The day started with Ian Weinberger, the Musical Director of Hamilton on Broadway talking about rehearsal practices. He started with the bad news, that we need to accept the reality that rehearsing music together online is not yet possible. This has definitely been bothering me since the start of this, and I am still trying to come to terms with it. He then continued with suggestions as to what we can do online. Music direction, like other forms of direction in the theatre, involves a lot of preparation before you get to the rehearsal room and lots of those things can be moved online. As can working with students on analysis and study of the score.
The second workshop from Daniel Carlton demonstrated how you could use a poem as a starting place for devising theatre in the classroom. He used Harlem by Langston Hughes and then worked with a group of attendees working through the poem line by line.
The third workshop was about presenting shows remotely and two case studies were presented. Gordon Greenburg and Steve Rosen talked about how they adapted their production of Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors to be re-imagined as a radio play. I recently worked on a short radio play, but this is not a medium that I know that much about. The explained in detail how they created the script. I really like seeing the documents that other people create during their process. They had broken each audible moment into a smaller unit and given it an identifying number. This would have been helpful in the script I was working on as it can be quite difficult to find a specific line that needs another take.
They also described the technology they used so that the cast could record themselves at home. I was amused that they used pillows and blankets to help with the quality of sound, though this does work. I have been surprised by how good sound can be with just a simple USB microphone and an iPhone. I was aware of most of the technology they discussed but it was the first time I had heard of Zencastr, and it does seem that it would be useful in projects that involve people in multiple locations recording audio.
Then Susan Blackwell and Scott Barnhardt talked about their flexible adaptation of the musical NOW. HERE. THIS. They allowed the Orange Country School for the Arts to produce a full-length virtual production of the musical, which was rehearsed and shot on iPhones by quarantined students over the course of 6 weeks. We have managed to rehearse shows online, but we have not yet tried to perform one for an audience. Many of the shows we wish to use do not have streaming rights in Asia. There is no doubt that every day more and more shows are adding these rights as everyone is unsure when we can go back in to rehearsal again.
The day ended with the amazing Chita Rivera who is a Broadway legend. This was another inspiring talk from a stunning performer. It really is a pleasure listening to an artist who is so willing to share her stories.
You never know where something is going to take you - you have to be ready, be in shape and you have to have your teacher’s voice in your ear.
This was an excellent conference and I'm incredibly happy that it was moved online. I have never managed to attend the conference in person as I am usually working on a show at the start of July. I am hopeful that some of the conferences I have been attending decide to have virtual and non-virtual options going forward, now that they have gotten over the initial hurdle of dealing with the technology.
There are some drawbacks, as being in a different time zone did mean that I was not able to stay awake long enough to join any of the networking groups. But I did still have access to a directory of the other attendees and the chat sessions, so I could have contacted other people if I wished. I'm thankful that the organisers went ahead with their conference, for their hard work, and the passion they shared for teaching theatre.