The Big Bad Musical turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. For the spring season at Original Kids Theatre Company, I was initially assigned to only direct Nancy Drew: Girl Detective. But when the director of TBBM had to leave the show, I was asked to take it over. I admit that I was hesitant at first — last year I directed two shows back to back, and it was exhausting. But I couldn’t leave the show in the lurch, and I’m glad I joined in. The artistic team was amazing (huge shout-outs and thanks to Karlee, Ceris, Kihanna and Sophie — dream team!), the actors were enthusiastic and adorable, the volunteers were hard-working, creative and dedicated, and we sold out our opening and closing shows!
August has been absolutely flying by, but I have finally had a chance to reflect on the process. Here we go!
- An emphasis on acting basics (character work, cheating out, diction, strong vocals) is always the best course of action, particularly when working with young actors. This was one of the youngest casts I’ve worked with — the average age was 10 years old — and most of the cast members were new to OKTC.
- The physicality of each character is really important to helping develop a “real” character. How does your character walk? Dance? Sing? Speak? Brush their teeth? How do they react to what other characters do? (Doing a F.A.S.T. analysis can really help!) Practice in rehearsals until it becomes second nature.
- Comedies are difficult. There’s a very fine line between being funny, and going overboard. Sometimes what an actor thinks is funny falls flat in front of an audience, and what an audience finds funny one night can earn zero laughs from the next audience. When all else fails — stick to the script and just tell the story.
- Know when to rein in your actors. It’s fun to do improv and ad-lib, but not to the detriment of the story.
- Assigning a leadership role to a kid (such as dance captain) can really help to improve backstage behaviour. When the other actors see that one of their peers gets to help out the team, it often spurs them to also strive towards earning a leadership role. It can also lead to jealousy or resentment, so be sure to balance that and always keep an eye out and an ear to the ground.
- Get your actors into good habits right away. Everyone helps clean up the rehearsal space, everyone helps set up the room, and so on. That way when it comes to show week and you have to tidy up in between shows because your show is playing in repertory with another show, the cast automatically pitches in and helps put everything away without even being asked! It’s a HUGE help and a great habit to have!
- On the topic of shows in repertory — be sure to get your cast together and see the other show as a big group! Support your fellow thespians!
- Just because you have a larger role doesn’t mean you get a better costume. Your costume is purely chosen because it suits the story and the director’s vision.
- Make sure that your actors return all their props to the props table, so you’re not doing a frantic search after the show when all you want to do is go home!
- Too much caffeine = freaked-out Kerry. Lay off the iced coffees, particularly during tech week!
I’ll leave you with a fun video of some of the highlights of the show. Enjoy!
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