There are many crossovers in the arts, especially during the creative process. This came to light recently whilst editing and putting the finishing touches to my upcoming book The Hoax at the same time as my husband was directing Evita. A show that I am proud to be involved with.
I am in the chorus of Evita whilst being married to the director, and it has been quite an eye-opener. I get to see behind the scenes how much research, prep, delegation, sleepless nights etc. take place.
A Blank Canvas
It’s true that when writing fiction, we need to come up with an initial idea. I think they call it the muse, but once we have it, our imagination takes hold, and we begin to develop a story.
Now, unless you have written the musical/show yourself, this is not perhaps the case with theatre. However, despite having a script/score to already work with, I can tell you that the director also has a blank canvas to start with.
Characters are built by his decision-making at audition, ensuring he has a vision of what he wants for each part. Each character is nurtured and developed to encapsulate the vision he has, in the same way characters are developed in a book.
The director then visualises how to make the whole story come to life on a stage, getting the best out of each lead, and of course, chorus. His interpretation needs to be original, unique, and depends on many elements other than the cast.
Every piece of scenery, prop, or cast entrance, has been well-thought out and planned to enhance smooth transitions and give the best visual impact.
With a novel, there are layers to the process, just like a stage production.
A first draft is written, which is getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper in whatever messy format it takes. Then the second draft starts to shape the story into some organised form, adding colour and detail. I personally run a third draft tidying up as much as I can before sending to the editor. Blood sweat and tears go into this process, although I would say it is the most fun part of writing a book.
With the theatre, I have been a part of the troupe as we initially note bash, learn our lines and harmonies, and understand the show – the first draft. The next stage is setting dance/movement within the boundaries of a stage. (We rehearse in a school hall). Behind the scenes, my husband has been plotting movement and dance, stage setting, and scheduling rehearsals. All this, whilst organising his crew of stage managers, choreographers, lighting crew, costume mistresses, video wall designers and much more.
The Tough gets Tougher
The editing process can feel like it lasts forever.
Whilst I was having some fun with book cover design, I was also on the 20th read through of my book and changing/adding sections as suggested by my editor. I found myself drained of creative energy. This was followed by proof-reading and even more editing despite believing the process was complete!
The fun and joy of my initial story started to turn into a commodity which had to be moulded and perfected to make it the best it could be before publication. I needed to work day and night preparing the book for the world to read.
In the same way, there have been endless rehearsals where things don’t work because of the different skill sets of the chorus, or the stage seems to be too cluttered, or scenes become stagnant. Scenes had to be reset numerous times, often with cast and crew complaining. Some rehearsals were tedious and my husband kept hitting brick walls.
When confidence wanes, my husband is the one motivating and nurturing every cast member to have self-belief. This is similar in many ways to my editor who helps to give me the self-belief I need to progress with my book.
Seeing through the eyes of the reader
The director must ensure that the show is going to work, budgets are adhered to, and tickets will sell. To do this, he needs to switch to seeing the show through the eyes of his audience.
In the same way, I have had to see my book through the eyes of the reader, ensuring there are no typos, the story flows, and the blurb clearly explains the nature of what the reader can expect.
Building up an audience on social media and posting teasers for my new book is part of the preparation to the lead up to publication. Another necessity is releasing the launch date and reading the book (yet again) after it has been formatted.
Then, finding advanced readers for early reviews, uploading the manuscript and book cover to Amazon and other platforms with the hope of some pre-orders. This all adds to helping to make the book visible in its early days. I still need to update my website and plan some ads and ways to market the book after its release on 29thJune. The list is endless.
In the same way, the entire cast and crew of Evita have been busy putting up posters all around North Norfolk. We even stand and hand out leaflets after watching other amateur productions. One chap in the cast is wearing a sandwich board this weekend and walking the streets of Cromer!
There is a whole team to help with the advertising of the show, which is a bonus, since I feel very isolated with my methods of promoting my book. I am currently trowelling through social media searching for book bloggers and reading books on ‘how to market your book!’
I was chuffed to be invited to a podcast last week to discuss my new book. The episode will go live on Monday 5th June. (The link attached will not work until then).
In the same way, my husband was on the radio with Emmie Wright, who plays Evita, to talk about the show. Again, it seems ironic that we have both been running parallels here.
Every creative artist has their moments of insecurity. I know I have reached the point where I can’t see the wood for the trees, and question whether I should actually publish my book. Will it be good enough? Will anybody enjoy reading it?
The same with my husband.
I know that the biggest thrill for him is watching the troupe pull together and slowly become one. He loves how people grow and gain confidence as the show progresses and sheds a tear when he finally sees how he has pulled the best out of every one of us.
However, there is still the fear of what others will think.
Will there be a full audience to watch? Will they like what he has done with the show? Will it be well received, and will the local papers’ reviews praise the cast and crew for a job well done? Will it draw in the crowds?
Stress of final stages
It seems bizarre that we are both coming to the climax of our creative productions at roughly the same time. Whilst Evita opens next Saturday (27th May), my book is now ready, but I have another month until I hit the publish button on Amazon. (29th June 2023).
I decided to give myself plenty of time for a publication date, knowing how much preparation there is to do and mistakes I made in the past. The final month gives me the chance to make any polishing touches to the book cover and manuscript. And yes, probably one more read through.
Today, our theatre troupe has the sitzprobe (a fancy word for rehearsing with an 18-piece orchestra) and then we get into the theatre on Monday. Once scenery and lighting are all set up, we have a hellish week of pulling the show together with costumes, lighting, microphones etc.
No doubt my husband, Martin, will be making some final changes: adjusting to the stage space, adding curtains, lighting etc. Whilst managing the visual, he will also have his stagehands speaking to him on a mic with the usual stresses of costumes that don’t fit, quick changes that don’t work, sound that is off balance, microphones that keep falling off, along with constant updates of how ticket sales are doing.
This mirrors my own panic, as I find yet more errors in my manuscript, fonts that need changing, author information that needs changing etc. At the same time, I’m chasing up pre-readers of my book and trying to find more people to read and review prior to its release.
I think most creative people can become so tunnel visioned during the process that they find it very hard to finally let go.
I finished reading my book for the last time yesterday and know that I have to let it go now. One more dot on an I or misplaced comma is not going to make a whole lot of difference, and it’s time to trust that the book is at its best.
In the same way, after Friday’s final dress rehearsal, my husband will hand the reigns over to the stage manager and the show becomes hers to manage for the full nine performances.
He will sit in the audience and become a spectator (a very nervous one), watching the shows as they come to life with lights, camera and action.
I, on the other hand, will not be reading my book again once published! I will sit nervously in the wings, hoping to see some sales and wait for some much-needed book reviews.