‘Coach’ing the Carrollwood Players

Ever since I was a child I loved the theater: the energy, the lights, the music. I loved nearly everything but the pre-show jitters. Some people don’t get them, while others’ anxiety disappears once they get on stage. Some, like me, are stuck with them during the entire show, which is one of the reasons that I decided to try directing. While waiting in the wings or watching the monitor it seemed that I worried even more, however, the end result was worth all the jitters in the world.

I was longing for a chance to get back into theater, since I didn’t have time for it in high school. When I was a child I was in a number of productions, including The Music Man, Mother Goose’s Tales and the New Tampa Dance Theater’s Rhythm Makers.

I searched the local theaters’ Web sites and came across the Carrollwood Players. Their site announced their search for directors, novice to experienced, for their 10th annual One Act Weekends. The chance was ideal for me and my schedule. I quickly searched through my computer and sent my acting resume.

Two weeks later I received an e-mail congratulating and informing me that I was chosen as one of the directors. I was given the task of directing the play titled The Coach, written by William McNally, a Clearwater native.

The plot was simple: a female reporter has to find out how a football coach is motivating his team, but the coach is far from helpful. Then, later in the play, the reporter finds a softer side of the coach when an old friend of his comes to the field with his grandson. I was intrigued by the story since I also am a reporter and have been out of my element when writing an article.

For the first time I was on the other side of the auditions. I was the one judging and casting. I thought it would be hard to find the right people for the characters, but I was wrong. Some people clicked right away. One man walked in with an air of confidence and a powerful voice, and once he read the part of the coach, it was clear he would do it justice.

Even after finding my perfect cast, I hit a few snags. Two actors dropped out because of time restraints, and another was hospitalized for a few days.

Many people say that animals and children are hard to work with, but for me it was hard to work with people decades older and wiser then me. I was apprehensive since I didn’t know if they would take me seriously. However, once rehearsals got started and I realized that everyone wanted to be there and wanted the play to be perfect, I found it much easier to direct them.

I had a vision of how the play should be and the actors brought it to life. I told them where to enter and exit, how to deliver lines and what gestures to make. I listened to all the suggestions the cast made and we worked together to make the play as entertaining as possible.

On opening night I was surprised to find myself nervous, as if I were going on stage. I realized that despite the time and effort I’d invested I had no control over what would happen once the lights went up.

I watched from the monitor in the dressing room, hanging on every word and movement. Every time a line was messed up or something did not go as planned, I winced as if in dire pain.

After the show, however, I realized that no one else noticed the errors.

Saturday, the second night, was completely different. The theater was packed and the energy was contagious. I watched from the wings as everything fell into place perfectly. The cast delivered each line flawlessly while the audience reacted to each joke with thundering laughter.

It was when the stage went black and the audience cheered that I knew that all of the struggle and time was worth it. The experience taught me about how much work goes in to a production behind the curtain. Directors, managers and stage hands do as much work as the actors – if not more – without the glory or the spotlight. Despite that, I found that the pride I felt after watching the play was better than any curtain call.