BY KRISTOPHER KYER
In recent years I’ve been asked to not only star in a musical, but to direct it as well. Usually it has been a show I have done previously which has helped a lot. A feature film with an actor who is also the director has the luxury of a “stand in” for the director to watch in the monitor before shooting the scene for blocking. In addition, film also has instant playback of “takes” that have just been filmed. Directing and starring in a live production is an entirely different animal. As always, I do my homework as director, and have every bit of blocking written down before the rehearsal process even begins. I move quite swiftly and abruptly, making sure the actors write everything down. I usually get an entire musical blocked during the first week of rehearsals. Then when I sit out front and read my lines, I see what works or doesn’t work while watching the other actors. The most difficult part of this process is being able to have that “third” eye while running scenes. Having someone “ON” book following along is imperative, so if anyone, including myself, has a question about blocking or “goes up” on a line in rehearsals, the assistant director is there to make sure my vision is complete.
The one thing I have found to be extremely important when directing community theater productions is to also have all of the scene changes planned and called out at every rehearsal. I always assign each actor to a set piece to move (the assistant director writes this down so no conflict or question happens as to who moves what). So when run-thrus begin in rehearsals, the scene changes must also be mimed by the actors. In essence “tech week” is done in advance for the actors who are moving things and not assigned during tech week.
Once we move into the theater, I call it “magic week” and NOT “hell week” as most actors do. This has served me well in every production I have directed. The lights and sound are the only things that really need to be set and conquered. I make sure everything is set backstage the first day of tech before the rehearsal ever begins. I personally go backstage and place every prop and set piece where it “lives” off stage. There is a “knack” to placing things and utilizing space (especially theaters with little wing space). This saves hours upon hours of time. Since you usually have been rehearsing in a separate space and not the theater, the actors now have to adjust to where they will be storing the set pieces off stage. I do sit out front with a microphone to watch the process evolve to make sure the vision is created and I keep copious notes to give to the cast at the end of each rehearsal. It isn’t easy wearing both hats as actor and director simultaneously, but I think having the experience of being the Ringmaster of a circus for a year really helped me to see “the whole picture” and run a show.
Kris Kyer is a veteran acting teacher and performer who has starred in such Ventura County productions as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Music Man, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He will be directing and starring as Captain Hook in Peter Pan at the Grove Theatre in Upland. The show opens on March 28 and plays through April 13.