The right creative team can make or break a professional production and the same is also true in amateur theatre. Though you might not always have a choice due to lack of interest, here are some top tips about picking the right team.
The creative team is primarily made up of a director who is responsible for the vision of the production and the cast’s individual movements, a choreographer who creates the dances and sometimes stages the musical numbers and a musical director who is responsible for making sure the band and singers are ship-shape. They are then supported by a set designer, costume mistress, make up artists and others to bring the vision to life.
So what should you look for in someone who wants to be part of the creative team? There are some general aspects which are probably the most important in a creative team:
- Commitment– if they can’t be there from beginning to end, their involvement is going to spell trouble!
- Good initiative– you need someone who will be working on the production even away from rehearsals, preparation is key.
- Creativity– it might seem obvious but you don’t want people who are just going to copy another version of the production or follow the stage directions step-by-step. Find team members who want to make their own mark on the production and challenge themselves and the cast/crew.
- Experience– not necessarily of doing their role previously but of amateur or professional theatre so that they know what is involved in the process of making and building a show.
- Organisation– this is the final but key ingredient to a successful creative team member. If you can’t be organised you will forget things and confuse the cast and crew. Preparation is key here too.
There are some qualities which individual roles call for:
- Directors need the ability to see the overall vision of a production and co-ordinate cast, crew and other team members to achieve this. They have the biggest job by far and are ultimately responsible for the show. This means they need patience, clarity in communication and experience of theatre to bring their vision to life. When directing more complex plays or Shakespeare, a thorough understanding of the text is essential.
- Choreographers need organisation and knowledge well over dance ability. Obviously strong dance skills are important but much more so is the ability to it together a routine in the correct style for the piece and then teach it to the dancers. It is also key that the choreographer gets on well with the director and can communicate their vision well by adding flair and expertise.
- Musical Directors are not only hard to come by but also notoriously expensive because of the expertise and ability required for the role. Often they play at rehearsals and then lead or conduct the orchestra or band at the performances. If you do have a choice about your musical director, I find someone with a sense of humour is a good fit for the cast as it means they find it easy to ask questions and they feel at ease with the music when it’s being taught. Availability can also be a problem for MDs so it’s a good idea to check this out before hiring.
- Set designers come in many different shapes and sizes and it may be that you hire set in for your shows due to the size of the theatre and cost of building set. Often though, the designer is someone who has experience in art or graphic design and an interest in amateur theatre. They are then supported by a team of builders, carpenters and painters who are related to various members of the cast and often form the crew of a production. The designers oversee the building of the set to ensure it meets the specification of the design and is then involved in the painting, decorating and finishing touches.
- Costume mistresses tend to have good sewing and organisational skills and are often dress makers or adjusters in their spare time. They have to ensure everyone in the show has (often) more than one costume and that they look great for every show. Commitment and co-ordination are the most important parts of this role as they will often have a team working with them and will begin measuring cast at the first rehearsal after casting has taken place.
- Make up artists can sometimes be the last part of the creative team to fall into place because their role can be dependant on all of the others making decisions about the production. Often though make up artists tend to be people with experience in face painting or that are studying makeup or hair and beauty at college. This is great because they can be very creative and get on well with the cast.
When all of these roles come together and work as a team it’s a recipe for success and if everyone works hard your production will be fabulous.