Behind the scenes of Drowsy: A director's perspective

At the centre of every production team is the role tasked with pulling all the strands of the show together, the director. In this blog we introduce you to the final of our production team trio, director Jen Donald and hear from her all how the show is coming together.

You are a well known face both offstage and on with GMT. Tell us a bit about your previous GMT adventures and the many hats you have worn?

Jen: Is that a nice way of saying I keep turning up like a bad penny? Well, let’s see. I started on-stage with GMT in Threepenny Opera back in 2012 and since then have performed in A Chorus Line, Into the Woods, How to Succeed, a cameo appearance in Flashdance, Sweeney Todd and a couple of concerts in between that. I have been Stage Manager for most shows I’ve not been on stage, Producer twice, Assistant Director twice and this will be my second show at the helm as Director (my first being In the Heights in Eastwood Theatre back in 2016).

What would you say your main inspiration has been for Directing the Drowsy Chaperone?

Jen: When I was asked if I would interested in directing the next ‘small show’ for GMT and started researching potential musicals, I just kept coming back to The Drowsy Chaperone. I had seen the show a few years before and loved it. I thought it would be perfect for GMT and would work really well as a performance for the Brian Cox Studio. When Barrie came on board and we discussed it between us it turned out we both felt exactly the same and so it almost seemed like fate.

Tell us a bit about the show and why love it so much?

Jen: That’s quite tricky without giving away any spoilers but basically the show takes place in the mind of our narrator known as the Man in the Chair. This is one of his most loved shows and he guides the audience through the ‘plot’ interjecting with information, the occasional insult and a glimpse into his own life as we go. The show has a bit of everything and despite a performance time of under two hours, the show crams a whole load of singing, dancing, scene stealing, circus tricks, spit takes, monkeys, pastry puns and planes in to more than keep the audience entertained.

Putting a show of this complexity together is no mean feat. Can you tell us a bit about the key parts of your role?

Jen: In terms of directing the cast, this show is so well written and we have such a wealth of talent on stage that this part of the job has been relatively easy. I’m just there to guide them and tell them when I think they have taken it too far and need to pull back. I haven’t told anyone yet they’ve taken it too far so that gives you an insight in to how much hilarity and scenery chewing you can expect.

Other than that it’s just a simple job of pulling the show together, theatre meetings, set discussions, arranging/making props, lighting plots and costume plots, all while giving the outward appearance that you are calm and completely in control.

What have been your highlights and biggest challenges during the production process this far:

Jen: The main highlight has been watching the show come together and seeing everyone fall in love with their characters and bring them to life. The biggest challenge has been trying to get everything done in such a short rehearsal period (12 weeks). When you see the content of the show you will understand why that has been a challenge.

Tell us a bit about the performance venue, Scottish Youth Theatre:

Jen: The Scottish Youth Theatre was recently in the news as it looked like they might have to shut down due to lack of funding, but thankfully that issue was resolved and SYT lives on. It is an excellent venue and the staff are so welcoming and helpful that it’s always a pleasure to deal with them.

The Brian Cox Studio itself is a really great space for performing smaller, more intimate style shows. I know it gives the cast ‘the fear’ but it’s a real challenge to perform in a space where the audience are just meters from you. It brings a whole different type of performance and I think it will work particularly well with this show.

There are rumours that this is one of GMT's most ambitious small shows in terms of set and props, can you tell us more about that?

Jen: Are there indeed? Rumours you say? Well, you will just need to buy a ticket and see but yes it has certainly been challenging to get something that will work well in the studio space and my list of props grows every week.

What are you most looking forward to during show week?

Jen: At this moment in time, I’m just focusing on getting everything organised to get the show open on the Tuesday night but show week is always one of the best parts of the whole process and why we put ourselves through this again and again. I am particularly looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to this show.

Finally, can you give 3 reasons for people to rush out and buy their tickets today:

  1. You won’t have seen anything like this before. This is a rarely performed show with a few exciting surprises that you will only know about if you come and see it for yourself.

  2. The performances from the cast are worth every penny of your ticket.

  3. Did I mention it’s a small venue? Only 80 tickets a night so get yours right now to avoid disappointment.

The Drowsy Chaperone will be held at the Brian Cox Studio @ Scottish Youth Theatre from 8th to 12th May with performances at 8pm (additional saturday matinee at 3pm). Tickets are available through the Glasgow Music Theatre Box Office on our webpage, via cast members or through gmtdrowsychaperone@outlook.com


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