Posts tagged #Bay Area Children's Theatre

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.

The Journey of GOLD: 8 years in the making

L to R: King Midas (Matt Standley), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), and Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston) on their annual stargazing picnic.  Photo by Alessandra Mello.

L to R: King Midas (Matt Standley), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), and Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston) on their annual stargazing picnic. Photo by Alessandra Mello.

GOLD: The Midas Musical opens tomorrow at Bay Area Children’s Theatre, and while it is my 9th world premiere, it actually has a past that begins all the way back in 2011. Nina Meehan, Executive Artistic Director of BACT, approached me with a commission to adapt the Midas myth into a musical for young audiences - particularly targeting those in upper elementary and above. I loved the idea of expanding this classic myth for contemporary theatregoers, and with a proposed opening of 2012, I set to work on it right away - writing sketches of about four songs and crafting a script that focused on the relationship between Midas and his daughter. But then, the direction changed.

Nina thought a stronger new work would be one that addressed Greek mythology broadly, rather than the one myth. Of course, she was right. I was just starting out as a writer, and BACT was just starting its programming for older kids. A show about several Greek myths would be more readily appealing to kids (Percy Jackson was just kicking into high gear), and had more potential for educational value for teachers. And so, Midas went into my figurative drawer, and Tales of Olympus was born. After its world premiere, Tales went on to a Bay Area school tour, a touring production in Chicago, a young actors adaptation, and will once again be produced at the Children’s Museum Indianapolis this summer. So yeah, good call on the Greek myths thing!

But I always knew I wanted to re-visit Midas. In 2016, I opened the file and started to work on it again. It was strange. In those five years, I had changed as a writer. The jokes and lyrics felt like a younger me, and I had to think hard about what of the original sketches could be retained if I were to actually finish it. I completed the piece enough to do an informal table reading at Playwrights Foundation, to which Nina Meehan was invited. After the reading, she expressed interest in seeing how it developed further. And so, I continued to work on it, keeping her up-to-date on latest script drafts. Then, she included in BACT’s 2018-2019 season.

L to R: Nysus (Andrew Mondello), Hilarion (Christian Arteaga), King Midas (Matt Standley), Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), Hestia (Sheila Townsend).  Photo by Alessanda Mello.

L to R: Nysus (Andrew Mondello), Hilarion (Christian Arteaga), King Midas (Matt Standley), Princess Lydia (Elisha Beston), Queen Midas (Aly Casas), Hestia (Sheila Townsend). Photo by Alessanda Mello.

It’s very apparent to me that had I finished GOLD in 2012, it would have been a completely different show. In the eight years from conception to production, I have transformed into a much more competent, self-aware, and experienced writer. I believe I was able to bring an emotional depth to GOLD that might not have been there if I completed it on its original due date. Of course, there are still remnants of the original draft - three of those original song sketches have stayed in the show in some form, and I don’t know that I’ll ever lose my childish humor that others like to call “Min jokes.” So, GOLD feels like a sort of commemorative piece for me. A marker to show how much I’ve progressed in career and creativity. I’m proud it’s getting to see the light of day, and I hope you’ll be able to see it before it closes!

A magical moment of empathy: Inside Out & Back Again

Krystle Piamonte, who plays lead character Hà in the current production of INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN, recently shared this story on social media, and it was so sweet I just had to include it in my blog:

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"Today after our first matinee performance, I received the most precious note/gift from one of our littlest audience members. A mom and daughter duo came to see INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN and handed this to me after the show. The mom said her daughter felt bad that I was having a rough day (I cry about 3x in this play) and that she wanted to write me a note to make me feel better. She also included this cute lollipop. I’m overwhelmed by this little girl’s empathy and kindness. It’s these kinds of interactions that remind me why theatre is a powerful way to connect to our humanity. Thank you, little girl. You made my heart so full today."

Story Explorers Tour Begins!

Thanks to the generosity of some individual donors, Bay Area Children's Theatre is able to take Story Explorers on the road! We are able to visit a few special needs classrooms this year and present our sensory-friendly, interactive shows designed specifically for them! Words don't do the experience justice, but I think this photo by Melissa Nigro captures beautifully the wonder and meaning that performing these shows brings to me.

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My Year in Review!

A shorter version of this year-in-review was e-mailed to my Newsletter recipients earlier this week. I can often be hard on myself, focusing only on what else I need to achieve, and staring at task lists and check boxes in order to feel like I'm getting somewhere. I can feel like I'm falling behind or failing or not doing enough. So these kinds of reviews help me see the things that I have accomplished, and remind me to take a moment and be proud of my work.

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I want to start by acknowledging that for many of my friends and colleagues, 2017 has been a very difficult year. I know too many people who have felt the ripple effects of political policies that seem to strengthen messages of hate and bigotry, rather than freedom and diversity. Additionally, there seems to have been an onslaught of natural disasters this year that continues to this day with the Southern California Fires.

Still, in the face of these trials and traumas, I have also seen amazing creative work flourish around me. I am honored to be part of a theatre community that is committed to being bold and unrelenting in its story- and truth-telling. 2017 has also yielded much fruit for me in my writing endeavors. Here's just a snapshot of highlights by month:

JANUARY
Bad Kitty On Stage! opens at TYKEs in Rochester, NY
Conducted in-class workshops for Story Explorers

FEBRUARY
World premiere of Story Explorers at Bay Area Children's Theatre

MARCH
Invited as a Guest Speaker at UC Berkeley to discuss Story Explorers
Helped out as a "Resume Doctor" at the Theatre Bay Area Conference

APRIL
Workshop of The Four Immigrants at Playwrights Foundation

MAY
World premiere of Step Up Crew begins touring Bay Area schools
Bad Kitty On Stage! opens at the Gifford Family Theatre in Syracuse, NY
Table Reading of Song of the Nightingale at Town Hall Theatre

JUNE
Rehearsals for The Four Immigrants begins at TheatreWorks

JULY
World premiere of The Four Immigrants at TheatreWorks - my first LORT Production

AUGUST
First Table Read of Inside Out & Back Again at Bay Area Children's Theatre

SEPTEMBER
The Song of the Nightingale opens at Town Hall Theatre

OCTOBER
Taught a "Song-aturgy" class at Musical Cafe

NOVEMBER
The Four Immigrants receives the Theatre Bay Area Award for Outstanding World Premiere Musical

DECEMBER
Workshop for Inside Out & Back Again at Bay Area Children's Theatre

Now onward to 2018!