Sunday, October 19, 2008

Back to Los Angeles!

I'm sitting here on Sunday morning with both cat and laptop on my lap, and a cup of coffee beside me. It's been a busy week, getting back to real life after Ashland, and catching up with everything here in Los Angeles.

Song of Extinction Rehearsal
On Wednesday, I attended a rehearsal for Song. I've missed a full week, and wanted to check back in and see how things were going, as well as give my director the new scene I wrote in Ashland. I saw lots of growth and depth in the actors, connecting with their characters and with each other. In less than a week, we have our first run-through in the theater itself -- [Inside] the Ford.

I've moved into fluttery, nervous playwright mode a little. In the writing, one can feel sure-footed, at least some of the time. In control of the world you are creating. But to make your play into theater, you have to give over to a whole bunch of other people -- director and actors, producers, designers, composers (in this case) and musicians and finally an audience. You have to demand things, but you also have to trust people. You should check in regularly, but can't back-seat drive. It feels a little bit like throwing a baby bird out of the nest, hoping it will fly.

I hope my play will fly.

The Edge of Ross Island
On Thursday, I had a great talk with Bennett Cohon. He's producing one of my short plays, called The Edge of Ross Island, over at Write Act Repertory Theater, here in Los Angeles, as part of an evening of short plays that he's calling "The Freeway Series." I'm delighted to have this chance to work with him!

Bennett and I had been playing phone tag a little, but finally connected and ended up talking for half an hour about my little ten minute play. It was a great conversation, though. I felt like we were very much on the same page about who the four characters in the play are, and what they're trying to do. I'm going to try to see a rehearsal at the end of the month. Write Act is practically across the street from [Inside] the Ford, and both plays will be running at the same time. Funny how these things happen! Several writer pals have plays in the same evening, including Richard Martin Hirsch, Herman Poppe and Hindi Brooks. I'm looking forward to the show!

And then there was music...
On Friday, I was torn. Heidi was doing an all-cast run-through of Song of Extinction, and I would have liked to have gone to that. But instead I walked over to the USC campus after work, to participate in the recording of the song of extinction. Geoffrey Pope, the composer I engaged so long ago now (2 and a half years? more?) to write a piece of music for the play had arranged a violist to learn and play the piece for us, and a sound guy to record it. Kim Glann (producer) and I attended, carrying notes from our sound designer, Jason Dupplissea.

What fun! Renata Van Der Vyver was our violist -- a masters student in USC's Thornton School of Music, who is originally from South Africa. She was fabulously talented, and the sound guy, Barry Werger, was smart and knew not only what he was doing, but how to draw the best from the musician he was working with. The new version of the music -- which Geoff calls "Disembarking" -- is dynamic and strong and demanding and existential. I love it!

It wasn't just a matter of recording the piece of music. If it was just that, Kim and I probably wouldn't have been needed at all. But the idea of Song of Extinction is that young Max Forrestal is composing this piece of music throughout the play -- bits and parts of it coming to him at different points. We needed Renata to give us those bits and parts too, and some pieces of Max practicing arpeggios and scales, and some of his frustration with how things are going in his life, that are coming out in his music. I told them the story of the play, and described it to them as music standing against death. They seemed to like that idea, and get what I meant.

One extra bit. I don't know if it will make it in, but at one point, when Renata was giving us "frustrated Max playing," she did something very cool with her viola. (She makes that baby sing like you wouldn't believe.) I heard something that was very insect-like -- a chittering sort of sound. Since there are several scenes in dream-Bolivia, with insects, and since we had a little time left, I asked her if she could make her viola do that on purpose. With Barry's guidance, she created a bunch of awesome incidental insect viola music that I found absolutely delightful. Who knew a viola could do that? What fun to be in a room with such talented, creative people! One more layer has now been folded into the mix...

On an entirely different note, an odd little baseball play I wrote -- a short full-length -- called Catch has been pulling at my mind lately, telling me that it thinks it wants to be an odd little musical. I saw a performance of This Beautiful City by the Civilians that used music wonderfully, and am reading a book called Writing the Broadway Musical. Hopefully I'll find my way, and see what my play wants.

1 comment:

mikemathew said...
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