Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Wednesday Update

The last few days have been busy, but very fruitful. Preparations for Song of Extinction are moving boldly forward!

The First Read-Through
On Sunday, September 14th, we had the first read through of the play. Our producers and director and design team and I and the actors all sat around a table. We introduced ourselves and talked with each other. We read the play out loud. The designers talked a little bit about their ideas for set and lights and sound. Measurements of actors were gathered by our costumer. It was a good afternoon. These are the people who will be working to make my little play happen.

I was reminded of a story that Edward Albee told, when I saw him speak at the Great Plains Theater Conference. It went something like this. When Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was slated to open on Broadway, Mr. Albee went to the first read through -- and there were 43 people in the room. He went over to his director and asked him what all these people were doing there -- and if they realized that there were only four characters in the play. But the actors were there, and the actors' agents, and the producers and the producers' assistants, and people from the theater, and designers, and... Well. It takes a lot of people to make a play happen.

The Post Cards
Falling under of "things that you didn't realize you would have to think about," I've spent a good bit of time this week going back and forth about the postcard that Moving Arts is going to be sending out for the show.

Brochuers have already gone out -- more than 40,000 of them, amazingly -- sent by the Ford Theaters to all of their mailing lists, plus the mailing lists of Moving Arts, Circle X and Ghost Road, who are represented in this 2008-2009 [Inside] the Ford Winter Partnership Season. Those were season brochures, though... we also wanted to create a postcard/image/design that spoke specifically about our show. The three winter partnership theaters decided to go in together with the design money that is part of our grant and hire a designer who would be able to do postcards for all three groups. This will be great -- creating a consistency in the look of the pieces that will be good for all of us. Josh Worth was selected as our designer.

Josh designed a beautiful card around an image of a viola -- distressing it, so it looked appropriately battered, but still beautiful and rich in color and tone. Talking it over with Heidi and Kim, we all felt like there needed to be something more added to speak to the other layers of the play. It's definitely about music, and young Max's journey -- but it's also about Khim, and how he survived a childhood that was ravaged by the Cambodian genocide. And the play is also about hope, and survival, and transformation, and how you make it through. Which is maybe a lot of ideas to try to cram into a little postcard.

After a whole lot of discussion (how? how do we get all this across?), and with a deadline looming from the Ford folks for turning in our design, we decided to keep the viola, but have Josh change the background from the butterfly/jungle to bones.

If you've read anything about the Cambodian genocide, you know that the "killing fields" were quite literal. There are still places there where bones are scattered, whole fields of the dead. To me, this play is very much about the struggle between death and life. When do you let go? How do you hold on? In fact, I remember at one point (when I was struggling in the writing) making a chart about who was on the side of death and who was on the side of life.

Josh revised the postcard design for us, and I'm very excited. It's much darker. You can feel the conflict of death (bones) and life (music). As soon as it's finalized, I'll post it here.

The Viola
Young Max Forrestal is fifteen years old, composes music, and plays the viola. For the play, then, we must procure an actual viola. Another thing I did this week was help with the search for a viola that would fall within our budget. I asked over at USC's Thornton School of Music. (It's handy sometimes, working here, as I can usually figure out who to talk to about things.) They couldn't loan a viola to someone who wasn't actually taking viola lessons at USC (go figure!), but when I told Mr. Huffman why I was looking for a viola, he had some great recommendations of other places we could look. I wrote them all down and sent them to Kim Glann, our producer, who started making phone calls. She was able to rent a viola from a fellow who fixes them in his workshop for a very reasonable rate! The actor playing Max is supposed to go over there on Friday morning to be "fitted" for his viola. Apparently they come in different sizes for different people. The things you learn!

Yesterday afternoon, I was interviewed by Laura Hitchcock for an article in the LA Stage Magazine. She was very nice. Hopefully I sounded moderately articulate, and as passionate as I feel about this project!

Tonight, I'm going to try to put together a playlist for Song of Extinction for our sound designer, and the rest of the team. This play is full of music -- the song of extinction itself, written by Geoffrey Pope specifically for this play, but also classical music, sounds of the jungle and the hospital, Cambodian music... There were a few pieces that I listened to while I was writing, and several that I discovered as I went along, like the Flower Duet from the opera Lakme. I-Tunes makes this a much easier task. I have to say, I really love my little I-Pod. Finding music, purchasing music and enjoying music are much easier with this tiny little machine that fits in my purse or hooks on my belt.

Health and Fitness
Yesterday, I did Power Yoga with Rodney Yee before work. Today, I walked around campus, briskly and with I-Pod, during my lunch hour. Two gold stars. I'll try to earn another tomorrow. Every hour cannot be spent making plays. Oh, balance! You are hard to achieve. But I'm trying.


Peter said...

It's very exciting to read about the progress of your play...and I got a little recognition twang when I read about you fitting in walking with your IPod on. I do that...try to keep exercise clothes/shoes in the car and always have my pedometer with me...'cuz I want full credit for every step. :-)

EM Lewis said...

Hi, Peter! Thanks for reading!

Walking is good. I also love rollerblading, with or without I-Pod. Just gotta do it! I'm working on it.

I'm kind of a crazy woman right now, with Song of Extinction stuff going on. But we should meet up for theater some time soon! Hope all is well with you.