happen. Be prepared with challenges for your actors so you can know who is really going to deliver and make the project exactly what you want it to be. Don’t waste their time. They are there, working in front of you and delivering their level best. Challenge them. Have the callback materials ready – KNOW what you want to see. Then have the guts to make the tough decision and stick by it. Whatever happens. It isn’t easy. Art is never easy.

10) This should really be the FIRST thing you do… and I shouldn’t even have to put it here, but I do, cause you’d be surprised…. READ THE SCRIPT. Read it again. And then read it a third time. Make sure EVERYONE on your team has a copy. And do your best to give them time to read it. Discuss it. Have questions ready. Solve problems with it before you even audition. And if, for some strange reason, you don’t have the script and you are heading into auditions… what are you doing? Wait. Get the script. Read it. It’s the only way to be certain you are ready for the project and your people who are investing their time are also ready.

These are just a FEW tips. Do you have more? Mention them in the comments below.

How to “stay professional” when kids make you laugh…

Laughter the best medicine

I think it’s impossible. I do. Plus, I think it’s a waste of time. Kids are funny.

Like today… we’ve got a special event that’s pulled a number of folks out of the class, so we’ve chosen to watch High School Musical – it is a music class and they are singing along, so it’s all good. But at least one of them knows every word and is saying all the lines with the film. They are singing along and enjoying the character relationships. “Everyone loves a good jazz square…” I mean really – how cute is that?

What I mean is, people are funny, aren’t they? And laughter is the best thing to help you through your day. So, why should we have to be “serious” around students all the time?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very rarely serious when it comes to my students. We play all day – it’s a great job. But I know some folks who are never NOT serious when it comes to their job. And I think a little play time is necessary.

It keeps you young.

Just sayin’.

What makes the best…?(Part 7)

Music Director


A good musician can play their instrument – well. They can interpret music and convey meaning to the audience to help them feel something during the listening. A good musician can even teach another musician how to do the same. A Music Director needs to have all of these skills and more. They need to be a leader and be able to guide others to their own level of excellence. A Music Director needs to know the show they are working on inside out and backwards, they need to be able to bring the music to life, while teaching those who may never have read music before how to convey what they are reading to an audience.

A Music Director is in the Director’s corner and has his/her back on the artistic decisions that affect the show. They know how to take that vision and translate it into the music and make it workable for the singers, dancers and the musicians. It’s not an easy task. It’s a lot of people with varying skills and levels of confidence. And a really great Musical Director – by the end of the show has made all of those involved feel like they’ve performed better than ever before.

Some Music Directors also assemble the band – most do, as a matter of fact. They source the parts for those musicians to play and sometimes even arrange or re-write those parts. Music Directors frequently deal with inadequate to illegible scores sent by publishing companies who seem to feel that music is less important and does not require any of their time or effort to make readable. It astonishes me the amount of times I’ve worked with a score that is rife with errors, typos, incorrect lyrics and musical “infractions”. While typos are bad, and really inexcusable from publishing companies, a typo in a music score has the potential to really derail any rehearsal – depending upon the level of confusion that the mistake can create. This can range from one note being out of place and deciphered by smart musicians in a matter of minutes, to entire songs having different lyrics and arriving in different keys for the instrumentalists who are playing or the vocalists who are singing the song! (And yet, the publishers still expect payment for these!?!). Here’s the deal, a really great Musical Director can solve all of these problems, or even head them off at the pass before the rest of the company even needs to deal with them.

It’s a big job – but somebody’s got to do it!

5, 6, 7, 8!

The beginning of the rehearsal process is filled with trepidation and not just for the actors. The creative team have a lot of questions that they have to answer and they’ve got to be ready for all manner of problems with the script, the score, the rehearsal space – whatever… but hopefully they’ve got a handle on it all and have begun their plans, right? Of course they have.

They’ve copied their scripts, they’ve got the scores, (or at least they are on order), the set is sketched out and costumes are being measured and the choreography is… well… in the choreographers head.

That’s right, there’s generally no guide for the choreographer. No score, no script, no nothing. Except those words in the script that say… [they dance], or in the case of a Shakespeare… [they fight]

So, where does it all come from? And how can you be sure it’s gonna be good? Where’s the inspiration? How is it written out, taught, rehearsed, remembered? Well, sometimes all that’s a tall order to fill.

Just the other week, I began giving some choreography to a group of actors and before I’d begun a step, one of them said, (not too quietly either), “Oh, no, not another jazz square…” Well, the following step was NOT going to be a jazz square, but that little statement epitomizes the challenge of choreography. If an actor’s line in a script is silly or a note is difficult to sing, it isn’t the Director or Music Director’s doing. Sure, the actor can discuss it with them, and perhaps a solution can be found, or sense can be made of it, but if the actor doesn’t like the choreography, well, generally that came directly from the choreographer. Sure, some shows have film versions and some choreographers will lift directly from that source, but generally, I find, they like to create anew, and it can be a pretty daunting task. There’s nothing in the script to guide them – save for the odd stage direction. The only thing they’ve got is the music and often there isn’t a complete version of that. If there IS a complete recording, that can be a godsend. Otherwise it’s just the score, but some choreographers don’t read music and that will make it even more challenging.

It’s always fun to surprise people with something fun and inventive – your cast, your crew, your audience and your colleagues. I know how to read choreography and if I I’m surprised or thrilled by something on a stage, then that means I had an entertaining read at that performance. I’m always striving to provide the same for my colleagues who choreograph – and that means as few jazz squares as possible. And if you don’t know what a jazz square is… well then, you’ve probably never done a musical.

So, now… I’ve got to go find some inspiration for a dance number – again. With NO jazz squares.

Dance a Cachucha – Gondoliers Choreography MTP 2009