Bonjour, mes amis!
Where the Sondheim have I been? That is a very good question.
Much has occurred in the past weeks, not the least of which has been my return to college and the struggles that have resulted. I’m taking six classes, and directing a play and trying to workshop my musical, and-
I feel as though I’m getting a handle on it, though. I directed another play recently and the performance was the Saturday before last. It was, to quote every Broadway person ever, FABuLOUS!
I really love directing plays; I would like to say there is something artistic and noble ingrained in my DNA that makes me want to contribute to the Theatre, but I have to be honest and admit that I am a control freak and like an excuse to tell people what to do.
O, the struggles of a controlling ego-maniac aka a theatre director.
So, to get back to my last post: I promised I’d tell you all about my fabulous and theatrical week.
Well, every winter/spring there is something that comes to town that gives theatre writers the opportunity to leave their cramped desks in abandoned attics or wherever they live, and go out on the town, arrayed in their black velvet finery. This something is known at the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops.
ASCAP (as you may know) is like the union for songwriters. You can sign with them and they will offer you protection and make sure you get your royalties and don’t get stolen from. Beyond this, though, ASCAP has various divisions which provide opportunities and events for songwriters. The Musical Theatre division of ASCAP has something called the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops, which is where one act of a brand new musical is presented to an audience, and then a panel of judges (Stephen Schwartz and then some fabulous special guests) critique, comment, and generally try to bestow wisdom upon the writer of the musical.
By attending these workshops, one is able to benefit from the panelist’s wisdom even if it isn’t actually directed at them specifically. Last year I went to the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops in New York (click here for the whole fabulous story) and this year I was invited to attend the ones in Los Angeles. I was quite excited. In Los Angeles the workshops are spread over two evenings and culminate in a show called An Evening With Stephen Schwartz, where basically, the genius behind Wicked performs some of his incredible music and spills fabulous songwriting secrets to the audience. Aka: the best thing ever.
This year in Los Angeles, ASCAP fell just several days after the performance of the song from my musical (see: my last post), and it was really quite fabulous because many of the people I’d met during my musical performance also attended ASCAP and we got to clutch each other and cry about Stephen Schwartz singing “Because I Knew You” with Megan Hilty (which happened, I kid you not).
My ex-collaborator was there (you know of our terrible past I believe) (click here for a dramatical memory boost), but we pretend to be on good terms and didn’t push each other off the mezzanine, which I thought was quite a good sign.
The shows that were presented were quite unique. The first was a story about a young boy who is a nerd (which is bad apparently *sniffs dejectedly*) and he meets a robot who helps him deal with bullying at his school. I thought it was an interesting premise, although cliche in some respects. Stephen Schwartz said he liked it, but that the main character was too angry and not likeable enough. I thought this was interesting. One often tries to make their main character smart and sarcastic, but this can translate into unlikability and unlikability doesn’t work very well for protagonists.
The second show was by a seemingly very young young man who had just graduated from NYU (ah, the glamour) (I love NYU) (mostly) and was about the early life of Tennessee Williams. I thought this one also had an interesting premise and I liked it more than the first one. The music was very beautiful, a little Southern and very contemporary musical theatre, think Jason Robert Brown mixed with Pasek and Paul.
The story was quite interesting too. I knew that Tennessee was gay and had a difficult family life, but I didn’t realize that he also was schizophrenic and obsessed with the poet Hart Crane. Trivia tidbits of fabulosity, my friends! There were some Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire references thrown in which I, play fanatic that I am, quite appreciated and laughed at much more loudly than was necessary.
Stephen Schwartz said that he loved the songs, but that the story needed a bit more structure. He also said that in musicals, the writer often has to explain things much more to the audience than one would think necessary.
Remember that fabulous time Stephen Schwartz listened to my musical? He said the same thing to me! He said “don’t underestimate the value of repetition”. The audience can’t see into your brain, after all.
After the shows, I waited at the stage to talk with the genius himself, Stephen Schwartz! He was rawther mobbed, but he definitely remembered me. I know because I said:
“Stephen hello, it’s me, Lillian, the one who wrote the musical last year that you appreciated!”
And then Schwartz shook my hand and said: “I know“.
*sobs and sobs and sobs*
Then he wished me good luck with my new musical. It was, quite frankly, one of the most fabulous moments of the year!
I really felt like I learned a lot at ASCAP. After the three nights of ASCAP were over, I was, I admit, rawther sad, but I am eagerly looking forward to next year!
Have you ever attended something similar? Have you ever seen a brand new musical?! Please tell me, and I want to say, I am terribly sorry that I haven’t been writing or commenting on your posts, my other darling theatre geek bloggers, but to quote Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the Musical, I’m “Back in the game, back on the case!” Even though “back on the case” doesn’t really work.