A Look Back Toward the Darkness

Mitchell J. Ward

Now that the dust has begun to settle, my life recently turned on its head with a relocation to Chicago, IL, I am able to extract and process my experience directing The Addams Family musical; The failures and successes, the happy days and the crappy ones, the wow-I’m-having-the-time-of-my-life’s and the oh-dear-god-what-am-I-doing-here’s. 

It would be a mistake at this point to not aknowledge my partner in kookiness, Darrington Clark, as he was with me on this from the beginning as a musical director and a producer. Together we established at the onset some managable goals for this production that would set it apart from the kinds of shows we had produced with Stage Right Performing Arts prior. 

A goal particularly near to the two of our hearts was to organize a pit orcastra to preform with us in October when our show opened. It’s bold of me to begin with this, as we were ultimately unable to complete out objective - a true shame. However, our failure here was not total, and certainly was not due to lack of effort. 

We strongly feel that true theatre is ‘live’ in all aspects. This applies to the instrumentation. I explained it to the kids like this, “It’s the difference between listening to Led Zepplin on your phone or watching them in concert. On the one hand you have a consistent piece of music that is conveniently in your pocket, but on the other you have pulsing speakings, electric riffs slicing through the air, and a palpable thropping from a bass drum.” Additionally, it is freeing for the actor and the director to be able to adjust the minute qualities of music to the performance. This freedom is what theatre is about - it allows the music to breathe with the bodies on stage.

In the end it came down, as most of these things do, to resources and timing. It is an example of the difficulty of creating quality youth theatre during the early Fall performance slot. It is a busy time of year for students, between football games and miscellaneous extra-curriculars. Finding instrumentalists, professional or student, who have the evening availability, let alone cast members, is challenging. In this case it was simply beyond our abilities to occupy a full band. 

Now, this isn’t a story of total defeat. While we weren’t able to produce the band, we were able to send the message out to the young people that it is something to be valued. They were, for a time, excited for something most of them hadn’t worked woth before. In retrospect, knowing now how difficult the entire show would end up being, it was one less headache for the production team to use familiar backing tracks as we went up; A blessing perhaps in disguise. 

I have many ‘happies’ and ‘crappies’ from The Addams Family. Sucessfully incorporating an ensemble of actors who varied greatly in age and ability - happy, a feeling that every one would have benefited from some additional scene work - crappy, Implementing multiple technical elements that together created a beautiful and haunting production - happy, the mad dash from the first rehearsal to opening night to get everything together, crappy. 

As always, it is the magic of theatre and the people who strive endlessly to make it that allow for more of the ‘happies’ than not. Speaking for all of us on either side of the curtain, this show was one to remember fondly. 

-MW

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