It’s been a week now since The Little Mermaid Jr. closed. I’ve been able to decompress a bit, and reflect on what I’ve learned.
- At the first rehearsal, pass around a Sharpie and have your cast write their names ON THE COVER of their scripts, right away. That way when they inevitably get left behind, you’ll know at a glance who the Forgetful Jones was. Also, have an extra “loaner” script handy in case someone leaves their script at home.
- Especially when working with younger actors: get the parents on your side early, especially when it comes to learning lines and teaching theatre etiquette. Send out a weekly update via email. This will be really useful to parents whose child’s response to “How was rehearsal?” is “…fine.”
- Get your actors involved in theatre etiquette right off the bat. Everyone cleans up the theatre/rehearsal hall. Everyone participates in strike. Everyone participates in warm-up activities together. Create the expectation right away, and it will become part of the norm.
- Don’t micro-manage your senior kids and/or techies. They know what they’re doing. Just let them do it.
- Create a weekly ritual of some sort. Ours were “Sunday Afternoon Dance Parties.” At the start of each Sunday rehearsal, I’d blast a popular song and we’d do a fun (and often silly) dance warm-up. Take suggestions from the kids for songs, or even let them lead it. (This will come in very handy when you’re dragging your butt in after the show you were concurrently working on closed the night before and you’re dead on your feet.)
- There is a line between being a fun director and a pushover. As well, there’s a line between being a screaming dictator and not taking crap from people. Learn to ride this line. Good directors don’t demand respect; they earn it.
- Always schedule a break for your rehearsals, both for the hungry tummies of the kids, but also for your sanity.
- If you rehearse opposite another cast, arrange with them to take breaks together, so the casts can intermingle and meet new people. Also, get together and have a little show for the other cast. Prepare a scene or a song to present as a “preview.” Encourage your cast to cheer wildly for the other cast.
- Have a plan, but be flexible. Be ready to scrap an idea when something inevitably comes up. For example, I had originally wanted the Mersisters to wear long skirts for their mermaid tails. However, after seeing the choreography for their big group number, it was clear the actors wouldn’t be able to move in those skirts. So we scrapped the idea, and came up with an even better one (monochromatic tank tops/leggings/”disco ruffles” in the colours of the rainbow!). Ariel still wore the long mermaid skirt, as she didn’t have such demanding choreography, and it was needed for the transformation. It also helped her stand out from the other girls.
- Know when to take other peoples’ suggestions, but also know when to stick to your guns. This comes with time.
- Everything at tech rehearsal will take longer than you plan.
- People will complain that tickets are too expensive. People will also wait until the last minute to purchase tickets and then complain when the show is sold out. Some people just want to complain. Sometimes you just have to let them.
- This is something I’ve always done and completely believe in, but it bears repeating: Thank-you notes are a must. Always. You can never say “thank you” too much (but only if it’s sincere). Handwritten notes to your volunteers are absolutely necessary.
- Also create a “break a leg” card for the incoming cast, and have all the actors and crew sign it. Even something as simple as a printout of “To the cast of (incoming show), BREAK A LEG! From the cast of (your show).” A simple gesture that goes a long way to creating a positive, inclusive community!
- Enjoy the run. Even though it seems long at the time, it’ll be over sooner than you think.