Director’s comments about preparation process for Batboy: the Musical
by Patrick Spike
Born in a Cave
“Do you want a cute cuddly baby? Or do you want ooey gooey post birth baby?”
When you’re directing Batboy, the musical, about a boy that is half bat, drinks blood, eats a rat, rips the head off a cow, and teaches a family to love again, you kinda have to go all-in with the strange choices. There’s no half-way in this type of project. The audience is counting on having an Experience (capital E intended), and we simply have to deliver. So when this question was posed to me by our incredible properties designer Greta Turney, I looked to the rest of the team to gauge their response.
“Just say yes” they all said, staring at me in anticipation.
“Let’s go for ooey gooey.” And my entire production team cheered.
This was just one of the decisions I get to make with utter glee, at just one of our production meetings which started months ago via Skype. The team was all together having wine and snacks at Artistic Producing Director Leira Satlof’s house, while I was still up in Portland, OR. It was actually oddly cave-like, having to hold meetings and auditions, all over Skype. There I was at my kitchen table talking to actors in Eureka, telling them to try crazy things during their readings and songs, while they eye me curiously on a tablet camera. This was definitely a first. But we made it work!
Recently I came down to Ferndale in my rolling home, I lovingly call “Wellington.” He’s a 36 foot motor home that I live in full time after downsizing, selling my home, and working on saving money to travel more. Lucky decision too, since now having cause to spend time in Brazil multiple times each year. Wellington also has enabled me to take fun projects such as Batboy, and last season’s Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. And now I am hold up at the fairgrounds for several weeks while directing at Ferndale Rep. I love the theatre I first worked at during grad school in the late 90’s. It’s been a pleasure to be able to get away from it all and direct a fun project with great people for a while… even though I’m still working my day job remotely.
Music rehearsals are over and the staging rehearsals have now begun. The set design is completed and it is being built and painted. Costumes and props, such as said gooey baby, are underway and I’m excited to lead the team as we put this beast together.
And it is a beast! Batboy, for all its deliciously dark comedy, double entendre and blood and gooey babies, is a monster of a show. This is a very demanding piece vocally, with music ranging from rap to rock to gospel to beautiful ballads. Physically it’s demanding for the cast who play a range of odd characters, requiring fast changes both of their costume and of their physicality and mannerisms (not to mention some bat-tastic feats by the boy himself (get ready Joey Lawrence!!). I once read that performing a musical on stage is the energy equivalent of running a marathon each night. I’ve done it, many times. I believe it. And this beast is no exception. I’ve already warned the cast to work on their endurance and energy NOW. They’ll need it.
So now we have leaped from the cave and are careening down the mountain of work together, speeding ever faster toward opening night. There will be fear. There will be sweat. There will be blood… lots of blood. Ultimately, there will be another wildly fun show on the boards at FRT for audiences to sink their teeth into. Get ready Ferndale!