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From Jp – Follies 101

November 4, 2011

Follies has begun, and we are about a third of the way through our process. I wanted to give everyone a crash course on what that process is.

The cast and crew of Christmas City Follies XII gathers for a day of brainstorming

Day one, the cast and production team enter the rehearsal room and begin writing down every idea we have for this year’s show. This year, it took us over three hours to get all the ideas out, and we had somewhere near 75 ideas written on sticky notes by the end. All these sticky notes get put up on a wall as a constant reminder of our starting point. By the end of the process, a lot of these sticky notes will be stuck to one another, creating idea clusters.

From all these ideas, we whittle down to about 20 that will actually make it into the show. For the first third of the rehearsal process, we allow new ideas to be added to the wall, but after this point, new notes are done with (unless of course they are too amazing to not put up).

Our next phase is seeing what works. We get all the ideas that have successfully proven themselves from phase one on their feet to see what they look like and, more importantly, to see if there is some type of continuity to tie the show together. Often times coming out of phase two, we will be leaving amazing pieces behind, because we just can’t seem to fit them in with the other pieces.

The final product: a special treat for the holiday season.

I often think about directing Follies as producing an album. You’re given two sides to the album (in our case, a two act structure) – each one of these sides has to work and flow by themselves while serving the overall album concept from start to finish. What I strive to avoid is encountering a feeling of “this song doesn’t work, on this album”.

Once these programmatic decisions are made, we move into the fine tuning and final phase before heading into tech and show. We have a bunch of pieces that are halfway done and a clear vision of what the show is supposed to look like, and we begin rehearsing it. Sometimes during this third phase, we will find that “one of the songs, doesn’t fit”; and even at this late stage, we’ll possibly be making cuts. But at the same time, we may find gaps and need to create a new scene to bridge something together or to add more of a “feeling” that may be lacking.

Now in my seventh year serving in some type of directorial capacity on this show, I think I have a grasp for it, and generally this process is fairly painless. As director, the most painful part of the process is opening night when I push the ship into the water and slowly loosen my grip. Directing Follies is one of my favorite duties, with its biggest pay off being something I’ve heard every year from a passing audience member: “This is the best one yet.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kim permalink
    November 4, 2011 1:50 pm

    This sounds great. Im looking forward to seeing this year’s production. Nice to hear how it all develops. Thanks for sharing the information. How soon can we purchase tickets?

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