Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Oliver at Christmas - When hanging around a school hall for 2 hours starts to seem like fun.

Time for a short diversion back to the other source of the blog - amateur dramatics.  In the lead up to Christmas 1991, I started to get my first real insight into how a show was put together.  Admittedly, this was still within the protective cocoon of a school environment where discussions over all the issues that made up a performance run (technical, costumes, props etc) were taking place out of my, or anyone else's consciousness.  All I had to contend with was learning lines and trying to act. In short, to enjoy rehearsals.

Nowadays, I rarely spend more than 2 months rehearsing a show, but in the days when I did musicals, rehearsals could last up to 8 months!  This was usually because of the time spent on things like pre-auditions, where several weeks would be spent running through songs so that no one forgot the tune when it was audition time.  Then when rehearsals started, a lot of the time was spent on putting together the musical numbers, usually by devoting some rehearsals to singing, then other rehearsals to staging (this was particularly relevant if it was a duet or a small number of people singing something which didn't merit a full dance routine) and then other rehearsals would concentrate on the big production numbers, but these could still be split up into smaller subsections: one for singers, one for chorus dancers etc.  Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the whole thing would be spread out and then slowly, painstakingly put together.  And when you were called you had to be there, even if you were going to have to wait for an hour for your bit to be covered, because another part of the show was going to be worked on first.

One aspect of performing which you got over pretty quickly in rehearsals was nervousness at performing in front of other people.  Your fellow cast members made for a pretty captive audience given that the only real distractions they had at that time were talking to each other (and they couldn't do that very loudly), reading or in some very enterprising cases, doing their homework.  What was best about doing a school show was the way it broke down the "across the school years" divide.  Those unspoken barriers which meant you never really spoke to anyone outside of your year group
unless it was a life or death situation, didn't apply here.  And in this environment, friendships were easier to strike up, anywhere other than during school enrichment weeks.  This hobby scratched so many itches particularly artistic and social ones.  I quickly began to wonder whether I would ever want to be doing anything else.

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