After two days of recording in January, followed by six months of squeezing in studio time, the original cast album for THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL MANGA is finally here! On Monday, we celebrated with a release party at the Opal Nightclub in downtown Mountain View, hosted by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Of course, I have had access to the album's files for a few weeks now, as we were waiting for the CDs to be published. But the excitement from folks at the party was so invigorating and uplifting, I was filled with gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the journey of THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS so far. Now, with this album, more people will be able to experience the music of the show. And hopefully, it will help us get to a second production soon enough!
Last night, at the Potrero Stage, we presented our first ever public reading of KINDA HOME... kinda. We only presented Act I, because there is no music written yet for Act II. Brad and I learned so much through the process and working with director Leslie Martinson. And Playwrights Foundation graciously let us crash their Festival venue since it wasn't being used this particular evening. As always, having actors embody the characters brought so much clarity to their relationships, as well as honed our understanding of the pacing and flow of the piece. We had a great turnout last night as well (thanks to all who attended!), with many remarking they couldn't wait to find out how Act II plays out. Neither can we!
For the last two weeks of June, I got to participate in Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Ground Floor Summer Lab. What's great about Ground Floor is that they offer playwrights freedom to work on and explore their plays as needed; they do not require any kind of presentation. Some writers end up sitting in a room and typing away. Others hold public readings of their work, like I did for my play Calafia: A Reimagining. I haven't been able to finish a first full draft of the play yet, but I learned so much from discussions with my director, dramaturg, and actors -- as well as from audience feedback after our reading. I'm excited to see what directions Calafia will take as a result of the exploring, churning, and learning that happened during Ground Floor!
I recently took a trip to Charleston, SC to do some research for KINDA HOME, the musical I'm collaborating on with playwright Brad Erickson. Since the story takes place in the Lowcountry, I figured it would be good for a Californian like me to actually get a glimpse of life there. I went on a few historical tours, got to interview a couple theatre folks, and Brad drove me around showing me locations that relate to his own family's story in KINDA HOME.
I spent the last week in NYC on the advice of Playwright Foundation Artistic Director Amy Mueller. Since one of my goals is to gain more national exposure, she suggested I find agents I'm interested in working with so that she could make a formal introduction. Then, I should book a trip to New York to meet with those folks. My honest reaction to this suggestion was "I know I have to, but I kinda don't want to." I think I have this impression that the "New York elite" is very insular and tough to penetrate. It felt intimidating to begin knocking on doors for face time. So, while I went through with the steps and booked my flight, I would tell people with a bit of a shrug and a dismissive sneer, "I'm just going to New York to shmooze."
When I actually met with these industry folks though, I was so pleasantly surprised. In addition to agents, I met with an artistic staff, an educational director, a theatre publisher, a book publisher, a playwright who is further along in her career, and a composer who is further along in his career (in addition to catching up with a whole slew of actor friends). All of these individuals (save for maybe one) turned out to be quite generous and kind. Sure, a few of them were very matter-of-fact, but I appreciated candor over beating around the bush. All of them also gave smart and welcome advice. None of them had to meet up with me, none of them had to give me any advice, none of them had to get to know me. But they chose to.
I've come away from the week with a new perspective on "shmoozing." First - yes, it is hard to penetrate a bubble if you don't have a connection, but it only makes sense then to make the most of your existing connections. And for me, I had Amy Mueller and other folks who recommended people to meet up with, as well as people who I had already met previously and just needed to reach out to. People are busy, and they can't tell which cold e-mails or calls are from people who are worth their limited time. So a professional recommendation or introduction from a trusted colleague gets their antennae up. Second - theatre people are theatre people. There may be some jerks in the mix, but really we're all just wanting to contribute to the performing arts scene in whatever way we can. Most of us would rather make a genuine connection than "shmooze." In fact, I think I need to stop using that word entirely, because it has such a slimy, self-interested connotation. I was on a networking trip where I made many great connections in my field. I hope I never have to "shmooze" again.