When is a musical "done?"


A question many artists face is "At what point do you know you are done with your work?" When do you put the paintbrush down, hit that print button, finalize the master? For those of us in the performing arts, the occasion of an opening night helps provide a cut-off date. In most cases, it's inappropriate to make considerable changes to a show once it's opened, so that first performance of a run is as good a marker as any to indicate doneness. And sometimes, we need that marker to tell us it's time to stop and let the work live on its own as is. That doesn't guarantee, however, that we will have a strong internal sense that the work is complete.

In fact, I often feel that a show of mine is never done. Or at least, there is always room for my work to be tweaked, re-thought, analyzed (case in point, the newly revised version of The Song of the Nightingale opening at Town Hall Theatre this month). I like to think of it as a question of whether the work is "done enough." This can be just as vague and difficult to pin down, but at least it doesn't imply an ominous finality to the work.

Learning when my work is "done enough" has been a matter of practice and experience. This is the value of readings and workshops. Each time I bring a play or musical to a group of actors to read or sing, I aim for it to be "done enough" for that particular occasion. I try to approach productions the same way. What needs to be "done enough" for opening night? There will always be threads of story or thought that would be interesting to explore. There will always be other decisions that characters can make. There will always be the relative aspects of art that can be debated for years. But, is the musical "done enough" to present in a reading, a workshop, opening night? I have found thinking of the work in this way far more helpful and far less harrowing, because it holds out hope that once closing night hits, I am welcome to re-open that script file on my laptop and begin cracking away at it again.

Posted on September 5, 2017 and filed under Creative, Composition, Musical Theater, Performing Arts, Thought, Writing.