Saturday 25 July 2020

The Latest

The book of the musical (the parts not sung) is a year away from being done. The norm in musicals for decades has been that Act One is longer then Two, and more packed with songs, as is the current version of my Charlotte and Wilbur, now on hiatus. Adjustments are required.
Just now, for the 47th time, I paused over the order of the two names in the title of my play. After the work-through with actors last month, Charlotte came first. They're her daughters at the end, she was the first to do the saving of life, and she's the one memorialized. 
Still, I kept writing Wilbur first. The argument goes like this: The utter innocence of his identity as springtime pig--i.e., slaughter by Christmas--creates the eventual salvation. His need is what drives the story.
Yeah, well, it ain't that simple.
It might come down to the matter known as "the rights." As in, who has them and must, therefore, be appeased before any adaptation of the source, in this case Charlotte's Web, can be licensed. Wilbur and Charlotte, strictly as title, suggest more distance from that source.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Upon Re-reading Charlotte's Web

A culture of sleep for the humans and animals of Charlotte's Web--of my adaptation too, since I'm a napper--could come in handy for an organic staging of the story. The actors never leave the stage, just drift to the edges and back as needed. The center of the stage is everywhere they need to be. Numerous costume and set pieces are stored on hooks and shelves within easy reach around the perimeter, as if inside a porch, shed, or barn door. Each character becomes identified with a distinct piece--minimal, portable, expressive.
There are no scenes as such. It's one continuous scene for Act One, another for Act Two. Here the culture of sleep ensures that someone, or everybody, often gets still and quiet. No character is immune. Though speech and action subside in these moments, the audience's reactions and expectations do not. One or more of the sleepers wakes up, and we're on to the next bit. Furthermore, the sleep habits of all characters offer various durations, from over night to a few minutes. As much time and space as a director might need, in other words. 
I've already noticed that the concept sketched above feels more fertile and free than composing the 24 scenes in the draft the actors worked through last Friday. Some of the scenes worked well, but in shaping them I left bits out that enrich the story.
So go the notes I made on re-reading the novel yesterday and today. Another reminder I took from Friday's session is that I don't have to be a slave to E.B.White's telling of the story, beautiful as it is. Yet here I am, implying that now I can retrieve many of his details I didn't use.
This I have to work out. Hello July!