The Selection, The Musical: Turning a YA Book into a Musical

Today we have a guest post from Dawn Abron at the Zion-Benton Public Library in Zion, IL

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Like most towns, we are a community of musical theater fans.  Teens who appear in every musical in high school can go through withdrawals especially if you don’t have a theater in town.  This program can be a great way to attract a different group of teens to your library while promoting reading.

Our first YA to musical show was The Selection by Kiera Cass.  Below you will find our process of one our most successful teen programs in recent years.

Please click here to see the final production on Youtube.

FIRST MEETING

  1. Pray that at least three teens show up.  You can at least do a one or two man show.
  2. Decide what book you will transform into a play/musical. Our teens wanted books that our readers were familiar with and the nominees were Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, fractured fairytales, and The Selection.  Because we had more girls than boys, they decided The Selection would be best because there are a lot of females in the story.
  3. Decide the cast, director, writer, and choreographer.  If you have multiple people who want the same part in the cast, have them audition.
  4. Make sure you have a responsible director that will be at practice on time and can keep the cast focused.  If you can’t find a director, you as the staff will have to take the position.
  5. Talk about the book you have chosen and how you are going to turn it into a 45 minute play/musical.  Make sure your writer(s) are taking good notes.  The writer should ever be able to read the book quickly or have already read the book.
  6. Set up practice dates.  It took about nine 2-hour practices for The Selection. Our practices were either 4-6pm or 6-8pm.  We stressed to our teens that if they missed two practices, they were out of the play.  Luckily we didn’t have to remove anyone.  Tip: Have them put practices in the phone calendars or get everyone’s phone to send txt reminders.
  7. It’s important that the writer(s) complete half or all of the play by the next meeting.  All of our teens have gmail so we set up a Google Doc for the writer to create the script and for the song writers and choreographer’s to see the script so that they could prepare songs.  The Google Doc also allowed staff to see the script to provide guidance.

SUBSEQUENT PRACTICES

  • We let the director take charge and we only chimed in when absolutely necessary.  We were even able to let the director lead practices without our supervision.
  • During practices, your prop director can work on props and your choreographer and musical director can work on the music. Your writer can work on the playbill/program. Tip: We recorded the choreography complete with song and uploaded it to Youtube.  This way, the cast can practice from home.
  • During an early practice, have the cast take pictures with their costumes.  Use the pictures for print and online PR.
  • You will need a stage crew to change the sets between scenes.  Crew can be your writer, your prop director, and your choreographer.  If you need more, cast members who have died can assist.  They should be in all black.  Tip: Have each scene setup tacked up backstage so the stage crew doesn’t have to remember setups.
  • Your musical director (or choreographer if you don’t have these jobs separated) should run the music backstage.  They need to practice with the cast once all the music is prepared.
  • If you make script changes along the way, make sure everyone changes their script or change it in the Google Doc and reprint at the end of every practice.
  • Your final 2-3 practices should be complete run throughs and in the room of the performance. This way, you can fix everything before the final performance.  (Complete run throughs include set changes, props, and music).
    • One of your practices should be a hair and make up consultation.  Whoever is doing the make up should know how it should look before the show.  Because all the characters in The Selection have particular personalities, their looks should match.
    • Most high school teens have their own make up. To save money, have them bring their own hair and make up supplies.
  • FYI-for the whip and gun shots, we used an app on my phone.
  • Give your cast and crew flyers to hand out to their friends and family.
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Final Production

  • Have your teens come in 2-3 hours before the show get into costume and hair and make up.
  • Have a sewing kit ready for wardrobe malfunctions.
  • Food.  The teens were too nervous to eat before the show but buy sandwiches for the teens who will eat before and refrigerate for the teens who will eat after.
  • Record it!

Budget

We spent about $75 on dresses from the Salvation Army, make up, and food for practices and final show.

Final Thoughts

Staff did minimal work but the mental exhaustion was the worst.  Not knowing if teens were going to show up for practice, if they were going to remember their lines/choreography, and if we were going to get an audience was a drain.  However, the teens had a great time and they are excited for next year.

Here’s a link to the Google Doc of our script of the Selection. If you use this, please make a copy and make necessary changes. And here’s a link to our photos.

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