Friday, January 20, 2012

I Must Begin My Journey

One of my various bosses said to me a few years ago, “Aren’t all theater people just naturally full of drama?” I bristled so over that, and it still bothers me now. I, myself, like things calm and tidy and happy, and when drama happens in my little theater families, there is never a part of me that looks on from the sidelines, excited for the adventure of solving the problem or reveling in the action. (Not to say that I don’t enjoy a bit of theater gossip about other people…I totally do. But I am always glad when it’s not at all affecting me.)

This show started out calmly enough, quite drama-free, with a very exciting audition workshop that was full of enthusiasm and positive energy. Auditions went great, even though everyone who walked through the door knew that half of them would not be cast. (We are doing this one true to the script – no ensemble or anything. I did cast a person as Milky White, but more on that later.) At auditions, there were some standouts, particularly the girl who was cast as the Witch, a junior, who had the single best high school audition I have ever seen for anything, anywhere. It was thrilling to watch her rise and conquer with such apparent ease, and every single person there knew, when they left, that she would get the part. Oh, how I love when it’s that easy. The guys were much harder to cast, and it took some long discussion on the casting board to weigh the pros and cons of each person in each role. We finished, though, and I left feeling glad that most of my seniors were going to be happy, and that there wasn’t anyone that I would truly devastate.

I’m generally quick in my casting, instinctive and decisive, and I very nearly always do it in one day, and email the list that night. There is the time between making the decisions with the team, to then getting home, getting into my pajama pants, pouring the chardonnay, composing the thank you all for coming I wish I could cast you all blah blah blah email, and hitting send. That part of the drama I like, actually. That breathless moment just before, when everyone still feels like anything can happen and they still have a chance. Then I hit send, and the destinies for a major important piece of each kid’s year are determined. By me. And then I duck and cover. It used to be that I was friends with the high school kids on Facebook, so I could immediately eavesdrop on the buzz, the proclamations, the bitching, but I am not allowed to be “friends” with them now until they graduate. Which, believe me, is really just as well.

Then, often kids will email me back with a thank you or a hooray or a what-did-I-do-wrong, which I answer appropriately, and then I trudge wearily to sleep, still wound and worried. Excited and scared. The next day, when the parent emails and phone calls come, as they inevitably do, I try to handle them with grace and compassion. Sometimes I am better at that than others. This particular show, because of the intensity of the kids’ enthusiasm for it, and because of the fact that the fall musical cast was so large and so many kids wanted to come back, I had more of those interactions than usual. It was draining, and in one case made me very sad, but it’s part of the job.

One mom, however, of a freshman girl who was not cast, wrote to me about how her child had so enjoyed the audition experience, and tried out despite major conflicts just for the learning, and how the group of seniors that are our leaders are so inspiring and kind and supportive, and congratulated me for building a group that everyone wants to be a part of. It turned out that this freshman girl was actually very spectacular, and had she not had conflicts, she very well might have gotten the part of Little Red Ridinghood over the sophomore who ultimately earned the role. And not because her Mommy was nice to me, either.

Rehearsals began, and immediately exceeded expectations. The kids so far are very serious, totally committed, and seem to understand how very ambitious it is for all of us to expect that we can pull of a very complicated Sondheim musical in less than two months. But they’re all in it, a little more than ankle deep in the journey so far.

In the dramatic way that dramatic things happen in drama clubs, several days ago, the girl who is playing Little Red discovered an immovable conflict for the second night of the show. Due to the nature of “theater people,” as my former boss had explained, by all rights I should have been doing some serious freaking out. But I didn’t. Because generally speaking, I don’t. I talked it over with my Zen Master Musical Director (more on the wonders of this lovely man another time), calmly called my supervisor (the nice one), and worked out a plan. No crying, gnashing of teeth, flipping of any kind. I let the girl we cast keep the role for Friday night, and the girl with the lovely mother, and the fabulous audition, will play it on Saturday. Win win. I love a win win.

That’s some of the background on where we are at so far in this production.

In other related news, my potion-making, magic-seeking project hit a snag yesterday. Might be the end-game, but might also be just a road-block. The hair was pulled from a maiden in a tower instead of the ear of corn, that sort of thing. (Look, if you’ve never seen Into the Woods, this blog is going to get very freaking boring very fast. Might be there already.) I am holding fast to my faith in the fact that things happen for a reason. If something doesn’t go the way you want it to, it’s always because there is something better around the bend in the road. Some higher purpose or destiny that you are supposed to inherit. I’m always on the lookout for that. I’m not giving up my dream, though, without a fight. To mix my theatrical metaphors, I’m going to the mattresses. When you know what you need then you go and you find it and you get it.

Journeying on.

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