Here is what you need to know about that play:
1. It's a musical.
It is much different directing a musical than a dialogue-only play. There are so many other things to consider. Not to mention, it's been so long since I've been in band or choir that I had to resort to creating my own jargon for musical terms, because I couldn't remember, for example, the phrases "quarter rest" or "eighth notes." I'm very disappointed in myself.
2. I had SOOOO much help in putting it together.
The most help came from the choir director, who gave my cast extra help both before and after school. He came to several rehearsals--even the one on Good Friday--and was an excellent resource for my non-choir-member kids, very non-judgmental and encouraging.
Another friend choreographed one of the songs, again, staying after school for a rehearsal and showing remarkable patience with my rhythm-challenged babies.
One of the cast members' parents volunteer at a local theater, and they worked out a deal for us so we could borrow microphones for my soloists. I've never worked with a sound board before, but I got pretty darn good at it, if I do say so myself. Having a sound system improved the entire musical by 10,000%, and I was very sad when we had to give it all back.
We had not one, but TWO sarcophagi(?) built for the play. The art teacher and her classes created a massive, gorgeous sarcophagus out of cardboard and papier mache, while my lighting tech (a student) built the other one from plywood. One of the main reasons I chose this particular script was so that I could get a sarcophagus out of it, and now I have TWO. An embarrassment of riches.
2. This is an interactive play.
It was difficult to rehearse audience participation. Totally new and, of course, we didn't know what to expect. Fortunately, both nights, our audience did not disappoint, and I think they really enjoyed being part of the action. I was very impressed with my cast's ability to improvise, as they were not as quick during rehearsal.
3. There was a lot to do OUTSIDE of the actual play.
The action takes place in a museum, in an exhibit entitled "Monsters, Murderers, and Madmen." The script suggested setting up the auditorium to look like a museum, with exhibits and tableaus of various disgusting stuff/people from history.
The cast and I scoured our homes for objects that could, at the very least, be given a creepy back story, and set them out on the cafeteria tables (because we don't have an auditorium; we have a cafeteria stage, and by "stage," I mean "slightly elevated platform that has no stagelike qualities whatsoever") with the appropriate placards. Borrowing liberally from the science department's specimen cabinets, we managed to make up completely false information that sound sort of true, injecting both a sense of humor and a history lesson into each description.
In addition, we had a group of about 15 extras, volunteers who allowed themselves to be powdered to excess and doused in blood, who took on various personas (Jack the Ripper, Carrie, Frankenstein's monster) and interacted with audience members as they arrived. A good time was had by all.
4. I choreographed the majority of the songs.
I do not say this with arrogance, more like EXTREME SURPRISE. My dance experience consists of one ballet class and the Electric Slide, neither of which were particularly helpful in this context. My choreography style relies heavily on downbeats and walking in rhythm (or "marching," we called it, in band). Even so, I'm very proud of myself for having done something so completely NOT ME, and having it turn out to be pretty darn good. I might be prouder of the final dance than anything else I've ever done in my whole life.
5. I experienced enough stress in the last two weeks to fell a lesser woman.
If I were older, or had heart problems, or were prone to ulcers, this play would have killed me. As it was, I coped by becoming the
6. I am through with school plays.
At least for the time being. There are several reasons:
a). My best class of actors is graduating this year. I refer to their past three years as the Golden Era, in my head. It will be hard to continue without them.
b). I'm (finally) starting grad school this fall. I will simply not have the time to stage a full production.
c). I am EXHAUSTED. During the season, every spare moment is spent on the play, whether I'm rehearsing, shopping, prepping, building ... whatever. Schools with real theater departments divide the work between the director, stage manager, lighting technician, sound technician, costumer, carpenter, PR person, prop master. At my school, the work is divided between me, myself, and I.
d). I'm not getting paid. Due to the amazing craphole that is our state budget, all clubs and activities (with the exception of football and basketball) are losing their funding. It's not that I was getting that much anyway--after taxes, about $350, approximately $1.50/hr.--but to get NOTHING expects a little bit more of me than I'm willing to give. Oh, but WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN. Look, if THE CHILDREN were so important to our state lawmakers, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
e). However, if we have the resources, I am going to try to hire an outside director to do at least one play next year. I'm looking forward to seeing how someone else will deal with our special circumstances.