Directing a trip Into the Woods

On Friday it was my honor to watch the opening of our current production INTO THE WOODS. As the director of this show it was fulling to see such a wonderful and talented cast and crew perform the show before a very receptive audience.

When many people walk into our little theatre they question our ability to mount certain shows on our stage. Musicals, by nature, typically take the audience to many different locations within a couple of hours and it is true that our stage is small and our back stage is even smaller limiting our ability for large set pieces to come in and out. It takes a lot of pre-production planning and creative thinking to figure out how we are going to represent those places with our limited size.

Into the WoodsINTO THE WOODS as a musical production poses many challenges for the stage. It opens in three different homes but then spends the rest of the production at different locations throughout a forest. It also must have a maiden in a tower, a singing tree, a palace, and Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother’s house with the Wolf inside. Also the audience must be transported to these different places within scene changes taking the span of a few seconds.

Once it was decided that we were doing this show and that I was going to be directing it I started sketching out ideas on how we can accomplish these locations within our space. I also spoke to many different people about my ideas to see if they thought it was feasible. Jaceson is a great collaborator for me and was able to build on the ideas I had and make them practical. I had some crazy ideas for building a tree archway that could hold a couple of actors. He never told me no, but instead he just let me keep talking about it until I realized it wouldn’t work.

The next piece was adding a music director. Rebecca Lowrey was able to step in at the last minute as our music director. I had to change music director’s a few days before auditions and Rebecca was referred to me by my good friends Stefanie Glenn and John Garcia who had just worked with her on another production. Asking her to music direct based only on a recommendation is risky but ended up being a fantastic fit.

Little Red and Wolf

Tabitha Barrus and JaceSon Barrus as Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.

One of the hardest pieces of a production is adding the cast and crew. We had over 45 people audition for just 16 parts. Sometimes we struggle getting a talented cast together but at this audition we struggled with not being able to cast all of the talented people that auditioned. Casting is always the most difficult part of the process since so much depends upon it.

As an actor myself I had some strong ideas on the characterizations in the show but it is always important to allow room for actors to find their own way. An actor being able to find their own emotional context within a show will always bring the strongest result. As a director it is my job to have the overall picture of the show and help actors keep their character’s emotions and relationships with other characters within the confines of the overall message of the script.

Finally we add the lights, set, and sound. It is important that these three elements add to the show and not distract from it. INTO THE WOODS depends heavily on lighting to help convey the emotion and with most of the show spent in a forest so it was important to have lighting that gives a “closed in” feeling of the woods but yet still lights the actors. Light is a powerful medium of the stage with being able to show happiness and hope as well as sadness and despair.

The set also must add to this new world we are creating on stage. For INTO THE WOODS we added a large tree and used our lighting grid as part of a tree canopy. All four walls are painted with scenes to fit the show allowing the audience to be enveloped into the production. The end result allows the audience to feel like they are walking into a different world when they enter the theatre.

Sound also must add to this magical world. I rarely use sound effects from sound effect libraries but instead either record my own sound effects or use sound clips posted by other sound engineers across the world on the Internet. Every sound element from the realistic like bird chirps, baby crying, thunder claps, and crow caws to the unrealistic like Giant walking, wolf snoring, magic bean tossing, and spell casting need to fit withing the overall soundscape of the show.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this production and I hope that you have an opportunity to come see this amazing show.

Aaron Siler
Plaza Theatre Company Director of Operations
Director of Into the Woods

Into the Woods plays every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm and a Saturday matinee at 3:00pm until Sept. 4, 2010
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  1. I knew it was complicated putting a show together, but never really understood the depth of challenge, and I am impressed with your whole company’s talent and dedication. Keep it up: it’s working! Can’t wait to see the show.

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