What I’ve Learned: Nancy Drew Edition

What I've Learned: Nancy Drew Edition

Nancy Drew: Girl Detective has been closed for a full month as of today. This is probably the longest I’ve gone before writing a “What I’ve Learned” recap,which I apologize for, but life has been crazy busy this past month (more details to come on that!). Plus, The Big Bad Musical began rehearsals exactly four days after Nancy Drew closed — like I said, life has been crazy! But to be honest, I shouldn’t be that surprised… I was even busier last year!

So, without further delay, here’s what I’ve learned from my time directing Nancy Drew: Girl Detective. I would say that my biggest lesson with this show was to be flexible and go with the flow.

  • Give people second chances; especially during auditions. During the first rehearsal, my actors all presented their monologues, and one actor’s nerves got the better of them and they forgot everything. The actor contacted me the next day and we arranged to have them re-audition before the next rehearsal. They did a great job in the second audition and it turned what could have been a really negative start to the actor’s experience into a positive one. Remember, especially when actors are really new and really green, that what you see at auditions isn’t always what the actor has at their disposal. If time permits, see if you can accommodate a second audition.
  • Be ready to go with the flow. Things change at the drop of a hat in the theatre. One of my cast members broke her collarbone during the rehearsal process (not at rehearsal, thankfully!) and we had to re-block all her scenes so she could safely perform without injuring herself further. A different cast member dropped out of the show partway through the rehearsal process, and I had to do some creative restructuring of the play to accommodate the loss. But my actors were fantastic and worked really hard to pull the show together!
  • Warm-ups that work for musicals won’t necessarily work for plays. I’m a big fan of “Sunday Morning Dance Parties” (or Saturday morning, whatever) for warm-ups, but my “play kids” were less thrilled/less willing to dance and be crazy during warm-ups. Their explanation? “We’re play kids; we don’t sing and dance for a reason.” (They still were plenty crazy during rehearsals; lots of in-jokes were created during the run of the show including a business plan for something called “Rotatoes.”) We still did warm-ups; they were just more focused on stretching out and warming up the voice in a slightly less dance-y way.
  • Remember the basics of acting and don’t take them for granted (for example, cheating out towards the audience). Many new actors don’t have this knowledge or haven’t really had the opportunity to practice; be ready to review and explain what they’re important.
  • Proper projection is absolutely vital to success onstage. Learn the difference between projecting and shouting, and how to properly project your voice. You may want to consider working with a vocal coach for that!
  • I mentioned this during The Wedding Singer recap, but having your lighting cues pre-planned will save your sanity. Having my cues pre-planned and organized made my life so much easier during level set, and took way less time!
  • On a similar note, having a running list of all props, costume changes, furniture moves and other important notes posted backstage is SO helpful, especially if you have different people assisting backstage during the run of the show!
  • Self-care is absolutely vital. It’s so easy to run yourself ragged doing theatre, and especially in the extremely cold winter we had, illness was right around every corner. I’m pretty sure the plague happened during Nancy Drew, as kids were sick throughout the rehearsal process, including two kids being out for tech rehearsal and one at dress. The plague even got me: I had to cancel a rehearsal in February because I was so sick, and then I was a sneezing, stuffy, dripping mess at tech rehearsal in April. Pleasant, eh? Be sure to drink lots of water (and hot tea if you’re congested), get lots of rest, and stay home during dark days — if you’re sick, you’re of no help to your cast.
  • Sometimes you will just have to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done. April was a crazy month at OKTC — we had four shows going up as part of our OKTC Playfest, plus it was the same time as the Kiwanis Music Festival (which lots of our kids participate in) and mid-terms for our high school students. Unfortunately, we had nobody available to be our sound operator. So guess who ran the sound booth during the run of the show? Yup, you guessed it — yours truly. The show must go on!!!
  • No matter what happens, keep a positive attitude. Remember: it’s just theatre!

Nancy Drew was a great refresher to me after directing a whole bunch of musicals — to get back to basics, to go with the flow, and to really enjoy the process of putting together a show. I am very thankful to the cast, to Alicia and Robyn (my awesome stage management team), to the volunteers (many of whom were new to OKTC!) and to everyone who came out to see the show!

Further Reading: What I’ve Learned: The Wedding Singer EditionWhat I’ve Learned: Through the Looking Glass Edition, What I’ve Learned: Peter Pan Edition

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