Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hitting Curveballs

Click for audio version of blog post

So today was the first rehearsal of my musical "Liberators," which went very well although it definitely threw a few curveballs my way. I should probably learn to expect the unexpected from every rehearsal I run in my entire career...But, that's the way it is, I suppose, in my line of work. As a composer you're constantly forced to rely on other people to produce pretty much anything at all (at least anything worthwhile). And today was no different.

The rehearsal was scheduled to started at noon, and at 11:55am, my playwright Eric Jones and I both receive a text from one of our performers who wanted to notify us that they were unable to commit to being part of our cast (although they had been on the cast list for over a month at this point). So, we were left with a gaping hole to fill in our cast 5 minutes before the first rehearsal... However, something else you're forced to rely on as a composer is a bit of luck. It was just my luck that my friend Alyssa Weathersby, who had helped me workshop my songs for this musical for months now, was attending the rehearsal as our choreographer & musical director. As it turns out, she was more than willing and way more than qualified to handle reading through the script the rest of the cast, acting the roles of multiple characters she had never even read before. Her involvement in the whole thing really saved the day, and it got me thinking about what it takes to be a successful composer; it's not just about writing solid music, and maybe it's not exactly luck either. It's about knowing who to count on and surrounding yourself with good musicians, good people, and good friends. People like Alyssa are all 3 of those things, and no composer can do their job without them.

So, we managed to hit the curveball out of the park! We essentially performed a run-through of the entire 1st act with people "cold-reading" the script, songs included. Despite the fact that it was the first time most of the actors had looked at the script, it all went really well and I learned even more about the power of the script by seeing take shape in rehearsal. Certain scenes of the play, which I had read dozens of times before, I suddenly found the humor in, and the whole room of performers lol'd numerous times! And the other more dramatic scenes, once the skilled actors had injected their passion into them, suddenly became alive and real and heartbreaking. The whole experience was a taste of what I sense will be an addicting process: watching a musical drama come to fruition from the ground up, and watching the hearts and minds of all those involved be moved with it. The experience couldn't help but remind me of an acceptance speech that I heard at this year's Tony awards. I cannot recall the name of who spoke it, but it goes something like this:
        Theater begins with someone who has a world in their head and tries to put it on paper; 
        This is the Writer. 
        Then, someone takes the paper and tries to turn it back into a world; 
        This is the Director. 
        After there is a world, some people decide to fill this world with the human spirit;
        This is the Actor.
        Finally, a group a people decide that they would like to explore this world, 
        with all the danger and beauty it might hold; 
        This is the Audience. 
These words acknowledge that all persons involved in a theater production, the audience included, are vital to its purpose. With even one of these components missing, none of them can find fulfillment in the work at hand. I hope the message of that speech sticks with me throughout this process and that, when all is said and done, every person involved in the theater world that we create leaves it feeling that they are better for it. That's really all I can hope for.

It's curious that I'm drawn to this speech about the theater, considering it doesn't mention the composer at all. So, where do I fit in in all this, you ask? Well... I'm still trying to figure that out. The Writer, Director, Actor, and Audience all have their own job, and I guess it's my job to make them all sing.

If you care to listen to one of the songs I've recorded for the musical so far...

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