Posts filed under Adaptation

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!

Calafia Begins

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!

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."

THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS Nominated for 11 BATCC Awards!

Nominations for the 42nd Annual Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards were announced, and THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS is in the running for 11 categories:

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  • Entire Production Bay Area
  • Entire Production South Bay
  • Ensemble
  • Original Script - Min Kahng
  • Original Music - Min Kahng
  • Stage Direction - Leslie Martinson
  • Music Direction - William Liberatore
  • Choreography - Dottie Lester-White
  • Costume Design - Noah Marin
  • Lighting Design - Steven Mannshardt
  • Set Design - Andrew Boyce

Winners will be announced at the ceremony on March 26, 2018!

Playwright as Arranger

The process of writing the stage adaptation of Inside Out & Back Again has been a unique challenge for me as a playwright. Thanhha Lai's book uses a series of poems to tell the story of Hà and her family. In early discussions with Bay Area Children's Theatre, we decided Lai's poetry was so beautiful and vivid that we didn't feel it necessary to create new text for the stage version. All of the spoken words (with only a handful of exceptions) in the play are taken directly from Lai's text.

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My role in creating the play could be likened to that of an arranger of music, taking what already exists and re-organizing it to suit the needs of a play. In order to create my first draft, I typed the entirety of Lai's book word-for-word into a document I called "Source." When I decided which portions of Lai's text to include in the play, I would cut it from the "Source" document and paste it into my script document. I did this to keep track of which segments of the book I had already used, so as not to repeat myself in the script. I have cut, spliced, re-ordered, and re-contextualized the original poetry to try and create a version of the story that plays out well on-stage.

Some slight word modifications have been made. Since I wanted to avoid the feel of an overly long monologue from Hà's perspective, portions of text have been given to other characters in the story. Things like pronouns and verb tenses had to be changed to accommodate these different voices. But for the most part, any new text that I do contribute to the story comes in the form of stage directions – describing setting, gestures, reactions, visual cues to help accentuate and potentially convey more than what words might allow.

This method of building a script has had both its limitations and advantages. On one hand, sometimes I have wanted the poetry to provide words that it simply did not, and I've needed to find creative solutions to those problems by either re-contextualizing what is there, or by trying to go about it without words.  On the other hand, I have not had the problem of typical "writer's block," where you must generate words yourself, but can't seem to find them. In this case, all the words are there, and it's up to me to place them where I need them.

The result will hopefully be a piece that highlights Lai's beautiful poetry unpacked and opened up in a stage experience that will transport the audience along with Hà and her family.