Director’s Diary: On Doing Your Homework

Director's Diary: Doing Your Homework
Rehearsing choreography for The Wedding Singer
on the set of Through the Looking Glass.  Whatever… it’s a great set!

We’ve just had our second “real” rehearsal for The Wedding Singer — the first two rehearsals were devoted to auditions.  Sunday’s rehearsal was all about learning big cast numbers, and last night’s rehearsal was focused on working on vocal solos with some of the leads.  While they weren’t singing, we discussed character traits, as well as what life was like in 1985, since that’s when the show is set!

1985 was a big year for movies, music, and politics.  I knew the actors would have a lot of questions, and to be honest, I did too!  I was only two years old in 1985, so I wasn’t exactly aware of my surroundings at that time!

On top of that, there are two songs in particular in The Wedding Singer with lots of unusual vocabulary.  Glen Guglia’s song “All About the Green” is full of business jargon and 80’s references, like “Reaganomics, quid pro quo, the G.O.P. is S.R.O.” and “Nasdaq, Dow Jones, worshipping the Milken Clones.”  I had NO IDEA what any of those things meant.  As well, the band “Simply Wed” sings a song at a bar mitzvah called “Today You Are A Man” with lots of Yiddish words, like “goyim” and “bris” (that last one was fun to have to explain… NOT).

So what did I do?  I did my research.  I’ve gone through my script A LOT while preparing for the start of rehearsals, making lists and getting prepared.  And guaranteed, I’ll be going through the script a whole bunch more to make even more lists.

No matter what show you are directing, it’s incredibly important to do your homework before the show even starts auditions.  Some things you’ll want to know include:

  • How many characters are in the show?  Is the show male- or female-centred?  How many ensemble characters are there?  Are there any roles that can be doubled, or expanded?
  • Are there any special effects or staging concerns?
    (Are you performing the show in a black box theatre when the script calls for a proscenium arch or a traveler curtain?  Does the script call for an actor to vanish through a trapdoor or fly across the stage on wires?  Does your script ask for a DeLorean, a coin-operated vibrating bed, an airplane or a dumpster?  Don’t laugh… those last four are all called for in The Wedding Singer.  Eek.)
  • What is the time period of the show?
    (What historical events shaped the way of the world of the show?  What are the fashions like?  What was the technology like?  This way you can avoid anachronisms, such as having an iPhone onstage instead of a huge “Zach Morris” clunker phone… which is the best description I can give the cell phones of 1985, despite the fact that Saved By the Bell didn’t air until 1989.  This information will be really useful for your props and costume team.)
  • Where is the location of the show?
    (The Wedding Singer is set in Ridgefield, New Jersey, which explains all the American references such as Ronald Reagan.  If the show were set in England, I’m sure there would be references to Margaret Thatcher.)
  • Are there other versions of the show in existence?
    (The Wedding Singer musical is obviously based on the movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.  Is your show based on a book?  Is there a film version?  Which came first?  Did it have a run on Broadway?  How have other productions staged certain scenes?  You may want to look into this or you may not want to, if you’d rather not be influenced by someone else’s work.)
  • Are there any unfamiliar words or terms in the show?
    (You may want to create a glossary for your actors.  This will also help you to mentally prepare yourself to explain what a “bris” is to your actors.)

Encourage your actors to do their own research is well, and find out what they think is interesting or useful to know.  This information will help your actors really immerse themselves into the world of the show.

What are some important things to know about the show before rehearsals start?  Leave your ideas in the comments!

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