Posts filed under Composition

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!

THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS Cast Album is here!

Photograph by Hans Cardenas

Photograph by Hans Cardenas

After two days of recording in January, followed by six months of squeezing in studio time, the original cast album for THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL MANGA is finally here! On Monday, we celebrated with a release party at the Opal Nightclub in downtown Mountain View, hosted by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Of course, I have had access to the album's files for a few weeks now, as we were waiting for the CDs to be published. But the excitement from folks at the party was so invigorating and uplifting, I was filled with gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the journey of THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS so far. Now, with this album, more people will be able to experience the music of the show. And hopefully, it will help us get to a second production soon enough!

KINDA HOME's kinda first reading

Last night, at the Potrero Stage, we presented our first ever public reading of KINDA HOME... kinda. We only presented Act I, because there is no music written yet for Act II. Brad and I learned so much through the process and working with director Leslie Martinson. And Playwrights Foundation graciously let us crash their Festival venue since it wasn't being used this particular evening. As always, having actors embody the characters brought so much clarity to their relationships, as well as honed our understanding of the pacing and flow of the piece. We had a great turnout last night as well (thanks to all who attended!), with many remarking they couldn't wait to find out how Act II plays out. Neither can we!

Magical Moments from the TheatreWorks Writers Retreat 2018

Our room is all set up for the actors!

Our room is all set up for the actors!

Last week, playwright Brad Erickson and I participated in the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Writers Retreat to work on our project Lowcountry (assisted) Living. Our main goal for the week was to get a draft of Act One complete. I'm happy to say we met that goal (though, of course, we are already thinking about revisions to be made). I last took part in this special retreat four years ago when I wrote the first ever words and music The Four Immigrants. We, the writers, are basically given resources (a room, a piano, access to wi-fi and printing, etc) and actors to work with, and aren't given any specific instructions for the week, other than to create and to present some bit of our creation to an audience of donors at the end of the retreat. I cannot stress how helpful and crucial this "open playing field" is to the creative process. Our time was split between solo work, dramaturgical discussion, and running new drafts of songs and scenes by actors. Two magical moments in particular stand out to me.

One evening, I stumbled upon a core idea for a song and decided to stay later to work on it. While writing it, I had a moment of emotional connection to the song, which is often a sign to me that I'm on the right track. In short, I was crying. The next morning, I played and sang the song for Brad at the piano, with him sitting behind me. While singing it, I could tell that Brad was also crying, and I purposely avoided turning to look at him, because I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the song. Afterwards, we had a laugh about it, but also noted that this song contains something powerful and central to one of the character's plotlines. That was magical moment number one.

Headshots and programs for the day of the presentation!

Headshots and programs for the day of the presentation!

The other occurred after we did a run-thru of our rough Act One and received feedback from the artistic staff at TheatreWorks that the focus of WHO the story was about didn't seem consistent or clear. I started to see that the opening number I had written was perhaps a culprit. Only four characters sang in the opening number, but Brad and I definitely wanted all eight characters to have equal weight in the story. I proposed the idea of expanding the opening number to include and introduce all eight with interweaving parts. Brad liked the idea, and I felt strongly that I should try to complete this expanded version in time for the presentation on Sunday (this revelation came Friday afternoon). So with only one day and two hours to work with the actors, I worked like a madman on Saturday adding in all of the new parts and creating an opening number which I felt painted a fuller picture of what the story was about. I was running on adrenaline and risk. Hats off the the amazing group of actors who took on the challenge of the revised song like the pros they are. After our first sing-thru, I think we all felt like it was a much stronger opening for the show, and with some adjustments, we were able to perform the piece on Sunday.

I'll forever be grateful to TheatreWorks - their staff, donors, and volunteers - for creating this environment for magical moments to arise. What might have come about slowly on our own time seemed to bubble up to the tops of our minds thanks to the space and freedom the Writers Retreat afforded us.