We of the Off Broadway Players are extremely excited about our upcoming season. Your support and reception to our last season was nothing short of amazing. Thank you! This year’s first show, Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, is set to debut May 12th on our home stage in the JFHMS auditorium. But, preparation for it has already begun!
We are often asked questions about the production process of our shows. While every show is different and some require more effort than others, the life cycles are similar. There is an extraordinary amount of time and effort put in producing one of our shows. Some of it happens before auditions are held.
Selection of the shows to be staged and who will direct them is usually determined late in the preceding year. The 2023 season was set the day after last year’s A Christmas Story, closed. Once the performance dates are set, each director forms a production team, costume designer, stage manager, properties master, et al., and begins to plan all of the details of their show: set design, rehearsal schedule, list of props and set pieces needed, etc. This can begin three to four months before the start of rehearsals. Rehearsals are typically held approximately two months before the first performance date. Once the cast is chosen, the actors receive their scripts, begin to familiarize themselves with their lines, and begin to develop their characters. Rehearsals generally start six weeks before opening night. For the first month, most directors choose to rehearse four times a week for an hour and a half to two hours.
During the first two weeks of rehearsals, the main focus is “ blocking.” Blocking is the process of determining where the actors are on stage, their movements, and their activities. All of their movements and actions are tied to scripted dialog. Most of this was planned by the director as part of their pre-show preparations. To paraphrase Field Marshal Moltke, “No plan of blocking extends with certainty beyond its first encounter with the actors.” The blocking plan usually evolves as problems are discovered and collaborators add their ideas. It is a very complex and difficult process. Once done, however, the actors can focus on continuing to memorize their lines and further develop their characters. Now the director can start to see their vision emerging and can help the actors grow into it.
While all of this is happening on the stage, much work is also being done. Construction of the set, the gathering of props, and finding or making costumes are being done by the collaborators. Four avenues: set, props, costume, and action are about to converge.
In the two weeks that immediately precede opening night, however, both the time and energy spent intensify dramatically. During this time, called tech weeks, rehearsals are held every night. Lights, sound effects, full costumes, and all props are now incorporated into every rehearsal. The final three nights are typically ”full” dress rehearsals, i.e., the show is performed as if there was an audience. These are the final opportunities for the actors and production team to polish and perfect the set, props, and performances.
In total, there are hundreds and hundreds of hours invested into getting a production from the page to the stage. It is truly a labor of love; if those involved did not love their craft, they would not be willing to invest so much time and energy into bringing these shows to the stage for your pleasure.
Sounds great, right? Auditions for Steel Magnolias will be held in the JFHMS auditorium on Sunday, March 12th at 4:00 pm and on Monday, March 15th at 6:30 pm. Auditions for our other two stage shows, Walking Across Egypt by Catherine Bush and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson will be held in June and September, respectively. There will also be an improvisation class held in summer with a performance at the Broadway Autumn Festival and Car show on September 9th.
If you would like to audition for a show, help with sets or costumes, see our 2023 season performance dates, or connect with us in some other way, please go to our website: http://offbroadwayplayersva.org.