The Making of a Musical (part 5)

February 6

It is the final weekend of our February vacation and a perfect time to get caught up on the blog.   Next up: character development.

There are several ways to bring a character from the page to the stage.  It is a personal choice.  Here are three of our actors describing how they develop a character.


First up is Shannen Holohan.  Shannen is playing Robertson Ay who is a member of the Banks household staff.  In developing a character Shannen builds from the outside in.  First learning lines and blocking and then crafting a posture, walk, and voice. Add language, costuming and props and she's got the making of a character.

And then a dash of dialect and Shannen's characters are a delight.


Second is Anna Whitney who is playing Michael Banks.  Anna's forte is imagination.

She studies her character - learning her lines and her blocking - and honestly, probably every else's lines as well.  She formulates her character fully in her imagination first, which allows her to know her characters intimately.  As rehearsals continue Anna brings the character that lives in her imagination to life - bit by bit.

She implements the acting skills that she has learned in class resulting in a fully realized character for all of us to enjoy.


And finally is Allison Seidel.   Allison is playing Jane Banks.  Allison's process is analytical.  First step - a comprehensive character analysis that serves as her guide throughout her rehearsal and performance journey.  She is able to fully understand her character identifying their likes and dislikes, characteristics, relationships, personal data and history.  Some of her character analysis is born out the actual script and the rest comes from her rich imagination.  This is where her creativity comes into play.  Allison's characters are complete and well founded allowing her to delve deeply into her roles with complexity and honesty. 

Physicality, imagination, and analysis are used by each of actors but the methodology is a personal choice.  Whatever works.  The end result - entertainment and if we are lucky - art!

February 9

Over the decades that I have directed set design has been made up of flats, drops, and props.  In our production of Mary Poppins we step in time and into the digital age with projection slides.  Our production will use a combination of flats, drops, props and projection slides.  Here is a sampling of our projections.

The use of projections will allow us to create the rooftop and park scenes.  With the touch of the computer space bar you will be transported to 1910 England - glorious and simple  However, it does take a bit of finessing to our traditional lighting plot.

Here's how that works. 

The purpose of a lighting plot is to ensure that each spot of our stage is fully lit allowing us to adjust the intensity and the direction of the light to create our desired look for each scene. On our stage at Derryfield stage we are also able to access color through the use of scrollers that offer the bonus of spilling color onto our stage as well as transitioning from one color to another such as moving from night through dawn to morning. 

Lighting the rear of the stage involves cyc lights that are a band of lights at the back of the stage to light the upstage and the drop hanging at the rear of the stage.  When using the projection slides we need to modify our use of the cyc lights so we do not wash out the image. Our challenge then is to design a lighting plot that will fully light our actors while enhancing the images of the projection slides. 

Today we met with the team at Derryfield School.  Stay tuned...

February 10

Each and every rehearsal begins with warm ups - dance and voice.  Today we did an acting warm up as well.

Here is the video of our cast enjoying a dance warm up led by our choreographer Jess Davison.

The purpose of a dance warm up is to warm and stretch muscles in preparation for performing our choreography.  It increases the performance capacity of our dancers and equally important, it guards against injury.   The warm up routines are often the same, the warm up music is often the same, and the fun is always the same - solid.  We like consistency.

Here is the video of our vocal warm up.

Vocalizing involves muscles that need to be warmed up and made pliable.  Vocal chords that are warm are best able to produce a broader and richer range of sound.

It can look ridiculous but it seems that the more ridiculous the more effective.

Today we added a warm up for acting - meditation.  We spent a few moments with Andy at Headspace, a meditation app. Why meditation?  It serves to focus the mind, relax the body, focus on breath - each powerful for an actor. 

We are warm and rehearsal begins.

Check out Headspace at