submitted by Huntley Addie, JRHS teacher

In the fall of 2010, after I came back from taking a year off to be with our new daughter during her first 18 months of life, I was asked if I would take on John Rennie’s variety show, Black and Gold.

Hesitant at first (as I frankly wanted to stay home and just watch my daughter put together ideas about this planet), I looked at the people I’d be working with and decided, “I can do that”. Grabbing a few binders, notes, and advice from those who had previously run the show, coupled with my personal experiences (I get to play the role of lead singer in our band, Vinyl Frontier – shameless plug 1), coaching, teaching and working in leadership, I set off on this new adventure.

Seeing the talent, I felt it was almost heroic to just give the kids an opportunity to shine. I often think of education as ‘memory making business’, and this offered some prime foundation for just that. And so, armed with that philosophy, we allowed something like 30 acts. The show would last over three hours, and good intentions notwithstanding, we had to make it shorter.

At this point, having been the primary ‘advisor’ of the show for over ten years, we have got the whole thing down to a bit of a science. Maybe some of these notes can help you.

It’s June as this issue comes out, and this is when we have already begun for next year. Already, three students have presented a PowerPoint to me suggesting why they deserve to be heads. Next year is, according to them, going to be the greatest show. And that’s what we thought this year…

After the team is established, the next steps are to secure our venue, and the dates to be on our school calendar for next year.

Next, you need to have people who can understand and access the theatre fully and completely. See, I know all about being on the front and sides of the stage; you need others who know under it, over it, around it, and almost live in it.

Oh, and perhaps most importantly, it really helps to have an administration that trusts your intentions and that you can do this thing. These pieces in place, we get to go on summer break.

Come September, I call the heads, and we start meeting at lunch regularly. My team from this past year, Hannah (auditions, opening, closing, program), Gabe (auditions, MC, OCCs), Claire (auditions, stage managing, OCCs, publicity, marketing) and Eric (Auditions, OCCs, house band and crew) owned the project immediately and earnestly. The number of hours they put into the show were fantastic; but it was their show – and they knew it. A theme was picked out, a stage design set, stuff ordered and then announcements to audition were made.

And this is another golden ticket. Each audition comes with an opportunity to support and challenge the kids. It does take on an American Idol kind of vibe, but I try to remind our group that we are in the positive memory-making business here, and we try to constructively criticize all the way through. After all, the number one fear in America is public speaking, and as Seinfeld suggests, ‘number two is death’. This is quite an accomplishment to even audition.

By the end of November, auditions are over, and we then regroup to select and set the (maximum) 18 acts. As we learned, the show cannot be too long, and 18 works grandly.

We mount our show in late March. So, at this point, we start working backwards from the show date. From the building of the sets to the ordering concessions; from making the tickets and selling the show to working with the house band; from helping the acts and merging ideas to running dress rehearsals and fine tuning the ins and outs of the stage… all this is predicated upon the premise that EVERY DAY an incredible memory can be made.

Finally, when the lights come on, and the curtain rises only to fall too soon, I am left feeling satisfied on a level that is hard to explain.

And I wish I could.

You should try it. And if not this, well, something else.

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