So you say you want to di­rect

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Community - Steve Couch Have a show you’d like to see pro­filed in Young Thes­pi­ans this fall? Mes­sage Steve Couch @StevenRCouch on Twit­ter, via e-mail at steve­couch@wind­stream.net, or post in our Young Thes­pi­ans Face­book group.

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!

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