Monday, February 09, 2009
Take an empty stage, 2 timers, 45 minutes, some of the best directors I have ever worked with, 3 judges, honest and specific written and verbal criticism immediately following your show, points, and advancement at stake. Will you live to perform another day?
At the end of the day, when the shouting, crying, applause, awards are over the best part starts. Your prize? Two more weeks to "fix" everything; redesign, re-block. re-write, re-costume - all or none of them. Crazy you say? Yes. But, oh so invigorating and challenging! It puts the "life" in "live" theatre. These are the elements of the MIFA Theatre Festival open to high schools across Michigan
High School? Wait. High school? Isn't that just "high school" theatre. A resounding, absolutely not! I have had the pleasure and privilege (hmmm, sound like a show tune- Rothschilds perhaps?) to compete and judge this festival over the past 15 years and I have a passion for it.
The challenge? Find the "perfect" show for that year's genre and start slashing. Remember that 45 minutes mentioned earlier? Schools have exactly 45 minutes and not 1 second more , hence the timers, (unless they want to be penalized 5 points per judge, essentially knocking them out of competition) to put up the set, perform, strike and clear the stage completely.
I have seen some amazing shows and we aren't talking about "high school" one acts (although less savvy directors have fallen to prey to their easy format); Moliere, Ibsen, Neil Simon, Ragtime, Terra Nova, Once on This Island, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Noises Off , Museum, On the Verge to name a few.
This weekend across the state the shows that advanced in districts are performing at regionals where 1 show out of 6 will advance to states with an additional 5+ of the top ranking shows. the following week 13 shows will be at States in Chelsea. I plan to be there both days. Despite the fact that I see almost 60 shows a year, I'll rearrange my schedule, double up on the shows for several weekends so I can be free to sit back and enjoy. In fact, I could sit in the auditorium hour and hour and watch with fascination as kids work together during spike time to as an ensemble to practice moving the set on, spike, checking lights,sound levels, costumes, and projection.
As to those amazing directors. I will name them here because they are my theatre "gods"; the master of them all and winning dozens of State titles is KEVIN SCHNEIDER. You may remember Kevin when he was working and costuming here in Lansing. He's at Holland High School. Kevin will get a show out of districts and sometimes redesign the whole thing. I have known him to redesign a costume or two at states because they clashed with the theatre's seats. He's also been known to redesign an entire set before States. And he probably holds the record and works hard at getting a show timed between 43:30 and 45:00 on the nose. Malcolm Tulip formerly at A2Community and now a main stay at The Performance Network, Phil Walker at Chelsea High School. Joanne Peterson at Grand Rapids City, Jeannie Gilbert at Bay City John Glenn, and Nancy Fitzgerald at Grand Rapids Christian to name a few.