Thursday, December 8, 2011

More about that.

You know, that Musical Theater thing that's been bugging me.

Total side note: Musical Theater is always a bit weird.  One time my friend Chris, who leads a kids' theater group in another city, commented that a lot of the homeschoolers in her group were pretty odd.  And I just sort of snickered, because homeschooling attracts an odd crowd (including those who pulled out of school because their "differentness" made/would make them the kids who got picked on in the halls), and theater groups attract an odd crowd (remember, the entire premise of Glee is that kids in the arts are "different", getting slushied in the halls), so the intersection of the the two sets would be uber-bizarro.

But this incident was just so odd I keep pondering how someone thought this was a plausible idea.

The short version:  The Place We Go To (for theater classes) held auditions for Oklahoma.  And then the next week announced the cast.  Except they'd switched the musical to Sound of Music without telling anyone until they announced the cast list.  Sorta like a bait-and-switch, but with musicals (edited to add that this wasn't a deliberate bait-and-switch -- they weren't being fraudulent so much as being really, really stupid).

The long version:  The Place We Go To has musical theater classes for teens once a week; they're in the evenings and attract kids from local schools as well as homeschoolers.  The first part of the school year focusses on general technique in acting, singing, and movement.  The kids put on a Fall Showcase to demonstrate to their families and friends what they've learned so far.  After that auditions are held for the spring musical -- these auditions are open to any teen in the area, and are advertised in various  venues that are typically used for local audition news (I think most cities have places you can browse to see who is putting on what, and decide if any of it is something you'd like to prepare an audition for).

Additionally, teens can sign up for a second class each week called "Advanced Musical Theater" which gives them extra hours to work on the above.

This year The Place We Got To hired a new director fresh out of school (IU -- yeah, insert that whole IU/Purdue dynamic, given that we're Purdue grads).  And she announced that the Advanced Musical Theater class would focus on audition techniques -- how to prepare for a professional audition.  Cool!

Also, they announced that the musical they'd be putting on was Oklahoma.  So the kids, particularly those in the Advanced class, started to think about which roles they wanted, how they should audition for those roles, etc. etc.

Really, the kids had somewhat cast the show in their minds by late October -- they could sort of see who the director favored (fact of life: directors have favorites.  So do teachers.  And managers.  Kids know this.), who was really good, who "fit" the various roles.

Thalia decided that she really wanted to play Ado Annie.  It would be a fun role for her.  She selected her music somewhat accordingly -- she sang If I Loved You from Carousel (which is basically a musical made up of songs and plot lines Rogers and Hammerstein had left over from Oklahoma).  She contemplated doing When I Marry Mr. Snow to emphasize her interest in Ado Annie, but we didn't have the music.  She worked on the song with her voice teacher for several weeks.  She also selected a monologue and worked on it.  The director had commented that it would be really cool to have separate auditions for singing, dance, and acting, but that wasn't going to work in a class that meets a couple of days a week for a couple of hours at a time.

So, the big day roles around -- auditions!  One of the guys, Senior Guy, hopes to be cast as Curley, and sings Bless Your Beautiful Hide from Seven Brides.  Another friend performs something from Hello Dolly -- she'd like Laurie's part, but knows that the director really likes another girl better ... and so on and so forth.  The kids have been discussing who is going to sing what, which monologues they're considering, for WEEKS. The kids audition in front of the director and the head of The Place We Go To -- the two will discuss the auditions and do the casting.  The director announces that the cast list will be emailed out by 3pm the following Monday.

Except, the following Monday we get an email that the parts will be announced in class.  Well.  THAT'S nerve wracking!  Are they actually going to read the cast list aloud in class?  Really?  When you hear what part you got, you sort of need a moment to catch your breath so you can be gracious, you know?  Especially when you're a kid.

I drop kids off at The Place We Go for class, and hope for the best.  Later, Thalia calls to tell me they need a ride home after Tech Theater class (sometimes they get a ride with someone else).  I ask her what part she got.

"Elsa Schraeder"

Okay, the name sounds familiar, but I can't place it in Oklahoma.  I'm confused.

"Yeah, they switched the musical to Sound of Music.  As soon as I found out, I knew I'd be cast as Elsa Schraeder, and I was."

(Note:  The cast list was actually hung up on a sheet in the hallway rather than being read off in class.  The kids were totally giddy with relief about that.)

Well.  THAT'S weird.  I hang up the phone, and it rings again.  A friend whose daughter is also in the musical theater class.

"So, Gail, what do you think about the musical?"  Her voice sounds strained, like she's remaining calm on the outside, but would really, really like to explode.

We talked.  A lot.  About the difference between the two musicals, one of which focusses almost exclusively on one particular role (Maria), whereas the other has various strong characters, including a kickbutt male role that Senior Guy would be perfect for (he in now Von Trapp, with one solo in a range that he doesn't sing well in, and a song he doesn't especially like -- ironic that Christopher Plummer also hated the musical, yes? -- and this is his final musical for this place since he's graduating in May).  About the way it was handled.  About the idea that people might have decided differently whether or not to audition if they'd known it was Sound of Music.  Might have strived for different roles. About the fact that work on the musical won't begin in earnest until after Christmas, so they had plenty of time to re-audition if they wanted to change the show.  Etc. etc.

So.  Rick decided to be proactive, and sent an email to the head of The Place that was gentle, supportive coaching about the concept that she needed to act quickly to put out the fire that was starting to rage. Are y'all familiar with the book  Mistakes Were Made?  It was pretty much like that -- total entrenchment in the decision.  Sigh.  Emails flew around, phone calls were made.  And a couple of weeks later:

-- Still doing Sound of Music.  Except they haven't worked on it at all due to other scheduling considerations regarding a Christmas show.  I think maybe they'll start looking at the music next week.

-- Realization by Powers That Be that they don't actually have a big enough cast, since you can't double the children as the nuns and guards, since all those disparate roles have to be together on stage.  Gee, if they'd told people they were doing Sound of Music, I wonder who else would've shown up.  Annabeth noted that she might've auditioned.

-- Leisl quit.  Her entire family quit EVERYTHING, effective immediately.  They've been taking classes there (dance, voice, piano, acting) for 7 or 8 years.  Huge supporters. So now notices are going up for open auditions for Leisl, any girl ages 12-18.  Oops.  Her younger sister had been cast in the musical Annabeth is doing this spring, but I think that group has someone to take that part.

-- Thalia has revealed to us that she wouldn't have bothered to audition if she'd known it was Sound of Music.  She says the only decent role (in this venue**) is Maria , and she wouldn't make a good Maria.  Also, she knew she wouldn't get the role of Maria since she isn't the director's favorite.  She would've auditioned for COCA's spring performance instead, or perhaps waited until next semester for some later productions around town.  ** The Muny put Sound of Music on in 2010, and Thalia would've been thrilled to play pretty much any part up on the big stage with professional actors, but this production is with her peers.

I know every place has its quirks and warts.  Any place you go for dance or theater or sports or WHATEVER is going to have issues, because people have issues.  But this whole thing really amazes me.  The Place We Go keeps calling the switcheroo "unprecedented".  Um, maybe it's unprecedented because it's a stupid thing to do.

I think I've left out enough of the juicy gossip of the whole thing to actual make this public.  Part of me doesn't care, since foolish decisions seem to be par for the course when it comes to this entire story.

So, Chris, whaddya think?


KPCL Girl said...

LOLOLOL. I am aghast. AGHAST! I can't even imagine. More later as I continue to think about it. Do you mind if I repost this on my FB page for my theatricals to read? Good grief. Unprecedented because it was a stupid thing to do? To say the LEAST. Yow.

Gail said...

Go for it!

KPCL Girl said...

And on a whole other level, what about the enthusiasm levels of the kids? You now have an entire cast of kids who didn't exactly sign on for this project. How are they going to move forward into the hard work of rehearsal with attitudes spanning from 'whatever' to 'downright mistrust'? It's like signing up for basket weaving and ending up with ceramics instead....!

Ami said...

I'd quit, too. Don't need extra bullshit in my life. I don't like people who misrepresent/lie. Don't want to be associated with any of them if I can help it.