5 Tech Tools Every Director in the Musical Theatre Industry Should Be Using

—Theatrical Rights Worldwide

New York, NY           January 31, 2014

Here’s the five newer tools, and some shameless plugs for our preferred stuff, that are becoming indispensable for the directors in our office in NYC and our friends around the world in pro, community and school theatre production:

Click to watch a quick video about Show|Ready

1.  Digital Music Rehearsal Apps Ok, this list-topper isn’t new, but it’s got a new sheriff and is the grandmommy of them all:  A computer program that will playback a rehearsal accompaniment from a virtual player that is perfect for repeated starts and stops from specific measures, endless choreography rehearsals, pounding out parts and more. This program is designed not to replace your talented and wonderful rehearsal accompanist (who may well be you or your music director or both!), but to free that human being up for more advanced pursuits like vocal coaching, orchestra rehearsals and mani-peds. While this technology has been around for quite a while now, it’s ‘newer’ and number one on our list, for recent innovations from some new players in the field. Bold new companies like Right On Cue Services (ROCS) have developed a brilliant new rehearsal accompaniment tool that has revolutionized the modern musical rehearsal environment. To get in-depth on what this thing actually does, get to know Show|Ready here. If you are already using available rehearsal accompaniment programs for your rehearsals, you know how super-productive those hours are, as your cast is able to hear and learn their individual parts via their smartphones and computers. Make changes to the dance break? Cut a verse to a song? No, problem. You make changes and instantly transmit the new version of the song or show to every company member! You can constantly update your edits and get that out to your people pronto! Show|Ready is the new standard for rehearsal accompaniment. Programs like Show|Ready are available on a by-title basis from whatever licensing company represents the show you are doing. Some use Real-Time music and other companies that have rehearsal players. Whatever show you are doing, ask your licensing agent if they have digital rehearsal tools. Or just say, “do you have the computer thing that plays for rehearsal?”

Scene Partner App Screenshot

2.  Line-Learning Apps No one expects this in the number two slot on this amazing list. But, years of theatre from both sides of the tech table have taught me that an actor who has mastery of the material earlier in rehearsal is an actor who will be able to use rehearsal time for the detail, depth and the true commitment she can find through getting beyond just memorization. Mastery. An actor is one with the text so he is able to truly forget it until the moment he NEEDS to say those words. There are as many tried and true ways to learn lines as there are actors. New theatre-tech inventors have attacked the task of line-learning with new apps that are uniting actors personal electronic devices with their, hopefully, ever-present duty: Running lines. I think #3 on the annoying actor list is…all of us. Like vampires stalking our next victim in the Green Room or waiting in front of the rehearsal room door until that poor cast member approaches and…”Dude, can you please run my scene with me?” “Are you off-book?” “Totally. I memorized it last night. I just need to run it real quick. Thanks.”And so we begin. We dutifully read the other part and our friend gets a few lines correct and then…”Um…line. What is it??! That’s not in there, is it?? I KNEW THESE LAST NIGHT!” And so it goes. When I was a boy (…oh, no!), I used an ancient tape recorder to record all the lines and then just the other lines, leaving space for my line. Given my style of acting, sort of an overblown 18th Century Shakespearean shout, with lots of elongated vowels, I never left enough room for my line. “The Queen, my lord…is…dead…” A three second line would come in around 45 seconds. The point is, the extremely smart people at ScenePartner have developed a brilliant new app that will be your scene partner any time you want. Like the rehearsal accompanist tools, I think this one takes the drudgery out of theatre tasks that must be done so you can get to the fun part! And, in alliance with rehearsal accompaniment programs, you can create a rehearsal where smart, prepared actors are a part of the initial creative process, not a roadblock. When a part of a licensed TRW show, you’ll receive codes to unlock your script for a nominal charge. Way less than all the coffee you could buy bribing folks into running lines with you.

The GoButton App in Action!

3.  Virtual Player for Audio Cues Apps “NEVER HIT PAUSE AGAIN!” So says the GoButton website, home of a hot new smart sound player app designed for live shows! The scoop? GoButton is your sound cues – “mobile, untethered. Consistent & foolproof, show after show. Anywhere you take your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.” After reading the product description, We took it for a drive during a recent production of MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT, and are happy to say that this baby lives up to the considerable hype. CD’s take another hit here for sure as Go Button plays your sound cues exactly the way you want, at every performance, from one pristine player. To have the entire soundscape for our production, practical sounds, voice overs, everything, all from one button was amazing. The ability to make fades, auto-stops or auto-follows, loops, ducks, and the tons of other on-board features takes this app over the top to the indispensable category. Take this thing for a spin NOW.

4.  Digital Perusal Apps Staying on top of the latest thing in any industry is a key to career success and no less so than in the always-hungry-for-new-titles contemporary musical theatre game. You can use PerusalsNOW or any of the great e-script services available from licensing companies to keep your edge! As an artistic director (that means you pretty much decide what shows happen…teacher, director, board member, play-reading committee,  principal, critic or audience…or-or the traditional ‘I’m moody and wear all black and I see and read everything and here’s the new season’ type) you are the person they count on to say ‘yes!’ when asked, “Have you ever seen DAUNTLESS DICK DEADEYE?” “Why yes! Yes I have,” you’ll say…if you were in London in 2006 and saw the 2006 Olivier Award-nominated best musical. OR…You can read it and impressively respond, “No…but I’ve READ it!” Cheers erupt. Your place as arbiter of what show yer doin’ next is intact. But, time will tell you that you can’t see and read everything! Now you can read and hear musicals right now.

Light Pen

5. Pen with a Light App Ok, so this isn’t really an App or even high-tech. What it is, is super cool. Write your notes in the dark! This device will instantly set off a chain-reaction of positive things for your theatre organization and you personally:  First, a practical thing, your notes to the cast and crew after tech/dress rehearsals will be delivered 15-30% more efficiently than without this magic pen. The time spent trying to de-cipher one’s own writing vanishes.

-Fred Stuart