One of the most amazing aspects of this Festival has been feeling so connected to all the amazing artists, educators, and politicos participating from across the country. Whether it’s the behind the scenes footage shared by Drive Theatre Company in L.A. and Dad’s Garage in Atlanta, TV coverage of Little Rock Central High School we could all view from Facebook, or the “I” in Election video recorded by Forward Theatre Company… producers, directors, actors, and staff have been able to spotlight the work of their organizations in ways that enable us all to feel like we’re locally connected to their efforts.
I’ll be diving more into the tools we’ve used to help coordiate the Festival and share the digitalized efforts of others next week, but today I’ll focus on how one director in particular has utilized various platforms to collaborate cross-country with her alma mater.
Noelle Krimm will be directing 44 Plays for 44 Presidents at Florida School of the Arts. The show runs October 18-20, and Noelle will only have 2 weeks to rehearse the show, in person with the cast, prior to opening. Noelle has held auditions, cast the show, met with designers, and begun rehearsing — all from afar.
So how does one go about directing a show from over 1,000 miles away? I talked with Noelle to find out.
GGB: So you held auditions remotely, right? How did that work?
NK: The students did their initial auditions for my stage manager and she recorded them and uploaded all the videos to a private YouTube account. I determined who would be called back and we did callbacks via Skype. They set the computer in a chair on the stage, and I watched them and directed and interacted with them. It worked incredibly well. I was told that after a half hour, everyone was so accustomed to it all that it seemed like I was there in the room with them.
GGB: What else have you been able to accomplish remotely?
NK: We did our first production meeting via Skype. It was fine, but if we do it again, I want to try Google+ Hangout so that all the designers at FloArts can stay in their own offices instead of all meeting up. It was hard to hear if everyone laughed or talked at the same time – especially since I couldn’t see everyone at the same time!
I have sent them samples of the music they need to learn because we will not have an on-site musical director. I sent a couple of the sound files provided by the Festival, one that a friend, John Szymanski added a guitar part to, a recording of the Chicago cast doing Lincoln and another recording of me doing the female singing parts in Lincoln, and some recordings of me doing a couple of the plays.
Of course, I don’t have the means to record in my home so I had to record using my flip cam, and then I uploaded it into One True Media and sent them the links. I’m so hi-tech – HA!
GGB: Has anything not worked the way you expected or intended?
NK: We attempted to do our first read-thru via Skype, but technology failed us. We couldn’t get a good enough connection and Skype culdn’t maintain the video. We ended up doing the read-thru of Act I via speaker phone which was kind of painful to me. I wanted to be there and see them – it’s hard to tell anything about performances over the phone, but the actors felt OK about it and that was my biggest concern. On Monday, I’ll be doing a read-thru of Act II via Skype (I hope), and afterward, I’ll be looking at a few of the musical plays to make sure the actors are learning them correctly.
GGB: Overall, how do you feel it’s been as a process?
NK: It’s been good. I mostly communicate with my AWESOME stage manager via text and a little email. We also have a virtual callboard that everyone involved can log onto and see call times and notes from everyone involved in the production. That’s helped a lot.
Using technology is really fun, and I’m glad it has worked so well, but I am DYING to get down there and be in the same room with them. That’s what live theater is about, after all.
Noelle Krimm has been a Neo-Futurist since 1999. She wrote for and performed regularly in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind for 9 years and wrote book and lyrics and co-wrote the music for the Chicago Neo-Futurists’ first musical – City Girl! In 2004, Noelle created and curated a progressive, ambulatory theatrical experience called Alice that involved over 50 cast members and covered an entire city block in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago. In 2009, she created a more condensed theatrical experience called Fear, wherein the entire building that houses the Neo-Futurist theater was turned into a thinking-man’s haunted house where visual artists, filmmakers, performance artists, dancers, playwrights and puppeteers created pieces throughout the space (and the alley behind it) inspired by the work of Edgar Allen Poe. Noelle is most proud of the fact that the police were called 3 times during the run of that show and she diffused the situation every single time. That’s art, baby!