by Molly Dowrick
Jevan Cannon began planning and preparing for this year’s Performing Arts Societies musical Guys and Dolls last May! Setting out to create something that would enable cast and crew to “have fun and create memories” that they “will look back to fondly”, Jevan and his creative team have spent months preparing and rehearsing for the production, which is set to be a fantastic one!
I recently interviewed Director of Guys and Dolls, Jevan Cannon, and Assistant Director, James Hill to find out a bit more about the preparation and build up to the show and chat about musical theatre.
Firstly, I asked a rather simple question. Why Guys and Dolls?
“Well, I wanted a production that would have everything; dance, singing and acting. Guys and Dolls is just that. It’s a triple threat. It’s fun, it’s family friendly” (which-Jevan tells me- is important as the production has a matinee performance, particularly popular with young people and families so the production should be appropriate for all). “Guys and Dolls is a classic, it’s well known and was a suitable choice for performing arts societies, particularly as Swansea isn’t a performing arts university.”
This idea of a “triple threat” really shaped our discussion of the talent of the cast and the challenges of a Performing Arts society production and I really enjoyed interviewing Jevan and James, it really gave me an insight into the work behind the production…
Molly: How would you describe the production in one word?
Jevan: *laughs* yes, crazy! Or cheesy. But a good kind of cheesy!
Molly: What has been the biggest challenge directing such a wonderful but complicated musical?
James: The biggest challenge happens if people don’t show up! We have been relying on a big group of people and it can be difficult finding times when everyone is available.
Jevan: Organising schedules was a great challenge! Dance society meet throughout the week, Show Choir meet on a Tuesday and Thursday and Choral on a Monday and a Tuesday, so it was tough to find times where everyone was available. Most of our full-cast rehearsals had to happen on Sundays!
It was also a challenge to get people to really *go for it*, to come out of their shells and really perform in those big numbers.
Molly: What have you enjoyed most about directing this musical?
Jevan: All the laughter, we’ve been laughing all the way through. We had a rehearsal yesterday with the big band and everyone really stepped it up and seeing the performance come together made everything worth it!
James: I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much during a rehearsal process; there have been so many funny moments in rehearsals and on stage.
Molly: This musical brings together members of various performing arts societies, what has it been like working with such a diverse group of people?
James: Different people have different ways of performing; we wanted to make sure people were singing, dancing and acting, you have to be able to do all three, so we had to work on that with everyone, particularly those who hadn’t danced before, for example.
Jevan: Working with different people meant that we had to try and make people come together and socialise with each other as a cast, but now they’re a big group of friends and we keep having to tell them to shut up! We have people from Shoreline theatre, dance society, Choral society, musicians society and Show Choir, all with very different schedules and rehearsal times, so it’s been fun trying to put it all together. But they’ve really bonded, particularly with our cast social and the cabaret performance recently.
Molly: Shows and rehearsals take up so much time and energy, how have you managed to balance this with uni?
Jevan: With difficulty! But it’s been worth it.
James: Guys and Dolls was like a break from uni, I didn’t mind going to rehearsals or putting the work in because it was like, “I know I’m going to enjoy this”.
Molly: Students had to audition for roles in the production, what’s your best advice for auditions/what were you looking for?
Jevan: Prepare. Be familiar with the speech and song. Don’t come in with excuses, e.g. “I have a cold”, we can probably tell and can work out how strong you are anyway. Give your best and don’t be too afraid, we want you to do well.
James: Be chatty and confident – but not arrogant!
Molly: Jevan, how did you become Director?
Jevan: I was asked to direct one of the productions last year but it didn’t work with my schedule, so in May last year I started preparing to direct for 2018, I approached James and asked if he would be my Assistant Director, as he directed Cinderella last year, and we approached John Fish, the PA Rep, with our ideas and began to form our creative team.
Molly: What is your favourite – or your top three – favourite musical(s)?
Jevan: That’s a super hard question. Why are you asking me this?! It changes! Currently, *thinks for ages- I end up asking James and coming back to Jevan* Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and…. (eventually agrees with James) The Producers.
James: Definitely The Producers, my other favourite is probably Our House, mainly because when I was younger I used to listen to Madness all the time with my Dad!
Molly: Do you have any theatrical superstitions or rituals?
Jevan: Yes, I have loads. Don’t ever call The Scottish Play by its other name while in the theatre or rehearsals! No whistling in the theatre (this goes back to early theatre productions when whistles signalled ropes and curtains to be drawn by crew backstage…and the inevitable incidents that occurred by relying on no-one else to whistle!).
James: Before any performance, I like to walk around the theatre-I’ve done that since a production in secondary school. I just walk around the theatre. I also put my headphones in to relax me before a performance.
Molly: Now for a deep question, why does theatre matter?
Jevan: At a young age, theatre and drama help with building confidence, language and communication. Dance and exercise is a fun way of staying fit and culturally, the theatre is a way of sharing memories and stories, to delve into topics that aren’t usually discussed or thought about. Things like The Vagina Monologues or a lot of theatre by Brecht make us think about things we usually try and ignore.
James: Revolutions are started by the theatre! Theatre brings people together.
Molly: What have you learnt whilst directing Guys and Dolls?
Jevan: Directing is a lot of work, particularly when things don’t go to plan, [I learnt] how to adapt to that.
James: Directing can be fun when it’s with the right people!
Jevan would like to thank his James for being an excellent Assistant Director (and James would like to thank Jevan for being an excellent Director!).
Jevan and James would both like to thank their fantastic team: musical directors Catrin John and Will Bennett, choreographers Sophie Bishop and Sarah McIntyre, the arts team led by Niamh Grady, the tech team led by Reuben Das, Michael Jeffrey and Ash Cole, PA rep John Fish, Nathan Woodford-Rôtt for advertising and graphics, the “superb” cast and the committees of the PA societies for their continued support.
Guys and Dolls is showing at the Taliesin Arts Centre Friday 16th February- Saturday 17th February and tickets from the Taliesin Website or by calling their box office on 01792 602060