Monday, 15 January 2018

Oak Floors, Flaneurity

He's still in the show, this flaneur. He speaks first, emerging from darkness as we all do. "It's getting toward noon," he says, as the light rises. "It's summer, a glorious summer." He carries on, pointing out a bench or two, a tree or two, a sidewalk, lawn, which appear as he mentions them. Urbanites are gathering for a break at noon hour, relaxing, checking their news feeds. A vamp builds out of the downtown noise-track--the engines, sirens, back-up beeps--and away we go with "Song to Sing," the opening number, a catalogue of things that bug us in this world. If I have my way (and whose other way would I have), this opener will bring the house down, and we just started! The flaneur, meanwhile, has faded to the edge of the scene, stepping forward again after the button to guide us into the next scene--Patty locked out of her apartment.
All very neat when I put it that way. Need I remind you, dear reader, of the obvious pitfalls of this enterprise? Nah.
But today's immediate matter is whether the flaneur speaks in prose or verse. So far, it's both. I think I have to go one way or the other. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Oak Floors, More About The Flaneur

I call him, now, the flaneur (with that tent accent over the a), this figure who hovers before and after scenes, taking us around. Only we can see or hear him, though he's willing to chat with whoever comes along.
As flaneur, he walks, of course. The hallways of the Oak Floors are perfect for that. He's freer from time than the rest of us. He takes his job seriously, for a nut.
I must resist the temptation, however, to make this figure the hero of the piece. He's about audience only. What they need to stay with the show.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Oak Floors, The Musical

Every time I see a rehearsal, I learn something. Today I was able to catch the run for lights of Around the World in 80 Days, opening in two weeks at Globe Theatre. 
There's a narrator, at times. His/Her voice fulfills the simple task of letting us know what world we're living in, in this play. 
In recent days I've been think about inserting such a function into my musical (which is now known by the title of this blog entry). This Balladeer, as I call him, will guide us into and through the world of the piece without, I hope, getting in the way. Until these last few days, a young woman named Patty had the job of animating the transitions from scene to scene. I rather liked the hallway dance she did, and how just by cocking an ear toward a door as she passed she could get us into a scene inside. Now the Balladeer (a name I like less every time I use it) will do it.
As with every choice I make with this work, the pitfalls are plenty. But so far, so good. Patty, I think, will turn out to be more interesting when she's less responsible for moving things along. 
As long as this B. voice doesn't say too much. 
Closing note about one of the characters, whom I'd dubbed Paleo Joey, also the name of his food truck business: His real name is Paolo, from Portugal, and he's heading for a fado session with the nurse, Evelyn.

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.)