Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Opening this week!

After years of development, months of rehearsal, and ten days of exhausting, exacting blocking and tech, Joe Jackson's Night and Day is finally set to receive its professional world premiere at Richmond Triangle Players this week. The show has come together into something that looks better, sounds better, and feels better than I imagined it would. The cast, band, and crew have all done amazing work in pulling together a cohesive piece of concert theatre. But the person I want to single out is Stacie Rearden Hall.

Stacie is an artist with whom I have always found collaboration to be effortless when it needed to be easy, challenging when I needed to be pushed. She has a natural gift for big-picture thematic and visual thinking; we look forward to seeing the same TV shows, movies, and plays so we can talk about them for hours, if not days, afterward. We often agree on aesthetics, and just as often don't, and damned if every time she disagrees with me she doesn't half change my mind.

When the time came to find an associate director, someone to take over the visuals of the show once I was stuck behind a keyboard stage right, Stacie was the only person I thought of. She entered into this project with a lot of questions about what it was going to be, and very few answers were forthcoming in the early days as we worked exclusively on music. When the time finally came for her to step up and guide the visual apsect of the show, she was not long in taking charge. While driving home with her after the first blocking session last Monday evening, I noticed a smile on her face, a tone of her voice, and a glow in her energy that I remembered very clearly from my own life, after rehearsals for the first works I directed. There is no feeling of exalted humility like directing excellent artists, seeing them apply their craft and individuality to your vision because they believe in it and you believe in their ability to realize it. No other aspect of theatre production has made me say "This is the ONLY thing I EVER want to do again" like directing has, and I've seen that look on Stacie's face and heard it in her voice over the past two weeks.

Much like the music rehearsal process, where each new amazing touch the strings brought to the table meant I needed to play less and less on the piano, Stacie's increasingly fearless and clearheaded input has allowed me to step back more and more each day. In the final analysis, her status as "associate director" has proven to be a misnomer. She's a full partner in the process of visioning this show. When you read the program, you'll see the following credit: "Directed by Andrew Hamm and Stacie Rearden Hall." I hope that, in a theatre community whose diversity doesn't extend to hiring emerging and/or female directors nearly enough, Stacie's name begins to appear as a directing credit.

Finally, I want to give an affectionate shout-out here to the cast and crew of the unsung heroes of this process: the 2004 cast and crew of the Joe Jackson's Night and Day workshop, performed at the RF&P Forum at the Science Museum of Virginia: associate director Matthew Ellis, bandmates Becca Bernard (cello), Joe Evans (percussion), Philip Hamm (bass), Anna Sosa (violin), and Adam Young (drums), singers Brad Brubaker, Tonia Camanella Ellis, Eric Fletcher, Lorri Lindberg, Karen Moody, Catherine Nelson, Julia Rigby, TV face Sally Dae Courtois, stage manager Jo Bachman, lighting designer Andy Waters, sound designer Tim Crews, lapdance choreographer Tonia, facilities mnanager Barry Hayes, and my thesis committee of Lorri, Melanie Richards, and the inestimable Dr. Noreen Barnes. All the above had a huge hand in the development of this process and narrative.

We open Wednesday. Leave your socks at home or they'll just get rocked off.

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