One afternoon, after a particularly busy day at the state Thespian Festival, my friend Jeff approached me and said he had signed us up to do something new. It was a crazy idea. Three schools, three casts, one show. I immediately said, “no!” He didn’t listen. Thus began my journey with “Jeff’s Wild Hair.”
There are several reasons I didn’t want to take on this project. 1) He hates Shakespeare therefore, our students have zero experience with acting the text. 2) One of the schools is located over the mountain and at least 3 hours away which would make the rehearsal process more difficult. 3) The idea was to perform at every school which would mean a major adjustment for cast and crew as we all learned what each venue had to offer in the way of tech. 4) We already produce 5 shows in one year – more than any other school in our area. I was tired. I wasn’t ready to take on one more project right at the end of the school year. Jeff forged ahead. We were now a part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We would be assigned the character of the “fairy world;” Dallas High School would assigned the character of the “mechanical;” and RPA would be assigned the character of the “lovers/royalty.” Ground rule were set – a certain number of rehearsal hours per school, a basic set plan approved, and the work on the text began.
He ask one of our English teachers to take on the role as director for our part of the production. I was left out of all the talk until the day they all got together (my schedule was hopping busy!). The casts and crews from the three schools met for the first time the day before the first performance at Dallas High School. They spent a few hours getting to know each other, learning a dance, and touring a couple local theaters.
The next day we began the marathon of putting it together… re-staging where needed, setting cues, and coordinating tech.
Our school is the only school with a me… a tech director. Our first stop was at Dallas High school where I taught students how to use their light board and how to program cues more efficiently. We divide up the calling the show duties amongst the three stage managers. They would call the cues for the part of the show they had been involved with rehearsing at their respective schools. We decided that the board operators from each school would run their own boards. Everyone on deck crew would work together at each school
Next we moved to my school. Here we were able to fit the stage managers for every school comfortably into the booth. I think there was a little bit of envy. Admittedly, we have a fantastic facility that we go to great lengths it maintain and even update.
Our third stop was at RPA. We all drove over the mountain to rehearse and to re-stage a bit. Their space was drastically different from our previous performance venues. It is in a former dairy. The levels of their stage put the heads of the tallest actors practically in the lighting grid. You had to go outside and run around the building to cross to the other side of the stage.
I think the biggest thing I did at this location was to teach them more about how their system worked. They had a few LED fixtures that had never been hung or programmed unto their board. I was able to help them get the fixtures in the air and programmed for future use. Since they do not have anyone on staff who knows about tech they seemed fairly interested.
Although I was not involved in the process until that final four days of getting together for the first time to striking the show, I was exhausted (especially since I drove home that night through a terrible storm and didn’t get home until 3am). I can’t say I’d like to see us do this kind of project again. But I will say it seemed to be somewhat of a good learning experience for the students. I think they learned to appreciate the programs that they all come from. I think they learned a little about learning how to work with other directors who are not their regular directors. I think they learned a little about the different cultures of different schools. I think they may have learned a little about acting by watching the actors of other schools working with their directors. I know I learned a couple of things watching how these directors interacted with their students and with each other.