Directin’ in the rain

My experience as the student director of the MHS spring musical “Singin’ in the Rain”
August Moss on the McIntosh stage in front of her set design.
August Moss on the McIntosh stage in front of her set design.
Bo Crawley

Last year, I was stage manager for “Mamma Mia.” In the hecticness of rehearsals, and trying to arrange the technical parts of our show, the director and drama teacher, Ken Buswell had to focus on things other than blocking scenes. During this time, I stepped up to help with blocking.

Upon hearing the request for me to help with directing, even though I was told to think on it, I knew it was an immediate yes. I want to be a drama teacher one day, and what a perfect step to gain some experience to get there.

I was so anxious about what people would think of my directing, what if I did a terrible job?

— August Moss

Pre-show: 

Even though auditions were in November, I started planning already in September. I set out goals for the show, drew concept art, designed sets. I could not have been more excited.

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When auditions rolled around, I felt like such a cool kid being able to sit at the directors table and take part in the casting process. 

Rehearsals started in January. I was so excited to begin blocking things out, but the second rehearsals started, I felt like I hit a brick wall.

Although I was anxious, I tried to push through the mental block the best I could. It felt like rehearsals for the months coming up to the show had come and gone so fast. Winter break came and went, and then the two weeks of tech had finally come.

The morning of the first day of tech, a mirror suddenly snapped in half in our costume shop. That’s not bad luck, right?

Sets were a quarter of the way done, props weren’t done and things weren’t looking good. The week of the break totally messed up all of the fine tuning that was done to the music and the choreography. There was a lot of work that still needed to be done with the blocking, but I needed to compromise and take a step back for the choreography and music to get to a good jumping point.

Pretty much all of the aspects of this show were student lead – including choreography and music. Whenever I wasn’t working, another group of students were working incredibly hard on the individual factors that came together to make the show great. 

Over week one of tech week, I worked on putting together the sets, digging through our costume shop for props and making buttons to be sold at our show for a little extra fundraising. I also worked with my older sister, Casey, on the lighting design for the show. She graduated from Kennesaw University in 2020 with a degree in lighting design, making her a great candidate to design our lights. The lighting design process is no joke. It is a ton of hard work, and it took my sister and I over 18 hours to complete.

Rehearsal during tech week with lights, costumes, and sets. (August Moss)

When I originally created the schedule, we weren’t aware the chorus would be taking their spring retreat the weekend before opening week. All of our leads were advanced chorus members, and so was a majority of our ensemble, which meant we couldn’t rehearse the Friday or Saturday before show week. Valuable rehearsal time we thought we had, was gone. I knew it would be okay, but I also knew the week of opening was going to be incredibly stressful.

Monday, March 4: Three days till opening night.

 Monday came in a flash, in the morning I spent my time creating a to-do list that towered over me. When my school day ended at 2 p.m., I headed to the drama room to help my sister continue programming lights. I was met with absolutely terrible news.

On Sunday, March 3, there was a power surge that completely wiped out the entire Sprouts area, Publix and McIntosh. The surge caused us to completely lose connection with our lighting system. 

All of the work that me and my sister spent the previous week doing, was gone, and we couldn’t fix it, and had no idea when it would be fixed. 

— August Moss

We rehearsed the whole show the best we could, as rehearsal continued, it became clear we had completely left out several scenes from our previous rehearsals. We had to dedicate a majority of our rehearsal time to fixing mistakes that should have never happened. Furthermore, the lights flickered on and off the entire time. That day, I felt like a terrible director.

Tuesday, March 5: Two days till opening night.

The next day on my way into school, I saw the Fayette County Public schools utility trucks and got incredibly excited. I ran up to Buswell and asked if the lights were fixed and he said:

“No, but the electrical company has been called.”

This further raised my anxiety. However, when I came in at 2 p.m. to work on completing our set, the electrician had been there all day working on the lights. By 4:30 p.m. that day, the lights were fixed and able to be used again. However, the channels the lights responded to were all switched. All of the lighting design needed to be completely redone in a day, that Wednesday.

Regardless of the lights, rehearsal on Tuesday felt better than Monday with the changes made. It still had dragging points, and did not feel super strong.

 All of the things that were messed up were completely fixable and I knew it could be done before opening. 

Wednesday, March 5: One day till opening night.

One more rehearsal until opening night. I was so nervous for our final dress rehearsal. My sister was working hard getting the lighting programmed, I was trying to finish up props and a million other little things needed to get done. 

The thing that was the worst, was our transitions from scene to scene. They were taking forever, and were really sloppy. We spent over an hour running through transitions, trying to make sure they would be under 30 seconds. That hour was filled with a lot of yelling. Out of the entire week, it was the most stressful hour of my life. At the end of our stress hour, we called the cast on stage for some parting words before we began our final run through. The stress and frustration was absolutely getting to me, until I thought about how stressed and frustrated everyone else was. Maybe even more stressed out than I was. I took a deep breath, and said to the cast: 

“I left like a terrible director.”

— August Moss

That run through ended up being perfect. I felt like I watched all of the stress from the past couple of days melt completely away. I teared up in the audience thinking about just how proud I was of my cast. All of their hard work was clearly and beautifully depicted. 

We got to have our cast dinner after that, bond with each other and just forget about all of the stress of tech week for a while. Every year, we do senior speeches. You pick a senior, write a one minute speech about how much you love them and cry with the whole cast. It’s sappy, but one of my favorite moments every year. I got the chance to get a senior speech, give one and give a speech to Buswell in front of the cast. I walked out of that night feeling accomplished, happy and satisfied with my work. But of course, the work was not over.

Thursday, March 6: Opening night.

The next day, I spent the entire day running around finishing things up. Attaching strawberries to fake cake slices, stapling fabric onto the “Monumental Pictures” sign, buying apple juice to fill up the bottles, covering up the ugly metal cart the projector was on, etcetera, etcetera. I didn’t get any time to go home before the show to relax a little. I was far too focused on getting things done. 

Finally, after a ton of stress for last minute to-do’s, we made it my favorite part of every year. Warmups. More specifically, Buswell’s pre-show speech. After warm ups on opening night, he asks two questions. The first, “If this is your first show with McIntosh, please step forward.” We get the chance to clap for those who step forward. Then he asks the second question. “If this is your first show ever, stay up.” 

Without fail, my eyes always water when we reach this part of every show. 

“From this moment forward, you get to call yourself an actor. You have done something not a lot of people have the courage to do.”

— Ken Buswell

I remember being in my freshman year, doing my first show and getting those words said to me. Every year since, that has been my favorite part of each show. 

Minutes till we opened, all of the directors got together and talked about how we were going to introduce the show. Then places. Introductions, and go.

The first show went off without a hitch. I could not be prouder of my cast and all of the hard work they put in to create the absolute magic I had the privilege of watching on stage. The greatest part is, I was able to watch that same magic two more times. 

Saturday, March 9: Closing night.

At the end of the Saturday night show, we always give thank you speeches. Standing on the stage with the cast and crew, I couldn’t be more thankful for the experience I had with them. Even though some of it was stressful, I took one look back at the set before leaving, and thanked God for that moment.

Post show: 

Overall, I am incredibly grateful for the experience I got to have co-directing “Singin’ In the Rain.” I learned many lessons about kindness, to both others and myself. I know now more than ever that I want to be a drama teacher. 

At the start of the experience, my drama teacher and co-director Buswell gave me a book titled “Notes on Directing” by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich which I have yet to read, because I knew most of what I needed to know about directing came from Buswell. Everything I have learned about teaching, directing and a lot of things I have learned about grace and kindness, I have learned from Buswell. I hope one day I can be half of the teacher, mentor and director he is. 

I asked Buswell to to tell me why I was chosen for my position, “I was very impressed with the work August did on Mamma Mia. Though she was the stage manager, there were times in which she worked on scenes with students and was in effect the assistant director. I want students to be involved in the creative process and in roles of leadership, so she was an obvious choice, Buswell said.

I’m incredibly thankful that what I am passionante for, my mentor sees in me as well.

To the student thinking about auditioning or joining the crew for a one-act play or a spring musical here at McIntosh, know that you’re not just gaining show experience. You’re gaining a family, a safe space and memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. So, do it. Take the leap, put yourself out there. You never know what joy awaits you on the other side.

 

 










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About the Contributor
August Moss
August Moss, Staff
August Moss is a first year Trail staffer and in her second year on the Legend yearbook staff, this year operating as senior editor. Moss is a Georgia REACH scholar. She served in the McIntosh theater department as stage manager for “Something Funny Happened On the Way to the Regional One Act Competition” and “Mamma Mia.” She served on crew for “She Kills Monsters” and “Footloose.” She acted in “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Very Still and Hard to See.” She was a Thespian Officer for the 2022-2023 school year. She was a volunteer member with the SAYA program for 2020-2021. She has served as a Sources Of Strength member since 2021 and this year she is a leader on the leadership team. Moss has many passions, but her faith trumps them all. You’ll find her singing in her church's worship band, serving in the children's ministry and always carries her bible full of notes with her.
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