Another snow day today for the kids so another day away from work for me. Like most New Englanders I’m getting tired of snow, but today’s day off comes as a welcome relief. One of my concerns when I started this blog back in September was that I wouldn’t have time to write once I started directing The Secret Garden. So today, in between saying things like, “No horsing around in the living room.”, “Did you wash your hands?”, and “No, I don’t know where your PSP is.” I can sneak in some time to write and spend some time going over the script of my show.
The first rehearsal for The Secret Garden was on Tuesday night. I arrived early to set up the rehearsal space. I pushed a bunch of conference tables together so all 25 cast and crew members could see each other. Rehearsal was scheduled to begin at 7:00, but people began to trickle in about 20 minutes early. I love a punctual cast!
By the time it was 7:00 most of the cast was settled in their seats getting to know each other. It was a nice mix of people. Some had worked together before, many had seen other actors on stage, some were new to the theatre, and some, like myself, had been away from theatre for far too long. Seven of the eight children in the cast were sitting together directly across the table from me. They had been in productions of Annie and Suessical together and were having a great time talking and laughing.
The eighth child walked in the door. This is her first play and she looked terrified. Her mother was encouraging her to go sit with the other kids, but she remained firmly attached. I was wrapping up a conversation with my producer and saw the girl’s hesitation. Before I could get up to welcome her, one my young actresses who is playing the leading role of Mary, hopped up out of her seat and raced over to her. She is twelve and tall for her age with a beautiful smile and lovely red hair, “Hi! My name’s Molly. Come sit with us!”
At that, the newcomer detached from her mom and went to sit with the other kids. Her mother was clearly relieved and went to wait in the lobby with the other parents. There is a common misconception that people who like to perform are always outgoing. But it isn’t true. There are loads of very shy people in theatre. Getting on stage and pretending to be someone else can be less scary for some, than being yourself and striking up a conversation with someone new.
At least ten of the girls who auditioned for the part of Mary could have done an excellent job and I only needed two. An audition shows me how well a person can sing and act. But it can’t tell me how they're going to treat their fellow cast mates. In a community theatre production, an actor’s attitude is just as important as his talent. It takes a lot of dedication to put on a show like this. For the adults in the cast it can mean time away from your family or sneaking out of work a little early. For the kids it means trying to juggle the ridiculous amount of homework with rehearsal and other activities. Leading players who are warm, hard working, generous and kind can make a production go so much smoother for everyone. Who doesn’t want to work in an environment where we are appreciated and supported? Molly’s simple act of kindness assured me that I had made a good decision in casting her.