Tag Archives: directing

When Work is Play

Whenever people or the IRS ask what my occupation is, I do say “actor”. That’s what my training was in and I’m fortunate enough to often be cast in something or another. While my occupation may be “actor”, that’s not exactly how I “make my living”, i.e. making the money I need to literally survive. Yes, I have a “day job” (lots of quotes in this one) but fortunately that job isn’t something I hate and in fact, it’s at a theatre company! The National Theatre for Children, to be exact, here in Minneapolis.

Vincent-1024x957
Communications Rep and sometimes director (it’s cold in Minnesota, what?)

As a company, NTC works with clients in the corporate world to provide schools free educational plays based on that client’s message. So for instance, if a big utility company has money allotted to spend on community outreach, NTC will provide just what they’re looking for – a play to teach students the finer points of energy conservation. So what do I do during the week, Monday through Friday? More often than not, I’m on the phone’s calling prospective schools and simply trying to get a dubious principal or harried secretary to book the show.

I’m going on my third year now, and while it’s all pretty routine at this point, once in a while I get to shake things up and jump over to the production department where all the magic happens.

That was the case this month when I was asked to direct my second show for the company. Last year I jumped in the deep end with The Conservation Caper and this year I tackled The Energized Guyz. Both plays are by in-house playwright, Jon Mikkelsen, and while it ain’t fine art, the scripts are actually rather clever and quick-witted. My two actors, in turn, were committed to the material and over the course of a week’s rehearsal, they managed to continuously crack me up. Trust me, that is high praise when you’ve seen your same show for the umpteenth time! Below is a great example of exactly the show I handled. 

As an actor, I really do make the effort to practice other aspects of my field. Not only do I recognize the benefits that directing has for me as a performer, but I do like directing and it’s a nice change of pace when those opportunities arise. Thankfully, I work for a theatre company that allows me to stretch those muscles and funny enough, as The Energized Guyz tours throughout northern Ohio, being seen my hundreds upon hundreds of students, it’s gotta be the most viewed work I’ve ever done!

 

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Yo Ho, We’re Off and Sailing

Last month I was back in the director’s chair with a fifth grade production of Treasure Island. The show was at Sunset Hill Elementary in Plymouth, MN (a suburb of Minneapolis) and I was actually co-directing with another theatre artist in town, Amy Abrigo.

The show was something that was handed off to me late in the game but of course I accepted with eagerness. While I’ve directed a bunch of community theatre and high school students, it had been a while since I’d been in charge of so many little ones. I had been a substitute teacher in Florida and experienced what a handful of second graders could be, but to be fair to all those fifth graders reading this, they’re not that bad. They are in a transitional age group where they are old enough to be “cool” and talk to you like an adult, but still young in that they have very little self-control, respect or understanding of the consequences their actions may have. In short, it was a mixed-bag of screaming and praising.

Image result for treasure island

While the rehearsal process lasted a few weeks, it was only for two short afternoons a week  where most of my time was spent herding cats and being a disciplinarian. The whole time I kept reassuring myself that “it will all come together in the end”, because I am no stranger to the way shows work out sometimes. However, while I knew at some point those kids would listen to me and memorize their lines, I wasn’t fool enough to think it would just happen on it’s own.

I did the kids, Amy and myself a favor and took a hatchet to the already short script. Being that Treasure Island a story we’re all kind of familiar with I said nuance-be-damned and essentially cut out anything that didn’t feature Jim Hawkins or Long John Silver. The show was a musical as well so that really helped bridge any gaps in the story. Even with those cuts, the show was just under forty minutes! Which flew by but was plenty, believe you me.

Of course my eternal optimism was rewarded in the end and the two performances went off without a hitch. The little bastards pulled it off and I was ultimately proud of them. I was even witness to some extremely humble moments when they would confide in me about how nervous they were to perform in front of their peers… it was very touching! It’s so funny working with kids that age because you really do want the best for them and think they are just the cutest, but damn do you want to wring their necks. I say all of this, of course, with tremendous love and I think anyone who has shared my shoes gets it 100%.

Finally, I would just like to include the cast list here (pictures will come at some point on my directing page) so one day one of those little munchkins can Google their name and read exactly what I thought of them. Also, here’s a song from the show that was the absolute bane of my existence.

Yo ho ho!

Sunset Hill Elementary
presents

TREASURE ISLAND
by
Kathryn Schultz Miller

Directed by
Vincent S. Hannam and Amy Abrigo

with
Will Kirven
Lilah Krauth
Amanda Michelsen
Colin Bissonette
Jaden St. Urbain
Emily Raiche
LeBraun Dewey
Kaelyn Hvidsten
Seth Aydinalp
Christina Nockel
Charlotte Thompson
Sam Hulst
Camryn Balloy
Myra Klumb
Tyler Jensen
Sebastian Lumitap
Nishanth Baddigam
Angelina Pyle
Raziah Loyd
Ivan Vasylchenko
Gia Wees
Sanaiia Montgomery
Soo-Jin Lee
Bergan Wolf
Gabe Wernimont
Ella Dando
Avery Mikolai

Technical Crew:
Noah Stephens, Jacob Behr, Thomas Theising,
Luke Schultz, Nadia Fessenmeir, Talia Eddy, Nate Lindblad

Technical Director/ Producer:
Julie Schottler

A Triple Play

A couple weeks ago I was simultaneously involved in three different productions, wearing three distinct hats: actor, playwright and director. I love it when this happens! Even though it’s only happened once before… nonetheless it counts in my mind as being a bonafide triple threat. If I can’t dance or sing then I gotta give ’em something else.

In this case I didn’t have to go far to find my chair as a director. For those of you who don’t know I’m actually not a full-time actor and do have a day job to sustain my daily ragers. I’m what they call a “desk-jockey” at the National Theatre for Children, who’s mission is to provide free educational theatre to the youths of America. It’s actually a pretty great company who has had a presence in schools now for decades.

I’ve been with them for a year now and as actors were being hired and tours developed I had to the notion to break free from the cubicle world and actually get involved on the creative end. The production manager went for it and I was assigned to direct the show, The Conservation Caper. A 25 minute two-hander that follows a superhero-in-training named Nikki Neutron as she learns (and consequently teaches us) all about energy technology and conservation. It ain’t winning any awards but it’s does have a slick script and my actors and I had a ball improvising a ton of comedic bits.

The gig itself only last a week (including my Labor Day – what gives?) and was only down the hall from from my regular-programmed job, but it was a great experience and I relished the chance to do something creative with my days. The show itself ended up being great and my actors, Sasha and Katie, are currently somewhere in North Carolina inspiring and educating the little ones.