Lancer Spotlight: The show must go on–Emma Davis student director for Little Women

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courtesy of Mrs. Smithhisler

Emma Davis directs the cast of Little Women during their after-school practice.

“Let’s get this show on the road!”

Emma Davis, the student director of the spring musical, Little Women, has had to adapt to the strict Covid limitations that have impacted the production process. With the audition process, readings, after-school rehearsals, set designs, tech crew, costumes and planning for opening night, Davis has many obstacles to overcome as she strives for a memorable final performance.

Each year, the Linganore drama department chooses a student director to help run their selected musical or play. Being a student director is a huge responsibility; they work alongside the director, build their leadership skills, and experience what it takes to produce a show.

“I have been in every Linganore drama production since I was a freshman,” said Davis. “I have wanted to be a student director ever since I saw alumni Maggie Clugston work. She has always been an inspiration to me and a role model. I knew I wanted to be a strong director like her.”

Normally, auditions are in person. They last for about a week, with each day focused on singing, dancing, or acting. After the designated audition days, there would be call backs to determine the leads. This year, auditions only lasted two days, including callbacks.

“The audition process was different from past years. We had students audition online with their singing and acting over Google Meet,” said Davis.

Due to the limitations on how many students can be gathered at once and on stage spread out at one time, casting the roles and cutting people was harder than ever. Emma Davis’s first major directing decisions came during the casting period.

“We chose a musical with a smaller cast so we could fit social distancing rules on the stage,” said Davis. “We usually have a big ensemble with new members such as freshmen who want to experience the department. But, this year we have a cast of about 15 people.”

Although the auditions were virtual, the rehearsals were allowed to be in-person. The students need to follow strict guidelines, including wearing masks all of the time and social distancing on stage. The cast is on a three-day-a-week practice schedule until tech week.

“On Monday, we practice acting. On Tuesday, we practice singing. Lastly, on Friday, we work on tech. Practice is also much shorter now that we can’t be in a room for longer than two hours,” Davis said. “Our tech crew is also much smaller. We can’t have a makeup crew or costume crew because of Covid.”

Since it’s a small cast, Emma and the cast members have bonded. Malia Smaha, one of the leads in the musical, supports Emma on her success as student director.

“She’s doing absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better student director during this crazy time,” said Smaha. “She’s so patient. She’s able to keep us under control while still joining in on the fun!”

Emma is in charge of taking attendance and making sure everyone is on task. At the moment, she is figuring out blocking for scenes while still considering the social-distance spacing on stage. To help the actors get into character, Emma researches fashion in the 1860’s to imagine what the characters wore every day. She also helps develop the rehearsal schedule.

Emma has a lot to do for the production of the musical, but  Angela Smithhisler, the teacher director of Little Women, gives Davis her assignments.

“I create the cast list (alongside the assistant director and student creative team members). I create a rehearsal schedule. I conduct rehearsals, and I organize lots of other elements for the show,” said Smithhisler. “I’m also the choreographer of the dance numbers, as well as the technical director, so I create the lighting cues, set design, and other parts of the show.”

Unless the guidelines change, the cast is planning to perform live.

“Our audience will probably be restricted to 100 per show, but we can’t wait to have a live audience again. We open Thursday, May 20th at 7 p.m., and our closing show is Saturday, May 22 at 7 p.m.” said Smithhisler.

She’s doing absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better student director during this crazy time.”

— Malia Smaha

After graduation, Emma is attending Towson University. She plans to major in education and minor in history.

“I am a graduate of the Teacher Academy of Maryland, and plan to work in Frederick or Howard County,” said Davis. “I have learned leadership from being a student director and plan on using those skills in my future classroom.”