Posts tagged #Altarena

The Nightingale Returns

This past weekend, The Song of the Nightingale opened once more in the Bay Area, this time at Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette. This is the first time I've had a second local production of a show, and a newly revised one at that. I approached this production as an experiment: if The Song of the Nightingale had a new theatre company producing it with a new creative team and a (mostly) new cast, what would I discover about the show? I'm excited to say that I learned that the story of the show still shines through. The design elements, direction, and actor choices may be new, but the characters remain trackable, even more so with the new revisions.

I also learned that this show is a very meaningful experience for the cast members. There are very few musicals that feature Asian-American actors, and those that do are problematic for a variety of reasons. I received feedback from actors in Nightingale that they were very proud to be a part of this show. Several of them felt that for the first time, they could be themselves onstage and backstage. That they weren't putting on a white character or a white perspective of what it means to be Asian. It has been a goal of mine to create more roles for Asian-Americans in musical theatre, and I'm so honored to hear the effect it's having on my friends and colleagues.

Finally, I discovered that I love this show. It holds a very special place in my heart as my very first passion project for musical theatre. The script and score are certainly written by a younger me, and it was an interesting challenging revising the material in a way that stayed true to that younger style of writing. At times, I did wonder if those watching it would sense this "younger me" and consider it an amateur attempt at writing. But while watching it on opening night, I felt confident that I love the show for what it is. The Song of the Nightingale will always be the project that started it all.

Folks from both the Altarena and the Town Hall Theatre productions of  The Song of the Nightingale  pose together on opening night!

Folks from both the Altarena and the Town Hall Theatre productions of The Song of the Nightingale pose together on opening night!

The Surprise of the Nightingale

The creative process is unpredictable. Case in point, check out these drawings:


"What am I looking at?" you ask. These are character sketches I created for my upcoming musical The Song of the Nightingale from about 20 years ago. Of course, back then I wanted to be a Disney animator, which is why I drew the characters out. Do you see how I even created a Nightingale logo (check out the upper left hand corner)? Ever the brand marketer I was.

Starting from the top right corner, you see the earliest iterations of the characters now known as Madam Wu, Xiao Hai, The Emperor (who uncannily looks like the Sultan from Disney's Aladdin; that film must have been fresh on my mind), Mei Lin, The Nightingale, The Fake Nightingale and Lord Liu Bing Wen.

This drawing had been tucked away in an old sketch book until recent years. And there was a good stretch of time when I thought it was all just meant to be a relic of a child's imagination. In fact, I used to consider making a living in the arts to be wishful thinking (would you believe I once thought of going to business school because I had no idea what else to do with my life?). Thank God I snapped out of it. Thank God I actually decided to take that first acting class after college. And I auditioned for that first show. And I volunteered to vocal direct for that first community production.

All this to say, the creative process for The Song of the Nightingale has been a circuitous one. It has been as much about how I have arrived here as it has been about how did I write this. Just as the Emperor in the fairy tale is surprised by the effect of the Nightingale's song, I find myself repeatedly surprised that this show is actually being realized. But I think the me from twenty years ago is sticking out his tongue at me and saying "I told you so."

Posted on September 23, 2013 and filed under Career, Creative.