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 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.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Today the You-know-what, Part Next

Patty knows she can show up at somebody's door out of time. That is, no "later that day" or "the week before" or "for the third Tuesday in a row" required. 
But the question is, whom will Patty visit? (If Patty's telling it, maybe she'd use "who" in that question.) They don't have to be knock-on-the-door visits. She could sneak past the door, pausing to listen. She could pretend. She could be told about it. She could remember. All that has to happen is that the scene be cued, at which time Patty could vanish until needed.
I'm less enthused about research on condo conversion (which, supposedly, is the issue hanging over all the characters) (condo diversion, I scrawled at first at the coffee shop this aft, as if to escape my task). If people have to come together around this issue, I'd better know how.
It's fine to speculate in this manner because until I find out what Patty, or somebody else who carries the story, wants to do, I won't know.
In the meantime, I'm going to try solo percussion for her hallway dance. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Today, the Musical, Part 11

The process of creating this piece is the process of opening to collaborators. To that end, today was the first meeting of our two-person support group. "There can't be that many of us writing musicals right now," he (this person who shall remain anonymous) said. 
We compared notes on scenes, process, timeline, what our pieces mean to our respective artistic practices.
His is a theatre and hip-hop background. He's a director and actor. Everything he does is about how it is for anyone else to experience it. As a poet, I was more private in my pursuit. I know I've got to get with actors and a designer and a composer/arranger and a director.  
Just talking to this guy opens my process a bit.
Meanwhile, back in the opening scene of "The Key," Patty, over the hot opening vamp, animates a bunch of strangers in a downtown park to sing what's on their minds, which turns out to be a list of complaints about matters political, personal, psychic, urban, residential, etc. from which they all want relief. It ends on the button: Patty standing on a park bench, everyone else kneeling with their arms outstretched toward her, ready! This will bring the house down, if it works.