Tuesday 19 January 2021


 Yesterday I read Charlotte's Web again and, for the first time, the adaptation by Joseph Robinette. 

E.B. White's novel presents the darkness and light of human experience from birth to death through the hours, days, seasons, years. Its presents ways of knowing beyond science and religion. It honours language by making Charlotte a writer and everybody else a reader. It illustrates the constraints we live within and the wonders that can release us. It offers characters of mystery and depth and profound simplicity. It does all this with wit, with love, and with exquisitely quiet prose that utterly rehabilitates the worn-out sentiments of trust, friendship, terror, hope, and despair.

I want to adapt the story not to change it, but to present it in a new way: sung, danced, staged. My assumption, as I've said in this blog before, is that the power of White's novel would be enhanced by the power of musical theatre. 

There's little magic in the Robinette adaptation. It reads like a mediocre sitcom, or mediocre MGM drama circa 1948. It attempts to accommodate as many moments from the novel as possible. In doing so, it flattens the magic.

If I'm going to pursue my adaptation and, say, apply to an arts granting agency for funding, I would make my case along the lines sketched in this blog entry. I would say "adapt" does not mean simply "change the story." In this case, it means change the medium in which the story is presented. (Even at that, changes are made: selection of details, revising dated racial or gender references, inserting bits of my own brand of wit and wisdom (if any).) It means making the case for musical theatre which, for me, comes from this simple realization: that the deepest emotional engagement I feel while experiencing any form of art comes as a musical theatre audience member. As an artist, what I want most is to create such an experience for others.

Monday 18 January 2021

Hiatus Hiatus

 Dedicated readers of this blog (good sunny morning to you, Uncle Satchell and Aunt Paige) will have deduced that my work on Charlotte and Wilbur, a musical adaptation of Charlotte's Web, has not been happening lately. (True, though an All Terrain Theatre production of "Wilbur's Tale," a different adaptation, for one actor, of the same book, is underway for the Tic Toc Ten Short Performance festival in early April.)

Now it's time to either extend the hiatus, give up on the project altogether, or get back to work on it. To help me decide, I've been listening my way through a stack of musical cast recordings, an excellent podcast series called "Piece By Piece" (not the Kelly Clarkson single), and my own piano stylings via songbooks from the library. Today I'll read Charlotte's Web again to gauge the current status of my commitment to it. 

There's one other item that has been haunting my work on this project for a year: the Joseph Robinette musical called, yup, Charlotte's Web. This is the version that has been around for a couple of decades. I've had a copy for months but until today have refused to open it for fear of (1) copying it subconsciously and/or (2) finding it so good that how could I possibly attempt something better.

If I'm going ahead with my own musical adaptation, I must come to terms with why, especially since one already exists.

Today I'll decide.