A few months ago, I signed up for a class that I knew little about. The class, Directing, was something I had never explored before in my eight years of theatre experience. I have always been the type to find my theatre enjoyment by either watching a production or performing in one on stage. The thought of actually directing a production intimidated me a little. However, when my professor told me months ago that I should take the class because I might be really good at directing, I was enticed by the experiential challenge.
Soon after signing up for the class, I began to explore all types of scripts. I hadn’t realized until that point just how little my knowledge was of theatrical literature. I made it a personal goal of mine to read as many scripts as possible not only to find a good production piece, but also to build my knowledge of certain playwrights and styles. Eventually, my search paid off and I found an interesting one act. I had chosen to direct “Nobody Sleeps” by Guernsey Le Pelley.
“Nobody Sleeps” is a comedic one act about a quirky family and its unique interaction with a house burglar. Most families would be afraid to find a burglar in their home, but that is not the case with The Busbys. Rather than call the police, the crime-obsessed family finds pure enjoyment out of ridiculing and criticizing the work done by an amateur burglar in their home. The mother of the family is actually a novelist who writes mystery stories; thus, her and her daughters seem to know the ends and outs of what it takes to be a successful burglar. Spike, the burglar, finds himself in an awful predicament with the women, since he proves to be a total “flop” as a burglar. Toward the end of the one act, Spike eventually comes to terms with his unsuccessful attempt at being a burglar due to the antagonism supplied by Mrs. Busby.
After having read my script numerous times and devising a plan of performance, I was excited to finally be able to cast my show. I already had every detail about my production planned in my mind from what the set will look like to what my characters will look and act like. I wanted Spike to be a noticeably awkward and nervous burglar. He was to be a man close to forty years old, with a dopey presence. Mrs. Busby, the mother of the home and novelist of mystery stories, was to be a woman full of energy and very dramatic in her speech and movements. Her three daughters- Glory, Ada and Daisy- would have unique personalities as well. Glory is the oldest of the three sisters, about twenty years old. Her character was to be rather gorgeous and flirtatious. The second youngest sister, Ada, was to be a somewhat plain and sarcastic eighteen-year-old. The youngest sister, Daisy, was to be a very immature and bubbly thirteen-year-old.
As a class, we held our auditions early in November. From the amount of actors and actresses that showed up, it was obvious that there would be slim-pickings between our eight directors. I found casting to be a rather challenging part of the production process. Although I had a clear mindset of what I wanted my cast to look like, I found only a few people who were actually perfect for some of my roles. For instance, I knew right away after Kate Wooters auditioned that I wanted her to play my cast’s mother, Mrs. Busby. I had a pretty good idea who I wanted to play my other characters; however, being able to obtain them was quite difficult. Since we had a rather large directing class, a lot of actors and actresses were traded and argued over numerous times. I even ended up having to share an actress with another director. By the end of the casting process, I was satisfied with my selected cast. My cast included: Kate Wooters, senior theatre major from Moweaqua, Ill., as Mrs. Busby; Kayla Vanderbilt, freshman history education major from Lemont, Ill., as Daisy; Kayla Pickel, sophomore criminal justice and psychology major from Taylorville, Ill., as Ada; Shauna Peters, junior music major from Kirksville, Mo., as Glory; and Andrew Rutherford, senior art major from Decatur, Ill., as Spike.
Later in November, we were allowed to start having actual one act rehearsals. I began my rehearsals on November 30th, 2009 and had one or more rehearsals daily following that date till our first technical performance on December10th. I felt like my rehearsals had their fair share of good days versus bad days. For instance, for my first few rehearsals, I continuously had an actor/actress show up late or not even at all. Absences and showing up tardy were a huge frustration of mine, since I literally had two weeks to work with my cast and crew before the show performed. I made it a point after the first few late arrivals to tell my cast that my work is a reflection of their work. If I choose to be a bad director, then they will look like a bad bunch of actors. Similarly, if they choose to put no effort into their acting, then I look like a bad director. Luckily neither I nor my cast wanted to look bad in front of anyone, so we buckled down and really got to work on our production.
Our rehearsals began with a few read-throughs. Eventually those turned into rehearsals with added blocking. As my cast got more familiar with their lines and we actually had a set with props to work with, I noticed that the flow of my production was getting a lot better. Towards the end of rehearsals, it was exciting to watch my cast experiment and try new things since they were finally comfortable in their roles. The original play that I thought I had all planned out had changed minimally due to the creative input given by some of my cast. For instance, I had never planned on Spike falling backwards in the chair. It was actually put into our show after Kate mistakenly threw him down into the chair a little too hard which caused him to fall and the rest of us to explode with laughter. After that, I knew I had to incorporate that scene into my final production.
Eventually, it was time to start working on technical issues within my production. The idea of learning behind the scenes technical stuff intimidated me a little. I had never really worked tech. before. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the technical aspects. I learned how to accurately hang lights and curtains, which made for a well-rounded stage appeal. I also got to learn how to use the light and sound board, and then teach my technician how to operate it as well. All of my hard work backstage had a profound impact on my new-found ability to direct a play. I finally felt confident in my role as the director by being able to understand fully all the parts that go into producing a final product.
Finally, it was the day of performance on December 12th. Needless to say, I had an immense amount of emotions racing through me. I had never felt these many emotions before as simply an actress. Since I was the director, I felt like I was the parent of something huge and theatrically thought-provoking and spectacular. Being the parent caused me to feel emotions ranging from excitement, nervousness, anxiousness to fear. I was excited to see my cast perform in front of an actual audience. I was nervous for their success as well as mine. I was afraid that if my cast were to mess up on stage, I couldn’t be there as another actor to save them. Lastly, I was very anxious to see just how well the audience would respond to the work done by my cast and me in our overall production.
Posted at 10:34 AM by Danielle Hauer