Welcome to The Lion King Experience

Directing Without the Drama, The Lion King Experience, Theatre

I am so excited to be directing one of the first productions of Disney’s The Lion King, Junior this spring.  The show was just released and had a massive roll out from Disney at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta.  My students were so excited about this show that we scrapped our plans for our spring production and transitioned into The Lion King.  I am currently in pre-production for the show and have just finished all the audition song cuts and am in the beginning stages of the design process.

I am very fortunate to have an amazing art teacher at my school who likes to work on huge projects with the kids.  She is working on designs for an elephant and giraffe puppet to use in the show that will be massive (hopefully we can get them through the doors.)

In addition to the show, Disney has created an entire curriculum that I will be using with my 8th grade theater classes.  We are just getting started, but in looking through the resources it is really well done.

I thought I would blog my way through our production this spring and share any tips and tricks I pick up along the way.  Hopefully it will be helpful to someone down the road.  So stay tuned… We “just can’t wait” for auditions in a few weeks!

Junior Theater Festival 2015

Directing Without the Drama, Theatre

My students are beyond excited to be one of one hundred group’s participating in the 10th annual Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta Georgia next weekend. They have been doing a phenomenal job in rehearsals for a 15 minute version of The Music Man. Run by Itheatrics and sponsored by Playbill, Music Theater International and Disney, the Junior Theater Festival is a celebration of musical theater in schools. It is a great way for students to meet other kids from all over the country and even all over the world who share a common interest. Personally, I can’t wait to network with other theater professionals and reconnect with many I’ve met at several workshops I’ve attended in the last year. I can’t wait to be inspired by all the workshops, performances and speakers at this amazing event with over 4500 people.

If you’d like to follow us on our journey, check us out on Instagram and Twitter: @7starstheater

My students will be live tweeting and Instagraming the entire weekend and it sure to be very entertaining ride. Check back after next weekend for an update on how it went.

Painting Shoes for Theatre

Costuming, Technical Theater Tips, Theatre

In the interest of full disclosure I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my productions and can sometimes get a little crazy with the details of props and costumes to really make the show pop, hence my new obsession (within the last year) obsession with painting shoes for productions. I painted 60 pairs of tap shoes for 42nd Street last spring and picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way, so for those of you wanting to go this route here are some suggestions based on lots of trial and error.

Steps to Paint Shoes
1. Priming
This step is super important if you want your shoes to last more than a few rehearsals. first find out if you have leather or non-leather shoes. If you have leather shoes, you’re going to want to use rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to rub the top of the shoes to break the seal of the first layer of the shoes. If you have nonleather man-made shoes, you’re going to want to use nail polish remover to do the same thing. If you’re using canvas shoes, you can skip this step.

Simply put either the rubbing alcohol or the nail polish remover on cotton balls and rub the shoes as if you’re cleaning them until the cotton balls don’t have any residue, this might take a while. With black shoes you’ll have a residue but just try to get as much off as you can. This will keep the paint from peeling off the shoes when they’re worn. My advice do not skip the step unless you want to repaint the shoes.

2. What kind of paint do I use?
I use the Angelus Leather paint available on Amazon and from Manhattan Wardrobe. (http://www.wardrobesupplies.com/categories/shoe-care/leather-shoe-paint/angelus-leather-sneaker-paint) it comes in tons of colors and you can mix the paint together to create a custom color if you want. It also comes in the Glitterlites which works really well on top of another color to add some sparkle to your shoes and looks fantastic on stage. (I used the gold for the “We’re in the Money” tap shoes).

3. Painting the shoes
-Use a fan brush if you are painting the entire shoe. It works quickly and gives a nice light coat where you won’t see the brush strokes.
-Use 2-4 light coats of paint letting it dry in between, if the paint is too thick, it won’t dry well and will chip off.
-Be patient and let the paint dry completely in between coats, you can use a hair dryer or a fan if you want, but if it’s a nice day just paint outside and it will dry faster.
-Small stiff angled brushes work well for trim and details, as well as for the Glitterlites.
-Nail art dotters work really well if you are making fake saddle shoes or Oxford shoes.
-Pinterest is a great place to get ideas about what vintage shoes looked like, if you find a pair you like they are pretty easy to replicate with paint once you get the hang of it.

4. Top Coat
For leather and man made shoes make sure you don’t skip the top coat. For canvas shoes it’s not really necessary. Angelus makes a matte, satin, and gloss top coat. I use the glossy because it looks better on stage and really makes the paint pop! ( http://www.wardrobesupplies.com/products/angelus-satin-high-gloss-acrylic-finish )
*Tip* use a big fan brush and apply quickly to get the best look. If I am doing a bunch of pairs of shoes I do this step on multiple pairs at a time, it’s easier to do it on a bunch at once. Make sure you wait 24 hours after this step before the shoes are worn, and make sure your paint is completely dry so that it doesn’t smudge and ruin all your hard work.

For some examples of the shoes in action check out my portfolio under musicals for 42nd Street and Bye Bye Birdie. Feel free to contact me with any questions and happy painting!


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Project 38

Directing Without the Drama, Theatre

Very excited to be directing a middle school production of “The Tempest” for this new endeavor!

PROJECT 38 – Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new arts education initiative!

Over the last 20 years, CSC has brought classical theatre and literature to life for over 200,000 students from 150 schools in more than 100 zip codes across three states. This close connection with students and educators has inspired them to take on this exciting new endeavor. Last season, Cincinnati Shakespeare also “completed the canon” by producing all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays. The 38 plays have served as the inspiration for the title of PROJECT 38.

In this program, CSC will collaborate with 38 different area schools. Each school will be given one of the 38 plays in Shakespeare’s canon. Then, over the course of the year, teaching artists from CSC will go out to each of the schools and work with the students and faculty on bringing that play to life in various ways. This could be through a traditional production, a monologue or scene, or a dance piece, or music piece, a mural, etc.- anything the students & school can conceive of and feel passionately about. It will culminate in the PROJECT 38 festival at the end of the school year which will become a multi-day celebration in which all the students will gather, and share what they’ve created with each other, their schools, family and friends and with the community at large.

The dates of the festival this year are April 15-22, 2015.


Steps for Writing A Memorable College Essay

Auditioning, College Audition Prep, Theatre

Steps for Writing A Memorable College Essay
Written by Rachel Damon, 2014

1. Brainstorm
Seriously, get a piece of paper and do a free association word map of anything you can think of about your topic, it’s ok if it is all over the place and there are lots of tangents, stories, moments etc… feel free to use lots of colors 🙂

2. Make A List…
Bring your word map to the computer/ ipad and make a list of everything you wrote and put like things together (similar stories/ moments/ topics), bullets and lists work great for main topics then stories and sub topics that relate to them.

3.  Pick Your Favorite Moment
From your list pick some of your favorite topics/ stories/ moments and write about them. Be descriptive, make me see what is happening, and how you are thinking… the best essays are slice of life, telling us about a moment or time that struck you.

IMPORTANT: This is a free write, not your essay, like Nike says “JUST DO IT”, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation or how it sounds… just get your words on paper, this is a pre-rough draft.  This might be really long and rambling… that is good.. really good, it will give you lots to choose from and enable you to pull stuff from later to use for your supplement and scholarship essays (My first college essay draft was 7 or 8 pages single spaced… tons of junk, but lots of good stuff I was able to use later.  It takes a while to get into the mode of this and your writing gets better as you go AND you remember things and experiences… trust the process.)

The best college essay teaches us something about you and the way you think… this is make or break in competitive college admissions.

You are an individual with really interesting experiences, don’t make your essay sound like everyone else’s. Avoid generic statements and cliche. You want a fresh take on your subject… not something they have read 100’s of times, so find your niche.

You don’t have to save the world or rescue orphans to get into college… talk about your passions and what makes you unique.

4. Copy your entire free write and don’t mess with the original…
there is good stuff in there you can use later (even though it may not seem like it)
Pick your favorite moment or story that jumps off the page, are there parts you can combine… what story are you telling? (This is a good time to get some outside advice on what is more compelling or unique.)

5. Refine Your Story…
Work on refining that story… you need a good hook at the beginning to get the reader engaged. The goal of the essay is for the reader to get a sense of who you are, so show them! This isn’t a school essay topic… it’s a personal statement. Don’t be generic, be yourself! It’s ok to use informal writing styles here… it’s about you.

6. Dig deep
Really think about how you felt in the moment and make us feel it too… why should we care? Make us care about it. Show us why it’s important to you, don’t just tell us.

7. Keep editing and refining your ideas...
What does the moment tell us about who you are, who you were and who you will become?
Initially it is really important to not worry about the length, completely tell your story and then you can edit it down and help determine what you need and what can go. It is much easier to cut than it is to add and it makes it MUCH stronger in the long run.
A good strategy is to read your essay out loud and see how it sounds (helps you catch editing mistakes and make sure it sounds like you)

8.  Not feeling your essay topic?
Not loving it? Go back to your free write and focus on a different moment, use the same strategies from above and rinse and repeat until you get it right.

The paragraph you hate today, might be the perfect beginning or ending for a later version of your essay… just copy and number each draft version (google docs is awesome for this) so you have a record of where you have been.

10. Ask for help…
But don’t let anyone edit out your voice… it needs to sound like you.  Sometimes talking with someone about your topic and a fresh perspective can do wonders for your writing.

Graduating from High School…12 Years Later

Directing Without the Drama, Musings, Theatre

Tonight I attended the high school graduation party of one of my former children’s theatre kids, and It made me feel incredibly old (I turned 30 this year), This was a kid I used to baby sit who would “read” me “Madeline” (she had the entire book memorized with the correct page turns at around the age of 3) and her first play “Annie” was in the first full length show I directed (the summer after graduating from the same high school she attended.) She was six and the littlest orphan Tessie.

I will never forget the following year when she was Charlie Bates in “Oliver”, another child had spent an entire scene adjusting his vest (putting it on inside out, upside down, twisted and combinations of the three) much to the audience’s amusement. At seven, this young lady was distraught and nearly inconsolable at intermission that the offending child had “ruined MY play” and that she couldn’t go on for the second act. I vividly remember sitting outside on the picnic tables getting her calmed down and convincing her that she was needed and could help save the production. She pulled it together and went on to do a lovely job.

This was the same kid who would be so excited before a performance that she had to run laps around the building to burn off enough of the excess energy and excitement so she could sit still long enough to get her makeup put on without shaking. She was so proud the year she came in and announced that she thought she would be ok, and wouldn’t have to run laps that year.. a very mature nine year old. This lovely young woman will be attending a very prestigious university in the fall, and I am so thrilled for her, I helped her brainstorm for her college essays and talk through her final decision when it came down to two programs. It is amazing to see how hard she has worked and how far she has come.

I love these success stories, and remembering back to my much earlier days as an inexperienced recent high school graduate who was planning to be a government major and go to law school. I did summer theatre because it was fun. I had started acting with the program when I was six and it was such an important part of my summer that I wanted to give back and give other kids the same opportunities.

If someone had told me at age eighteen that twelve years later I would be working in this industry, having been steadily employed in the arts as a film maker, theatre director and theatre educator since graduating from college (with a degree in Theater and Dance) I would have told them they were crazy. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had experiences in many different parts of the country from Maine, Massachusetts, Texas… I am headed to New York on Tuesday for the summer and then heading to the mid-west to start a new job in Cincinnati, Ohio in the fall.

I have had a pretty crazy journey and have had some fantastic opportunities because I was not afraid to take a leap and try something new. My advice to all the recent grads is to trust yourself, and do not be afraid to deviate from your plan… It is important to have an idea of what you want to do; but know there are many different ways to get to your endgame, and frequently you learn much more from the journey than from the destination.

As a child, my favorite book was “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney, and I love the advice that little Alice gets from her grandfather after she announces that when she grows old, “I too will go to far away places, then come home to live by the sea”. Her Grandfather tells her “that is all vey well, but there is a third thing you must do. You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” The sentiment in this really strikes a chord for me… I am still in the “going to far away places” part of my journey, as for making the world more beautiful? I am hoping that helping foster a love of theatre in kids will help to fulfill that part of the equation, as for the rest? I am still figuring it out.

So to the Class of 2013, go forth, explore, make the world a more beautiful place and remember, you can always return home.