Musical theatre workshops and productions

Blog 56 – Directing a new musical

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Mark Lococo is directing the new musical DAPHNE’S SUNSET.   What part does directing play in putting together a new musical?  How do the librettist and the director work together during this process?  I talked with Mark Lococo about his thoughts.

You’ve directed new musicals as well as shows that have already been on Broadway, are there any differences in your directing style for each type of show?

I’ve directed and adapted and compiled and devised all sorts of shows.  I was lucky enough to direct the “second production” or Chicago premiere of a few—a wild show called The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds her Chameleon Skin by Kirsten Childs, and a couple of Ahrens and Flaherty shows, Dessa Rose and A Man of No Importance.    I think the biggest adaptations  to my style of directing have much more to do with the time frame allowed for the process, which can vary GREATLY as we know.  Those practical logistics tend to have the biggest influence on my approach.

What is a table read and why do you start the rehearsal process with them?

The kind of table reads that are truly for the cast and production team are most useful, and serve as a relatively low pressure way for the ensemble to introduce themselves to one another and to the play.  Actors may have seen the script prior to the first table read, or they may not—some actors like to arrive at a table read with some choices made; others prefer to arrive as a blank slate.  It’s my responsibility to get us all onto the same page.  That’s especially true with a piece like DAPHNE’S SUNSET—where the character work and story are told through scene and song, and there are no real discontinuous moments that can be lifted out and worked separately.  In a more conventional musical, there’s more likely choreography to be learned, as well as more ensemble music.  In addition, for this show we had the luxury of having Kevin Jaeger, the librettist, in the room.

What is it like having the playwright in the rehearsal room?

From my perspective, it’s a real treat to have someone validate your choices—and to have a playwright reassure you that your instincts are the correct ones. Having him present allowed us all to ask questions and clarify our understanding of the characters and the dramatic action.  In some cases, we verified our instincts, in others we arrived at conclusions together, and provided Kevin with suggestions to help clarify his objectives.

DAPHNE’S SUNSET has a small cast, does that present challenges or opportunities?

Both.  It becomes even more essential that everyone in a small ensemble is in the same play—in the same style, with the same level of realism and believability.  But, with fewer people (and, may I add, with people that are open and creative as our ensemble is promising to be) it makes the time spent in rehearsal very enjoyable and fulfilling.

Join us on 8/10 – 6pm, 8/20 – 5pm, 8/21 9pm, and 8/28 6:30pm at the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival and witness DAPHNE come to life!  Click here for tickets.

Larry Little

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