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More than just what you see on the big screen and stage: Part 1

What goes into making a movie? A TV show? A musical? A play? There are so many hidden aspects of these types of projects. So many people behind the scenes. Most receive recognition in the credits but there is so much more that no one but the performers, directors, and stage hands experience and see. You have to be a part of something to understand fully how it all comes together. People sometimes look at a show and think “all you need is a script, a camera, some actors and editing”. But it truly is not that easy. It takes YEARS to bring a show to life for everyone to see it. Unless you are a part of it, you will never understand how grueling of a process it truly is. I can speak on this from a musical theatre performers perspective. I cannot speak from a film or TV productions perspective because I have never done a project like that. But loved ones, friends, and family have told me their own stories from working on TV and film projects. 

When it comes down to it, putting on a live musical, play, or cabaret, there’s a lot of moving parts that the audience does not get to see. Scripts can take YEARS to write. The rehearsal process can also take years. There’s a lot that goes into theatre. But it all starts with an idea. Then the writing process begins. There can be many stages to this process. It took me 10 years to write a musical and I am still working on it to this day. I am constantly rewriting scenes and lines and songs. I put the idea away for a few years as well, even with a full rough draft of the script and music. Then you pick it back up again and start rewriting even more. Then you have to go back and edit and make sure it is relevant to the era or year that you are writing the story about. Lines, words, terms and phrases all need to be historically accurate. Don’t get me started on if it is a sequel to another show, then you have to make sure that your facts are accurate to the previous storyline. There’s just so many little details to pay attention to within writing stories. 

So you’ve got the final script written, then what? You begin casting the show, which is ITS OWN PROCESS in itself. (Trust me, casting is SO HARD) You have to go through submission after submission after submission and it goes on and on and on and that can ALSO take YEARS. Then comes the workshop or cold reading as they would call it. You have to cast people to read the roles to see how the script flows with how the writer envisions the show. Oh, that’s also another thing, you have to find someone to direct and choreograph as well. But after the workshop, more editing can be done if the writer needs to change anything. The writing process is endless until the show hits the stage. (Which on Broadway, shows have previews before the actual opening, and by the opening of a new show, sometimes scenes or lines or songs that don’t really work well or land with the audience can be taken out before opening night.) 

After the show is workshopped, a few times, then the full production can begin casting. Usually some shows will do festivals or a trial at a small venue or theater to see how audiences will react to it. If it does well, the production team may choose to move on to something bigger and then eventually off-Broadway or even Broadway. 

So, let’s dive into the rehearsal process of a musical or a play. The show has been cast (which the audition process in itself can also take a hell of a long time to complete), who’s involved? Let’s talk about Musicals:

Musicals have SO MUCH involved. What I haven’t spoken about on the writing process of a musical is the writing and composing of the songs. THAT’S a whole other topic to discuss. BUT we’re here to talk about what goes into putting a musical up on stage once everything is complete. You’ve got the cast, now what? You start with a first read through of the script and sometimes a speak through of the songs. Then you move onto a rehearsal schedule that consists of working on blocking scenes, choreographing dance to the musical numbers, AND teaching and learning the songs in the show. That’s all cute and dandy, but, what we don’t see is the stage manager working endlessly with the choreographer, director and music director to come up with a schedule that works with the availability of the cast and crew to be able to have the proper rehearsal time to put on the show. Sometimes theres multiple choreographers and MDs working on a show. Which can be helpful in scheduling rehearsals. Not only do we already have the director, choreographer, music director and stage manager doing a lot of the work, there’s also the costumer. This person, you guessed it, is in charge of working with the director to find the best fitting and correct costumes for the show that is being put on. That’s also a scheduling issue that has to be worked out so that the actors can find a time to have what is called, oy, a costume fitting. The same thing for wigs as well, if it is required for the show. Usually for productions that are community or semi professional, the costumer is in charge of hair, make-up, and costumes all together. But can you believe that for bigger higher end productions, like Broadway, there’s MULTIPLE people in charge of hair and wigs, and then there’s another set of people who costume the show, and there’s EVEN MORE who do make up!?! Isn’t that wild?! We’ll also get more into the stage hands who help for something called “quick changes” that happen during a show as well. There’s at least 10 or more on hand for those! But again we’re talking rehearsal process here now.

Of course the actors are the one’s putting on the story of the show but it’s really everyone who brings it to life. You can have the whole motley crew of actors but you need the production team to make it possible. Oh yeah and did I mention that you actually need to make sure you have a venue willing to produce the show?! Or a theatre company?! That’s a whole other bag of beans! Gosh, maybe I should just continue this conversation in a podcast because there are just too many aspects to dive into here! Too many roads to go down on this topic! I’ll stop here and call this part 1! Tune into I AM SAH….in the city for part 2……coming soon!


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