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Musical Theatre: A Director's Passion

Updated on January 15, 2013

My Introduction to Musical Theatre

I have loved musical theatre since I was a little girl.
I remember my first exposure to theatre at a church function. It was simple really. Many of the church members were performing various numbers from different musicals. My number was “Hello Dolly”.
I didn’t sing it because I was only 4. However, my role was extremely important.
My mother dressed me up in this frilly pink dress with a pink parasol and a big pink hat. (Did I mention my mother loved pink on me? Ha… you should have seen my room for the first 12 years of my life.. another story, another time.)
Anyhow, the audience was to sing the entire song of “Hello Dolly” as I strutted back and forth on the stage twirling my parasol over my shoulder. I had to remember two things: to smile and to twirl! There I was, with mother in the wings yelling “Smile baby! TWIRL Baby!” I was magnificent! I was also hooked! This birth of a monster followed me throughout the next fifteen years of my life as I became very involved with musical theatre in high school and within the community.

Bloody Mary and Sailors, "South Pacific" Demar (Left of Bloody Mary)
Bloody Mary and Sailors, "South Pacific" Demar (Left of Bloody Mary) | Source
South Pacific's "Nothin Like A Dame" "Billis" (Steve) yells at "Sailor" (Demar) while "Stew Pot" (Ken) looks on.
South Pacific's "Nothin Like A Dame" "Billis" (Steve) yells at "Sailor" (Demar) while "Stew Pot" (Ken) looks on. | Source
"Billis" (Steve) explains to "Sailor" (Demar) how he wants his laundry done.
"Billis" (Steve) explains to "Sailor" (Demar) how he wants his laundry done. | Source

Working it, Directing it, Loving it

While living in Hawaii, I developed my skills in all aspects of the theatre, both on stage as an actress and behind the scenes as prop manager, make up specialist, scene and stage tech, lighting tech, and costuming. Becoming a director was and still is the highlight of my career. I was able to spread my wings a little more when I moved to New York and directed a couple of shows. Then in 2002 I made my way back to California where my directing took off.

Getting yourself involved with a community playhouse or theatre group is the best way to expand your horizon as an actor, stage hand and/or director. I was commissioned as musical director for the show “Copacabana” which opened the doors to direct shows. It was an amazing show with wonderful talented actors. Many from that production would go on to follow me and act in my future shows.

Ever since I had the opportunity to direct, I would be blessed with the most talented people both on the stage and behind.

I love directing community theatre because it allows me to open doors for so many people who have always wanted to act or participate in a production, but were afraid to audition.

With my shows, I never turn anyone away. There is always a place for someone. Everyone who has ever worked with me knows that there are no egos, no stars, no leads, only players. I request that everyone wear black at rehearsals so no one stands out. And, the most important thing I always instill in my actors and crew is that without those behind the scenes, there would be no show. I always had the upmost respect with my company.

"Billis" , "Lt. Cable", and "Bloody Mary" argue while "sailor" (Demar) makes fun.
"Billis" , "Lt. Cable", and "Bloody Mary" argue while "sailor" (Demar) makes fun. | Source
South Pacific's "Bali Hai"
South Pacific's "Bali Hai" | Source
Sailor (Demar) standing watch over the "Laundry"
Sailor (Demar) standing watch over the "Laundry" | Source
The ladies messing around during cast pictures with Demar. I think he liked it!
The ladies messing around during cast pictures with Demar. I think he liked it! | Source
Taking Final Bow!
Taking Final Bow! | Source

Spreading His Wings

Every show I have directed brings a profound experience to my book of memoirs. I started this book several years ago as I discovered how much I gained from those whom I'd meet and work with along the way.

One of my most memorable shows I produced and directed was Rogers and Hammerstein’s, “South Pacific.” With a cast and crew of sixty-eight, this award winning show would sell out to audiences for nine performances.

One week before auditions I was approached by a young woman who was a guidance counselor at a local boy’s reform school. This school was for young men who would manage to get themselves into trouble due to the lack of discipline, friendship, families, or just plain someone who didn’t care.

She told me of a young boy who was in one of her groups who loved to sing and act and showed interest in auditioning for my show. She went on to explain that she would be at all the rehearsals to monitor him and to make sure he wouldn’t take off.

Of course, I was a little apprehensive, but as I stated earlier, “I never turn anyone away.” I told her to bring him to auditions and tell him to have a song prepared a acapella and be ready to do a cold reading.

The night of auditions came and approximately fifty-five people showed up.

Pictures were taken; audition forms were passed out, filled out, and handed back in. I then began to divide everyone into five groups of ten. One group was all men who were potential sailors. There they were, all lined up. Short, tall, fat, thin, hairy, bald, black, white, old and young. It was a great variety and I was so excited. As I began the cold readings, I noticed a very tall, handsome, young African American boy sitting behind, okay, “hiding” behind the other men. The first group of five men was called up to do the first reading. They did a great job and I was very excited to see what else I was going to hear. The next group of five came up and Demar was in this group. The moment I saw his face, I could see fear and sweat take over. I asked them all to take off their shirts. Now, Demar was the only one that didn’t show quite as much fear. HE was in shape! The others?.....well….not so much. It was important for me to take the focus off Demar so that he felt like any other guy in that room!

During the reading, I quickly discovered that Demar was illiterate. He had the reading ability of a second grader. I quickly turned to a friend of mine who was cast as my “Stewpot” to help him with his lines. Ken quickly obeyed and took Demar under his wing for the remainder of the show.

Demar had a so-so audition due to his nervousness. However, I saw something in Demar and I knew in my heart and gut he would become a great asset to the show.

Demar was cast as one of my sailors. I took liberty of license and created a few lines for Demar to have in the show. Ken worked with his blocking and memorization of lines. Steve, who was cast as my “Billis” would teach Demar the dance steps. When they weren’t rehearsing, they would sit on the wings or in the green room and tell jokes or talk about things that interest Demar.

Six weeks went by and I noticed a change in Demar during “Hell Week.” He was no longer sitting behind the others, his lines were perfect. In fact, he had to help Ken and Steve out with their lines a few times. His dance steps were rhythmic and this young man was “Smiling.”

On opening night, Demar came to me and shook my hand then gave me the warmest hug and with a tear in his eye, he said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity. I want you to know that I will be taking a reading course so I can attend college next year. Thank you for believing in me.”

My heart melted and I knew I (we) had touched a young life and gave him hope. To this day, he is living in Los Angeles and continues to perform in community theatre.

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    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      What a beautiful idea. I have never done this outside of high school but it looks like so much fun! I love your hubs!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm glad you've discovered the joy of stage, something I also like to do. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Tammy. As I do yours! If you have the opportunity, you should get involved with a group..even if it's once a year or so. Once bitten by the bug..it never leaves you.

      Thank you alocsin. I really do. The theatre has been a part of my life since that first "twirl"! Thanks for the vote!

      :)

    • anjperez profile image

      anjperez 5 years ago

      directing a play now goes to my bucketlist. you are so inspiring. and i have learned a lot from this hub. it will make sure that in no less than two years, i will attend stage and production management course.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      That is so awesome anjperez! Thank you for your kind words. I love directing and working with so many types of talent. It's so rewarding when I see my vision come to fruition!

      You will love taking courses on stage management. That was one of my first jobs. Actually, Once a show goes into production, the director steps aside and the Stage manager takes over. That's how much worth a stage manager has with a show! Thank you for stopping by and reading my Hub! :)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      I have been in musical theatre before . Most recently, I was in a Christmas themed opera, my first foray out of the operetta and into serious opera.

      I have never directed any theatre, musical or not.

      Regarding south Pacific

      I have been in South Pacific myself. I was Bloody Mary's helper. When not otherwise on stage I was in the native chorus. The blondes played the Americans.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Very Cool Flora. I hope you had a lot of fun doing it!

      Looking at your pic, I can see where you would play Bloody Mary's assistant. :-) I bet you did a great job!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Lisa ~ The color pink is my favorite color and perfect for you! And to have a pink room and all...wow!

      I can just picture you, looking so adorable. sashaying across the stage with a big smile as you twirled your pink umbrella. And your mother on the sidelines, coaching you to smile and twirl. "_)

      A very good hub on musical theater. Really love the photos. South Pacific is one of my favorite musicals. Voting a big thumbs up!

      I feel like sending you a hug! Have a great day. vc

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Aweeee. Thanks VC! I was pretty cute! Just ask my mother!

      Thanks for the vote!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      You are a wonderful person and a director. You give everyone a chance and make sure everyone is equal on your set. Behind the scenes people are left out sometimes.You made them proud and happy. You really brought sunshine into Demar's life. I loved this hub. Voted up.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Vellur. He is an amazing young man that had a hard life. Thank you for the kind words.

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 5 years ago from Abilene, TX

      Hey, congratulations on your HubNugget nomination. You can vote and view the other nominees in the Entertainment and Media Topic here:

      http://hubpages.com/entertainment...

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      WOW! I am truly honored! What a thrill! Thank you so much Doug!

      Lisa

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I hope everyone will vote for this for the hubnugget award. This is one of the most original hubs I have seen here. Well done!!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, Wow! this is great! I have always wanted to join my local amateur dramatics but never have, I haven't got the nerve! what a great job you did with Demar, it just goes to show that all someone needs is a little encouragement, amazing!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Tammy. I really enjoyed writing it. :)

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Nell! I think you should audition for a show. Even if it's a chorus part. The first time is always the hardest.. but once bitten, you will want to come back for more! :)

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this hub is awesome.. I love the theater wish I could act.. LOL..I can see why you won an award on the hub..

      Voted up

      Debbie

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Awwweee. Thank you Deborah. You are so sweet. The award has not been awarded yet. There are actually 5 other Hubs that are just as awesome! If you get the opportunity, please take a look at them and then vote for your favorite! And FYI- Everyone has a little acting bone in their body. (especially those who love the theatre) :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Thanks, I might just have a go!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Another HubNugget winner for Lisa!!!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Aweee Daisy.. you are toooo kind. It's so exciting. It's like Christmas. The other Hubs are all amazing! Thanks so much for your vote! :-) BIG SMILE!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Your topic resonates with me deeply as I also work with hubber dayzeebee on musical theater. I loved how you never turn anyone away and the story of Demar -- which proves to me time and time again that musical theater is a great avenue for character and talent building. Thumbs up for your great work. Keep on sharing your light!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To all who would like to read and vote, join the Hubnuggets team and their adventures right here: https://hubpages.com/community/HubNugget-Mystery-T...

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      That is awesome ripplemaker! And, your right! Theatre does build character and self esteem. I have had so many people come to me filled with the desire to be in my show and the fear just held them back. I would tell them to come, try and experience, and if they didn't like it, they could walk away with the knowledge that it wasn't for them. In the 30 years I've been directing, I've had only one quit. But then came back the following year to become one of the best stage managers I ever worked with!

      Thank you so much for your visit :)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      A big congratulations to you! You are such a welcomed addition to hubpages. Again...kudos for your hubnugget!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much vocalcoach. You are an inspiration to me as well. :)

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      What a fantastic experience that you have shared. Not only was this inspirational in your experience as a director, but with the young man's life that you touched. As a teacher I have had many Demar's come through my classroom. It is important for us to remember that everyone has value and something to contribute to the world. I'm so glad that Demar was able to connect with you and you were able to see past his illiteracy and give him a chance. Congrats on your nomination and welcome to Hubpages!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Oh Thank you so much cardelean! What a wonderful thing to say. I have the upmost respect for teachers as well. I have taught piano and voice since I was a teenager and I have always loved the challenge when a student was afraid or had low self esteem. It is our job not only as teachers but as human beings to uplift one another and bring out our highest potential in each other. Thank you for your visit. :)

    • bmukherjii profile image

      bmukherjii 5 years ago

      cool post..thanks for sharing your experiences. I would love to see your musical theaters, but if you have any recorded video. why don't you share them with us? I haven't seen anything like this before. so it would be a great experience for me and I am sure to many people too.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 5 years ago from South Africa

      In the capacity of organizer of a youth symphonic orchestra (for 18 years until 2009) as well as writer of plays performed by high school students, I know and LOVE this wonderful world in the theater and behind the curtains extremely well, but of course on amateurs and educational level. So I've enjoyed this hub of yours very much and voted it up to the stars.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you bmukherjii! I would love to share videos, however, with copyright laws, most shows cannot be video taped with paying a "Rights Fee". However, with that said and done, I am going to be writting a hub on my production of Wizard of Oz and I do have some rehearsal footage of that one which can be shown. Thank you for the idea!

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      WOW Martie, you have had a wonderful world of music and theatre in your life. How fortunate you are. I truly understand your LOVE for this great art! Thank you so much for your visit and for your vote! :-)

    • VeronicaFarkas profile image

      Veronica Roberts 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Way to go, ma'am! 2 weeks in a row, right?! =D I'm super excited for you!

      What a great hub & experience!

      I took a college vocal class when I was in 8th grade, and have been in a few plays and musicals. I also took acting classes when I was younger. It was a blast!

      Good luck w/ the nomination! =]

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      You are so sweet! Thank you! It is an amazing surprise to be nominated again. Very cool on the acting and music. I believe everyone should have some form of it at least once in their life. :-)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      This hub is an excellent pep talk for community theater. One of my recurring daydreams through the years has been to someday be in community theater, even if just as an usher or prop person. If I ever get up the nerve and find the time, I hope the director is like you.

    • Rusticliving profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for your kind words B. Leekley. I hope you pursue that daydream of yours and get yourself involved with community theatre someday! You have the right attitude about taking on any role as they are all equally important. God Bless!

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