Big River

When Les Mis closed in 2008 the first thing I said to Staged! artistic director, Chanda Hall, was “Let’s do Big River next!”  Les Mis was the first All-star production produced by Staged!  The Annual All-star production brings together the most talented High School and College actors (and occasionally younger) in the greater Portland metro area to create theatre in a conservatory setting.   

Big River is the second All-Star production being produced by Staged!  Rehearsals began in February of 2011 and the show will open April 8th.  As we were for Les Mis we will be at the PGE World Trade Center Theatre in downtown Portland, Oregon.  

I write this on March 11th, 2011 and we are a month into rehearsals for Big River.  What I love most about every single show I have ever directed is seeing the growth of the ensemble, and watching the story develop as the actors understand not only what story they are telling but how to tell it.  The cast of Big River crossed this threshold the evening of March 8th during an intense, focused and absolutely electric rehearsal.  It was one of the moments that a director knows will happen and has seen countless times, but it is a moment that never loses its magic.  That moment--the moment when what the show will become can be seen, ever so briefly, like a sign post in the fog.  A moment when everyone knows that the momentum is real and that a group of people together, on a stage, can sometimes become far more than the sum of their parts. 

We have done something new for this All-star production.  There are four artistic mentors in our cast this time around professional actors from the Portland area who are guiding our young actors by being working role models. My actor training consisted of class work but was much more heavily weighted like an old-fashioned apprenticeship.  I feel that actors learn best by doing and I think we learn “second best” by watching.  Ironically enough class work can get bogged down at times for lack of a goal or an objective.  I feel that when there is a goal at the end of the process (a production) it gives the process purpose.  I know the process is supposed to be about the process and that the idea of the ever more sacred process needs no more justification than itself but I think that’s not always the case.  Actors are people and people all function better when we set goals. We have objectives and goals within our scenes as our characters and we have goals as the actors and creative artists; objectives/goals that are tied to the outcome of the process and it’s ok to acknowledge that in fact vitally important to do so….