Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Divas: Directorial Post-Mortem

The Divas singing their fabulous hearts out on "I'm a Woman" - the opening number!

Director Diva with her music and Blackberry saying "Can we get a follow spot here?"

Last weekend, I made my directorial debut. No, I didn't premiere a huge tap musical to sold out audiences for a four-week run. It was a much smaller scale than that, but still a very worthwhile experience from which I learned a lot.

Every summer, Denton Community Theatre puts on a summer fundraiser. For the past six years-ish, it's been a musical revue of sorts. For three years, it was called Bravo for Broadway, and it was an invitation-only concert of new and old Broadway songs performed by some of the local favorites. The next three years (including this year), it was called Encore! and featured local actors reprising songs they sang within the context of the shows when they were performed as mainstage productions.

For the summer 2010 version of Encore, we decided to celebrate all of the gloriously talented women our little town has had to offer over the past decades. I was asked to come on board for two reasons. One was because I'd had an idea to do a similar One for Mahler performance as a fundraiser for Anna's and my Susan G. Komen 3-Day minimum fundraising goal, so the seeds of a "divas" concert were already growing in my head. Secondly, the managing director of DCT was asked to direct it, and he had also never directed a show before. Apparently he valued my opinions and knowledge enough to ask me to come on board and head up this process (as well as perform in the production) and, after some thought, I graciously accepted.

We met a few times, compiled a list of women we'd love to see come and perform, sent out the emails, gathered up all the "yes!" answers, found a production team, and Encore III: The Divas! was born. Act I was to be comprised of songs from any show that DCT has produced in it's 40-year history, as well as a song from each of the 3 musicals in it's upcoming 41st season (in order to keep up the "encore" theme), performed by ladies in the cast. Act II was when we let the Divas pick their own song...something they could really cut loose and wail on.

The thing about the summer fundraiser that makes it so difficult is that there is very little preparation time. Mike and I, along with our musical and technical design team, met several times in the months leading up to June 21st, but we only had one week of actual rehearsal in the performance space to put together a beautiful, seamless production.

At the end of the day, we definitely succeeded. I am still getting emails and Facebook messages about how much people enjoyed watching, performing in, and working backstage for this production. I know I enjoyed being a part of the ROCKING group number to start each show ("I'm a Woman" from Smokey Joe's Café) as well as singing my two solos ("Moonfall" from The Mystery of Edwin Drood in Act I and "Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden in Act II) and working with some incredibly talented women.

However, I won't be lining up to direct a show again any time soon, I don't think.

At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant, I will say that I think I did a pretty bang-up job, overall. I had some good ideas, learned how to wrangle a group of people and face LOTS of different ideas, opinions, attitudes, and the ever-present "too many cooks" problem with grace and professionalism...mostly. Okay, I did lose my temper once, but nobody's perfect, right? RIGHT?! :) I was treated with respect by people who suddenly had to have me as a director when they were a peer/castmate only weeks before. I was humbled by the gratitude and sweetness of the performers, overall. It was in no way a negative experience.

I am very tired now, though, and just ready for a great big vacation from the theatre. Having to balance all the production emails, cast member emails, organization and planning with the responsibilities of my day job, learn my OWN music/lyrics, and still remember that as soon as it was over I had to go back to another rehearsal process for my next project was just too much. Being at the theatre until 1am and back up at 7:30 for work the next day. Having to eat a quick, unhealthy dinner (or no dinner sometimes) and skip the gym so I could be at the theatre to run through some logistics before the actors arrived. Too. Much.

I've started to associate the theatre -- my second home, the place I love and the venue in which I can express myself artistically on a fairly regular basis -- with stress and exhaustion. Booo. I'm fairly sure that this is going to be VERY short-lived, but it definitely could not have come at a better time. Next week I will be on vacation from all things work and rehearsal, and I think I desperately need it.

I feel like this is coming across as negative and/or ungrateful for the opportunity, and that is VERY MUCH NOT the case at all. I had a really great experience, and I gained a lot of respect for my past and current directors, musical directors, vocal coaches, and designers since I had to fill all of those shoes in at least a tiny way throughout this process. That knowledge and respect of what all they do is invaluable to me now, and will change the way I behave and act as a performer from now on. I also got to sing some KICK. ASS. SONGS with some incredibly talented women.

But for now? Just give me my blocking and my notes and I'll quietly write them in my script and say "thank you." :) I'm ready to go back to just being a performer!

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