Friday, June 12, 2015

Production tips on the play "Music Maybe" from a talented high school director

On May 16th I directed Music Maybe in my directing class. 

        This was my first year really being involved with the face of theater. I enjoy doing the technical aspects of productions, and am comfortable working behind the scenes. This year, I was asked to be part of the directing class.

           I must admit that I have never had a single acting class, or anything related to acting. I was excited to see how well I could do, but was also nervous since everyone else in the class has had at least one acting class. Most of my peers in class were seniors with at least three acting classes already taken, and had performed on stage many times. 

        When we were assigned to find and analyze a play that would be shown to the public, I knew I wanted to find something that I could direct that related to me personally; especially with my lack of experience and knowledge of theater. Out of the hundreds of plays that were available to us, nothing caught my eye. So, with the approval of looking online to find a play, I came across your website, and then eventually Music Maybe. Music Maybe caught my eye because I can relate to each character, their story, and what they play. I'm a percussionist and I wanted to find a play that highlighted music, since that's something I'm very comfortable with and have been doing for a while.

         After the first time I read Music Maybe, I knew this was the play that I was looking for. After showing the plays we chose to our teacher, each student had to deeply analyze our own respected plays. I won't go into detail on that due to it's extremely long length, but let me tell you that I felt like I had a relationship with all four girls and knew who they were, where they came from, and what they plan to do in the future. I decided that this play had the ability to be so uniquely different from what everyone else was doing. I was given the opportunity, by you, that I could have four actresses playing live music for an audience. As if being a first time director wasn't enough, I wanted to also create, write, and teach music for this play because,well, why not.

        We did the entire process of a play the same way professional theater companies do. The directors all had auditions, a stage manager, rehearsals, tech rehearsal, setting light cues, creating a set, getting props, and finding costumes, etc. (not necessarily in that order though).

      My cast consisted of four incredibly talented, excited, and willing to learn girls. I was a sophomore (16 years old) throughout this whole process with a Stage Manager being a senior. Slug was a senior, Mabel a junior, Bea a sophomore, and Heidi a freshman. Unfortunately, about a month in the rehearsal process (we had two months of rehearsals), the girl playing Heidi unexpectedly moved to the other side of Florida. I had to quickly find someone else to play Heidi since we only had less than a month until the big day. Thankfully, I found an Acting 1 student who just jumped right into the role as Heidi who was a sophomore.

        The music was one of the hardest parts for not only myself, but the actresses since they have almost no history in playing music. Mabel was simple to write for since I'm a drummer. Slug and Bea were the most difficult to write music for simply because Slug has a variety of instruments she can play and they all have different sounds. Bea was difficult because since she plays the crash cymbals, you have to find the appropriate time for her to be heard. I wrote music for Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye, Mabel's drum solo after her monologue, the jazz improv at the end of scene 4, and then a heavy rock sound at the end of the play. It was a difficult process, but I loved having the chance to just write down what I think would sound good, then teaching the actors how it sounds, and then them playing it. Something that was very simple for me to play, was harder for them to learn it and how to play it. And it wasn't by any means annoying because they were always willing to learn and do what I was asking them and do it the best they could each time. We only had about 3 full cast music rehearsals.I was, and still am, extremely proud of how they did with the music.
       (Mabel) was the lead role in the spring school play, so my time with her was limited. Most of the actors and actresses that agreed to be in the one-act plays were in two plays at once. (Slug) and (Bea) were in the predicament as well. So having to manage 4 people's schedules, along with mine and my stage managers, was difficult at times. I was thrilled when we were able to have full cast rehearsals because they happened very rarely. The majority of the time I worked with half of the cast at the time, and saw the other half in the morning before school. In total, I had 28 rehearsals. The music rehearsals were very difficult because an hour went by extremely quickly because when we were all together I tried to write the music down, ask them to play what I wrote, and if it doesn't sound good, ask myself how I can fix it to make it sound better. I could easily do over two hour music rehearsals, but schedules conflicted and people had to leave. Somehow, incredibly and thankfully, they were able to pull it all together perfectly when they performed, though.

       My set consisted of a drum set, a couch, Slug's instruments, Bea's crash cymbals, Heidi's cowbell, and a pizza box for scene 2. My school has a Black Box theatre, as you may be able to tell from the pictures that I attached. No pictures were taken during the play though, we made it clear to the audience that that wasn't allowed.

      I want to thank you for writing Music Maybe, because it is something I will never forget. I won't forget the process, your play (which gave me an extreme, almost overwhelming, amount of artistic freedom), my amazing cast, and how loud the applause was at the end of their performance. 

           Bea was the most difficult to think of for costumes since she came from such a classy background but was trying to break away from her history and run into the rock n' roll role. I had absolutely no clue how to define Bea for her costume, even up until the day of the performance. We had tech rehearsal two days before the actual performance, and what I had Bea in just didn't scream 80's or even her personality. So my the girl playing Bea went out until 11:30 the night before our performance, without me knowing, going shopping to numerous stores finding the "perfect" Bea costume possible. When I saw her on the day of the performance, I knew, in my opinion, that she couldn't have nailed Bea any better. The girl who played Mabel came in to school one day wearing what she thought Mabel may wear during the play. After adding a few accessories and a few touch ups, we both agreed on that being her costume. The girl playing Slug thankfully had the majority of Slug's costume in her own closet. And lastly, the girl playing Heidi was quite simple to dress, although her shoes and freckles were probably the hardest to create. 

          One thing that all four actresses seemed to agree on was how lengthy and challenging the monologues were. But once they had the monologue down and knew it word for word, they said the feeling of accomplishment was amazing. (Bea) had the hardest time learning her monologue. So after rehearsing the monologue with her so many times that even I had the monologue memorized, Bea was finally able to get her monologue down and feel comfortable with it about two weeks before the big day. 

       I love the concept of Music Maybe, and I loved seeing the audiences' faces whenever I told them that, "No, the music will not be coming out of the speakers. They are playing the instruments that you will see right in front of your eyes, live. They learned how to play each instrument and how each song goes." During Mabel's monologue, I decided to have her (and every other character except Slug), break the fourth wall during their monologues. You could tell the audience seemed a little confused when Mabel was talking to them directly and making eye contact, asking them questions. When she was asking for band names, all it took was for one person to say a band name, which just happened to be The Beatles. In which Mabel cleverly replied with, "No that already happened," in which the audience laughed and interacted for the rest of the play. Her improv was witty, clever, and quick and made the audience feel welcomed, excited, and comfortable. Then after her monologue, going to the drum set and confidently killing it on the drums shocking the audience that not only is she playing it, but she's rocking out to what she's playing. 

      At the end of the performance, there was such a loud applause that I was beyond thrilled and proud of everything that they put into the play. So many details had to be thought of, and it was a team effort that made it all happen. Before the play was performed, I had to write down a checklist to make sure nothing would be forgotten because each detail may be small but it's so important. 

      Lastly, I would like to thank you again for creating something that I would hold on to and remember for the rest of my life. But it was so much more than that, and I truly enjoyed every single moment of it. So thank you for creating a play that is not only unique, but a welcome change and also giving me such an artistic outlet, and meeting 5 new friends that I will remember forever. 

Read the play Music Maybe at this link: (female version)

or here: (male version)

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