Chicago: A Director’s Perspective

I’m writing this post on a lazy Sunday. I’m sitting in my favorite chair, wearing my favorite sweater, sipping tea and watching silly movies. It’s the end of winter break; tomorrow, I9143_433957450128250_1698088693140321200_n return to rehearsals with the cast of ACT’s Chicago. We are entering into our last three weeks before the show goes up, and after weeks of preparation and planning, I’m getting my head ready for long hours of intense, detailed work.

I’m also really, really scared.

Directing shows as a student at Holy Cross was the most important part of my education, hands down. The first piece I ever directed was a fifteen-minute original project for Ed Isser’s class. Seeing the piece performed, I felt an incredible rush of joy, satisfaction and pride. I had heard for years in Catholic schools about the concept of a vocation; watching my work come to life that first time, I felt that I had found mine.

The weeks leading up to that performance, however, were full of stress, anxiety, tears, self-doubt, coffee, and carbohydrates. And a lot of fear. I was afraid that the piece I had created, this deeply personal work, would be judged and dismissed by my audience. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to help my actors to perform their roles fully and successfully. I was afraid that what I had made would not be good enough.

Since graduating from Holy Cross in 2013, I’ve continued working in theatre. I’ve directed and assistant directed, worked backstage and at the front of house. Every time I begin a new creative project, a part of me wonders if the fear I felt directing that first piece will ever go away. It hasn’t. Every new piece feels the same, no matter how many times I’ve gone through it. I’ve never gotten used to it.

Even though it’s hard to remember when I’m in the thick of rehearsal, I’m really grateful to still feel that fear every time. It signals to me that what I’m doing is important to me in a personal way. It drives me through the challenging parts of rehearsal. It motivates me to do everything I possibly can to make a successful show. If directing Chicago felt comfortable and easy, it would mean that I was taking no risks, making no hard choices. It doesn’t—it feels huge and intimidating and essential.

I have a lot of high hopes for this production. I hope that the audience is charmed by Chicago’s humor, thrilled by its musical numbers, and pricked by its social criticism. But most of all, I hope that my cast, designers, and crew all feel a little bit of this deep, driving fear, and a whole bunch of creative discomfort. I’ve been through this process enough times now to know that the joy waiting on the other side of opening night makes it all worthwhile. – Christine Freije ’13

Alternate College Theatre’s production of Chicago runs  Feb. 4-6 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 6-7 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10 for members of the Holy Cross community, $15 for the general public, and can be reserved by calling the ACT box office at 508-793-3536. Learn more about the production here.

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