06 February 2007
Portrait of the Director, 2007. Windham Center Stage Theater.
It's been interesting to watch this show come together. The director is also the playwright, and he's altered his adult script to fit an all-kids cast. I was wondering what pictures he had in his head as Molly and Logan sing a beautiful duet called "What are we to do?" Pierre wants to go to war and Amelia must stay behind. It's probably the scene in the play that comes closest to what the director had in mind when he was writing lyrics for grownups. Add to it that this show is special- any kid who auditions and makes the commitment - gets a role. What's that like for the director/author? It must be torture to hear his lines getting butchered by second graders, and heart wrenching to decide where to spend limited rehearsal time tidying scenes. This is dress rehearsal week and emotions are running high. Last week, the kids were relaxed, lazy backstage, tired and bored by rehearsals (they've been rehearsing twice a week since before Christmas), and on-stage they were laughing and fooling around... . This week, backstage frenzy has hit - 46 kids crammed into a school hallway, costumes, props, and streetclothes, boots and coats in piles. The incesssant chatter from kids and backstage parents is a deafening drone. Costumes flying on and off the racks. "Where! or When! starts almost every sentence. At the stage door the cacaphony stops. On-stage, the kids sense the presence of the audience to come and instantly are wearing their characters too tightly. Tension between characters rises, faces lose the recess look,replaced with real emotion: excited, scared, happy. The director? He's sitting very very still in the front row of the audience. Suddenly, he springs from his seat, notepad flying, a whirling dervish. The flow shattered into a million pieces and everyone in the huge auditorium turns silently. Something happens. And then he sits again. Very still. And the magic starts again.
The show is "A Little Princess" and it runs this weekend and next at Windham High School. It is an entertaining musical with lots of laughs, and in a couple of spots, you might find yourself teary-eyed. 46 kids, from 8-14 years old. The director is (the patient) Michael Hjort.