Ever wonder what it would be like to be in charge of the artistic direction for a show? Every director is different in how they approach a show and what innovations they add. I caught up with our director for Saline Area Players’ production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Tami HIndes, and here is how she answered some of my questions.
What is your vision for the show? I loved the original Willy Wonka movie as a kid so when the opportunity came along to direct the stage version, I jumped at it. Willy Wonka is a colorful, bright, sparkly show. The factory is what kids might imagine being their ultimate place of business, full of chocolate, candy, and foil wrapping. In fact, I can imagine that maybe it was Roald Dahl’s ideal job when he was a kid. This is all in the imagination and the workers (Oompa Loompas) are fantasy characters.
I wanted to make it a family friendly, non-creepy show. Willy Wonka can be creepy and several have done it like that, but I didn’t want him to be a scary Wonka – I wanted him to be somebody we would want to be. I also wanted the show to be accessible to younger kids and not to scare them.
What have you learned? There are meanings to this show that I hadn’t thought about until we got into it. It seems like there is an underlying message of being responsible and owning up to mistakes. It’s about saying we’re sorry when we do wrong. And believing that goodness does pay off in the end and even the little guy can win.
What do you like about directing this show? It is fun. The staff has been awesome. They all jumped in and fulfilled roles, did things ahead, kept up great communication and have decked the show with sparkles.
The cast has been great to work with - lots of energy and happy faces at every rehearsal. Everyone seems to pitch in and help whether it's moving a prop or reading a line for someone who's not there.
Tell us a bit about the process of directing this show? I like to listen to what the actors have to say - especially the kids, because they see things differently and a lot of times, I think, “Wow! that's an awesome suggestion.” I want the actors to "own" this show and I hope they feel I value their input. A few years ago, I wouldn't have felt comfortable using the actors' suggestions. So I think I've matured as a director too. I'm not such a dictator any more.
Sometimes things happen accidentally during the rehearsals and they end up being used in the show – that’s fun.
It's been another fantastic experience with the Saline Area Players. I've learned a lot about directing, being flexible, but also sticking to my decisions.
What’s rewarding to you? I look back where we started - 50 plus individuals, and now, we're all pulling together and we've become a complete unit. I've seen lots of friendships blossom. One young lady has been "bitten" by the stage bug and recently auditioned for Varsity Blues - I'm not sure if she would've done it before this show or not, but she did and made the group. I think for a lot of the kids, theater gives them direction and structure while letting them be creative.
Why should people come to the show? First of all, one of my trademarks as a director, I guess, is I like the audience to interact with the characters. Before the show, the Oompa Loompas will be greeting the audience and the Candy Man will have his cart out front actually selling candy.
This version will be a bit different than other Wonka shows because I've added some pre-show/opening fun - once again probably becoming one of my little quirks as a director - where I can have some unlimited creativity. I've really worked to make this an intergenerational show, where the kids will enjoy it on one level and the adults will on a different level.
Plus we've added in some special treats that I can't discuss here under my magician's oath. People will just have to come and see the show. People will leave humming the songs and my goal is for everyone to walk away feeling like their dreams can come true.
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka is on April 19 & 20 at 7PM and April 20 & 21 at 2PM at the Ellen A Ewing Performing Arts Center at Saline HS. To order tickets and for additional information check out the Saline Area Players' website!