Local musical production questions

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  • Dear Rabbit Room,

    My name is David Getz, and I’m an Orchestra Director in central Illinois. My creative goal for 2018 is to self-produce and direct a musical I have written based on the story of Ruth in the Bible. However, as this is my first undertaking in the realm of production, I am looking for advice from people with more experience. I have been a huge fan of the Rabbit Room now for over a year, and I thought this may be a good place to go for ideas. Currently, the show is 85% written and I have one local church potentially interested in hosting a performance. My questions are these, and if any one wants to tackle one (or all) of them, I would greatly appreciate it.

    1. Which of these commitments should be secured first? Should I lock down dates for the performances before I find people to sing the lead roles, or is it better to get your actors on board and then look for a performance date?
      What is the best way to approach people when asking them to join in your efforts?
    2. Without a soundtrack or audience reviews to use as evidence, it’s pretty much just my opinion that this will be a fun production at this point. I find it intimidating to go up to someone and say, “Hey, I wrote a musical, will you help me with it?” Do I need to get over that? Is that just part of the process?
    3. For those of you who have done this, is my timeline too crunched? I’m hoping for a read/sing-through in February to give me time to make revisions before starting rehearsals in April. The goal is for a performance in early to mid June.

    I would also be very interested in hearing about other works being done in the realm of biblical narrative crossovers with theatre. This is very much a learning process for me, so the more data I can collect, the better.

    Happy New Year, everybody!

    Hi, I have no actual experience of my own in this area, but I am sitting in the same room as my little sister who has some experience as a performer, assistant director, and co-production coordinator (they make these titles up as they go sometimes) of a small music school/opera company.  So I am going to interview her a bit and try to get useful info for you.

    Before tackling any of your questions she asks relevant things like how big of a production are you talking?  How many people and how long.  She is suspecting (based on Ruth) that you will have a principal cast of 5 or so and maybe a chorus, but if there is an orchestra that adds to the wrangling (but you would know about that).  So it matters for your timetable, structure, and general sanity if you are going to be doing a cast of 5 or a cast of 45.

    1. The order of locking down dates depends on if you have specific people in mind for specific roles. If you have someone in mind that you would like to sing the role or if the role is vocally demanding enough that you aren’t sure anyone else CAN sing it, check with them about dates. If it is going to be more of an open audition thing then it is better to have solid dates set, especially if it is a large show then if someone can’t do it then, they don’t get the part. That keeps the director from going insane trying to juggle preferences for multiple people when any or all of them could be replaced.

    2. If you can find someone, either at a church or at a music school, or even a college or a community chorus, anywhere there are people who love music, and ask them if they have people in their groups who might be interested in joining this, or if they would like to participate themselves. You might find all sorts of people this way, not just musical people but your set, costume, and tech crew (some of us get pulled in when our little sister’s do stuff).

    3.My sister says this depends on size of cast, length and complexity of show, and professionalism of cast- if all your people have day jobs doing something else, depending on the demands of the roles some people may need more time.  It also will affect how many rehearsals a week they can pack in and not die from. Professionals can come every day, but people with day jobs and families can’t usually manage that for long.

    Other things to consider- set and technical considerations will be somewhat dictated by your space (if you are in a church and have to be out by the next day it needs to disassemble quickly and haul out easily), and of course budget is always a thing. If costumes have to be sewn that needs time as well, though at least for the story of Ruth you probably don’t need anything horribly intensive like 18th century ball gowns.

    I am not there, but for what it is worth, it sounds fun to me. If teleporters worked I would be interested.

    Wow, @missmary, thanks to you and your sister for that incredible feedback.  I was not expecting anything so generous.

    Since this is my first musical, I am trying to go for the minimalism approach.  I plan on having just 3 main characters (Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi) and a small choir.  While I say it is a musical, it is much more like an oratorio (think Handel’s Messiah) in format, so I’m not planning on doing any set construction or costumes at this point.  It’s pretty much going to be a concert of songs that collectively tell the story, though there is some recitative and spoken word poetry thrown in that helps carry the plot.

    This feedback was very informative.  I have now reached out to a local community theater leader and will see what connections that can bring about.  Thanks so much!

    When I just now told my sister that you answered and were planning to stage it oratorio style with three main people and a small choir with bits of spoken dialogue and poetry,  she thought that was a very good plan and would make the timetable much more reasonable.  You don’t even need blocking rehearsals since they don’t have to all be moving around. Really glad I had a helpful resource person just sitting around in the same room when I saw your questions.  She said if you have any more questions  feel free to ask, she lurks here occasionally and I am here often.

    When Handel wrote music he wrote it with the singers’ help. dont be afraid to see what makes them comfortable 🙂

    Wow, @missmary, thanks to you and your sister for that incredible feedback. I was not expecting anything so generous. Since this is my first musical, I am trying to go for the minimalism approach. I plan on having just 3 main characters (Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi) and a small choir. While I say it is a musical, it is much more like an oratorio (think Handel’s Messiah) in format, so I’m not planning on doing any set construction or costumes at this point. It’s pretty much going to be a concert of songs that collectively tell the story, though there is some recitative and spoken word poetry thrown in that helps carry the plot. This feedback was very informative. I have now reached out to a local community theater leader and will see what connections that can bring about. Thanks so much!

    i didnt even read this post while thinking of Handel. 🙂

    Well, Handel Did do a pretty awesome job.

    Great suggestion, @elwing. I’m looking forward to the revising process after I hear it sung through.  I’m sure the singers will have lots of comments on my sub-par counterpoint skills.

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