CAPTAIN’S LOG: One Week Before Auditions
Lately, I have taken to listening to sea shanties while working at my desk. “Fifteen Men,” “Sir Patrick Spens,” and “Drunken Sailor” are now my jam. Occasionally I mix it up by including the songs from Pirates of the Caribbean or even Veggie Tales. My music choices would be considered odd if I had any other job, but I am a director about to embark on a journey to Treasure Island.
That’s right, we’re a week away from auditions, but I’m hard at work preparing for the show. It’s easy to forget how much work goes into a production outside of rehearsal. The pre-production process is different for every show and every director, but here are some of the things I’ve been doing to prepare for Treasure Island:
- I spend a lot of time reading the script. In my opinion, the director should know the script better than anyone else. I take notes about specific things we’ll need for the show, about skills/characteristics I will need from the actors, and about any story details that might be scary/surprising/confusing as an audience member. Some of these notes will be shared with the cast and crew later. In the meantime, it’s important that I have an extremely clear understanding of the story and what it means.
- I do a lot of research. Treasure Island is requiring a lot more research than I usually do. There’s a lot I didn’t know about the story, the time period, and about the pirates themselves, so I have to look it up. Right now there are posters on the walls of my office showing me the parts of a ship and different responsibilities on a pirate crew. I have a huge stack of library books about pirate history. I keep a binder of my research and I save pictures to QCT’s Pinterest board. I also read the original book by Robert Louis Stevenson – can you believe I had never read it before? All of this information helps me understand the story and gives me details to reference when working with the cast and crew. (By the way, this is why sea shanties have become my working music. When the script says “the crew starts to sing,” the director turns to Spotify.)
- I meet with the production team. I’m not the only one who’s already working on the show. I am fortunate in that Treasure Island has a group of smart, skilled individuals who are devoting their talents to bringing the show to life. The needs of every show are different, but for this one we have an assistant director, a stage manager, designers for scenery, costumes, and props, and a fight choreographer. When I meet with each of these people, they’ve each done their own research and their own notes on the script. It’s not my job to boss them around; instead, I hear their ideas for the show and then, together, we figure out the best way to tell our version of the story.
- I help promote the show. I say I “help” because much of this responsibility falls to our production manager, Kelsey Pigg, and her marketing committee. They’ve been brainstorming ways to promote the show for months. Even though Kelsey does her own notes and research (have you noticed yet how much theatre people read?), sometimes she needs to consult me about details of the production. I help Kelsey by reviewing press releases, doing interviews, and providing quotes about what to expect during the play.
- I prepare for auditions. I write a breakdown, which is a list of characters/actors I need and some details about them. The breakdown helps the actors determine what roles might be a good fit for them. I choose sides, or small sections of the script, for the actors to read in their auditions. I answer questions from auditionees. The goal is to make sure that the actors have the information they need to give a good audition.
I feel ready to embark on this voyage. Next week we begin casting, and then rehearsals begin!