Thursday 12 December 2019

Sondheim and Lively (the writers, not the roots band)

In explaining his Finishing the Hat--first of two volumes of complete lyrics, with commentary--Stephen Sondheim suggests that "the explication of any craft, when articulated by an experienced practitioner, can be not only intriguing but also valuable, no matter what particularity the reader may be attracted to" (page xi of his Introduction). Only if written well, I might add, which his book is, though you wouldn't know it from the above quotation.
Delving into Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively, I become that reader. I'd picked up the book, in its pressed-flower jacket design, while browsing the memoir stacks at RPL, between "English fiction" and "English essays" in the Dewey Decimal system.
I'm no gardener, but Lively's literary, socio-botanical tour of a single word, garden, caught my eye and hasn't let go yet.
As in Sondheim's book, it's the writing, of course. So skilled, so beautiful, you can't stop reading. 

Monday 9 December 2019

The Pitch

Felt good to me. I covered my points, kept the energy up, took it to the pair of artistic directors who will decide which shows to run in their series.
One key, I'd say, is the flexibility of my Oak Floors! a Heritage Cabaret in terms of staging, casting, scoring--qualities that would come in handy for this company.
Now I leave it, this musical of mine which isn't one until it plays to an audience.

Stylistically, whiteboard:

Sunday 1 December 2019


In a few days I'll have ten minutes to pitch my show to a professional theatre company. Let's see how the pitch goes with ten minutes of typing. Go!
It's called Oak Floors! a Heritage Cabaret. A chamber musical. Scaled down from two acts, 18 songs, now it's about 60 minutes, 10 songs.
The apostrophe is an homage to Oklahoma!
The play is set in the Oak Floors, a heritage apartment building at the edge of downtown. 
Stylistically, it's a cabaret, meaning a series of songs/scenes with a host who comments on, responds to, and occasionally participates in the scenes. I call him the Flaneur. 
Thematically, it's a play about time. How could it not be. Specifically, it's about the life of a building, which began with high hopes in 1929, endured stock market crash, depression, changes in ownership, breakdown and deterioration, renovation, possible condo conversion, etc. 
The other major theme is love in a time of loneliness, or vice versa. The seven characters--an older couple good at aging, a university student on the delayed degree plan, a janitor who loves his machines, a nurse who's a cat-whisperer, a single guy who complains, and the flaneur--try to locate themselves on the love-to-loneliness scale. Where are they? Where do they want to be? Will it change tomorrow? etc.
In terms of tone, the play is seriously playful. That is, it manifests deep respect both for heritage, which despite its occasional institutional silliness does make cities better, and for any individual's search for, or resistance to, connection.
Though written for 7, the show could be done by as few as 3 singer/actors, one of whom would be the on-stage musical director.
The songs exist as simple piano reductions--melodies by me, with harmonic layering by Carter Powley.
The play would be fun, instructive, flexible to stage.
The one set piece would be a door frame, with door, on wheels. Every scene would begin and/or end at/through this doorway. 

That's ten minutes. When I'm actually talking the pitch, I'd work in a note about resolution: a coming together of the two thematic streams, which interact throughout. Characters will accept or not the effects of time and the scars of love and loneliness. Living in the same building, they're separate but linked.
The company would hire the actor/singers, apply its resources of marketing, design and production, stage management. And a director. I'll provide the script, the charts, the images for projection (which I forgot to mention above--twice in the play historical images are projected, as a way of covering the historical narrative) and any help I can with the rest of it. I'd be perfectly happy to hand over the script and disappear until closing night, however.