Directors Notes with Debbie Keyt

I love being a Director. It is such a challenging and yet unbelievably rewarding vocation. Directing Chicago is a dream come true and when we were successful in securing the rights it was such a thrill!

The first task was to procure a production crew whose passion for the project matched mine and the willingness and enthusiasm everyone displayed was infectious. The planning then began in earnest and meetings were held with each of our talented crew to explain my director's vision and then let their creative juices start to flow. 

The next step was to set audition dates, post audition notices and wait for the phone to start to ring. I treated each booking as a pre-audition interview so I wanted to speak to each audition-hopeful in person and not via text or email, to chat to them and learn a little more about each person before they came in for their audition. The audition process was so much fun, especially for the production panel. We tried to make it as friendly, welcoming and professional as we possibly could and ensure that is was a positive experience. As Chicago is such a popular show the standard of auditions was extremely high and attracted actors from far and wide. We had over 80 auditionees vying for the 19 roles on offer. We were so impressed with the caliber of auditions and although it is somewhat of a cliche, we had some very tough decisions to make and the deliberation process and final casting was exhilarating. Calling the successful cast members was a joy and hearing the excitement over the phone was such a pleasure. 

Our first rehearsal was wonderful. Nearly all our cast was in attendance and it was a lovely chance for them to meet each other as well as the production team and committee and we played a few 'getting to know you' games and read through the script and everyone was very uplifted and excited when they left.

My next job was to draw up a rehearsal schedule and I always like to work through the script in chronological order, scene by scene. We start each rehearsal with our MD Rhonda teaching the song along with parts, harmonies and so on. Camilla, our choreographer works on the choreography at home and then listens intently as the actors learn the music to make sure the choreography fits. After Camilla teaches the choreography sequences, we block the scene working out entrances and exits and planning where the actors stand or sit. An important aspect of the rehearsal process is character development and I ask each actor to create a backstory for their character using what they know from the script and what the playwright has given us along with the time, setting and the given circumstances of our story.  I have asked each actor to write a character journal and 'thought script' filling in all the blanks about who the character is and what makes them tick, where they are and what they want to make each character as believable, convincing and three dimensional as possible. The character development is ongoing as the actors inhabit their character and get to know them intimately.

As Chicago is our first show for 2018, we started rehearsals in November and then had a three week break over the festive period and then we commence again in early January ready to work hard and complete learning all the songs, choreography and dialogue by early February. From there we will start running the acts, tweaking and polishing everything and tightening up all areas to make it smooth and slick. Our production week leading up to opening night is fabulously frantic as finishing touches are added to every detail the audiences will see on stage and some they won't along with costumes, make up, wigs, hair, lighting, sound, props, backstage and band.

Over the next two months, in addition to our busy and productive rehearsals, we'll be collecting biographies, taking head shots, planning publicity, ordering show t.shirts, sourcing props, costume fittings and lots of sewing, set building, painting, decorating, lighting rigging, photography, ticketing, coordinating front of house (and 1001 other associated tasks) to take Chicago from page to stage and give our audience the best possible theatrical experience and night out we possibly can. 

The 'razzle dazzle' doesn't just happen, it is months and months of meticulous and precise planning and diligent dedication from our large team of actors, creatives and technical crew which is truly a labour of love and we adore every moment - 'and all that jazz'!

Debbie Keyt, Director