15 Jan

Description and Goals

I will be in charge of organizing the showcase event and will direct some of the performances. I requested to host this event because I see the lack of opportunity for drama lovers to be seen by the school, and I want to give more of them a chance. I wish to practice my leadership skills and directing skills in this CAS experience.

Starting Point:

It has been some time since I proposed to organize this showcase.  I think it will be both exciting and challenging for me, the actors, and the Drama Department, because, in the past, we have been wanting this to happen, but have never organized one; the challenges can come from actors' time conflicts, the selection of materials, the quality of acting, and many other aspects.  Thus, I will need to balance this showcase with my studying and other commitments well in the future.

I have received a few sign-ups for the showcase, some of which need our help in finding materials.  I am really willing to introduce to people what I have read and match them to fitting characters - I successfully matched scripts for five pairs of actors.  However, I found my knowledge vastly insufficient again.  I think I must keep reading more scripts in order to get myself familiar to a wide range of scripts.

I held an informal rehearsal session tonight that allows people to just come in and out if they would like to.  I met two pairs of actors, and we talked about finding suitable materials, devising, and pacing.  I am looking forward to working with peer actors afterwards and to putting together this showcase in January.

Showcase Starter:

On Tuesday night, I designed a starter for the showcase and organized some students to carry it out.  Before the gathering, I wrote out and printed some sentences that are related to the duologues and monologues in the showcase.  Instead of assigning everyone a few sentences, I let them to choose their own ones, because in this way they might be able to resonate more with the words they were saying.  The sentences are expressive and mostly sad.  I paid attention to include a range of length and tones in the sentences, so that the variation would show through.  I also carefully chose a song that would fit the mood.

The practice rounds turned out very well - there was a nice and gradual buildup throughout the three minutes from silence to loudness, from calmness to longing and desperation.  Students expressed that they were able to drop into the mood, and some of them felt very sad.  Two club members that were watching on the side told me it was unique and interesting to watch.

This is my first time to put together something abstract by myself, so it was not easy for me to design and prepare.  I had a clear but also flexible directorial intention and I am glad that it turned out to be effective.

Writing the Flowchart:

I have always like organizing things.  Although I have experience of organizing backstage props, costumes, giving cues and so on, it is my first time to write up all the components needed for a performance.  I started the document last week, and have been spending quite a few hours on it.  I wrote instructions for lighting, sound, actors and all different parts, so that people can keep a record of the most important things.

It is difficult to decide the order of the different performances and how to make the showcase flow as a whole.  I have been adjusting the sequence often and designing transitions.  The actors and the technician also gave me some valuable advice, in terms of where I should put the comedic scenes, where I can add in some music and so on.  I am glad to have them involved in this organizing process and I do value their suggestions.  I will soon hold a meeting for more advice and adjustments.

Although the planning and writing process takes a huge amount of work, I think it is definitely essential to write it down so that every member of the showcase can refer to it and get familiar.  I have had a deeper understanding of a stage manager/director's job, I love it, and I think I will grow a lot out of it.

Rehearsals during December & Time-management:

As shown by the attached Google Spread Sheet, I had over 10 hours of 'official' rehearsal sessions with the actors, in which I watched what they had come up so far,  gave some advice, and then watched them consolidate the changes.  I also provided unofficial sessions (like 'I'm in the LC from 6:30-7:45!  Please pop in and rehearse!') when they could have a more casual environment of rehearsal.

This was a huge stress on me because I dedicated most of my free time directing them.  If I spent an hour with one performance, that would be multiplied by thirteen.  Thus, I made a time table and held rehearsals accordingly.  I found it a very good practice, because the time table is a clear visualization and it kept both me and all the other actors organized.  I would do it for any future productions.

Although my free time shrank massively throughout December, I still felt motivated, and I was delighted to see the progress that the actors are making during the rehearsals.  I was also glad that I could manage my time well under this stressful condition.

First-time Directing:

This showcase is the first drama performance that I have directed.  Throughout the process (including starting to find actors, checking the performances, designing transitions and having dressed rehearsals), I have grown massively as a director and as a theatre person.

I started to understand the huge responsibility of a director - a director is in charge of the show.  I needed to communicate with actors and technicians back and forth to finalize many of the decisions.  I was the one to oversee the picture, to realize if there were any problems, and to be prepared for that.  It was certainly a lot of work and pressure.

I was constantly sending emails and messages to the group to make an announcement, clarify any confusion and answer questions.  I was checking all the performances in a cycle, especially when some of them were having more difficulties.  For example, the actors for Rabbit Hole (A2) were having questions on the plot line and the characterization.  So I told them what I knew from reading the play, and then went on online research with them for more analysis and explanation.  All three of us found it helpful for our understanding.  Eventually, they were able to find their way and came up with their own interpretation (a rather comedic one).

Also, I started to experience how rewarding it is to be a director.  I discussed with the actors and sometimes was surprised by their insightful ideas. I had the valuable opportunity to witness the progress of every single duologue or monologue.  For example, I worked a lot on the pacing with the actors of Reasons to Be Pretty, and when it all came together, it was so heart-hitting for me to watch as a director and an audience.

Overall, I felt truly fortunate to be directing the entire show.  This experience has made me interested in pursuing more in the directing concentration, along with my enthusiasm in acting.

Dressed Rehearsals:

I planned two dressed rehearsals on the Thursday and Monday before the actual show day.  The process was stressful, but I think at the end they seemed really promising for the actual show to go smoothly.

Although the technicians and I have run the lighting cues and the sound cues before the dressed rehearsals, we encountered quite a few problems.  It was quite annoying, but I also had a deeper understanding of the importance of full dressed rehearsals - those problems can be solved during the rehearsals, before the actual show day.  As an actor, I used to feel that full run-throughs are exhausting and time-consuming, but now I have fully understood that rehearsals are not simply for actors - they are for the director, the technicians, and all other components of the show to collaborate and to reduce the risk of having problems on stage.  We need time for that, and especially actors should respect it.

I had a difficult time managing all 21 people during the rehearsals.  When in pursuit of efficiency, I sometimes lost my politeness and friendliness.  I think it is important to be efficient, but I wish to learn how to be a better leader instead of a manager - how to communicate with people not in a position of power, but with my personal charisma.  Having said this, I valued the cooperation from every cast and crew member.  I think their effort was the key to adapt to any changes.

I think running dressed rehearsals is tiring, more tiring than having the actual performances.  Yet I enjoyed being a problem solver and seeing the show being put together.

My Own Scene from The Children's Hour:

I worked with Kitty for this duologue.  We spent quite a few hours understanding the script and building the connection between each other.  We sat in half darkness and talked to each other, in order to build the backstory and the emotional bond between the characters.  Then we started to work on staging, the acting, the beats of the script and building intensity.  I think this way of working enabled me to absorb what the playwright has written and come up with my own interpretation.  I learned this way of working in Emerson's summer program, and now I know that I will definitely continue this practice in the future.

At some point of our rehearsal, I found myself so "in my head" instead of "in my gut," and that I stopped feeling things in the scene.  Although there might not seem to be a big difference, I found the urgent need to regain the "aliveness" in my acting.  So I reread the script, listened to some music, traced my thoughts to find my empathy with the story, and finally started to feel the scene again.  In the final rehearsals and performances, our scene went well and received positive feedback - some described us as "heart-hitting," "raw," "brilliant," and "authentic."  In this experience, I reinforced the idea that emotional aliveness and level of focus is essential in my acting.

Audience Feedback:

I received a lot of positive feedback from the audience.  I am glad that this new showcase-style theatre experience was enjoyable for most of them.

Technical aspects - Some told me that they have never realized lighting and music can be so beautiful and carefully designed that made them very emotional.  I am glad that my constant attention on lighting and music and the timing paid off.

Beginning and end - Many were impressed by the abstract pieces that started and ended the showcase.  I used what I learned during Emerson's summer program and my own creative vision to create these moments, and I am glad, again, that the audience accepted this level of abstractness.

Acting - The audience liked the comedies, the dramatic scenes and the more poignant ones.  They were largely impressed by the level of acting and the flow from scene to scene.  This proves my ability to direct/coach other students' acting.

Overall, what I have discovered about myself as a director through this experience is that I am quite fond of involving different theatre elements to create a degree of abstractness that allow emotions to be fully revealed in this space.  I feel that I have really grown as a director, and I would like to develop more on this path.

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