And just like that, a life-changing season comes to a close. As 2018 began to unfold, people would ask me how I was feeling about my summer with McLeod Summer Playhouse. Afterall, I was taking on the role of Associate Artistic Director from my best pal, Wes Drummond, and was thrust into a whole new arena.
My answer always seemed to be (as Little Red in Into the Woods would say), "excited & scared." Equal parts "can't wait" and "scared to death" of the prospect of my regional professional directorial debut at a wonderful company that I'm so proud to be a part of.
J. Thomas Kidd (Managing Artistic Director) and Kevin Anthony Smith (Resident Musical Director) and myself began preparing for the season in January.
We attended the A-1 Auditions in New York City, where we saw 900 young hopefuls. And so, audition season began. It would continue with a local audition in Carbondale, IL, and another 900 auditionees at Southeastern Theatre Conference in Mobile, AL. On top of that, countless video submissions and callbacks. We spent hours poring over every detail and every option.
By the end of March, our cast was finally set. Then, in late April, another bomb was dropped. One of our actresses had an opportunity presented that she couldn't pass up -- leaving us without a Donna in Mamma Mia! As Tom and I both discussed options, I threw out that I'd be willing to take on the role. This would be in between my directing responsibilities with 9 to 5 and Once Upon a Mattress. It would be STRESSFUL, but I said I would give it a whirl. And that was THAT! An incredible experience and a challenging season was ahead of me.
Through all the auditions, casting, countless videos from actors across the nation, long and creative design meetings, fruitful production meetings, inspiring rehearsals, energetic choreography, lots of tears, lots of laughter, late nights, early mornings, a long list of "incidents," stress, and margaritas... it was all MORE THAN worth it.
I accomplished the impossible. I directed the oh-so-challenging feat known as 9 to 5, The Musical, then jumped immediately into the role of a lifetime, Donna in Mamma Mia!, all while prepping to direct and teach and mentor students through a musical theatre intensive and professional production of Once Upon a Mattress.
I survived. I thrived. And I'm proud. Thank you to Tom Kidd for the unwavering guidance and support throughout. Thanks also to my guiding lights: Derek, Wes, Kevin, Jenna, Lyndsay, J. Morgan, Cassie, Katelin, and so many more. Thank you to each designer and creative I worked with on a daily basis. Your professionalism and commitment to your craft is inspiring. Jen, Will, Grenville, Mark, Michael, Kevin, Darryl, Tori, Daniel... looking forward to the next one.
Danae DeShazer is an actress, singer, and dancer living in Sarasota, FL.