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The Director’s Epiphany

July 11, 2011 1 comment

BFA: The Musical!

I am feeling the appeal of being a director.

This summer, I have been blessed with the opportunity to direct a show for the Victoria Fringe. And not just any show. A seven-person show. And not just that – it’s a musical. An original musical. What. A. Treat.

I am, of course, talking about BFA: The Musical! Cue blurb:

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Phil has the tools to become a novelist; he has a freshly awarded Bachelor of Fine Arts from UVic, an artist girlfriend, and a penchant for boxed wine. Under family pressures to attend law school, he questions what BFA really stands for – through the majesty of song. Features music by local artists, including The Chris Ho Show and Immaculate Machine!

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It is proving to be quite the marvelous adventure.

First, some background: I was not a directing student at UVic. I wanted to take the class, but I couldn’t fit it in with the two degrees I was already pursuing (and just this April, finished – a BFA in Acting and a BA in Writing).

The last show I directed happened two years ago, at my church. 30+ children from age 3 to 14 or so in a self-written play based on stories from the book of Luke. With that play, I learned the importance of identifying and highlighting what parts of the script the actors will really enjoy: Ten year old boys love to yell at their parents while pretending to be possessed by demons. Five year olds have great fun pretending to be pigs, then squealing, running offstage, and making whatever adorable noises they think drowning pigs would make. Oh, and everyone can enjoy the meditative edge of a good group storm-making scene with claps and slaps and snapping fingers. I learned I could manage a large group by trusting my instincts, which in this case meant dealing with large groups of children as though they were individual characters (so that a group of actors became a ‘crowd’ character for several scenes, as well as the storm, and so forth). Blocking them as a single character meant visualizing them like they were a school of fish.

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Hearts Are Thumps

Image via Wikipedia

Before that, my last directorial stint came in grade 12 when I directed a show called ‘Opening Night’. In retrospect, casting a nervous, uncertain-of-her-own-abilities actor as the starring role character, who happened to be a nervous, uncertain-of-her-own-abilities actor, was perhaps compounding problems upon problems, but I thought the end result went well enough for high school theatre. Well, for one performance, anyway. And we only had two. For the second, well… our high school theatre shared a wall with the gym, and there happened to be a basketball game that evening. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. I don’t know how so many basketballs can bounce off one wall throughout a single game, and the buzzer was none too friendly. And the sound kid used the wrong CD, so we had birds chirping in the living room instead of a doorbell. Several times. Oh, and part of the set fell down. A large part. And I believe a prop broke. And people came in rather late, through doors very visible (and blinding) to the audience.

Okay, so that performance was a gongshow.

But I learned more than a few things from that rehearsal process. First, I learned how crucial it is for actors to have confidence in their work. Or at least in the production. And I learned how dear and darling and valuable it is to cast actors who put their all into making a show work. I also learned the importance of casting wisely, and with some caution – I like to give an actor a challenge, but I need to make sure it’s one I know I can help them conquer. And my wonderful drama teacher, Ms. JudyAnn McCarthy, showed me how to read a comedic text and find the physical comedy that may not be immediately apparent on the stage. (The show had a bumbling maid.)

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Fringe (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

Then, this January, came the day of submissions for the Victoria Fringe Festival. The Vic Fringe, while mostly sticking to a lottery draw as all Fringe Festivals do (where the performing companies are chosen, essentially, out of a hat from all the submitters), also features an early bird draw, where the first 10 people to show up at their door on the final day of submissions get in automatically.

I wanted to perform a one man show of my own, for the first time ever. So I planned. I set an early, early alarm clock so I could get on my bike and ride over there, to arrive at around 5:30am. Their doors open at 10am. I figured that would be early enough. But as I slept, it snowed. One of the three snowfalls Victoria experienced all winter. My bike isn’t equipped for snow, and I don’t have another vehicle, so I was stuck waiting for the first bus of the morning, and when I arrived at 6:30am… there were at least 15 people already in line. My hopes were seemingly dashed. But hey, it’s a line of dedicated theatre practitioners, so I decided to network, to say hello to old friends, and to meet new ones, and as I was doing so, two fellow writing students, Meghan Bell and Natalie North, shouted out to me. They were seventh in line. They had an idea for an as-of-yet unwritten show. A musical. Built around characters newly graduating with potentially useless BFA degrees (as we were). They knew I was in the theatre department. They needed a director. They asked.

How could I say no? Why would I?

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Director

Image by MightyBoyBrian via Flickr

So from one closed door (not arriving early enough), another opened, and I was given the opportunity to cast, co-design, and direct a bright, fun, silly, vibrant musical. Heck, and even that other door opened up, when new Fringe spots became available, so I now have a one-man-show, William Vs The World, performing in Fringe at CCPA. 🙂

But back to BFA. This is the first opportunity I have had to direct trained actors (from both CCPA and from UVic’s theatre program). My first chance to really work with a production team, including Jess Shead, who is an excellent choreographer and actress. And the experience has been SO intellectually rewarding, figuring out how to use my repertoire of acting tricks and improv games to help my cast understand and build their characters, how to use my own prior acting experiences as fodder for successfully staging certain scenes and for keeping the audience’s attention trained in the right locations… and I love it. I truly do. It is a truly collaborative atmosphere, and I treasure it dearly. But what I’ve enjoyed most, are the epiphanies.


The epiphanies.

The moments where the right idea seems to just happen, to conjure itself in the mind. I can see where I’ve learned this or that from prior experiences, and it’s rewarding and satisfying in its own way to put my training and gained knowledge into practice, but that satisfaction grows to a new level when those sparks of inspiration just seem to happen of their own accord.

It can be as simple as adding a character into a scene or switching a prop, to as grand as demanding a specific scene be added, that seem to make all the difference. Why I’m so struck by these moments is because I can’t identify why I thought to try these things. And THAT is what is so exhilarating, because if I can help build this play with inspired thoughts whose roots I can’t determine, then that gives me a renewed confidence in myself, that I can trust I WILL have the right solution to whatever hiccup we come across.

I believe in this show. It will be funny, fantastic, marvelous, and unlike anything I have ever been a part of. And though my directing resume may be slight, I know I can be up for the task.

And that kind of confidence is priceless.

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BFA: The Musical has six performances throughout the Victoria Fringe Festival, and an upcoming music-filled fundraiser on July 23rd at Logan’ Pub.

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A script for ThePlaceKidz

January 10, 2010 Leave a comment
A 6th century mosaic of Jesus at Church San Ap...
Image via Wikipedia

Below is a first (and possibly only?) draft for a piece of theatre I’ve written that the children at my church are going to perform, based on Luke 8:22-56. Hee hee!

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Enter NARRATOR to side of stage, and JESUS, centre-stage. Jesus mimes teaching to the congregation.

NARRATOR
Jesus had been traveling through towns and villages, teaching the good news of the kingdom of God.

Enter PETER, JAMES, JOHN, DISCIPLES and WOMEN. Jesus mimes teaching to them.

NARRATOR
With him were his disciples, and women who he had cured of evil spirits and diseases. One day, Jesus said to his disciples-

JESUS
Let’s cross to the other side of this lake.

Jesus starts walking.

PETER
Uh… Jesus?

JESUS
Yes?

PETER
Walking across the water might be a little tough for the rest of us. Do you mind if we use a boat?

NARRATOR
So they all stepped into the boat.

Disciples and Women hold the SIDE OF BOAT.

JESUS
Well, goodnight.

Jesus sleeps. STORM people rub their hands together and slowly move to a semi-circle surrounding the boat. The Disciples and the Women are scared. They shake the sides of the boat back and forth.

JAMES
Uh, Jesus?

Storm people rub their hands together more fiercely. Jesus continues to sleep.

JOHN
Big J? We might have a problem here.

Storm people pat their thighs to simulate harder rain. The sides of the boat shake even more. Jesus continues to sleep.

JAMES
Jesus!

PETER
Wakey-wakey!

Storm people pat their thighs really loudly. The sides of the boat are spinning. The Disciples and Women are terrified. Jesus continues to sleep.

PETER
MASTER! MASTER! WE’RE GOING TO DROWN!

Jesus wakes up, gets to his feet, yawns. He turns to one side and makes a stop sign with his hand.

JESUS
Silence!

The side turns quiet and wanders away. Jesus turns to the other side.

JESUS
Quiet down!

The other side turns quiet and wanders away. The disciples and the women are amazed.

DISCIPLES & WOMEN
Wooooooooooaaah.

JESUS
Where is your faith?

PETER (stammering)
Well, you see, I put it down somewhere, and thought I left it on my desk, but then I couldn’t find it, and it’s always in the last place you look, right?

JESUS
That was a rhetorical question.

PETER
Oh.

Jesus shakes his head disapprovingly at him.

NARRATOR
They sailed on into the country of the Gerasenes, directly opposite Galilee.

The sides of the boat are put away and Jesus, the Disciples, and the Women exit. The actors who were the storm come on as PIGS, wearing pig noses made from old egg cartons. They oink on the stage. FARMER BETH and FARMER SUE enter.

FARMER BETH
Sure is a peaceful day to look after our pigs, eh Sue?

FARMER SUE
Sure is, Beth. I like a day where absolutely nothing of any importance happens.

FARMER BETH
Yep.

FARMER SUE
Yep.

A POSSESSED MAN jumps out, wearing all black, with a sign on him saying ‘naked’. He is crazy in an evil Tasmanian Devil sort of way, booga-booga-ing, frothing, and scaring Beth and Sue, who run and hide to the side. The Possessed Man spasms a lot.

FARMER SUE
What’s wrong with him? And is he… naked?

FARMER BETH
He’s been seen around this area for a long time. He’s possessed by demons – he even lives in the cemetery!

Jesus enters. The POSSESSED MAN sees him and screams at Jesus. Jesus looks at him calmly.

JESUS
Come out of that man.

The Possessed Man screams again at Jesus.

POSSESSED MAN
I know who you are!

The POSSESSED MAN falls on his knees before Jesus.

POSSESSED MAN
What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? Don’t torture me!!!

JESUS
What is your name?

POSSESSED MAN
Legion. For we are a legion of demons inside this man! Don’t send us to the abyss! Anywhere but there! Anywhere! Send us instead into… these pigs!

The Possessed Man gestures to the pigs oinking onstage.

JESUS
Go.

The Possessed Man screams, then falls flat to the ground. The pigs all squeal and run off the side of the stage, making lots of pig-dying noises as they fall down just offstage.

FARMER BETH
We’ve got to go tell the town!

Farmer Beth and Farmer Sue run off and bring the TOWNSPEOPLE onstage. The Formerly Possessed Man puts on a coat and sits calmly, cross-legged, at Jesus’ side.

FARMER SUE
Look! Look! I told you he was cured!

All the townspeople see the peaceful formerly possessed man. The formerly possessed man waves hello – All the townspeople shrink back, afraid.

TERRIFIED TOWNSPERSON
But that… that isn’t possible! If this man did that…

The townspeople all look at Jesus, terrified. The TOWNSPERSON walks up to Jesus.

TERRIFIED TOWNSPERSON
Y-y-y-y-you better go! W-w-w-w-e don’t want you here!

The townspeople, the terrified townsperson, Farmer Sue, and Farmer Beth exit.

JESUS (to the formerly possessed man)
Go home and tell everyone everything that God has done in you.

The formerly possessed man exits. The Disciples enter and follow Jesus as he walks along the stage.

A HUGE CROWD of people (including the former pigs and the former townspeople) and JAIRUS enter. JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER lies down in a very visible place to the side (on the ridge of the baptismal place?), with a SERVANT and JAIRUS’ WIFE by her side. The Daughter groans, barely moving.

NARRATOR
When Jesus returned, a great big crowd was waiting for him, including a man named Jairus, who had a very sick daughter.

Jairus falls to Jesus’ feet.

JAIRUS
Please, please, PLEASE come back to my home! My twelve-year-old daughter is dying. Please, help her!

NARRATOR
Jairus was not the only person who came for Jesus’ help. A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years, without end.

BLEEDING WOMAN steps slightly out of the crowd, to the audience.

NARRATOR
In an attempt to be healed when all doctors had failed her, she reached out and touched the tip of Jesus’ cloak.

BLEEDING WOMAN sneaks up behind Jesus and touches the tip of his cloak.

JESUS (seemingly angry)
Who just touched me?

The crowd (including the Bleeding Woman) all steps back, saying ‘Not me!’ and ‘I didn’t!’ and ‘I wouldn’t dare’, etcetera.

PETER
Master, the whole crowd was pressing against you. They’re rather pushy. Personal space, people, come on!

JESUS
Someone touched me. I felt power go out from me.

The bleeding woman steps forward.

BLEEDING WOMAN
I did. You see, I’ve been bleeding without stop for twelve years now, and the doctors don’t know how to fix me, but when I saw you I knew that if I could just touch you, you would heal me. So I did, and now… I’m healed.

JESUS
Your faith has healed you, for you trusted in me. Go in peace.

Jairus’ Daughter stops moving.

JAIRUS’ WIFE
My daughter!

The SERVANT runs across the stage and pulls Jairus aside. Jesus overhears their conversation.

SERVANT
Sir, I’m sorry, but your daughter has died. No need now to bother the teacher.

Jesus walks over to Jairus.

JESUS
Do not be afraid – just trust in me and she will be healed.

Jesus, Jairus, Peter, James, and John walk over to the daughter and her mother. The other actors exit the stage. Jairus and Jairus’ Wife cry and wail over their dead daughter.

JESUS
Don’t cry; she hasn’t died. She’s sleeping.

Jairus and Jairus’ Wife look up at him and laugh, sadly.

JAIRUS
Thank you for coming, but my daughter is dead.

Jesus holds Jairus’ Daughter’s hand.

JESUS
My dear child, wake up.

Jairus’ Daughter immediately sits up.

JAIRUS DAUGHTER
Prince Charming?

Jairus and his wife hug their daughter.

NARRATOR
Her parents were ecstatic, but Jesus warned them to keep quiet.

JESUS
Don’t tell a soul what happened in this room.

PETER
Uh… question. If we were to, say, hypothetically, later on down the road write a book about you and what you’re doing, a sort of biography, good news, yadda yadda, do you think we could write about this, then? Because it’s a pretty cool story.

NARRATOR
The end.

(bows.)

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