This is the first post in a series documenting how I directed my first musical: Fiddler on the Roof.
In seventh grade when I performed in the ensemble of Fiddler on the Roof, I was bitten by the theatre bug. It’s not quite as serious as it sounds . . . especially if you’re fortunate enough to not need and income and be a stay-at-home-mom as I currently am!
The theatre bug is the inexplicable yearning to dance the toughest choreography one last time after closing. And the twinge of nostalgia that pangs a couple months post-show.
It’s most easily satiated by participating in school or community theatre productions (as I have done!) But some actors and actresses go on to those big cities to make it big . . . Broadway or bust (or so I’m told. I find the idea of NYC to be stinky and loud).
After college, however, I couldn’t find the right opportunity to participate in a production. I went from performing in the A&M jazz bands and my own one-woman-senior show to no singing or acting anywhere!
This was mostly due to moving across the country with my military husband and that good ‘ole killer of social life and community theatres worldwide: Covid-19.
Fast forward three duty stations, a successful stint in marketing online businesses, and BIRTHING one baby later–and it had been about three years since I stepped onto a theatrical stage.
But if there’s one thing I have learned in the 1.5 years I’ve been a mother, it’s that I’ll be the best mother to my babies that I can be if I continue prudently pursuing those things for which God has inclined my heart. It was a long time coming, but an opportunity finally arose!
A Fateful Choir Practice
At each duty station, Caleb and I at least tried to sing in our parish choir. One afternoon practice, the stars aligned and I overheard a fellow singer telling the choir director his summer would be filled with rehearsals for a musical for which he would soon audition.
Nosy (and desperate) as I was, I sauntered up, introduced myself, and asked what musical and when and where were auditions?
Heathers. A couple weeks away and a 45-minute drive.
I could do this. Not only is this a show Caleb and I are huge fans of but it also had a quick rehearsal-to-show turnaround which meant I wouldn’t need tooooo much babysitting help.
I returned to the stage as Heather Chandler (the mean red one) and had an absolute reawakening.
I’m going to be real for a second. Previous to the show, it had become too painful for me to listen to showtunes. I would cry if a reel of a Broadway singer belting “Defying Gravity” popped up on my Instagram. But after the show, the theatre bug that had laid dormant inside my little musical theatre nerd heart awoke as fiery and ambitious as ever!
Networking and Failures and Feelers
So how did I end up with my first paid musical directing gig? I put out feelers with the friends I made in the community (quite a few from the summer musical and the choir director at my parish, most importantly).
First, I tried the local community theatre which was only 10 minutes down the road instead of the 45-minute trek. They were . . . less than welcoming to a newcomer like me. I was invited to audition for their next show, but turned down for any volunteering to assistant music direct, help with the upcoming Junior productions, or literally anything other than usher.
I think they must’ve forgotten the definition of the word “community” as so many local theatre cliques do.
Disheartened, I saw an advertisement in my parish’s bulletin: a local Catholic school was searching for a full-time theatre director. This could be my chance!
My friend who invited me to audition for Heathers had just graduated from this school. He suggested I reach out and let them know I’m interested. Buuuuuut I chickened out. I loved having the flexibility of a stay-at-home mom schedule (or at least I loved some enough aspects of it that I didn’t want to get into a full-time situation).
That idea seemed to be a wash. Until my choir director a couple of months later informed me that they were searching for a director to work as a contract position to put on a musical.
YES! SIGN ME UP!
I sent an email that hour. And had an interview that week.
Interviews Are Scary and Other Thoughts
Walking into that school, I had not had a legit, in-person interview since college. And that was for a job I didn’t give a hoot about–directing a musical had been a LONGTIME dream of mine (and is something I dream of pursuing in the future semi-professionally). Fortunately, my good friend who’d just graduated college had recently finished many an interview and gave me some excellent advice: be prepared for the “tell me about yourself” question and think back on your previous theatre experience.
That was all I needed to prepare! I met the lovely fine arts director and president (made sure to namedrop my friend and their past student that was the lead in the previous year’s show) and it was an easy interview.
We chatted about my singing and theatre experience. We discussed my baby situation–they specifically assured me that I should not worry about that at all as many of the students come from large families. For the majority of the time, we discussed their vision for up-leveling their musical’s production quality and I picked their brains about what the students might like to perform (more on this in a future post).
Aaaaand I was hired!
Directing this musical has been a perfectly marvelous time. It really was a long time coming for me to return to the theatre world!
I’m looking forward to documenting more of the nitty-gritty of how we’ve actually put this musical together (at a private school with no official theatre department and medium student interest in performing arts) in future blog posts.
Until next time!