Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2014 by erikball123

thank you shrekShrek Cast ListShrek Tech Crew List

Alice’s Wonderland CAST / TECH CREW LIST

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2013 by erikball123



  1. You MUST email Mrs. Ball at BALLE@FLHSEMAIL.ORG a CONFIRMATION that you accept your role. 
  2. First Rehearsal is THIS MONDAY from 3:15 pm to 6pm in Drama Room.
  3. Please dress accordingly…(undergarments)…we’re taking costume measurements. 


  1. You MUST email Mr. Ball at ERIKBALL123@GMAIL.COM a CONFIRMATION that you accept your position. 
  2. First TECH CREW MEETING is THIS TUESDAY from 3:15 to 4:15pm in the DRESSING ROOMS.
  3. COSTUME TEAM / ASST. DIRECTORS – Please plan on helping with taking measurements. (Do you have a measuring tape at home?)
  4. SOICAL MEDIA DIRECTORS – Do you have a camera phone? Please bring it. 
  5. PUPPETEERS – First rehearsals will be this Wed., Thurs., and Friday. 3:15 to 5:30pm.

AW Cast List Smaller


AW Tech Crew List smaller

To EVERYONE WHO AUDITIONED…this was a tough one. We cannot begin to express how very happy we were with your offerings. To those who did not get cast…please note: YOU DID VERY WELL. There were VERY few auditions that “fell short” (however you want to define that.) The standard by which students approach auditions at Faith has been raised. That’s a GOOD THING. We’re very proud of you all for that. We sincerely hope you all will consider auditioning again for us. We look forward to working with ALL OF YOU again soon. Blessings.

To those who didn’t get on the TECH CREW: There was a tidal wave of thoughtfully answered applications and VIDEOS (some OBVIOUSLY took great care and time in the making of them.)  If you DID NOT get onto the tech crew, please note that it might have been the WAY your answered the questions or the time and consideration you gave to the making of your video. Let’s just say that the demand to be on the TECH CREW is GREAT. It was mirrored by the type of video offerings. We supplied the demand based on the structure of the applications and the care and thoughtfulness given to the making of the videos. (If you did not offer a VIDEO, you we’re not considered for the Tech Crew.) We hope you’ll consider taking advantage of what the MIDDLE SCHOOL program offers. There are a LOT of opportunities to get involved in LEADERSHIP ROLES in the Middle School program. Please consider applying for TOM SAWYER or FROG & TOAD. (Or SHREK!) I promise you that if you re-group and re-approach HOW you apply for the TECH CREW….you’ll find yourself behind-the-scenes sooner than you think. Blessings to you all.

In God’s Service, Mrs. and Mr. Ball


Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2013 by erikball123

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN….there are TWO casts.  

Congrats to everyone…you all did VERY VERY WELL! I’m very proud.

cast list

MASTER OF THE HOUSE – The Addams Family Cast List

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2013 by erikball123

Christian asked me to post this:

  • GOMEZ – Jordan Mazzocato
  • MORTICIA – Brooke Solan
  • GRANDMA – Mia Mekjian
  • FESTER – AJ Fleuridas
  • WEDNESDAY – Marissa McCoy
  • PUGSLEY – Taylor Laska
  • LURCH – Tyler Proffitt
  • LUCAS – Harrison Langford
    • Michael Owens
    • Isaiah Knott
    • Matt D’Arrigo
    • Alyssa Tayrien
    • Amber Dagdagan
    • Jessica Ruettiger

Too Free?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 by erikball123

I have to write about this.

I am in my ninth year as a High School teacher. I’m privileged to teach in a private Lutheran school where, at the foundation, we are not only able to give glory to our God on a daily basis…but we’re encouraged to do so. I am an ignorant Lutheran, who has a lot to learn about my savior and WHY anyone would ever want to save a pathetic little worm like me. (Let alone sacrifice their only son to ensure my victory after death.) There’s is a lot I count on in my faith…a lot that I put my trust in…and a lot I don’t understand. Those fuzzy areas are always at the forefront of my mind…and I think it’s okay for me to question them, so long as I don’t stop looking for the answer in scripture and in my own journey. (And, for the record, there hasn’t been a question about my faith that I’ve had, that HASN’T been answered yet to my satisfaction.)

“For every million gun owners that utilize their firearms CORRECTLY and within the law….there will always be one senseless, compassionless coward who will take innocent lives with one. Isn’t that enough to want to make some better laws about gun control, so that this won’t happen again? Call me ignorant…call me a poor political activist…but I think so.”

I am also the least political person I know. I understand government…but I just don’t like it sometimes. I also don’t like how government pits people against people simply because they have differing views. I always viewed our country as the great “household” of the world. Everyone is welcome…and while we don’t have to like one another all the time, we do love each other. And even if big brother and big sister can’t see eye to eye on something…if that house is on fire…they drop their petty differences and help each other, so that the whole place doesn’t burn to the ground.

Today…through a senseless, cowardly act of violence, 27 people are dead, most of them kindergarden-aged children. Today this country’s “house” is on fire. (And don’t even begin to rant about how this isn’t nearly as bad as Hurricane Sandy and Katrina and 9-11 and Colombine….give me a break…what, do you want to be right, based on statistics? Fine…you’re right! Can we move on please?) I’m talking about one man…with a weapon…open-firing on children. I’m talking about THIS ONE incident. Am incident where a man obtained a firearm and used it to kill other human beings. Can’t we at least see eye-to-eye on the fact that a gun is a coward’s weapon?

As a teacher, I fear for the future of my students and students across the country…I fear for this generation of thinking….I fear for the desensitization of human emotion and compassion that would otherwise make a significate mark on the conscience of a man who would want to pick up loaded weapons, strap a bullet-proof vest to his chest, and open fire on a school full of children. I SIMPLY CANNOT WRAP MY HEAD AROUND IT.

Furthermore…I cannot understand ANYONE who would look me in the eye and say, you can’t blame a lack of gun control for this tragedy. Too much freedom put a massive amount of firearms in this gunman’s hands. I think America is brilliant. I salute those who are in the military (they are brave men and women…far braver than me)…stand in front of danger every day…and I will NEVER ever (even remotely) insinuate that the freedoms that these men and women fight for every day…standing at our border so that we can sleep at night….should be put into question. But I can’t understand how we can sit back and say that everything is perfectly fine in this country with regards to gun control. Time and time again we bear witness to tragedies like this…and time and time again, people say it’s an isolated incident and the good use of firearms WAY out weight the bad or misusage of them. I say….PHOOEY! I guarantee you if this happened in Las Vegas…down the road from where you work…or at the school where you send your kids….right now you’d be overwrought with emotion. You wouldn’t be thinking about the defense FOR the right to own a gun in this country. You’d be thinking about the reality of the situation and how it pertains to real human beings who have to face a sorrow-filled Christmas…an empty bedroom…unanswered questions….lost hopes and dreams. Put down your agenda for two seconds and see the END RESULT of what CAN happen when everyone has the right to own a loaded weapon.

I don’t care who you voted for and frankly I’m not even interested in your stand on gun control. All I’m saying is that I nearly had my stomach turn just now…sitting in my living room and watching a TV commercial for a local gun show that’s coming to Vegas…and watching the camera pan across the rows of tables holding thousands of guns…ready to be purchased by whoever. If it can happen in a peaceful, non-violent city in Connecticut….merciful heavens, it can happen here. I know I’m a school teacher…so perhaps my viewpoint is a bit skewed, but in the big picture…shouldn’t we be more worried about bad guys on the outside coming in and doing bad things?  At the risk of sounding like a “woe is me” statement…teaching is the most thankless job in the world…and the thought of a madman bringing a gun into a sanctuary that I am very thankful to share with children I love…makes me scared…and sad. I hope something can be done.

It just doesn’t seem right to me. My dog could walk into a room…walk past a gun sitting on the floor….step on it….and kill a man. A baby could innocently pick up a gun…innocently touch the trigger….and kill a man. A gun could fall out of a lockbox, hit the floor, accidentally go off…and kill a man. And yet we put these volatile weapons in the hands of anyone that wants one…people with agendas….people with warped, twisted viewpoints….people who have drifted away from reality and have no sense of awareness or compassion. For every million gun owners that utilize their firearms CORRECTLY and within the law….there will always be one senseless, compassionless coward who will take innocent lives with one. Isn’t that enough to want to make some better laws about gun control, so that this won’t happen again? Call me ignorant…call me a poor political activist…but I think so.

All I can do is hope for a better tomorrow. How can you help? Well, perhaps drop what you believe to be others’ perception of you, and pray. Pray for the families, friends and community affected by this tragedy. The only other thing I might suggest is perhaps find a new, better way to improve on your own self-awareness. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Make a genuine connection. Attempt to contribute to the GOOD in people instead of holding grudges or finding satisfaction in the laugh you received after retorting that glib remark about someone. If we all try to be a little bit better (whatever the hell that means)….then I think we might be able to at least talk about how we can make tomorrow better, without getting caught up in the agendas and why ours is “so right.”

Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel differently about this…assuming that I can sleep tonight. But, if you can, in good conscience, put your head on your pillow tonight feeling pretty darn good about how we as a country determine who should be able to own firearms…then sweet dreams.

I know I’ll get a bunch of comments defending the other side. Here’s the thing…that’s fine. I understand and respect that you have a viewpoint. Say that I’m wrong…I’m cool with that. But please try to understand, I’m talking from my heart here. Not my brain. I’m sure there is a LOT about government I don’t understand. But my heart hurts…and I’m outraged…and I can’t understand why we’re not THROWING OURSELVES at a better solution to the problem.

I’m not saying do away with the right to bare arms. I’m just saying…we need to make the right for someone to be afforded the opportunity to do so, more efficient. TWENTY CHILDREN…SEVEN ADULTS. I just don’t know how many more wake-up calls we need.

LEGALLY BLONDE Cast List will be posted on Nov. 30 @ 12 midnight

Posted in Uncategorized on September 15, 2012 by erikball123

PLEASE NOTE: All Cast / Tech Crew Members MUST EMAIL Mr. Ball to officially ACCEPT their role / position. Email him at:



Congrats to all who earned a part. I would encourage EVERYONE to read the following blog post:

“What to do AFTER the cast list is posted?”

This is a question all too often skirted by those making a career, or habit, of auditioning for theatrical productions. I’m lucky. I have the great fortune of working in a school that challenges students to do their very best, and then provides them a great opportunity to meet with us afterwards and discuss what could be worked on for next time.

I’d argue that the subjective process of auditioning is as sharp-edged and momentary as ripping a band-aid off. Sometimes it’s quick and painless…and sometimes, it can be as excruciating, painful and drawn out as a tax audit. It all depends on the application and how one executes the audition.

So, in the hopes that they will find “resolve” in the auditioning process…I’d like to offer my students, their parents and anyone else who has an interest in the auditioning process, a listing of answers to the daunting question that haunt us after auditions: “What do I do now?” (And believe me…green as they get, or seasoned veteran….it haunts us all.)

Let’s say: You auditioned for a specific role, and you were cast in EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANTED. “What do you do now?”

  • In High School: First and foremost, be very grateful. Whether it’s a private institution, magnet performing arts school or public high school, all drama programs usually have a pool of students who desperately want to participate. (Without commentary on the “talent” pool.) With that said, I would ALWAYS argue, that when one gets cast in the role of their choice, they should walk away EXTREMELY grateful. (Even if you nailed it, and there is not a question in anyone’s mind as to why you deserve the role.) There are always a handful of talented people who (while they did not “deliver” this time) would be willing to work their GUTS OUT for the opportunity to play the role. A high school play/musical usually only offers one or two opportunities a school year for students to “play a leading role onstage.” People who are granted the opportunity to have demonstrated that they were PREPARED, FOCUSED and DETERMINED, and most importantly, CAN BE TRUSTED to handle the DEMANDS of the role as invisioned by the director. If you can’t be trusted to be quiet when the director is talking….if you can’t be trusted to be to auditions ON TIME….if you can’t be trusted to fill out an audition form LEGIBLY, even….how can a director TRUST you to handle the largest of roles in the show? Please remember, the audition process in not very personable. You cannot always win over a director on charm.
  • In College: I would say that very little is different from High School to College (unless of course it’s a Performing Arts University or Conservatory, which operates like a professional theatre company, rather that a University with a Theatre Arts program). The difference here is, most of the time Colleges open up the auditions to the community, so you usually draw in a WIDER spectrum of demographics. My only recommendation that would be different from my already given advice to high schoolers is…make sure you’re auditioning for something you SHOULD play. (Not just what you’d like to play.) Don’t audition for Tracy Turnblad unless you have a little junk in your trunk. What happens is you’re asking the director to make an exception to tradition BEFORE YOU EVEN AUDITION. Why stacks the cards against you? Instead, audition for roles you should play, and come completely prepared to lend your own interpretation to those. If you are granted the opportunity to play the EXACT role you auditioned for…drop all other plans and dedicate all your efforts to redefining the role.
  • Community Theatre: In my experience, community theaters need to break even with shows, and are banking on offering “the best production of ________ ever!” They need to fulfill the demands of the show. Sometimes drawing from an established pool of company actors is the way to go. (They already have an invested interest in the success of the show…so, win/win.) Sometimes they just cattle call audition. It’s like panning for gold…most of the time it’s a mish-mash of local yokels. But in that rabble emerges a shiny piece of gold. Sometimes it only takes one piece of gold to push the production over the top. Community theatre directors bow to the proverbial whims of several things: what’s currently playing in town (aka: the competition), the season, the “draw” of the show (tried and true versus fringe or avant guarde), and the novelty of the offering. (Even if you’ve seen “Little Shop of Horrors” a million times…you still wanna see how the plant puppet is gonna look.) It’s a slippery slope, and you’d better believe they’re looking for the best FIT. If you are given that opportunity…get ready to WORK, and work hard. This will either garnish you forward-momentum with your professional reputation, or it will earn you the title of “Mr. / Mrs. Eh” in the proverbial rumor mill. (And let me tell you…the community theatre rumor mill spreads like a dry wild fire.)

FINAL THOUGHT: If you get the EXACT ROLE YOU AUDITIONED FOR….You were most likely cast because you were prepared, skillfully executed the elements of the audition and worked well as an ensemble with others. Sometimes people get cast based on reputation. Sometimes a director SEES SOMETHING in you and wants to be that mad scientist and “create a monster.” (It’s an ego thing.) But, RARELY do people get cast without demonstrating they have what it takes. If you are wanting to be that guy/gal who is rewarded with roles they audition for…in order to do so you have to do two things:

  • 1.) Prepare to get real with yourself. If you short and stocky…don’t go for leading man roles. (Because as much as we love you….c’mon! You’re asking a director to believe you’ll be able to carry 5 gallons of machismo in a shot glass. KNOW WHO YOU ARE. There are roles for EVERY TYPE of person. Why waste your time investing yourself in something you probably don’t have much of a shot getting to begin with.
  • 2.) Prepare, prepare, prepare. Know that script / songs inside-out. Be ready to improvise on any element of the show. Don’t just become familiar with the role you want…know all the roles…and know them well.

Let’s say: You auditioned for a specific role, and you were cast in A DIFFERENT ROLE THAN WHAT YOU WANTED. “What do you do now?”

  • In High School: I’m going to sound like a broken record here…but be grateful. I’ve had 120 students audition for a cast of 20 before. If you earn your way into a cast (no matter what the size) it’s because the director TRUSTS YOU to do a good job. You need to reciprocate that trust in the director in that they know where you will be best served and where YOU will best serve the show. Drop the ego! It’s not about YOU! It’s about the show…and if you don’t know that…don’t do theatre. Instead…be grateful…enjoy your experience doing the show…and have fun. (That’s why you perform anyway, right? If not…well…that’s a topic of a whole other blog post.) I’m not a big fan of these types of students approaching the director after casting to ask “why was I cast in this role over that one.” I’ll tell you why. You’re basically asking the director to justify the casting of the other role. (Putting the other actor under the microscope.) That isn’t fair. If you are truly looking for constructive criticism…put your eyes and ears on….focus during rehearsal….and try to learn as you go. I guarantee you’ll walk away from the show with substance to apply to your next audition. (Anything else is a grudge match…no matter how innocently put.)
  • In College: I would say that you would be breaching some sort of unwritten rule of etiquette if you were to contact the director afterwards for an explanation as to why you were cast in one role over another, on a college level. You’re in the show…so stop whining. Instead, wait until the cast party (when your director has had a few drinks), and worm it out of him then. (Just kidding. Yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to do that either.)
  • Community Theatre: Again, I would say it would be ill-advised to approach the director about “why” you got cast in one role over the other. Instead, impress the PANTS off of them in the role you were given. Often times there is a bit of shifting around within the cast once rehearsals start (BobbyJo had to quit…BubbaRay dropped out….) and you just might get a promotion! Mumbling under your breath or shooting icy glares at your fellow actors will earn you a slick reputation, and quick. (Remember what I said about the rumor mill? It’s so true…sometimes the most talented people are people that you NEVER want to work with. Why? Because they’re jerks! There is too much theatre to do in the world to align yourself with someone who brings out the worst in you.)

FINAL THOUGHT – If you get A ROLE IN THE SHOW, BUT NOT EXACTLY THE ONE YOU AUDITIONED FOR: I will give you permission to be upset about it. (After all…we are human, right?) But, do not, under any circumstances allow that personal disappointment to show around your fellow actors, director, etc. Instead use that energy to gear up and spearhead the next challenge. Playing Sherlock and mumbling about it under your breath (while it may give you immediate gratification) it does NOTHING in the big picture, least of all getting you any closer to the role you so desperately wanted. Your time and talents are better served moving forward.

Let’s say: You auditioned for role, and you weren’t cast at all. “What do you do now?”

  • In High School: This is where the rubber hits the road, folks. Needless to say, I understand what it feels like to be turned down. (And so do most other directors, producers, etc.) You’re not alone. While this particular moment may seem like the world is crashing down on you…I promise you this, you will move on. You will perform again. You will be noticed. You will survive. It’s the most rewarding and fun…and heart-breaking and lonely job in the world, casting a show. In High School, usually the show is cast by someone you see in the halls or in the classroom every day. Do you think for one second they’re going to enjoy looking you in the eye the next day after not casting you? Absolutely not. It’s going to break their heart! The one thing that I can offer (though I argue, it probably won’t be something you can’t easily accept) is that ANY audition process in High School is NOT PERSONAL. (Of course, every now and then there is a jerk teacher out there who is a butt-head. Just wait…these are the people you’ll see on the news one day.) But, overall…these directors have a job to do…and a lot of administrative eyes are watching them. (Not to mention the proverbial backlash of parent meetings, comments and rolls of the eyes.) They WANT to see you succeed….they WANT to give you the opportunity….they WANT the show to be a success….and the WANT everyone to grow from the experience (that is, if they are a good teacher.) They can’t cast everyone. Every show I’ve ever directed left me with a very nice cast list…and a very nice stack of audition forms from people who will not be doing the show. We don’t celebrate that. We’re disappointed we were unable to utilize your passion for performing. (The same passion that got you up, off of the sofa, and into the audition hall in the first place.) It’s pride-swallowing to offer an audition…we know that….we respect that…and we truly realize the disappointment that goes along with not getting a role. Now, in High School, I would say that it is PERFECTLY reasonable to approach the director of the play and ask for a brief chat about the audition…but only if you promise to keep the following things in mind:
    • The director doesn’t OWE you anything. So be humble, polite and understanding.
    • Ask yourself…”why do I need to know?” If it’s because you’re anxious to perform, want to know what to do better, or gain knowledge so that you may start on your homework in preparation for the next show…then ask away. If it’s because you’re mad, sad, hurt or frustrated….my suggestion: wait a week. Walk it off. Come back to that same question in one week. If you’re still mad, sad, hurt or frustrated…then maybe you need to reevaluate WHY you want to do theatre. If you are in a “better place” and you realize that the pressures of auditioning made you mad, sad, etc…and you truly just want to get better so that you may perform onstage…well, then…ask away. You see, often times on a high school level (especially with this generation) there is a WILD sense of entitlement. Parents aren’t there in the audition room…and probably don’t even know what goes ON in an audition. All they know is that they love their son/daughter and they know how talented they are. The problem is, they aren’t in the same situation, with pressures, demands and creative influences, as the directors…so they’re looking at the whole situation through rose-colored glasses. What they perceive as their son/daughter getting besmirched by a teacher who “chooses favorites” is really a result of a human being (who is putting of their grading and dinner with their families so they can administer auditions after-hours) who is desperately trying to offer an educational (and, yes, fun!) opportunity with as much desensitization as possible. (And creatively, for that matter! How absurd is that?) Putting students through the ringer is not necessarily the idea of a good time. I’m not making excuses for teacher/directors…but that’s their perspective…much like a parent’s perspective is only of that known behind closed doors at home.
    • Ask for HOMEWORK. Don’t ask for a list of reasons defending their decision. All that will demonstrate is that you don’t really care to grow (because obviously the director made the wrong decision in the first place) and that you’re jaded. Instead…take the advise of the director to heart. LISTEN. And then start working on perfecting your craft. Sometimes casting has a “trickle down” effect. Perhaps you were being considered for a role…but because Student A and Student B were both being considered for a leading role….and Student A was eventually grated that role….Student B then went into the smaller role that you were pegged for, edging you out. It’s not personal. It’s part of the dirty work of being a director: filling demanding roles with actors who can fulfill the demands.
      • REGARDING HIGH SCHOOL TECH CREWS – Real quick…if a show at your high school is VERY APPEALING to you…consider turning in an application to be on the Tech Crew. If the High School program is worth a scrap of anything…they’ll collect them, cast the show…THEN generate the tech crew. By applying to be on Tech…it kinda doubles your chances to be a part of the show…and frankly, it shows the director that you are willing to learn new things. If you have NO INTEREST in being on the Tech Crew…fine. But really, it’s too bad. Having a well-rounded appreciation for ALL AVENUES of theatre is what builds a responsible, respectful performer. I argue, every High School actor should be on a tech crew at least once in their High School career. If you didn’t fill out a Tech Crew Form…and you didn’t get cast…stop whining. There are too many different roles…most likely one that would have suited your talents perfectly…that you didn’t apply for.
      • High School Drama Teachers/Directors…if you don’t have an established Tech Crew Application process (treated as if they were applying for a job) and you simply “assign” tech crew positions…then shame on you. You’re no better than those drama directors who pre-cast. Allow each student the opportunity to EARN a place on the tech crew. (Make sure each tech crew application is accompanied with a questionnaire or creative task. Have them explain what skill sets they can bring to the table…and then hold them to it!)
  • In College - Plays and musicals come and go. I’m a big fan of the saying “If you’re turned down for a play today…wait a day and audition for another one tomorrow.” It’s true. Treat your personal investments as artistic transitions. If you wind up not getting cast = transition into preparing for the next show. Don’t dwell…and certainly don’t approach the director for questioning. (Leave that nonsense to the loonies.) Most of the time directors are faculty members or directors/actors from the community (and sometimes you’ll get a guest director)…at any rate, all of these people are potential future employers. If you contact them now with your disappointment…rest assured you’ll be auditioning for them again down the road…and believe me, they’ll remember you. For all the wrong reasons.
  • In Community Theatre - If you really want to be a part of the production and you didn’t get cast…perhaps shoot the director an email and ask to help paint the sets, or volunteer to usher. (But only do this if you’re TRULY willing to execute what might normally be perceived as “minion work.”) Getting your foot in the door is very important in community theatre. Do it any way you can. But, ONLY do it with the same 100% vigor you were planning on lending to the role you auditioned for. Remember, you’re looking to make an impression. Many people have “worked their way up the ranks.” I wouldn’t recommend asking the director for explanations regarding the cast list. I would argue that community theatre directors do what they do for little or no pay (and in their “spare” time.) They do not (and frankly, will not!) spend that precious time reasoning with you. They will simply paint on a happy face…give you some generic answer…and then never cast you again. I know I wouldn’t.

FINAL THOUGHT: If you are NOT CAST IN THE SHOW - Remember, just like every job interview or football team or bendy Cirque De Solie act…everyone has to earn the right to do their thing. No one is ever “owed” anything. (If so, we’d have failing businesses, terrible inadequate starting Quarterbacks, and broken, tumbling performers.) If you didn’t get cast…you need to ask yourself “Why did so-and-so get cast…and what are they doing right?” When you examine and find out that answer…do it! Maybe they’re taking voice lessons/dance lessons regularly. Maybe they’re contacting publishing companies and purchasing advanced copies of the script to study before hand. Maybe they’re getting together with friends and working on auditioning BEFORE the actual auditions. Whatever it is…make it a mission to bring your personal offerings to the next level. The performing arts industry is the HARDEST industry in the world to be successful in…but from a creative, artistic perspective…it is the most REWARDING as well. You MUST WORK HARD. (But if you love what you do…the work won’t feel like work.) Gold medalists aren’t just GIVEN those honors…they have to EARN them.

  • I’ll tell you something right now…recently I witnessed as three of my students (who have NEVER auditioned for a play/musical before) got up there and put it all on the line. Swallowed their pride and gave it their “all!” I WAS SO PROUD OF THEM! Unfortunately, none of them got cast. It broke my heart. They were “out auditioned” by others. Let me just say that I look forward to the day when they audition again…and I hope this was a good experience for them. Needless to say, I’ll have my eye out for them. What director DOESN’T like an underdog, right?

On a personal note, CONGRATS to all who auditioned for “LEGALLY BLONDE” at Faith Lutheran High School. Everyone should be very proud of their offering. We look forward to working with the cast and crew. All others…we look forward to working with you in the future.

FEEL FREE to comment on this post with QUESTIONS you might have regarding auditions in general. I’ll be happy to answer them as best as I can. Until then….I wish you: broken legs!

The Process of Creating: Handle with Care

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, DIRECTING FOR THE STAGE, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by erikball123

There are element of the process of developing a character that is worth sitting down and taking notes on. I would also argue that the deconstruction of any audition is worthy of spending countless hours on. The preparation before an audition, rehearsal or show is the nuts and bolts of an actor’s process and what puts the fuel in the ‘ol gas tank, as far as I’m concerned. A person’s reflection of the piece (actor, audience or otherwise) is the greatest joy and one of the most rewarding experiences theatre has to offer. But most importantly, I think is the fundamental art of storytelling. Above all things…did the audience walk away having been educated or entertained by an effective story?

All of these concepts, and more, are stations in a student actor’s process.(When I say student…I mean teen, adult, seasoned professional, etc.) Some advance on them like a mighty general leading an army. Other at least acknowledge them.

I’m in my ninth year of teaching high school theatre, and I want to say on the onset that my reflections in this post carry the weight of the culminating years. I don’t want to put any specific class of students under the microscope, but there needs to be something said about all students of theatre at a high school level…I suppose because I’m curious if there is a common thread in America. If so…perhaps my brain won’t explode.

You see, I teach bloody talented students. It sickens me sometimes how blessed they all are with talent. Therein the problem lies. I think they know their talented…and for me, I’m consistently distracted from teaching theatre, and find myself herding talented sheep back to the pasture so that they may continue to graze…whether they believe they need to or not.

Flashback. I remember a group of high schoolers with a fairly average skill set, who enjoyed tackling rinky-dink productions. There was really nothing terribly special about the after-school drama program in my home city. We all did it because it was fun. I supposed in the very end, I can look back and say that we weren’t challenged enough, I suppose. I recall a production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”  my freshman year. The adaption of the play left a lot to be desired…and I remember the name of the director was Jolly, which I thought was funny…but what I remember most was this one ensemble member. He was a townsperson and didn’t really have a large part…kinda kept to himself. At first, being the sensitive guy I was, I thought he was kinda a dork. He was always rehearsing by himself…thinking up new “moments” to create onstage. He didn’t really relate with the others much…but when directed to do so in the scenes, he was careful, polite and professional. I remember his freckles. He was always trying to dig for something more substantial in his character…which I (at the time) found silly. His character didn’t even have a name in the program! (Oh, but his character had a name onstage! And fears and quirks…and business cards! I’m serious…the dude made business cards!) He was always taking creative chances. Some worked…some didn’t. Okay, most didn’t. I recall Jolly being frustrated with him because of his over-zealousness on several occasions and he was the butt of many jokes. When the show opened…I remember thinking to myself…”he’s so over-the-top.” And that first night when the Ensemble stepped forward to bow…the audience roared. That young man made a definitive impression upon the audience in an overall lack-luster play. I don’t recall him upstaging anyone. I just recall a genuine, honest dedication to the part. And while Tecumseh, Michigan probably isn’t best known for it’s appreciation of the fine arts, I will say that the relationship between actor and audience is an honorable bond and I learn a valuable lesson in that show. That bond is one I take for granted all too often. I did back then…and I still do today.

Students at my school don’t have enough outlets for their talents. I would argue that on average the students are renaissance men and women. Some play instruments, some play sports, some are involved in outside activities, some perform in community theatre, some write music, short-stories or poetry, some sing opera, some tap dance…and some are the most compassionate, caring, God-fearing, lovely people I know. I will go on the record to say that the last nine years have been the most rewarding of my life, as I grow and learn from them daily. With that said…I cannot understand, with the wide spectrum of opportunity lying at their feet…(and if you’ll excuse me as I narrow the scope a bit, as I focus on just theatre) why don’t they thrust themselves forward with the enthusiasm of a puma pouncing a gazelle? One thing is for certain…the school I teach at has limitless resources and opportunities for them to succeed. (I might argue that we could use about two more drama teachers to satisfy the current demand, but I’ll leave that personal sob story and political soap-box program proposal for another post.) I want to name just a few resources that I have the pleasure of surrounding myself with daily.

  • Students attend class in a large drama classroom. (That doubles as a green room / reception space.)
  • Students perform in a 792-seat Chapel / Performing Arts Center with a state of the art fly-rail system, sound board and lobby.
  • Students work on producing shows in a large, scene shop, costume storage room, two dressings rooms and a set-building scene shop patio…all at our disposal.
  • A four-show theatrical season, a summer theatre program, a structured budget, a chorus of after-school activities that include middle school mentoring opportunities, service events, International Thespian Society, trips to California to attend the Musical Theatre Competition of America…and I could go on and on.

“…these students HAVE talent…they DO succeed…they WILL “bring it.” The problem is…they don’t have to CARE about it.”

What I’m talking about today is simply this….I think we are seeing a new dawn of students growing up in a world where they don’t HAVE TO care about anything. I love my students. Believe me…these students HAVE talent…they DO succeed…they WILL “bring it.” The problem is…they don’t have to CARE about it. Please note…I’ve worked in this school for my entire teaching career. I don’t know any other dynamic and I can imagine that my statements could very well be challenged. Please regards my musings with the open-mind that this school…this classroom…these students…this is all I know. Perhaps I’m ignorant. I’m actually okay with that. Pastry chefs are usually quite satisfied spending their entire careers working on pastries. Please forgive me if I offend schools with diminishing theatre programs (or no theatre program!) In the big-picture, I’m blessed beyond what I deserve…and so are my students. I hope you can ponder with that in mind. I’ll get back to the pastry kitchen now.

Students don’t have to care. Now, this is not including some exceptions of course. There are always those who are wonderfully careful about every faucet of their high school existence. But, overall the students in the private Lutheran school I teach at wear a cozy blanket that keeps them safe and warm. This same blanket provides them with reassurance that their days are filled with comfort and security. It shelters them from being weathered and is a soft place to fall at every corner. I think our school/faculty does a great job of providing a quality education to all who enroll and anyone who attends Faith Lutheran is a better person because of it. What I’m talking about specifically is ART. The ART of doing theatre. The appreciate of the strength, courage and sacrifice it take to learn and perform good theatre. It takes an artist who is willing to drop their inhibitions, sacrifice their senses, wander into uncharted territories every day and face a challenge that will beat them down again and again before picking them back up and regenerating them with faith, knowledge and rivers of creativity they never even knew they had. I’ve seen this magic work in high school students. It not a pipe dream…and we’re not talking Vegas smoke and mirrors. The problem is, it requires the student to lose their cozy blanket and expose their creative hearts, unsheltered.

I find that often, my students are unwilling to do that.

I’ve stood in front of them like a starched, spectacled Patton…I’ve delivered masterful speeches, riddled with fancy, encouraging words telling them how proud I am of them. (And every word I spoke was the truth.) I’ve seen them succeed in so many way…I’m losing buttons on my shirt I’m so proud! And in the grand scheme to things, you might be able to step back and look at my argument as a nit-picky, trite commentary. I see it differently. I see students who want so badly to be told that what they are doing is worth something. I see students who find homes in the theatre because it’s the only home they know. I see students who are gifts from God. (And there can be no other explanation.) I need to find a way to SHOW them that the ART of doing theatre….the ART of effective storytelling…the ART of doing the art, is what is the most rewarding thing of all. It’s a sense of urgency one gets when they are without a warm blanket…standing naked in the cold.

I think the problem is everybody has instant access to everything nowadays. I mean EVERYTHING. If I wanted a pizza, right now…I could have one. If I wanted a bear trap right now…I betcha there is someplace in Vegas I could get one…right now. It ridiculous really. I mean…how am I supposed to appreciate anything? And I grew up with parents and grandparents who did a GREAT JOB of making sure I didn’t grow up with an inflated sense of entitlement. What about the kids today? This is all they know. They are LOST without their conveniences. I can’t imagine any of my students in an impoverished school situation attempting to accomplish what they do in the drama program at Faith Lutheran. Heck, I can’t imagine what would happen to them if i didn’t allow them to have lunch in my classroom every other day.

I want it to be know that I can’t blame them. This is all they know…and this is what they’ve grown up with. But, is that good enough? I argue…from a creative aspect…no. If you want to perform (or work in any industry that requires you to create) you must learn to appreciate the process of creating. If you cannot see the worth in it, then you will find yourself resentful and finding shortcuts to get jobs done that you once took great creative pride in doing before.

I had a nightmare two days ago. My wife was a psychology minor in college and when I can remember my dreams, I like to share them with her. Perhaps she can see into them more clearly than I? I was onstage…a big stage…and people were applauding. I recall feeling rushed. I ran offstage and someone threw me towel. It hit me in the face. I wiped my face (I was sweaty) and I ran into a hallway and threw the towel down. I remember more than any other detail that I was upset about the applause. Not mad…not sad…just very upset. Unsettled. I woke from that dream and had a hard time getting back to sleep. The next day at school I couldn’t escape that feeling…and later talked about it with my wife.

“The recognition you receive for doing what you love sometimes comes at a great expense, especially when that same audience doesn’t see or understand what happens before, after or backstage during the show.” I thought there was wisdom in that. She thought the perfectionist in me is constantly fighting for the chance to create…and when the opportunity presents itself, any challenges in the process, and especially afterwards there is applause. But they are applauding for a character in a fictitious situation…not a grand effort by a hardworking artist. (Can you remember the name of the artist off the top of your head who painted “American Gothic?” I can’t. It’s just an example.) There is always someone standing just offstage who is unwilling to simply offer a towel…some relief. Rather, through expectation, it is thrown at me. Forget the fact that we’re fortunate enough to even have a towel. My “throwing the towel in” as I storm off, unsettled…is probably what made me feel so upset when I woke. I didn’t allow myself the chance to see what I did next. I ended things with me giving up.

All to often we get wrapped up in the immediacy of things, that we cannot see the forest from the trees, creatively. People forget that beyond the rehearsal notes…beyond the red scarf or the poofy shirt….beyond the “things” that make up theatre….there is a story being told by a storyteller. The art of telling that story is so hard…but it’s such a beautiful, fulfilling thing.

It was probably the most vivd dream I’ve ever had…and you know something…there are probably a million holes in our analysis of the dream itself…but if you think about it, whether my interpretation carries water with any of you or not, the bottom line is I’m no better than what I accuse my students of.

I think my students don’t have to care about doing theatre…because they are so used to it just being done for them. All they have to do is show up with their bags full of talents. But, I suppose if I’m going to be any mentor / teacher to them, then I need to figure out a way to ensure that what they show up for is a boot camp. A ground zero settlement of structure and opportunity that allows them to fall on their face…skin their elbows…and callous up! Imagine the joy one might feel after creating a character for themselves. Envision a high school musical generated by the collective efforts of a thriving ensemble who have generated something original, refreshing and telling. Who cares if Jimmy-Bob didn’t splatter-paint the barn correctly?! (The OCD side of me says “I DO!!!” But, I must stifle that side of me!) I need to be willing to allow them to fail so that they may succeed. I believe then and only then…will they see that they have the talent and opportunity to create, and be proud of it, every time.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to truly do this. It the same voice inside my head that compels me to spend 6 hours making a single prop or re-write an entire play in a format that more pleasing to the eye. This inability to give it up to the students makes for twinkly-good productions…but leaves my students entitled.

I need to allow my students to be that freckled-face hopeful who annoyed the hell out of director Jolly! I can play Duck Hunt with every chance they take onstage, shooting down moment after moment, guiding them through every line of dialogue…but if I’m a teacher of theatre, I need to be willing to allow them to fail. I’m encouraged by the fact that I have a talented group of kids who are smart enough to rise like a phoenix in the ashes.

That darned Junior back in high school probably doesn’t know the impact he made on my “Emperor’s New Clothes” experience. I find it funny that while I had a lead in “Emperor’s New Clothes” and nightly I (figuratively and literally) “disrobed” my juvenile appreciation of theatrical arts…today I look back and realize that it was a focused, joyfilled Junior who exposed a more vulnerable heart that I ever could. Jolly should be proud.

Today I hope that lovers of theatrical arts (onstage and off) can take a moment to reflect on what the theatrical arts provides them. How can the risk of burying yourself in a creative process (that requires so very much of you) be both rewarding and some of the biggest chances you’ll ever take.

Students of theatre…you are trusted every day to create wonderful stories. Every day is another lesson in another classroom that you must willingly step into so that you may work. Find great comfort in the opportunities that you have. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, so that you can march into battle with no armor, no weapons, and a trust in your own skill-sets and the help of your fellow cast mates. The victory after that battle will be great. More importantly, the story told will be legendary.


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