Our most recent Main Stage production, Seussical, has finally come and gone. This is one of my all-time favorite musicals, and as soon as I saw it on our season I knew it was going to be a blast! I’ve directed the junior version before, but never the full-length, and not on this scale. For me, Seussical was like another Joseph…Dreamcoat. I was slated to be choreographer, not director, yet the entire show is music. This time, unlike Joseph, the director agreed to share directorial credit with me. I know it sounds small, but if I’m going to basically stage every moment of the show that the audience is paying to see, I’d kind of like for them to know I had something to do with it. 🙂
Credit decided, we split up the work into two halves. She designed the costumes and props (of which there were hundreds), we designed the set together, and I choreographed the show with her input. I think it was because of this clear communication and collaboration from the very beginning that the show went so beautifully. Everyone was on the same page, everything got done on time, and every piece fit right into place. Amazing!
Since the theatre has grown so large so quickly, the Artistic Director and I have had to sort of “divide and conquer” the different programs that we offer. It’s been almost two years since she and I worked on a show together, and I think we’ve proven once again that we work exceptionally well as a team. My strength is in the big picture, and her’s is in the detail. Together, with the help of our amazing design team and volunteers, we are able to put on a well-polished production that our community can be proud of!
The question, of course, is how do we repeat this process with other people? Can we put together a production schedule template to assist other directorial teams in the same theatre? Can we, through organized processes, create the same kind of success with other productions? Can we learn to improve upon our weaknesses and share our strengths? How do we create successful collaboration for ourselves and others in the future?
No, really. How do we do this? Anyone? Beuller?
Collaboration, like any partnership or marriage, is an intimate process. In order for it to work successfully, both (or all) parties have to be willing to stand up or lie down for certain causes. There must be an equal give-and-take of power, decision making, and compromise. Some people say that in a compromise nobody gets what they really want. In my experience, the very act of having to explain and defend your artistic choices can be a powerful, powerful tool. If I can succinctly answer the question why do I feel strongly about this? then the idea is a go. If I can’t define it, then it probably isn’t a strong choice, and despite my willful obstinance, it probably doesn’t mean that much to me anyway. As long as both parties understand this concept and are willing to play by the rules, you can make great progress together. By getting rid of the ambivalent, you enhance the good!
I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent. My point is only that, in my opinion, this show worked because this partnership worked. Because of our cohesion, the cast and crew were all well-informed and well-rehearsed, which made them confident. Their confidence transferred into strong, energetic performances that enthused the audience and garnered us fantastic reviews via print and word of mouth! Every member of the cast was proud of the work that they had put in to this show, so they talked it up! They put out posters (more than we’ve ever run for any show!), sold program advertisements (more than we’ve ever sold for any playbill!), put us on Facebook and Twitter, sent emails to their friends and family, and marketed the show for us with their own enthusiasm. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity.
As a result, we had a nearly sold-out run of thirteen performances, which is pretty fantastic for a community theatre production in our area. Dr. Seuss’ famous characters are beloved by young and old, and it was wonderful to see our audience filled with several generations of the same family, all enjoying the same performance together. I love beyond words that we are dedicated to creating entertainment that the entire family can enjoy. I hope that our productions inspire family conversations. I hope that the experiences they have in our theatre seats lead to them spending more time together doing things that they all appreciate, like reading books together, playing dress-up, doing arts and crafts, asking questions, and thinking thinks! I hope this for every one of our performances, but on some productions, the likelihood seems so much higher.
So here’s to you, cast and crew of Seussical! Thanks for all the thinks. 🙂