Woolnough to Direct First Musical, ‘Little Women’

Members+of+the+cast+practice+their+lines+during+rehearsal+a+few+days+before+opening+night.+

Members of the cast practice their lines during rehearsal a few days before opening night.

Lauren Hayden, Reporter

   Telling someone to pretend that he has cotton in his ears may seem strange, but for director Scott Woolnough, this is standard procedure.

   “In the last show I did with Scott, there was a gun involved and I ended up shooting it off next to my ears and I was deaf, and I had no idea how to do this. Scott had me mimic him and he also used analogies like ‘I have cotton in my ears and all these people are whispering,’” said Jacob Schweiger, who plays the role of Laurie in this year’s musical, “Little Women.”

   This production is the first musical that Woolnough has directed, and he has a directing style that many players find creative and fun.

   “When working with Scott, he’s helped me to think about the actor’s story. He’s challenged me to consider what the character has been through and what their motivations would be,” said senior Maria Weidemoyer, president of the Misericordia Players.

   Woolnough said directing his first musical isn’t terribly different from directing plays.

   Still, he said musicals require a lot more delegation and collaboration, such as that between the music director, Kim Johnson, and choreographer, Madison Bradley.

   But Woolnough’s directing will not change. He said he does not like to give line readings nor does he give specific direction to his actors.

   “I don’t want 17 little me’s running around onstage,” said Woolnough.

   He said he likes to leave acting decisions to the discretion of the performer.

   “I distinctly remember he went through and told me to think about every time my character would get angry or be sad, and visualize that all into one ball of energy and let it be the center of myself. After rehearsal, Scott said that was the best that I had done,” said Weidemoyer.

   Player Megan Digerolamo said she has a tendency to get inside of her own head and she worries about impressing the directors.

   “I remember going to Scott at one point and saying ‘I’m sorry that I’m so bad,’ and he totally eased my mind. I thought because I wasn’t getting notes [in rehearsal] that I was basically a lost cause, but I thanked him for the opportunity to actually act. I wasn’t just a one-dimensional character.He showed me that acting is so much more than you just standing on stage and reciting lines. It has a lot more depth to it,” Digerolamo said.

   Woolnough said it is rewarding to see the moment when the actor “gets it.”

   “There’s so many of us who will go through the motions, but then once the chemistry clicks, and it may not necessarily be anything I did, it’s just the way they connect with the words or another actor. I just like that moment,” he said.

   It is not uncommon for Woolnough to run up and down the aisles of the theater or be there on stage with the actors while he is directing. Schweiger  said Woolnough’s warmups help with his diction, and he has become a more confident public speaker.

   “It’s nerve wracking, being in front of a couple hundred people and having to have your lines memorized and having to sing in front of people because it’s something that most people keep reserved. That kind of trickles into the rest of your life, where these things you usually keep reserved, you don’t have to worry about it because you have that confidence,” said Schweiger.

   Jeff Kelly, technology director for the show, said he and Woolnough relate well, which makes working with him easy.

“One of the nice things about working with Scott is that even if we have differences, we still work well together. We both know our roles; we both know our place. Even if we don’t totally see eye to eye on something, we can work past that. Scott doesn’t have expectations – he has hopes. That’s a lot easier to work with than someone screaming down your throat.” Kelly said.

      Kelly said musical sets are complex.

   “The set for the straight play, ‘Lend Me a Tenor,’ only had three walls, a half wall, a couple of doors, and it stayed the same, and that was it. For this musical, we literally created four or five different scenes on one stage, one set. On top of that, everything has to be even sturdier. In a straight show, if something moves a little bit, it isn’t the end of the world, whereas in a musical, that could be detrimental to the entire show,” said Kelly.

   Another is the theater has only eight microphones and 15 cast members, but a new digital soundboard will help because it can be manipulated very easily. Operation is  a matter of dragging and dropping on a touchscreen, and because the board is newer, the sound quality is much better, Kelly said.

   Students from Kelly’s theatre class will help with set changes, microphones, and lighting.

   The rehearsal schedule is tight because of missed school days, so there is very little time before opening night, Woolnough said.

   Woolnough said that had he been asked a year ago if he preferred acting or directing, he would have said acting. But now he said he loves directing.

   “I’m starting to appreciate passing on what I know and my craft that I have attained over my 35 years of doing this. It’s very rewarding to pass that on to younger actors,” said Woolnough.

   Woolnough explained that he was nervous about taking on a musical, but he is pleased with rehearsals. He said he has grown as a director by tackling this production. department.

     The production was be held in Lemmond Theater April 16, 17, and 18 at 8:00 pm.