Director’s Diary: Scanning the Script

Director's Diary: Scanning the Script

When I’m doing my initial preparations for a new show that I’m directing, the first thing I do is an initial scan of the script. This is a useful way to start getting your thoughts and plans in order. Get ready to start analyzing!

What you’ll need:

  • Your script
  • A notebook and a pencil (I specifically suggest a pencil because you’ll probably want to erase or change a note at some point!), or a word processing program on your computer
  • Various coloured highlighters (I like to colour-code)

Choose a fresh section in your notebook, or open a new document in your word processing program.

Create eight columns or pages:

  • Lights
  • Sound
  • Costumes / Hair / Makeup
  • Props
  • Set
  • Special Effects
  • Concerns (problems, potentially difficult scenes, aspects to assign to the musical director or choreographer, etc.)
  • Ideas (notes about creative solutions to problems, concept thoughts, and so on)

Start reading through your script, page by page, and noting anything that comes up relating to each section. I like to make notes and then colour-code lighting and sound notes right on the page of my script — usually lighting is in yellow, and sound in pink, but that’s just my preference. Include page numbers, as well as line numbers if you use them, so you can refer back to your notes later.

Look for obvious lighting and sound notations, but also less obvious ones. For example, consider the stage direction “Suddenly, a bolt of lightning splinters the ship and throws the humans overboard” (which is one of the first stage directions in my upcoming OKTC show, Tarzan!). That one sentence incorporates a whole bunch of stuff — a lightning effect (Lights), possibly thunder as well as the splintering ship (Sound), throwing the humans overboard (could be Set, Special Effects, Concerns, or Ideas, depending on your staging plan). Start writing that all down.

Note specific requirements for costumes and props. For example, “A Victorian Father and Mother cling to each other and their baby for safety.” Victorian refers to style of dress and hair, so that’s a specific hint as to what those actors might be wearing (suit and dress rather than sweatsuits or bathing suits). Is the baby an actual human baby actor or a prop? Most likely it will be a prop, so onto the props list it goes.

Concerns and Ideas are kind of your miscellaneous sections, but with a focus. Concerns are items that you’ll need to come back to later, or perhaps address with another member of the team. Ideas are just that — brilliant ideas on how you’ll stage something, or an aspect you’d like to include.

And so on! Go page by page through the script, making as many notes as you feel are useful. The more details you have, the easier it will be to organize your thoughts when working with your artistic team, actors, and design crew. If you’re writing by hand, you might want to leave space between your notes so you can make additions later. You might want to make copies of certain lists to give directly to your team members (for example, give the Props list to the props head, give the Set list to the set designer, and so on).

You’ll probably go through this process many times throughout the rehearsal process, but this is just the first step to get you started!

How do you approach your script for the first time?
What notes do you include?
Share them on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

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Wednesday Words of Wisdom – Cate Blanchett

Wednesday Words of Wisdom - Cate Blanchett

“When you’re directing something, you absolutely have to be involved in all layers of the process.”

Cate Blanchett, award-winning actress

Director’s Diary: Rehearsing Backwards

Director's Diary: Rehearsing Backwards

It’s a frequent occurrence when rehearsing a show that we practice running the show from the beginning of the show to the end. This seems fairly obvious, since that’s the way shows tend to be presented (yes, The Last Five Years counts as being presented from beginning to end — don’t get me started), even those shows with multiple endings or audience participation “choose your own adventure” shows. Yet it’s fairly common to stop mid-way through a scene to “fix” something, or take time in between acts to give notes, and then run out of rehearsal time and not be finished running the show. “Oh well,” we tell ourselves, “We’ll just pick up where we left off at the next rehearsal.” Sometimes we do… and sometimes we don’t.

Actors (generally young, beginning actors) also frequently practice their lines by reading and reviewing from the start of the script to the end. Seems pretty natural — it’s how we read books. But… raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten bored/hungry/tired/distracted during script review and stopped reviewing your lines. (Everyone should have their hands raised at this point.)

Which means that the lines at the start of the show tend to be really strong, and by the end they are… well, meh.

So, directors, how do we avoid the “second act slump”?

Try mixing it up and rehearsing backwards!

This is a fun technique suggested to me by my friend Ceris. We used this technique in a recent Big Bad Musical rehearsal to great success!

No, it doesn’t mean saying the lines in reverse; that’s just silly! (Though I won’t knock it until I try it… someone try it and tell me how it goes.)

What I mean is at your next rehearsal, take your show and start at the last scene or beat*, and run that scene until the end of the show. Then, go back to the second last scene or beat, and run that section until the end of the show. Then, go back to the third last scene or beat, and run that section until the end of the show. Repeat until you run out of rehearsal time or your actors go crazy from repetition.

This is useful for a number of reasons! It will keep the actors’ brains focused by keeping them on their toes, and ensures that they know their cues. It’s also good for drilling lines, music and choreography. It’s also useful for giving notes after a smaller chunk of scene work and then being able to apply it right then and there. And when all else fails, it mixes up the regular rehearsal scheme and is good for a laugh!

What are some techniques you use to mix up rehearsal? Tell me all about it!
Share your ideas with me on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

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* Beats are divisions in the play by subject/topic/emotion, or when a character enters/exits. Beats are good for dividing long scenes up into smaller chunks.

Big Bad Musical Rehearsal Photos!

I apologize for the lack of posts lately… it’s been a bit crazy lately, as Shawn and I have just purchased our first house together! Rest assured I will be back posting this week! So in the meantime, here are a couple of photos from rehearsals for The Big Bad Musical at Original Kids Theatre Company! (Tickets are available here!)

Big Bad Musical Rehearsal Photos!

Learning choreography for the opening number, “Big Bad”!

Big Bad Musical Rehearsal Photos!

Getting intense…

Big Bad Musical Rehearsal Photos!

Practicing our howls!

Get Your Paws & Claws Ready: The Big Bad Musical Starts Rehearsals Today!

Wow… it seems like just yesterday that Nancy Drew: Girl Detective finished its run (wait… that was just Sunday!) and already I’m into a new show! Yes indeed, I’m starting rehearsals for my eleventh OKTC show (and my second summer show) today: The Big Bad Musical!

Get Your Paws & Claws Ready: The Big Bad Musical Starts Rehearsals Today!

The Big Bad Musical is right up my alley; it’s a very silly musical with crazy characters and loads of opportunity for onstage antics.

What is more gripping than a courtroom battle live on stage – especially when song and dance breaks out? No courtroom has ever been more lively and fun than in The Big Bad Musical! The jury must decide the outcome of the biggest trial ever in the fairy-tale world – a class action suit against the Big Bad Wolf, sued by the revengeful fairy tale plaintiffs: Little Red Riding Hood, her Grandmother, the Three Little Pigs and the Boy Who Cried Wolf. With Syd Grimm as the anchor on live Court TV, the two greatest legal minds in the Enchanted Forest — the Evil Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother — clash in this crazy and mind-bending trial. Was Wolf born a criminal, or made one? As our musical-comedy performers can testify, you can gamble that there will be absolutely NO ORDER in this hilarious Court where Original Kids will be found “GUILTY” of causing laughter and delight for all!

I’ve got a cast of 25 young actors, 16 of whom are brand-new to OKTC (hmm… sounds familiar?). I am really looking forward to working with a team of artistic staff again as well! Tickets are on sale already, so you’ll want to snatch up yours right away! There are seven performances to enjoy!

  • Saturday July 25, 2 pm
  • Sunday July 26, 7 pm
  • Monday July 27, 7 pm
  • Wednesday July 29, 7 pm
  • Friday July 31, 7 pm
  • Saturday August 1, 7 pm
  • Sunday August 2, 2 pm