Let's Put on a Show!
"You know what? How about Granny's barn - it's big
enough for a stage and lots of folks in an audience!"
Similar lines were often the prompt in the old Judy
Garland/Mickey Rooney movies about young men and women
who just wanted to sing, dance, and act. Those movies
always ended happily (like visits to cheap car insurance
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wanting to establish an amateur group of thespians.
One of the first things to remember when putting
together a dramatics group is that the best groups are
successful because they have the right sense of
collaboration among talented people. The large dividing
line among the collaborators is a version of two groups:
artistic people and business people. The former make the
creative choices for a given show, the latter make the
choices involving money. Among these two groups are the
leaders: for the artistic side, this is normally the
director. For the business side, this leader is known as
the producer. The stage director is often a person with
quite a conglomeration of skills. He/she is often called
upon to be, at various times, a teacher, an organizer, a
cheerleader, and a disciplinarian. A stage director has
to possess an overall artistic vision for the chosen
show, and he/she has to have to drive and determination
to make sure this vision comes to fruition.
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It is precisely in this area that many efforts at
forming a amateur drama group fail. To put it bluntly,
the group does not have at least one person with the
kind of personality to be in charge of the show, put all
its myriad of pieces together and arrange them all so
that a coherent, entertaining and edifying play is the
result. Sometimes the old adage "too many cooks spoil
the broth" is the case. Many different artistic people
are all vying for artistic control. One has only to pick
up a recent magazine with an article about in-fighting
on a Hollywood movie set to see how this kind of thing
happens in theatrical endeavours even when millions of
pounds are at stake.
Another crucial part of the forming of a group of
dramatic players in the choice of plays, or the "season"
of shows. What most appeals to the given audience, and
what most suits the skills of the actors at hand? Should
musical theatre, which is traditionally very popular
with theatre-goers be attempted? If so, a group must
have strong singers and dancers at hand, all of whom can
perform in a presentational style. Musical theatre also
generally requires that a choreographer and some sort of
vocal coach/music director are available, although this
of course depends on the difficulty of musical
attempted. Do you have older actors or younger actors?
Experienced actors or inexperienced? All of these kind
of factors and more can influence the type of play a
group chooses to perform. Also, any established play or
musical is protected by copyright laws. Even a strictly
amateur group must be prepared to pay some sort of
royalty in order to be able to perform material that has
not become public domain, such as the works of
Shakespeare or the classic dramatists like Sophocles.
One more consideration, though by no means a final one,
is the planning and execution of the rehearsal time. A
director must know quite clearly how dedicated his
actors will be. Will all of them show up to rehearsal
punctually and consistently? Often, rehearsal time is
brief and each minute must be exploited fully. Actors
must be aware that tardiness or worse, absenteeism cannot
be tolerated for the show to have any chance of success.
A skilful group of players also must know which actor
can handle the larger roles, and who is more suited for
the smaller but still crucial parts. A group that is
very aware of how they all fit together will be able to
stage a hit performance.