BY TOM SKELTON
PREPARING THE RECITAL: Production Problems
The preceding articles in this section on “Preparing The Recital” have discussed the theatre selection and suggested ideas for sets, props, and lighting effect. All that remains to be done (and this is the largest part of the job) is to “get the show on the boards.”
Apart from letting the relatives and friends of the students see tangible proof of their progress, I presume the purpose of your recital is to present a production that will be a valuable contribution to the theatre-scene of your community and a satisfying experience for your students.
Perhaps the best way to share the excitement of “putting on a show” is to establish a Production Staff of students, parents, and friends, each with their specific duties. Months before the recital you should sit down with pencil and paper and figure out your assets. You may find that among your students you have children of printers, seamstresses, florists, musicians, carpenters, and social organizers. Many of them will be willing to help you for the sheer fun of being involved in a theatrical production. But you must make it exciting and fun fro them. The printer won’t want to just print programs – he does that all the time. But he may be willing to print the programs if he also designs the sets.
If you are able to build enough enthusiasm and cooperation among your staff you will find that they can be of great help to you and relieve you of many of the small details involved in preparing a recital. If they are really working as a team they may, in fact, be able to turn a modest recital into a much more ambitious affair. In the end, however, the responsibility for the production rests in your hands, and volunteers often have a way of just not having enough time to do their jobs. So let me warn you against being overly ambitious until you have a staff that has proven itself. After the recital you may decide that it would have been easier to have done it all yourself because you will have had to spend a great deal of time explaining their functions and leading them through each detail. You would probably be right, too, but don’t forget that next year they will already have learned their lessons.
The Production Staff can be small: the costume designer may also execute the costumes, supervise the makeup, and do the lighting and stage managing; and the pianist may also design the posters and programs, and supervise the box office and tickets. Or the Production Staff may be large, with a person for each job and numerous production assistants. (A graph explaining the relationship of members of the Production Staff will appear in the May issue.)
The Rehearsal Schedule
Simultaneously with the formation of your production Staff you should draw up a rehearsal schedule with the aid of your Production Manager and your Stage Manager. If rehearsals are held apart from class work, the schedule should be posted in the studio so that each dancer can check on his own rehearsals. If this doesn’t seem to work and dancers claim they didn’t know about such-and-such a rehearsal, your Production Manager can have each dancer put a check after his name for each rehearsal. Then if someone has not checked his name he can be phoned.
You will save yourself a lot of grief if you will run your rehearsals like a professional dance company. Tardiness must be firmly discouraged, but that means that you too must always be on time. Chattering and having fun must not take place during the rehearsal except when you are having a “break.” The “announced rehearsal time” should mean that the dancers are dressed, warmed-up, and ready-to-go at that time. Since you will be working primarily with students, however, you may want to follow the practice of many dance companies and have organized warm-ups led by you or by a senior member of the school. Not only will this quiet everyone down and lend a tone of seriousness to the rehearsal that follows, but also this is the only way you can be sure that everyone is properly warm. Your Production Manager should be given the unpleasant task of disciplining the unruly, if he can be present at rehearsals.
Generally, you should not allow guests to watch rehearsals. Instead, when the choreography has progressed far enough, guests could be invited to a “run-through” and serve as an audience to make the dancers better prepared for the terror of the actual performance. About a week before the performance you should be able to have a “run-through” of the entire program, and all of the staff should be invited. This big “run-through” will acquaint the dancers with the sequence of the program so they will know when to be dressed and ready, and will also let the dancers see each other work. It is to be hoped that by this time enough discipline will have been established so that those dancers who are problems will see the example set by the more “professional-minded” dancers.
If the studio rehearsals have been run properly, the theatre rehearsals will leave you free to worry about more important matters.
(more next month)