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Thursday’s Theatre Thing: Part 3

by Megan

Okay, let’s wrap this up so I can move on to more interesting theatre topics!

I started at UNH focusing on musical theatre, with secondary education as more of a backup. My first year was hard because I couldn’t get cast. That was a rare year where the musical was the spring semester (they only did one mainstage musical), plus I didn’t get into the Intro to Musical Theatre class that was important for freshmen to get seen, so nobody really knew me at first. In the spring I did get cast in Follies, and I also got into that class, so it got better from then on (a little). It was a VERY VERY hard year, in all respects.

However, in the dead of winter, my mother heard on the radio up on Maine that Funtown USA (a local theme park that I grew up going to) was auditioning for professional performers, so one weekend I drove up there and auditioned. It went well, but I didn’t hear back for a long time. Eventually I did hear back that I was cast, and at the end of the school year I moved back home and started rehearsals for those shows.

For anyone who doesn’t know theme park entertainment, it generally consists of short (20-30 minute) musical revues with a general theme that ties together cover songs, with a small cast of singers/dancers and a crap ton of quick costume changes. That first year we rehearsed 14 hour days for 2 weeks (working before and after the park closed, which is like a long-running fear of mine- being in a theme park or arcade after it’s closed- random I know), and we did a 50s-60s-70s revue, an Americana revue, and a kids’ show. It was a fantastic summer where I learned a lot more about dance and performing. There was a lot of drama with the park staff, because they weren’t used to having performers and didn’t always understand how it was different from regular park employees. For example, if it rained and we couldn’t do our show (our stage was outside), they expected us to clock out but stick around to see if the rain let up so we could clock back in and do another show. Um…no. If you are requiring someone to be at work, they need to be getting paid. But looking back I remember all the good things. It was a pretty sweet gig. We did 4 shows a day that first summer (the next two summers we did 5 a day), and in between shows we just basically sat around and relaxed. We had to set up for the next show, but that didn’t take very long. And we did need the downtime, because it was hot out and we were singing and dancing.

So that took up my whole summer, and then I returned to UNH for my sophomore year. I still only did one mainstage show, No No Nanette, but I was more involved in the department and did some smaller showcases and things.

I auditioned for Funtown in the winter again, and got cast again, so I returned there for a second summer in 2004. That’s when I met Daniel and, well, that’s a whole different story! Anyway, that was an amazing summer, and we just had so much fun.

At the end of the summer I went back to UNH for my third year and quickly discovered that if I worked it just right, I could graduate with my BA at the end of the year! And I did! That year I really focused on the education part of my degree, because I basically had decided to be a teacher by that time. I loved my theatre education classes- great bunch of people and fun assignments that directly related to my career plans. That year I did Titanic the musical, as well as Much Ado About Nothing. In the spring I got a job as the director of an after-school drama program, where I directed Godspell, Jr. That was my first real directing gig, and I was in charge of it all- choosing the show, casting the kids, directing, choreographing, costumes, lights, sound, music directing, etc, etc, etc! It was awesome and super successful! The kids were fantastic, and I was SO pleased with the results.

In May (2005), I graduated with my BA, and two days later I turned 21. I was engaged, ready for a third summer at Funtown, and then planned to move cross country to Arizona! And I did! Daniel and I performed together at Funtown for our last summer, and then I packed up my newly-purchased station wagon with its well-functioning AC and moved to Arizona.

There was a good program at UNH that was a fifth-year program, where you could get your Master’s degree and a teaching certificate in one year. That would have been a good option for me, had I been sticking around, because it would have been my fourth year, having graduated early. I’m glad I moved when I did, but not being able to complete that program is one thing I wish I could have done. I applied for and was accepted to the University of Arizona’s Master’s/teacher prep program, but it would have taken two years to complete, so I didn’t end up going. Instead, I completed an online program to receive my Arizona teaching certificate, and that’s what I did for the 2005-2006 school year, while Daniel finished his Bachelor’s degree (which came with a teaching certificate as part of it, so we both student-taught in the spring).

Once moving out here, I got involved with the Institute at the UofA, which had a great auditioned musical theatre program, and I did two years with them. Both shows were good experiences where I got to choreograph and got plenty of stage time, but the second year I got a great part, where I was really challenged acting-wise, and (sorry to boast) really rose to the challenge. I’m really proud of that part- one of my favorites to date.

I also got involved with some less-than-great theatre companies and did some seriously bad shows. That got me down for awhile there, because I went for a period of a few years where I wasn’t having any good theatre experiences. Daniel and I couldn’t find two full-time teaching jobs within commuting distance for both of us, so he ended up taking the music job here in St. David, at his old high school, and we moved down here. Luckily, I ended up with a plethora of opportunities (though most of them required driving into Tucson) to teach, direct, and choreograph musical theatre and show choirs.

The real breakthrough came in the fall of 2009, when the director of a local (GOOD) theatre company put out a job opportunity for someone to choreograph his school’s (he’s also a drama teacher, in addition to being artistic director for his company) after school drama program’s musical, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I sent him my info right away, and he hired me. He actually knew me, because by then Daniel had done one or two shows with his company. It was a great experience; I love that show, and I ended up being credited as Associate Director, because I did all the blocking and a lot of direction in addition to all the choreography.

Daniel got lucky again the following summer (we are up to 2010) and got cast in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, so we continued our relationship with this director and his company, and he asked me to come back and choreograph for his school again. So all of last school year I did the same thing, only this time it was two different shows. During that year, he asked me to choreograph Sweeney Todd (which we just finished doing), and at the same time precast me in the ensemble of the show. Daniel auditioned and got into the ensemble as well.

So finally I got my chance to be part of one of the actual company’s shows, and it was a great experience. I again got promoted to Associate Director, because I ended up in charge of a lot of things beyond choreography, and at some point during the rehearsal process, he asked me to direct the company’s next show, See Rock City.

And that brings us to now! We closed Sweeney last weekend, and now all the focus is on MY show! I’m assembling a production team, casting performers, and studying the script like crazy to prepare to direct the show. This is by far the most professional, biggest thing I’ve done, and I’m really excited and nervous, but confident that I can do a good job. I know reviews aren’t everything, but if I can put up this show AND get reviewed positively, it will be a major accomplishment for me. I would still like to do more as a performer, but I have gotten so much work over the past few years as a director/choreographer, and that’s okay with me! I think I’m good at it, and I love it!

Thanks for reading!

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