Have you ever thought about what goes into a theatrical performance to ensure its success? Read on to find out more from the key staff who made all the wonderful performances of ‘A Christmas Carol’ actually happen!
Applied learning links:
Director, Choreographer, Musical Director, Backstage Manager/Primary Cast
Mrs Noon - Director What does a Director actually do?
• Have a vision for the whole play (everything you see and hear)
• Make casting decisions
• Runs the auditions
• Creates a rehearsal schedule
• Runs all rehearsals
• Meets with the technical team to discuss props, costume, set, lighting and sound
• Liaises with the stage manager to ensure the show nights run smoothly
The role of a Director
This is both challenging and rewarding. A Director’s role starts when the Director gets the script, so for me this process started in July and I spent a number of days of the summer holidays reading through and annotating the script with my ideas. As a Director, it is very important that you can visualise the script on stage when you are reading the play. What I love about Directing is that there can be so many different alternatives to any scene. I read once that a Director makes up to 100 decisions an hour- you most certainly need to be on the ball!
I always sit down and write out a set of key questions and problems that I need to consider and overcome during the rehearsal process. It is the Director's role to come up with ideas on the style of the play, the actors’ performances as well as the lighting, set, props, costume and sound effects. Many of these things occur naturally throughout rehearsal but it is vital that they are decided on at the start and then communicated clearly to the production team throughout the rehearsal process.
The next step is to audition the actors. During the audition process a Director is looking for evidence of stage presence and a confident performer with audience awareness and an ability to use characterisation skills to communicate a successful role and meaning to an audience. It is important the actor is well prepared, can learn lines fast and can experiment with their physicality without being restricted by holding their script. A successful actor is proactive in rehearsals and has their own ideas for the scene and characters. Basically, they have done their research. In order for the rehearsal and performance to run smoothly, it is vital that all cast members attend rehearsals and are committed to the show. The technical and backstage crew are crucial to ensure the show runs smoothly. On the night, all the actors must keep calm and not panic. They must be prepared and give it their all!
What does a good rehearsal look like?
A good rehearsal starts on time, is well-planned out with specific targets on what needs to be achieved by the end of the rehearsal. The actors are well prepared and know their lines. They contribute to the process and there are many creative ideas that lead to light bulb moments. Key questions are explored, problems are solved and a polished scene is the end product.
What is the best and worst part of being a Director?
The best part is being creative, having the freedom to see your ideas come to reality. The worst part is the stress of working under strict time constraints and worrying that the show won’t be ready in time! It is very disappointing when actors let you down or don't commit too. I always feel very nervous when the audience are in and the show is about to start as they have paid to see your show - it’s a big responsibility!
My World Real Life Link
I specialised in directing in my final year of university where I achieved the highest mark possible for my module. I directed a short film which included actors from RADA, a prestigious acting school in London. This was screened at a local cinema near Loughborough University.
Shining stars of the process
I would like to thank each and every cast member for their hard work and dedication. A special thank you to Toni Burns for playing the lead role and all the challenges that have come with doing this. Our backstage crew were fantastic, specifically Rhys James and Michael Batty who ran the lighting and sound for the production- a huge achievement! Lauren O’Niell did a fantastic job as OBA’s make-up artist. She is so talented and her special effects work is unreal! Thank you all for an amazing experience.
Mrs Barker - Choreographer
Challenges as a Choreographer
As this show is a traditional play and not a musical I knew my job could be a difficult one in order to include some show-stopping dance numbers. During rehearsals, Mrs Noon and I thought it would be a great idea to give the 'Christmas Spirits' their own theme tune and ensemble of dancers. Therefore I began to create dance sections linking to the theme of each Christmas spirit, to create a build- up and entrance for each ghost.
The most difficult part when choreographing a show
Working around the set can be difficult. During rehearsals we create and choreograph in a big dance studio. However, when the set arrives a few days before show time, it is challenging to adapt to the spatial surroundings, although our cast of dancers adapted brilliantly.
The most fun part about choreographing for the show
I love to be creative - this is why I love Dance! Choreographing and performing is what I enjoy best, so putting together school shows is great fun. Choreographing the dark sections of the play was very enjoyable, as well as being able to sing and dance along to all the Christmas songs and carols – I felt very festive!
What skills you need to make it as a professional dancer
To be a professional dancer you must have a lot of training and experience of live performances. Training must include hours in the dance studio to perfect technique and performance skills. Dancers need to be versatile in many styles of dance and be willing to adapt to any theme, or scenario given to them. It's a hard industry as the competition is tough, so standing out in auditions comes down to the dancers look, personality (both on and off stage) and. of course. dancing ability!
Star pupil in the show
They were all fantastic, but if I have to single out only one, this has to be Kiah Patterson in Year 7. I nicknamed her 'mini director' with Mrs Noon, as Kiah always knew what stage direction had been given out to the cast and never forgot any choreography or direction given to her. She was always punctual to rehearsals, very keen and willing to work. She was a pleasure to have in the cast.
I would like to also thank Ewan Jago who was a fantastic help backstage and was super organised with props, set and cues - well done, Ewan!
Mrs Cathcart - Musical Director The role of a Musical Director can be a bit like an octopus – often doing eight things at once! In the run-up to a performance you are responsible for rehearsing the singers in the show, so you have to spend time with any soloists, small groups and the ensemble. Sometimes the MD will work in liaison with a rehearsal pianist who will play a piano adaptation of the music to accompany the singers, and they may also work with specialist singing teachers or a chorus master, but often the MD will be responsible for co-ordinating all these elements themselves.
It is also vital for them to know the musical score inside out, so they can rehearse the music with the scenes on stage. This is when underscore music is often required – music that is played quietly by the band as the action is happening on stage – which helps to set the scene and add extra atmosphere. Sometimes the MD will be responsible for composing and scoring this additional music, if it is necessary.
When it comes to the actual shows, the MD acts as the link between what is happening on stage and the music from the orchestra pit. They will lead the singers on stage as well as conduct the band and cue the music, and often play the piano too. It can be a bit of a challenge trying to follow dialogue on stage during a scene, as well as play and conduct at the same time – especially if some of the dialogue from the actors is missed out! Equally, as last-minute cuts and changes are made to dialogue in rehearsals leading up to opening night, this can affect the amount of music needed for a particular scene or set change – this often requires the MD to think and act fast in order to fill any gaps and make the transitions as smooth as possible. This is an element of being an MD/rehearsal pianist that I really enjoy, as you have the opportunity to be creative and use improvisation skills to add additional atmosphere or tension to the story.
The students at OBA have really impressed me this year, especially those who auditioned to have small vocal solos or group numbers. Furthermore, I think that Thomas Brettell and Demi Gaskin, in particular, have shown resilience and confidence since starting at OBA in September, by successfully auditioning for solo songs. Additionally, Amy Parsons and Carrie Clarke have demonstrated real musicality and professionalism throughout rehearsals and always perform to the very best of their ability.
Miss Mc Kevitt - Backstage Manager/Primary Cast It was a stressful job at times, but overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable one, taking on the position of Backstage Manager for this year’s school production. I had a fantastic team helping me every step of the way; from making costume, creating props, sourcing sound effects as well as programming the lighting, everyone who helped out had an important role to play. It’s hard to single out just one person who impressed me, as every student in the technical team went above and beyond what was asked of them. No job I gave them was too much trouble for them and their response was always “No problem Miss.” I wouldn’t have been able to do my job without each of them by my side, so I owe the whole technical team a massive thank you for all their hard work and dedication to this year’s school production!
This year we were delighted at the interest from local primary schools wanting to take part in the annual school production. They have rehearsed tirelessly and worked their socks off in order to learn the songs and choreography from early October. They bring so much fun and a little something extra to the performances. I was blown away by their professionalism as well as the awesome costumes that they handmade or sourced themselves.
A big thank you and many congratulations go to all the primary school teachers and pupils of the following schools for their contributions: Windmill Hill, Hill View, The Brow, Brookvale and Gorsewood Primary Schools.
Miss McKevitt added:
Last, but not least, I want to say a massive THANK YOU to Miss Edwards and Miss Wells for all their help and support with rehearsals for the primary pupils… I couldn’t have done it without you!