The Harbinger Online

Blog: Director’s Note

“I’m Emily Donovan and this is my Frequent Friday – and I have been waiting four years to say that.”

Directing and staging my Frequent Friday was vaguely overwhelming, completely exhausting and easily the most rewarding experience of my high school career.

It was well after auditions and casting before rehearsals developed a routine: a Facebook group, text message reminders, stretching, breathing exercises – plus some ground rules like “Text me back or I’ll feel insecure,” “Lines are on you – I can’t memorize for you,” and “Keep [your phone] in your pants [during rehearsal].”

With a fresh, inexperienced cast, the enthusiasm and etiquette were there from the first read-through; refining that energy onstage quickly became my directing goal.

Projection, diction, stage presence, defining character, committing to the moment.

Teaching the basics of acting was was like trying to explain breathing. Okay, you may not know the formal definition or the mechanics of breathing, but you know how to breathe. You would immediately recognize if someone wasn’t breathing correctly. You’ve been breathing for all of your life, right?

You live, you’ve got to breathe; you act, you’ve got to project, enunciate, cheat out, define a character and commit.

Sure, I could show them – I would speak from my diaphragm then speak quietly and make sure they could hear the difference projecting my voice made. I could illustrate the concepts – I would tell them about “Woyzeck” or ask them if they had seen the electric chair scene in “Machinal.”

But I learned from doing, and that seemed like the best way for them to learn too.

I had given each of them a few three-minute monologues to look over for the weekend and on Monday, they pulled them out, chose one and gave it their best shot.

Twenty-two rehearsals. One where I had them do Scene 3 speaking exclusively in gibberish – to help them to convey emotion and action without words. One where I had them swap roles – to help them see the distinction between characters. One where I had them lay onstage, turned off all of the lights in the Little Theater and led a guided meditation – just for kicks.

I was liberal with alterations to the script. Suggestions that came up during rehearsal which started with “What if…,” and ended with a laugh evolved into the moments onstage that never failed to make me giggle.

The due date for memorization had miraculously passed without incident. We jumped between room 213, the lobby and the auditorium to accommodate for the four other shows also rehearsing.

Pages and pages of lists filled my blue composition notebook – a flow chart with cryptic comments like “hand out for cup, keep forever,” “‘get in the kitchen’ more misogynistic,” and “door chow fun.’” I kept up to three different to-do lists, permanently deciphering my nearly illegible notes like “fingernail file?,” “hang up posters,” and “delete Q102.6.” I found myself knee-deep in spray paint, packaging tape, traffic cones and caution tape, attempting to assemble a display to post on the Call Board in a panic after dark the night before – and still loving every minute.

But show day wasn’t about me. It was about Olivia, Will and Anna, about techies, actors and audience members who may laugh at and one day remember “Robert DeNiro?” in the same way that I cherish all of my Shawnee Mission Wonderful theater memories.

I’m relieved the audience laughed. I’m ecstatic my techies handled the show so well. But more than anything, I’m honored to say that we all learned something.

I’m proud of you guys. Thank you for a fantastic experience.

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Emily Donovan

Emily is a senior at East who has happily joined the Harbinger as a Staff Writer and Anchor. Besides would-be writer, Emily is an International Baccalaureate candidate, "theatre kid," and artiste-wanna-be. Read Full »

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