My experiences writing, directing and producing Christian musicals for kids through adults.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sense of Timing

For the last month, maybe two, our family has been in the midst of scheduling. Registration for next year for our first homeschooling co-op was due April 14. For our newest co-op, registration was due April 17. We registered Aaron for his community college Running Start classes May 27. And registration for classes at the homeschool resource center begins June 7. Coordinating classes and needs and driving schedules has been, well, a giant puzzle. My husband notes that I am good at puzzles; however, this type of puzzle cannot necessarily be solved.

All that is for classes that begin next year. Spring is also the time for many people to schedule their summer activities.

In the process of getting the word out about our Summer Musical Theatre Workshop, I've experienced how different people's sense of timing can be.

The workshop is in August, which is months away, but our deadline is June 7. For some people, when they found out in early May, their inner scheduler said, "Gotta get my whole summer planned right now!" For other people, their inner scheduler thinks, "It's not until August. Why are you telling me now?"

I'm telling you now because last year I waited until mid-June and a bunch of kids couldn't make it because their families had already made plans. The other reason is that it takes time to 1) figure out which script bests suits the group that signed up, 2) adjust the script and send it out for actors to study, 3) hold auditions and work out the complex puzzle of who should play whom, and 4) allow the actors to start memorizing before we begin rehearsals.

When my husband was a music director at a small church, he learned that you plan Christmas music in July. I used to want to just plan my day or my week. Especially when the kids were younger and did not have outside classes, we did lots of spontaneous stuff. However, now that I have to work with other people - the church calendar, my kids' activities, other people's need to know ahead of time - my sense of timing has had to stretch.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is my Mother-in-Law Insane?

In some cultures, sending someone a picture of a dead pet is a threat. "Ya don't wanna sleep with da fishes, do ya?"

In the world of my husband's mother, it's just a cute way to say, Happy Birthday!

That's right. In today's mail was a birthday card for Randy. On the cover is a picture of a black and white cat, drawn in pastel markers several years ago by Randy's mom. Inside, the inscription reads, "Happy Birthday -- Mona."

Mona is not the name of my MIL. Mona is the name of the cat - who died about 25 years ago.

Maggie complains that the cat's eyes are looking at her -- from beyond the grave.

For the first 4 or 5 years of our marriage, I used to get small Christmas presents from Mona. "Who is Mona?" I asked the first year, wondering if I had overlooked a relative. "Oh, she's our dead cat," the family replied.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Big Props

I just put up instructions about how to make a stela on the website (see left for the link). It's under the Games and Props tab. We used the stela for Louisiana Jane and also as a random prop in last summer's Where Do I Go From Here? There's a great picture of our old stela too.

Our other proposed show for this summer is These Are the Voyages. It also has a big prop: a beacon. I modeled it part on Nomad, from the episode, "The Changeling." Sadly, the beacon was trashed after the original tour of the show, so I can't provide a picture. (It was pretty fragile and someone decided to toss it.)

I will tell you that it involved a lot of hot glue. I think it was my first experience using hot glue. And my beacon was much fancier. It had more color and parts sticking out. If we do These Are the Voyages again, I will create a new beacon. I will build it stronger and better - but I won't spend 6 million dollars.

Friday, May 21, 2010

There are giants in the sky!

. . . and on stage at Shoreline Community College. Jeremy and I saw their production of Into the Woods this evening. It was very, very good. I highly recommend it. There are some wonderful songs in the show. The Princes' Agony has always been one of my favorites. I guess being a sister between two brothers, I just love a good sibling rivalry song: "Agony! Far more painful than yours!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back to Writing

With all the administrative stuff I've had to do lately, and all the talking about sign-ups for the summer workshop, along with the rest of the stuff I have to do in my life, I haven't had much chance to sit down and actually write.

So when I finally get to a time when I can think about characters and what they should say, and do, I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh right, I actually enjoy writing! I enjoy listening to the characters in my head. I enjoy coming up with fun things for them to say. I enjoy fitting together different parts of the plot, even when it's difficult. ('But if A says X, then B has to give the mulligan to C to give to A first . . . ')

I'm working on my expanded version of Louisiana Jane right now. When that's done, I'll work on an expanded version of These Are the Voyages. Both these shows had to be kept to 50-55 minutes before, which meant that I couldn't develop some characters or parts of the plot as well as I would have wanted. Now that I can produce longer versions, I can develop those characters and put in the songs that Randy had written but would have made the show too long.

So what have I been adding?

I always liked the three professors in Louisiana Jane. They're experts in antiquities who can't agree on anything. Haley is a cheery chap. Lahr suspects everything of being a fake. Before we developed this through the song, "What Have We Here?" Now, I was able to add a scene in which they argue over the hors d'oeuvres. It was fun writing it. I'll also be adding the professors to later in the show. They're fun characters to play.

By the way, the three professors are named Bolger, Haley and Lahr. Anyone have any idea who they are named after? (Not that their characters resemble these people.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Five-hour recording session!

I picked up two of our favorite singers this morning and brought them to our house to record some songs for Louisiana Jane. We need a better rehearsal recording of it, since the sound booth mix we have from the show in 2004 has some crackling on it that we could not get rid of. M and A joined Maggie, Aaron, Randy, and Jeremy and me to sing the ensemble numbers. Jeremy had a rehearsal for a play that he is appearing in next week, so he had to leave, but there's no part for him in "Miss Compton's Finishing School" anyway.

I was hoping for 3, maybe 4 songs, but we managed to record SIX songs! And that was with technical difficulties -- such as Finale getting hung up or quitting a few times -- and Randy needing to transfer the last two songs stave by stave from Finale 2004/2006 into 2010. (He found out he has to transfer it like that if we're going to record vocals; otherwise, no vocal track. Go figure.)

In between takes, the girls and Aaron read through my script for These Are the Voyages (the Star Trek show) on my laptop. That was written back in 2002, when Aaron was the youngest person in the cast at only 9 years old, and it was gratifying to hear the girls frequently erupting in laughter.

By the end, we were all pretty tired and it took us three takes to get the final number right, or good enough. But it's done. Now Randy just has to convert the music files to a different format, equalize, and put in the right order with the other music, and they're ready to go.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why do we put on these shows?

Usually I ask myself that question when we're a few days away from performance and I wonder if it will ever turn out right and some disaster has just befallen us and I tell myself, 'never again.' But today, in a calm mood, I ask, Why the arts?

I think it has to do with two things: our hard-wired desire for narrative and our innate desire to create.

I read last year that some neuroscientists had discovered that our brains our hard-wired for narrative. That means we like to take in information through stories. When you read an article, which do you remember the most, the facts or the anecdotes? God knows this, of course, and that's why the Bible contains more narrative than exposition, and why Jesus taught so much through stories. Stories reach us through our hearts as well as through our heads, and can touch us in ways that a simple lecture or sermon cannot.

If we are made in God's image and if God is the Creator, then He must have given us the ability, and the desire, to be creative. People create in all sorts of ways, through the arts and through technology (think of Edison and how his creativity led to electricity in all our homes), even through how we teach and communicate. Musical theatre is an art form that combines several of the arts: acting, singing, storytelling and writing, music and song-writing, dancing, set design and costumes, lighting, even joke-telling . . .

Our desire is to use this wonderful, exciting, narrative, and collaborative art form to tell stories that not simply entertain, but that enlighten and encourage, and that give honor to the Creator and Redeemer of us all. That's what the arts are for: to draw us toward God and to give glory to God.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Thinks" on Seussical!

Saturday night we saw a production of Seussical!, a short 3 months after we saw Maggie perform in Seussical!. It's always interesting to see how two different directors and companies interepret the same show.

I particularly noticed the costumes. One difficulty is how to costume Horton the Elephant. Do you go for the minimalist approach of plain gray clothes? Or do you put on elephant ears, or, as I saw in a photo of a third production, an elephant trunk as well? I argue against the trunk -- it's important for the audience to be able to see the actor's face. And, after all, these are anthropomorphic characters, so it's more important for the audience to identify with the character's emotions than to think every time we see him, "He's an elephant." Both actors who played Horton in the two productions were excellent, by the way.

The character of the Cat in the Hat is particularly difficult. Frankly, he's a trouble-maker. Although he encourages JoJo to be imaginative, the "thinks" JoJo is lead into usually get him into trouble. But the Cat has to be charming enough that we don't mind the trouble, or we have to trust that the Cat will help JoJo through the trouble to a happy ending. The Cat in the Hat in the production Maggie was in was particularly excellent. Jenny was so cheerful and full of life that we didn't mind her mischievious nature.

My favorite role in the show is probably Gertrude McFuzz. What a great role for a comedic actress and singer! And both girls who played Gertrude in the two productions I've seen were excellent in their own ways.