Last weekend, we finally finished our play. Wow. What a learning experience. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. All the rehearsals, set building, costume searching, and time away from home were definitely worth it. The audience laughed at all the right moments, the crew moved the sets correctly, and the sound and lighting guy timed everything perfectly.
I’ve learned a few things over the past few months. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I LOVE DIRECTING and if I got paid a living wage to do it, I’d do it all the time for the rest of my life. Also, I’ve learned that sets don’t need to be heavy or over complicated and I feel guilty for all the people who had to learn that with me. Seriously, guys. I’m sorry. I’ve already learned the art of patience, but boy was that trait strengthened during this adventure . There were several times where every single child in this play had ideas at once. “Mrs. Becca! What if we do this? I think we should….How about I go over here….etc.” While it can be a bit overwhelming, I did discover that many of these kids actually had really good ideas that worked well. Everyone is creative, but children don’t have that filter holding them back from sharing their ideas. It made for a lot of good little details to add to our production, and it reminded me that listening to every one’s ideas makes for a great, inclusive group. This isn’t “my” play. It’s ours. You can read it on the players faces. This was their work, and it was perfectly executed.
Some of the older kids were given some major responsibilities backstage. When the curtains closed, these young talents ran onto the stage in full costume, turning nine-hundred-pound sets into planned positions, and running off as the curtains were opened before anyone realized they were ever there. Watching their focus and determination during these short bursts would make their parents quite proud. These were the moments I had hoped for when beginning this project. Rehearsals get boring, directors speak sternly, and actors grow sick of it. The night of the play, however, the team gets that rush of making everything work. Performing and simultaneously filling the role of stage hand make the whole thing belong to you. You didn’t just time out your clever line to keep the audience laughing, you also are the reason there is a candy house present when Hansel and Gretel suddenly come upon it. You are the reason the whole show seems to flow effortlessly.
Drama isn’t just pretend. It’s public speaking. It’s creativity. It’s team work. It’s learning to appreciate participating in something bigger than just you. It’s important.
I wish parents could see these kids in action backstage. They worked hard. There was a point when poor Hansel had to stuff half an angel food cake in his mouth after talking under the hot lights for half an hour. For the brief moment he found himself behind scenes, he exclaimed, “WATER!” Watching him down half a bottle of water before diving back onto the stage made me feel proud (and also really bad that I hadn’t thought about him needing water before the play). As Hansel and Gretel and the candy witch climbed onto their set, cast members rotated it to show the inside. “Square it up. You need to square it up.” I heard Monty in my super cool director headset. “Snow!” I whispered quickly to the ogre dressed as Snow White, “SQUARE IT UP!” The audience had a laugh as they saw a quick glimpse of Snow’s green arm reach out from backstage and quickly push the set towards the middle. The candy witch squeaked as she regained her balance. A cell phone went off. Not once, but five different times, so Sargeant Ringworm (still in character) improved some great line about monsters eating people who do not silence their cell phones and got a mid-show ovation. All of these little mishaps are what brings a group of players closer together. They are the things we get to laugh about later as we plan our next performance and say, “Remember that time…”.
It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I hope that Hawkinsville will continue to support our local theater. Thank you for coming when we called. Thank you for showing these actors you care. Thank you for recognizing that we can’t have a play without an audience. As long as you will watch, I will be here behind the scenes. It really is the best place to be.