So you say you want to direct
So you say you always wanted to direct?
Well, good! Our area young thespians need plenty of, well, slightly less-young thespians to lead them to opening night.
Never directed before? There is plenty to learn! But if you are being tapped to direct, you likely have had some experience on stage or backstage, so I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
The real question, however, is this: What show are you going to do?
Now that’s the question that once answered will drive all of the other decisions that you will make thereafter. So think hard.
Not sure which to pick? “Dramatics” magazine does a survey every year of the most popular plays and musical being performed by high schools nationwide. It is an interesting list for old Casey Kasem Top 40 fans like myself. Combine it with theater and the fact I direct several area shows myself, and it is a must-read.
By the way, in case you were wondering, “Almost, Maine” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are the two most popular high school plays, Don’t worry, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “The Odd Couple,” and “The Crucible” still make the top 10.
In musicals, it is more recent material that tops the chart, led by recent Broadway adaptations of “The Addams Family,” “Mary Poppins,” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” And yes, “Grease” and “Into the Woods” still make the list.
What is interesting is why shows are popular. Though not in the top 10 last year, “You Can’t Take It With You” is still performed all over the country decades after its debut in the 1930s. And you can always count on a local production of “Guys and Dolls” going on somewhere during spring musical season.
Why? Well, the first thing you need to consider when choosing a show is the culture of your building, your community, and your intended audience. While “The Book of Mormon” may be killing it on Playhouse Square next month, you likely should not expect it to come to area high school stages in the near future due to the language in the material. A school edition of such a show would likely take a lot of the bite out of it.
And while “The Producers” swept Broadway by storm, a high school version of the satirical “Springtime for Hitler” number would likely not be welcome — especially these days.
So think about content. Please. And clear any questionable material with your principal in advance if you have doubts, and maybe even if you don’t. Save yourself some trouble and have them on board early.
That doesn’t mean challenging material like Mentor Theatre attempted last year in “A Chorus Line” should never be tried. Shows that stretch your program are frequently the best. Just make sure you are ready to educate your audience along with your students.
After that, it’s all a matter of budget, staging, materials, and your kids’ talent level. What has your program staged before you arrived? What are the talents of your core kids that you can expect to appear? And can your stage space handle what you have chosen? Better make sure that your stage can handle a two-story revolving set before you schedule “Noises Off,” for example.
But by closing night, hopefully you will feel like you made all the right decisions. Don’t worry. They usually work out in the end.
Besides, the most important decision you make is the first one — to work with young actors. It is a real privilege. Break a leg!