Monday, August 8, 2011

My Servant Joseph

I’m taking a slight departure from my own tradition – that of naming each post with the title of a Broadway show tune.  (You figured that out, right?)  Today’s post is the title of a song,  but not from a Broadway show.  It is from the show I was just involved in, so I decided it was appropriate. 

When I started this blog, it was before I even auditioned this show.  Now it is done, after just five short performances, where it was seen by roughly 1,000 people.  It was the only time I can recall repeating a show I’ve directed before.  It is a reader’s theater, actually, not necessarily designed to be staged with as much attention as we recently gave it.  The last time I did this one, about 10 years ago, it was only minimally costumed, had narrators who sat to the side and read from their scripts, and a small choir.  Nevertheless, it was well received as a powerful and uplifting religious presentation.  The memories from that previous version influenced my choices for the current show.  I hope they influenced them in the right way.

How do you attempt to make magic twice?  There is sometimes a temptation in theater to copy, copy, copy.  I’ve done that myself.  Why reinvent the wheel?  Why not do what you’ve done before?  Better yet, why not do what the pros have done, or at least borrow heavily?  I’ve heard creativity defined as not revealing your sources.  When others have spent time, money and energy researching and rehearsing and tweaking, why not benefit from their efforts?  There can be little bits and gags that are worth incorporating, and other elements that are so well known, the show doesn’t seem complete without them.  It is sometimes safer to go with what is expected, what is familiar.  It takes a little more nerve, and can be more of a risk, to go down a new road.  But, sometimes the risk is worth it. 

For My Servant Joseph, I was dealing with my own memories of a very special event, while trying to encourage a new cast, most of whom were new to the material.  We had some resources I didn’t have before, including a large stage and a good budget, but I didn’t want to just drop the previous show into a more elaborate setting. 

I do think a change should be a thoughtful improvement, not just a random difference, and a new set of performers need the freedom to create their performances without the expectation to simply mimic a predecessor.  By (mostly) resisting the urge to mold the new in the image of the old, I was able to pump up the volume (with enhanced sound design, sets, lights, props, full costumes, choir members as narrators and suggestions of multiple locations) and be a part of another very special event.  Thanks to everyone involved, and all who came to support it.  Well done.

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