Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Musical Moment Ago

janitor:                       Here’s a song about playing cards with dad.
somebody else:        Groaners!
janitor:                       I know.

About five minutes ago, I was noting that what I like most about writing this musical is writing lyrics that work. That and playing the piano. Well it's all been fun. 
S.Sondheim said how could anyone hear my songs as statements about myself since every one of them comes from a character someone else invented?
For shows early in his career--West Side Story and Gypsy--he did not write book or music, only (some only!) the lyrics. 
Yes, but what I started to do was refer to the extract of dialogue, above. It's supposedly part of the janitor's patter before he launches--tips erratically, would be more like it--into a poor-boy song on the model of "The Boxer" as done by Jerry Douglas and the guy from Mumford. This would happen during the party in the Amenities room. Afterwards, anyone in the room would add him to the list what an "amenity" is, or they'd get up and leave. 
I'm not sure what he'll say about rhyme, should the matter come up. 
Anyway, the dialogue. I find it really hard. It calls for more control than I'm used to applying on what my character might say. That's why it occurs to me that someone else might as well do it. I'm far from ready to go that route but it's a perfectly reasonable one.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

It, Now

Maybe I should call the whole musical that. It, Now
I'm going to the opening of A Christmas Carol at Globe Theatre tonight. I've become fond of the show and its creators through my work as an audio describer, gearing up--I'm 95% there--for a Dec.16 live description of a Saturday matinee for people with vision impairment. (They're on receivers; I'm on a noise-reducing mic at the back of a balcony.)
So I'm going to the opening . . . 
I heard Ron Howard, on a facebook trailer for his online directing course, declare that at the core of any project is its certainty to break your heart, or words to that effect. 
On a balmy day like this one, the heartbreak will come, sure as winter. I'm thinking of this task I've undertaken. The further I go, the harder to turn back. 
But my play has hummed to a useful point of reckoning: what to do about Patty, the woman I imagined locked out--the very beginning of the piece. Especially if she's the focal point of the opening number set in a downtown park. You mean she has to do more than sing and dance and throw in bits of dialogue?
So what I'm going to do, as soon as I'm finished here, is write a page of dialogue involving Patty and her parents, who moved into the building to be near. Dialogue about how she feels, with her parents on the way to the pool. I'll rewrite it every day for seven and see where it gets us. 
If point of reckoning, then Opening--a front row seat, in fact. 


Monday, 13 November 2017

Today a Week Later, the Musical

One wonders how to end. Putting off an ending in favour of chronic beginning only works for so long. 
It occurred to me a few minutes ago, as I was composing what verse each character would contribute to a love song . . .
Let me back up a little. Act Two, I imagined, begins with a few tenants (members of the Champlain Association of Tenants, or CAT) sitting around in the newly renovated amenities room not just doing the obvious--wondering what "amenities" might mean--but telling stories about being locked out. They compare tactics. For his part, Patty's dad says that what he does when he's locked out is work on his love song. What love song. Well I'll sing you a verse, he says. But it's not finished. And he sings, to guitar accompaniment, a single verse of a waltz both contemporary and traditional that says, to summarize, if I say anything lovely, I hope it's to you. It doesn't sound too bad. Either he or somebody else says why don't we each add a verse. Paleo Joey, who operates a food truck, says what is this, folk music? I don't think I can do this tempo (to which others reply, we don't either.) But he does, a verse about the smell of his burgers, which hopes reaches you. So there we are with this "you" on everybody's lips . . .
One of the ending moments in a story like this is the act of singing itself. The premise of this piece is that everybody wants out or in of/to something. The source of whatever issues they face--something within themselves, no doubt--shows up as isolation.
A beginning. Eventually, they sing.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

T, the M

I was talking to a lighting designer down at Globe Theatre. I asked her if it was a possible on a stage the size of Globe's--25', close to square I think--for two spotlights to evoke two separate rooms at the same time. She said maybe, but it would be top lighting. If I wanted faces to be visible, there'd have to be lighting from the side, and one light would bleed toward the other. 
To solve that problem, she said (I'm paraphrasing), what you can do is establish the cue with the top lighting, then elaborate. In other words, after you put the idea of "room" into your audience, you can play with it while maintaining the illusion. 
Observations such as these help fuel what I'm up to with this musical. I do remember Sharon Pollock telling us years ago in Nelson that if you want a million birds to fly up in front of your windshield in your play, write it into the script. The director will make it happen. I know it doesn't quite work that way--Nicolas Billon told us recently that in one play he wanted a huge block of ice in which a corpse is frozen. He had to settle for a few ice cubes in an aquarium upstage center. Still, if I want two rooms, write "two rooms." 
But I'm glad I asked an expert if it might work.
I was thrilled by her nod to audience. As I've tried to say before, the audience is what matters. It behooves us--it really does behoove!--not to forget it. 
(Remembering now something Hammerstein said: only when the curtain comes up is the circle complete.)
(And remembering now the flamenco audiences in Andalusia, which shared with performers moments of mutual need.)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Today etc.

So there's this couple, in their 70s, going strong but for the usual "body flaws." They explore this concept in a song set both in their living room at a downtown heritage apartment (called today, for the first time, the Champlain) and at the local pool in high summer. Feeling free in the sun, the husband and wife sing and dance with noodles and floaties and balls--a pool toy story. They don't sit down until the end, which is where we leave them. They'd started that way when Patty, in the hallway, walks by their apartment, ear cocked. She gives us a dozen words of exposition and disappears until needed again. At the same time, the man and woman stand up, a tad unsteadily, and they're doing a verse at the pool. Of course, for the location switching to work, it has to work. I think it will.
Writing such a scene, I have to believe it. And so will the actors, so the audience believes it.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Today, the Musical Again

I admit that talking about differs from doing. Nevertheless (a dandy old word to type), talking helps. Though I already knew that this musical, if it's ever finished, will be Book Six in my Man From Saskatchewan series, until this afternoon I hadn't realized what that meant. What is means is that matters of downtown history and architecture, City policies (especially parking and zoning regulations), and development trends in the Transition neighbourhood, must find footing in the piece. These are matters worth singing, the way I see the world when I'm writing, is what I'm saying.
I must have mentioned in a previous entry that "The Key" began with the image of a woman locked out of her heritage apartment and about to see if someone can buzz her in. She consults the list of names in the wooden case by the inside door. She sings a song called "Names." That's at present the second scene, but anyway the names thing was a result of Provincial Archive research I'd done into the earliest days (1928) of the Frontenac, where I live. I listed who lived in which of the 55 suites, and when I wrote up a short essay and gave it to the apartment owners, Nicor and Campbell & Haliburton, who are into heritage, they printed the piece and framed it for display during an open house in the renovated Amenities room (which in '28 and forever thereafter was marked with a metal "A" instead of a number). 
We get along fine, the owners and most of us, most of the time. But in the musical, we'll see!






Thursday, 26 October 2017

Now, the It, Part Many.

You might as well know his name--Paleo Joey, a character in my musical. Since whatever I say about him doesn't matter until he speaks for himself, I've gone ahead and noodled around with notions about this guy.
Paleo Joey is the name of his foodtruck business, to be more precise. He runs a honkin' big Kurbmaster with all the trimmings. His idea of exotic is the burger he sells, made the way he's always made them, and his mother before him: beef, an egg, chunks of garlic, green onion, leftover oatmeal, mushroom, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. 
Well that last bit crept up on me. What occurred to me today about character--as I fretted over how all the characters could avoid being versions of myself--was that it was moods I should go for. And figure out later whose they are. 
I think our friend PJ is divorced. He claims he got into cooking when he realized that the ten foods he loved most--tomato, potato, bread, honey, banana, peanut butter, onion (he's partial to walla walla), olive oil, coffee bean, garlic--should not be stored in the refrigerator. From then on, he thought about how food felt.