Today’s post pays homage to chorus-making. Now that term might sound funny to you, but in my theatre experience it has been a tried and true technique for stuffing a bunch of kids into a show in a manageable and productive way.
I grew up doing a lot of theatre. My dad is the artistic director for a company that runs two of the bigger theatres in Cincinnati and actually began with a teen summer theatre about thirty years ago. I spent every summer growing up in a seventy plus cast of teenagers doing everything from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar. This is where I learned the art of chorus-making. It’s very simple really. In breaking down a script, one must infer groups that would or could be present in a scene that may or may not be actually written into the script. I am not saying you should invent characters and lines, but take this example from my current play. Fezziwig’s Christmas party is always a big scene in any version of A Christmas Carol that you might happen to see. I could just trot all seventy students in the cast out on stage, stand them in various positions and let the leads play out the scene from there. But the art of chorus-making asks us for just a little bit more. By creating discrete choruses within a scene, I am able to give each student an authentic character and some stage business that is uniquely their own. In my production, Fezziwig’s party has a band playing up center, a crooner at the front, some girls to swoon and squeal over the singer, waiters, partygoers, and then of course those leads that must speak the dialogue written in the script. This blocking rehearsal will take a bit longer than if everyone was just an extra in the scene, but by chopping those seventy students down into choruses of five to ten in each category, I am able to engage them and empower them to really play the scene and not just be human scenery. It gives the audience a more exciting experience as well. When I feature each chorus member in one way or another, I am featuring somebody’s kid, somebody’s grandkid, sister, brother, or friend. This technique gives every one of my students the chance to act well their part and to feel the honor, the passion, and the pride that lies within each Thespian.