Revisiting, revising, and reviving MOUNTAIN

There was a time when I believed the 2014 production of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: A Musical Adaptation would be the only time the story would make it to the stage. Not for a lack of trying, mind you. After the world premiere closed, I met with director Mina Morita (currently Artistic Director of Crowded Fire Theatre) and BACT Executive Artistic Director Nina Meehan to talk about where the show could go next. We looked at festivals and other submission opportunities. And then, it all came to a halt. There was a potential movie deal in the works, so any adaptations of the book were not to be produced. This was very sad to hear (and wouldn’t be the last time this would happen), and I came to terms with the idea that the show would only live on in a much-cherished memory.

Then, in 2017, news came that further productions of the show would be allowed by the publisher. BACT wanted to do a remount. And South Coast Rep wanted to include it in their Theatre for Young Audiences programming! So we went from zero chance to getting two productions in the 2019-2020 season. One of the biggest changes this time around is that, due to budget constraints, there won’t be live instruments. I took this opportunity to completely revisit the show, tightening and shoring up the previous script, and even penning a new reprise that hadn’t existed before. The BACT remount is in previews right now, and it has been poignant seeing the show return to the Osher Studio - where the world premiere occurred. This show that I had thought would never see the light of day again is getting its second go starting this weekend, and its third in February in SoCal.

All this, I suppose, is a lesson in “You never know.” That doesn’t mean I should have held out hope against the odds. I believe it was right for me to make peace with the idea that the world premiere would be the only production of Mountain. But you just never know how events might turn and surprise you as you make your writer's way.

Chelsea Wellott as Minli in the 2019 BACT Production. Photo by Roger Jones.

Chelsea Wellott as Minli in the 2019 BACT Production. Photo by Roger Jones.

That Unattainable Expanse

Lately I find myself imagining a future when I will have more time. More time for research, for reading, for creative exploration, for taking classes, for playing video games. But I actually wonder if these are all fantasies that will never be realized. July and August were supposed to be months that were more freed up, more flexible. And while July started that way, within about a week or two, tasks arose that seemed to take over my schedule. Sometimes these were planned tasks that took longer than I had expected. Or they were completely out-of-the-blue tasks that suddenly needed my full attention. And if I’m honest, I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.

That said, I was able to carve out time for a week-long vacation in August. So I’m not saying that I will never have time off. But there’s this idea that someday I will have a very freed up and flexible calendar that I will get to waft through, selecting whatever my heart fancies to focus on. This idea may not be real.

What is real, however, is that I do get pockets of time to wander. I might have 30 minutes one evening where I can read without falling asleep. Or find myself with the time, mindframe, and a sudden urge to take 15 minutes to watch educational videos. Or listen to music. Or play a bit of a video game. I think I need to get used to the idea that instead of an unrealistic vast expanse, my creative explorations will more often than not take the form of “an hour here, an hour there.” But just like the doctors say your weekly 150 minutes of exercise can occur at any time during the week and at any interval - I think this piecemeal exploration ultimately adds up to the expansive version in my head. At least, I hope it does?

Red Rock Canyon. Another kind of vast expanse.

Red Rock Canyon. Another kind of vast expanse.

Posted on September 4, 2019 and filed under Creative, Thought.

Hello, Old Friend

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I haven’t opened this script in almost two years. After my post-production dramaturgical meeting, I decided to let The Four Immigrants rest on my bookshelf until the time for revisiting emerged. Thanks to the upcoming concert presentation at USC this fall, that time is now. And while I have thoughts about what I might want to revise, I find myself a tad overwhelmed. How do you even begin to approach something that has been such a huge part of your career? To focus in on the minutiae of something that consumed a large chunk of your time previously, and yielded such memorable and rewarding results? Where do you even start to deconstruct something that has felt so central to your sense of self?

I could learn a lesson here from Grace Lin’s Minli, who, as she gazes upon the Paper of Happiness reads the word that is meant for her: Thankfulness.

I am so thankful for the relationship I have had to The Four Immigrants, both Henry Kiyama’s original work and my adaptation. All of the people I have crossed paths with as a result. And the ways in which I grew.

And it turns out, with thankfulness acknowledged, the script allows itself to be revisited. And the work is no different than before. Bigger picture, specific moments, character arcs all come back when I put aside the idea of how daunting it all is and replace it with a sense of gratitude for what it has all meant. Time to get to work.

Discussing Brecht's GOOD PERSON

Recently, choreographer Natalie Greene and I discussed how we tackled Brecht in Cal Shakes’ current production of THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN. Take a listen to the podcast episode below! But SPOILER ALERT: Listening is only recommended once you’ve seen the show!