I’m directing a production of The Secret Garden for a local community theatre group. Last night was the first night of auditions. At a production meeting a couple months ago someone said, “I hope we get a good Mary.” Mary is one of the leads and has to be played by a girl around 10-12 years old. I said, “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. It’s a dream role for a little girl. If it had been written when I was that age, I’d have given anything to play the part. I think we’ll have Marys coming out of the woodwork.” I was right.
There were a dozen or so adorable little girls auditioning last night. They could sing, they could act and some of them had more experience at 11 than I had at 20. And there is still another night of auditions on Tuesday and I’m sure a few more potential Marys will show up. It’s a mixed blessing. I’ll be able to easily double cast* my show with two very talented little girls. Unfortunately, it also means that I’m going to break a whole lot of hearts on Friday when I announce the cast.
This is a new experience for me. Most of the shows I have directed were performed entirely by adults. The children I have directed had small ensemble roles—such as a member of the chorus with a speaking line or two. They were very often played by children of cast members and came along with their parents. The children last night had clearly put a lot of time, effort and talent into trying out for the role of a lifetime.
I love directing. Your ideas go into in every aspect of the show—costumes, sets, acting, music, lighting, movement and on and on. I love collaborating with other artists to create an illusion of being in a different place and time. One of my favorite parts of the process is working with the actors. I love helping actors to overcome challenges and create believable characters. Putting on a show requires a lot of effort on the part of many people working together. You spend long hours in the theatre and drink lots of coffee and eat junk food to help you stay awake and energized. You create and conspire and worry and sweat and smile and argue and laugh. And when it’s all over, you have created a living piece of art that makes the audience laugh and cry and tap their feet and cheer.
But first, you have to break a few hearts.
*Double casting means giving the part to two different actors. They’ll each play the for half of the performances. It’s a chance to give more kids the opportunity to play the role and keeps them from straining their voice or getting over tired (and therefore sick).