We had lunch brought in from Moe's, a cool Southwestern joint with great food. The kids love it and it's a nice pick-me-up for the stage and tech crew. While I was running the set stuff with the stage crew, our four sound and light techs were up with the tech director getting their world in order, going over the sound and light cues. These kids have been doing hard mental and physical labor since 8:30. So, we'll feed their bodies and give them a break.
The cast starts filtering in and I start answering the inevitable question when they see the Moe's. "No, you can't have any. There's only enough for the stage crew and they've been here working since 8:30. You're just getting here." I answer this roughly 10 times. The older kids know not to even ask.
Cast call is at noon. Several kids--most, perhaps--are late. It's frustrating because at this age they are totally dependent on their parents to get them places. If I taught high school and a kid was late to rehearsal, I'd give demerits or impose a fine or make them run laps or something. I can't do that in middle school since the child does not have the ability to get places independently. What I can--and will--do is notice who it is. I'll remember for future plays that this is not a reliable family and will think twice about ever giving that student a leading role. If I can't trust them in little things, I can't trust them in big things. Being late once is not going to ruin their chances--but I will be watching for a pattern of behavior. A few kids had to take the ACT for an honors program and they will be legitimately late. I have such smart students and am so proud of them!
We get the preliminaries dispensed with. I remind them not to touch other people's props. Ever. For any reason. Our props are amazing. Carefully chosen and constructed. Lots of them. The kids always lose and misplace them and it drives me crazy! So, I'm super strict. Touching someone else's prop automatically gets you three demerits, no questions asked. The prop mistress is here and she is helping the kids figure out which props are which.
I had a moment of panic when it looked like there was china for the tables in the restaurant scene. Imagining how many shard the kids will break it to. My props people rock. They've done this a lot and know what's up. It's plastic. Unbreakable. I almost burst into tears at that point, I'm so relieved. Restaurant scene is complicated--fake food and real food. Beverages--oy vey. Deep breaths, Braden, deep breaths.
We start the run through. We have 135 kids in the play but this is just the kids in the middle school--only 50something. The little kids will come later. Going well. The light cues are working well. Mics are working. Fun to hear those voices amplified.
I'm starting to think, although this makes me nervous, that this might be a really good play. My leads are very , very good. It occurs to me that all 8 of them have had substantial roles before, some multiple. Experience matters. That is starting to be a theme for me. They know their lines and choreography so getting mics and props doesn't throw them off, as it normally does.
Scene changes going very smoothly. Have to go kick one stage crew kid off his phone and tell him not to goof off, but other than that very smooth.
Usually I don't even watch the performances at tech day--it's all about the technical elements. But they are going smoothly so I'm watching performances and liking what I'm seeing. Still need some more character development and nuance--want to see them go a bit deeper emotionally, but for middle school kids, that usually comes during the show or last dress rehearsals. It's early for that yet.
Loving this! Best tech day I remember. Several veteran parents saying the same thing. This is unprecedented--usually a little more panicked, but everything's coming together. That makes me a bit nervous because sometimes kids need a bit of panic to help focus their minds.
I am wondering why we are ahead and concluded again, that it's the level of experience and hard work. Convinced I cast the right people. They've worked hard. I've pushed them hard and it's showing. Still, don't want to peak too early. Middle school performers don't have the discipline or self-awareness to do this without some adrenaline going on.
Start wondering if I should tell them they are doing as well as they are--very proud of them, but don't want to breed complacency.
Great run-through--almost whole show.
Little kids--1st through 5th grades start arriving at 3:00
We stop where we and start over. Set changes great. Scaffolding still serious issue. Tech director realizes some the wheels have been locked even though we unlocked them earlier. Okay, well that might make a difference!
Run through the curtain call since everyone is there. It's timed to the music and sung through--not like a regular curtain call. Has to be timed perfectly so it ends with Dolly entering while they sing the 57th reprise of "Hello Dolly."
Curtain call goes well. Some latecomers thought they'd sneak in. Hah! Their children have to run up and join the curtain call. It's very obvious who is late. Thought you could fool me, and sneak your child in late, eh? I give them sad smiles and they wince apologetically.
Start run-through with everything and everyone (except costumes): lights, sound effects, piano, microphone, props, scenery, and all 135 kids. First songs good--we let the youngest kids go home.
I'm worried about a big set change that takes place on-stage in the light during a musical number. No way around it. Praying no one will get hurt. Can't believe how much I pray on tech day. It's like a 12 hour foxhole.
Phew! Did it, no problems. A bit slow, but they'll pick the pace up.
Okay, good number, release the 3rd and 4th graders.
Wow, this is going really, really well.
End of Act 1--best they've done that song. It might be a real highlight. Funny, I've never liked that song, even when I was in this play, but they're making me like it. Release 5th graders.
Set change to restaurant. Those scaffolding pieces are beasts. Hard to move. Makes me nervous. More wheels locked. How the heck do they keep getting locked after we unlock them?
Waiters do a good job with their props for an extended choreographed piece.
Big song: Hello Dolly. Dolly makes her grand entrance at top of stairs, all lit up. I start to cry. I've been very emotional this week about these kids. Wonder how I can love them so much and if I'll be able to control the tears next week.
Gut feeling: this number is going to seriously rock the show. Waiters still a bit dicy on some steps, but they're getting better. Gosh, I love these kids! These boys, who have never danced, have had some intense stuff thrown at them and they are working so hard. Middle school boys get a bad rap. Unfair. They are amazing creatures, but they have to be led and taught in the right way. If you do that, they will do anything.
I do my little cameo dancing with Dolly. Bawling like a baby. I love these kids. It's wonderful, but it hurts! They come to my program and we work together and then they go on and leave me. And, once in high school, they forget and thing change. That's as it should be, but it's always a little bittersweet. That's teaching. Oh well.
Rest of the run goes well. Best tech day ever. This is my 25th year of directing and my 19th or 20th play--not sure and it's easily the best tech day ever. Wonderful--but nervous. Will they get complacent and sloppy? That's my greatest fear right now. It's very, very difficult to fight that. I'd rather have them be nervous than overconfident. Nervous can be fixed with focus. Cockiness is very, very hard to control at this age.
So proud of each of them. Can't articulate the feelings of love and pride I have for them. Also, grateful for my new Tech director this year. He has made things run so smoothly and I suspect much of the smoothness of the day is attributable to him. Also my stage manager and my prepared leads.
Experience matters. Big time.
6:00 dismissal. Stick around to run a few little things and take care of some details. I have a mountain of paperwork. Grades and comments are due next week and lots of administrative stuff for the play. I'm super tired. But things are good. Very good.
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