Friday, May 25, 2012

Little Women--Wrapping it Up

It's been a week since opening night, and I feel like I'm still recovering from Little Women. It was a crazy two weeks leading up to the performances--I was at school 12 times in less than two weeks, which is quite a feat when you have a baby who still nurses five times a day. Even though it's been nearly a week since the show closed on stage, I've still been working on wrapping things up. Handing out reimbursements, getting reimbursed, closing the account, the cast party, putting stuff away, bringing my excessive amount of things home that I used for the play, putting that excessive amount of stuff away...Yesterday, I spent several hours organizing the mess. Now, I have a clean guest room--which had been piled high with drama stuff. And an organized closet--which had been floor to ceiling full of stuff. De-cluttering, cleaning, and tidying up. It feels good.

These pictures are from one of the dress rehearsal days. I had to bring Willow to school at 2 o'clock. Adam has a planning period during that time, so he came and visited us when he heard we were at school.

Willow was over joyed to see her dad! She loves him so much.

The set pieces coming together. 

Lots of little touches here and there to make it look more 'homey'. It was my life-sized doll house.

Program cover. I became obsessed with this clip art and had it put on everything. I wish that it had been on the tickets too, but I found it after those had been printed. 
It was on our posters too--I just found out (from looking at the bill) that the reason my pile of posters never dwindled was because 250 had been ordered. I had asked for 50 copies....oh well. 

Willow ready to go to school on Friday afternoon, dressed up for Opening Night.

Dave helped a lot with tech again--seriously, I don't know what I would do without him! He is very experienced, and always finds great sound effects and music.

Opening Night jitters. I was so nervous for them! They did a great job overall, and it was a successful performance--but I still caught all the mistakes that were made here and there. I'm sure it was all the tension and pressure they were feeling--never having had a 'practice performance' before opening night (like we usually have). And never having gone through the entire show in one shot (which probably made me more nervous than it made them).

We used a little room backstage for special make-up. We had a few costume racks in the activity room. The doors were plastered with stars that had each cast and crew member's name and role/job. You can see on this particular door is a tiny star--it has Willow's name on it! Hannah, the assistant director, was so sweet to do that! :) We also did hair and make-up in the activity room. The supplies were set up in stations--we used the ping pong tables. haha! Had chairs moved in the room for the kids to sit on--vast improvement from previous years when they had to sit on the floor. 

Since I had a poster surplus, we hung one for each cast/crew member so that they could write encouraging notes to each other throughout the production weekend.

The Johnson family on Saturday night.

Like I've mentioned a hundred times before, I'm not allowed to post pictures of students on the internet. But I'm going to go about this in a round about way and send you to this blog. The writer's daughter was in Little Women--she is a great blogger, so you should check out her other posts too! :) Also, for my American friends/family, if you want to see pictures or videos of the play when we visit this summer, I would love to show off! I think these kids are the best and love to prove it.

Recap of the performances:

Friday Night: lots of energy and nerves. some people were difficult to hear (we don't have microphones, so they have to project their voices). a few falling set pieces, including the coat tree which sort of broke. a few missed cues, some dropped lines. huge audience turn out. relatively unruly audience. girl wore roller blades. a bunch of kids in the front row were loud and obnoxious and kept standing up in their chairs and talking loudly. people were passing out yogurt and drinks in the auditorium (even though they shouldn't be eating in there). some people were asked to leave by the ushers because they were so disruptive. it was hot in the auditorium. the fog dissipated way too quickly in the scenes that needed it. some black outs were an eternity long because the girls backstage were not using the walkie talkies to call lights up correctly. started ten minutes late, because of a small crisis backstage--causing intermission to be shorter and the audience to be late for their buses home. there was no time for the cast to greet the audience because of this--which was disappointing because it is my favorite part of directing a show (to see the audience congratulate the cast/crew). found out just how LONG the play really was. over two hours! way longer than the last two years. the students were so happy to be done with the performance. it was a huge wave of relief to have one performance finished. since we had never been able to run the whole show before (a point of personal panic), I'm sure they felt an amazing sense of accomplishment to get through the whole beastly play!

Saturday Afternoon: we were harried in the beginning while getting ready. for one main reason--we needed more hands! on Friday night, we had several people helping with hair and make-up. on Saturday, we had only three people--thankfully a few moms showed up out of the goodness of their hearts--but we were still severely understaffed. for instance, i did four updos in less than an hour. they turned out pretty cute too, considering the amount of time I had--and I would have taken pictures to prove this point had i found a spare moment! we were all working as fast as we could, and kept asking each other, 'what time is it?' I kept telling myself to breathe--you can do this! during performances, one of my biggest responsibilities is making sure the show starts on time...only succeeded 1 out of 3 times...Overall, it was a much calmer, cooler, quieter performance, especially in comparison to opening night. it was nice to be able to watch the show in a calmer setting--far more enjoyable for me! and it was a thrill to watch the students performing even BETTER than the night before, even though there were only fifty people in the audience. even though there were less people in the audience, but they were extremely supportive. started on time, ended on time. adequate time for intermission. only two mistakes; one was pretty funny. the guy who played laurie was on stage when the lights came up, but then realized that he wasn't in that particular scene. He slowly walked of the stage, and i died laughing in the back row. I laughed quietly, of course. the students had to eat a very early lunch, so they were hungry by the time intermission came. i ended up buying them a bunch of food from the refreshment table--including fourteen hotdogs, which they devoured before act two started. Adam watched Willow at home, and then brought her to school as the first performance was ending.

Saturday Night: because the show is so incredibly long, we only had about forty minutes for a break before we had to start getting ready for the next show. the students ate dinner quickly--we had Subway delivered again (Subway on Friday and Saturday....) and then we started setting the stage, touching up hair and make-up, taking cast pictures, and meeting before the show started. It was a little emotional to know that this was the last show for several of the students, including four seniors who I've had the privilege of directing two or three times before. we had to start late again because one of the buses was several minutes behind schedule. list resulted in a shorter intermission because i wanted to make sure that there would be time after the show for the audience to greet the cast/crew. of course, a few days later, i received complaints that the intermission had been too short. sorry folks! can't please everyone, and the cast getting to see their friends and family after the show is more important than stuffing your face with hot dogs and popcorn. Adam recorded the evening performance, our friend took Willow home to put her to bed. It was the best performance in my opinion. another packed audience. they clapped, laughed, and gave the first standing ovation in SYIS drama history! i was literally exploding with pride for the students--jumping up and down backstage for them, screaming my head off. YAY! I was backstage at the end of the show so that I could give flowers to our lovely seniors after the curtain call. could barely get through my scripted speech because i didn't want to cry. then i made them do our little drama dance! haha, the girls were not happy about that. at least i joined them in the humiliation.

Mama Side Note:
  People comment, "how did you do this AND teach?" I would like to respond, "it was easy. i had help."  The reality is, how can I direct AND be a mom. This is the real tricky business! I don't know how people mother multiple children. Or...I guess I should say, I don't know how I could direct and be a mom to more than one child. It has been a difficult balancing act, and Willow was the victim of Little Women. I tried to do as much work as possible during the times when she napped, or after she went to sleep for the night--but towards the end, there was just so much to do. It's also tricky to find baby sitters here--although I had one friend who consistently babysat every Monday, which was a huge blessing. Going into this play, I thought it would be easier, since I wouldn't be teaching full time simultaneously. Although teaching and directing is difficult, at least I was at school all day. It's very hard to direct when you are stranded at home. There are so many issues that just can't be dealt with, and there are so many times when you have to rely on the good will of others to get things done.

One of the best moments--you know, one of those moments that makes everything worth it--I was sneaking my way backstage during a black out. The lights came up while I was still in the House, so I crouched in the front row. I looked back at the audience, at all their faces as they watched the story unfold before their eyes. Their expressions were priceless. Right there, my spirit soared, as I watched them transfixed and smiling. All the markets, the mafan, the frustrations, the thousands of emails--it all became so worth it. Vaporized by joy--or maybe I should call it relief. Nothing sweeter than a little validation.

Speaking of was a relief to have Anna helping out. She joined during the last few weeks of the play, and was able to stay backstage to help supervise operations back there. It was a relief to know that I could text her, "something's wrong with Jo's wig" in the middle of a performance, and know that she would receive the text and fix the wig before the next scene started. Not to mention, having full faith in the fact that she would have her phone on silent while backstage. So nice.

A little RANT:

Of course, we received compliments about the show. This year, we also had 'feedback' from parents. "Feedback" means 'complaining'. I can't call it constructive criticism, or even criticism--because that would imply that something could be done about the problems that were brought to my attention. I say this a bit snidely because if there are ANY problems, I am acutely aware of them before anyone else is and already scheming on how to improve the situation next year. Complaining and whining about how the auditorium is too far from the cafeteria is just obnoxious. As is complaining that the 'no eating in the auditorium' rule is inconvenient when you're hungry. Not to mention, it is ridiculous to complain about the length of the show and say that it is too long for babies/toddlers. Of course it is! I just rest in the fact that the 'feedback' is all stuff that I have basically no control over. If we can change it to make it better for the students, then we will next year. Such as bus stops changing to be more convenient. The bottom line is, I don't do this for the money, I do it because I love sharing theater with the students. They aren't doing it for money, or even to please their audience--they're doing it for the educational experience. It's for fun. It's not a professional company; we don't have a professional company's budget, facilities, or talent network---it's a fledgling school club. End rant.

To end on a happy note: I LOVED LITTLE WOMEN!!!!! Every minute, good and bad, will be cherished in my memory bank. Loved the chance to work with such a talented group of kids. Loved watching them grow. Loved seeing them explore new interests. Loved watching them in their element, and for others to see them in their comfort zone. Some kids don't excel in class, but are amazing on  stage--I want people to see this facet of the kids. I want them to be appreciated and accepted for who they are. The lady who recruited Adam and I to work in Shenyang was visiting our city and able to see the show--she thought it was great and had lots of encouraging things to say. She had seen our first play, which had been put together without a cent from the school, with a cast who had largely never done theater before. We've come a long way in three years! I swell with pride over these students! They were remarkably talented, focused, and so great to work with. In my opinion, this was the best acting, best backstage crew, best set, best costumes, best overall look, smoothest production we've had. It was a delight to be a part of! The students make the work worth it--they were a wonderful mixture--we had super talented kids, super hard workers, super encouragers, super clowns....I loved watching them share their gifts with others. It was beautiful.


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