Archive for March, 2011


Closing Night

March 25, 2011

Give the speech where you say: “Finish strong. It may be the 6th show for you, but it’s the first time these people have seen the show. Give them a show to remember.” Recognize all the people behind the scenes. Recognize the kids who are graduating or leaving after this year. Work hard to impress on them the dignity and importance of this last performance. When kids are invested, you get better performances. It’s like anything, when you take pride in your work, the work gets better.

Some schools have an awards ceremony of sorts after the final show. Usually the kids organize those awards. An adult should supervise the awards; kids can be cruel. If there’s a cast party, it should be well supervised also, as exhausted as everyone might be, you don’t want to deal with the fallout from an out of control cast-party.


Getting The Books Back

March 23, 2011

Getting the books back is more about what you do when you hand out the books than what you do when you want them back.

Most schools and community theatres I work with make people either give a check as a deposit or sign something agreeing to pay the cost of the books if they don’t return them. When dealing with kids, this is especially important.

I feel weird advocating this, since in most cases, it violates the agreement with your rights provider, but sometimes the best thing with pit musicians is to copy the books and give them the copies, especially considering the huge cost of replacing them. I have a couple of pro pit playing friends who pull the books out of their spiral binding, scan them as pdfs, rebind the original, and print their own copies. This is shady legally, but it works well for them, especially if they ever wind up doing the show again, because the music is easily accessible to them at all times.

I always bring a bag full of erasers to closing night and leave one on each music stand in the pit, with a request that people don’t erase during the show itself. (It’s a little distracting to see a pit feverishly erasing, then sweeping the eraser dust off their books, stands and stand lights shaking and rattling)

A Summer camp I worked at had a work day after closing night, where one of the many jobs you could have was erasing books. That was sort of awesome.


Keeping It (and yourself) Fresh

March 11, 2011


Closing night of Fiddler on the Roof, 2nd show after a matinee, and I’m falling asleep at the baton. It’s the train station scene, with the beautiful oboe underscore, and I’m thinking about something else, probably a pillow. Suddenly I become aware of the horrible silence of nothing happening. Someone coughs. I’ve missed my cue. And worst of all, the dialogue before the singing had already passed, and the only way to get into the song was to play the entire opening in the clear, as the whole audience has a good 15 seconds to think about how I had missed my cue and ruined the scene. If I’d taken a nap between shows, I probably would have been fine, but I was going through an I-can-do-everything phase, and I was too stupid to know my limits.

The trick to maintaining your focus is preparation. How much sleep can you really afford to lose before your performance suffers? When does your blood sugar drop? Plan your entire day around what will put you in your best frame of mind. Is there an activity you can use to stay on task and not let your mind wander? (for example, when you have a long section of dialogue, leaf through the next couple of numbers, make a mental note of the most likely mistakes, then leaf back, and mentally trace out the blocking that will happen before your cue)


The Brush Up Rehearsal

March 4, 2011

This is only really necessary if your show runs for 2 weekends or (gasp) more. If you have a brush up, you should run it the day before the show starts the second weekend, and have no sets, no props, no costumes, no makeup, no pit, just the rehearsal pianist and the cast. The show should run fast, and then you send the kids home. You don’t want to wear them out, you just want to run them through their paces again. And if something crashes, don’t spend a bunch of time fixing it, unless it has never worked to begin with. It might scare them into paying attention when it comes around the next day. Also, allow them to have fun with it. It’ll keep the thing fresh.