Archive for September, 2008

“Be Free”

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2008 by darylfazio

We hit the two-week rehearsal mark last night with the staging and choreography for “Be Free,” the first song in the teacher triad (“Ah, Oui!”, the second, was staged last week, and we’ll work the last one—and the possible end of the act, if we decide to have an intermission—”Art is Your Rock,” tonight).

My ribs still hurt. From laughing.

Our Ms. Hamm is a revelation, a Julie-Andrews-meets-Captain-and-Tenille force of nature. The director and choreographer have her fondling and making advances toward Hugo, the pasty yet confident nude model (who will be in a dance belt and not much else), as she careens and frolicks around the stage like a go-go dancer grandmother. And the students follow like a band of rabid hippies. The relationship with Hugo was not something I wrote in the script or even had in the back of my mind, but it works.

Here’s a poorly-lit excerpt that can only hint at the comedic mayhem:

Characters, Comedy, & Catching Up

Posted in General on September 26, 2008 by darylfazio

More fascinating stuff for the writer to watch last night as Monica worked through several early scenes that introduce our leads, establish their relationship, and also give a pretty good indication that this ain’t Shakespeare (at one point, we move swiftly from Kitty chasing a homeless man out of her dorm room with a broom into Mother gliding across the floor dressed like the Virgin Mary and giving Kitty advice on taking the plunge).

It’s starting to feel like the young actors “get” their roles and their bonds and this bizarre universe we’re asking them to exist in. It’s also apparent that comedy is hard. Especially of this sort, that runs the gamut from screwball to intellectual and doesn’t stop to collect $200 in between.

It felt great to work this much of the libretto, though. At two weeks into the total six of rehearsal, it feels like we’re where we need to be.

Day 10 (or so)

Posted in General on September 25, 2008 by darylfazio

Last night’s rehearsal was “A Touch of Class” (the name of the scene we worked) with a touch of magic, compliments of having to rehearse outside because of a scheduling glitch.

The first hour consisted of finishing the choreography for Mr. Manne’s (the painting teacher) number, “Ah, Oui!”. I have yet to see the whole thing at once, but I do there will be a Can-Can dance break and that the end will be a Moulin Rouge-style dance fest with a giant kick line at its core (competing with Mr. Manne’s ego). We were cramped into the dance studio, so this picture doesn’t really do it justice.

Choreographing "Ah, Oui!"

Choreographing "Ah, Oui!"

Then it was on to scene work. Aaron finally got a night to himself, as did much of the ensemble, while the trio, our teachers, the homeless couple, and a student or two got ready to read or stage. Discovering moments later that we had no stage on which to rehearse, we chose the building’s spacious courtyard with its stage-like steps. And it was great. A chilly night for this time of year in South Carolina. And the fountain drowned out a lot of the sound. But, as we worked through the entrances of Ms. Hamme (riotous) , Mr. Manne (sublimely absurd), and Miss St. Helen (a soulful dormant volcano waiting to erupt), we felt inspired and uplifted by the outdoor air–and the actors somehow free-er to play and act silly within the scenes (if you can’t get your silly “on” in this show, your dead in the water).

Edward, Kitty, and Toni-O rehearse in the courtyard.

Edward, Kitty, and Toni-O rehearse in the courtyard.

In other news, I was asked how to pronounce the Yiddish phrase, “Sholem-aleichem,” I assigned Toni-O at one point. I suggested that we find either a linguist or someone with Jewish roots as I had to admit I had simply looked the phrase up on babelfish.

And I was also asked on whom “Father” is based and why he’s gay. Many of the actors have asked me about the real person they’re character was inspired by–and they ask that because Aaron made a comment in a rehearsal that all the roles in POPart are based on people we know. What he should have said was that Dr. Bore was inspired by his art history teacher. And Kitty certainly is informed by aspects of my own personality. Beyond that, it’s all invention. I love invention. As for why Father is gay, I had to stop and think for a moment. I told the actor that it gave Kitty one more thing to push her ever further off balance (having her dad leave her mom for another woman would do that too, but not in quite the same way). And that, in this POPart world of the every-day taken to extremes and where everyone seems to have an inner person trying to bust out and be seen, it just made sense (Kitty sees her dad do that and it inspires her to be her own person). Sometimes characters just tell you, the writer, who they are, and you don’t have a lot of say in the matter. “Father” was always gay.

The Ghetto Ballet

Posted in General, Music on September 22, 2008 by darylfazio

After design presentations, it was down to business. The heavily-ensemble-driven musical is proving to be a gargantuan staging undertaking. Thank goodness for the hard work, focus, and passion of everyone involved.

My newness to writing musicals at the time of this one’s birth led to a grand vision for the show (10 of the 14 numbers are ensemble-based), though since I can always count on Aaron to keep me grounded in the realities of production, I’ve never worried as long as he was on board. The almost constant flurry of onstage activity is important to the musical’s universe, and I certainly don’t regret it conceptually–it should be a thrill to watch. But it has been frustrating, at times, for actors and director, that so much of rehearsal thus far has been dedicated to the appearance of the show (again, very exciting, so far!) rather than characterization and overall journey. We’ll get there (big time, this week, in fact). And we all know it. I can feel us chomping at the proverbial bit.

Our one-week mark rehearsal was spent creating, before our very eyes, the so-called “Ghetto Ballet,” which was director, Monica Bell’s, inspired idea rather than one I had in the libretto. The kids love it and are really taking to the experiment. As Kitty Katz makes her transition from the all-American suburb of her first 18 years into the other-planet-like urban setting of the Ghetto Art School, the people of that new world, in this case gang members, hookers, and homeless, are the primary way of establishing counterpoint. So between the opening song “I Blend In” and Toni-O’s anthem to the street, “Smells Like Art,” we get a bit of “music” created by objects and bodies. See the video below as it comes to life for the first time.

The Designs

Posted in Design, General on September 22, 2008 by darylfazio

Last night, rehearsal started with presentations from costume designer, Eric Hall, and set designer, Ken Martin. Almost every visual aspect of POPart, The Musical will be art itself: for example, the homeless man’s pants are an ode to Jackson Pollack, the Michelangelo gang looks like Michelangelo’s “David”, the Rothko gang looks like a walking Rothko of brightly-colored swatches, and Mother’s looks range from de Kooning to the medieval to Picasso. I’ll see if I can’t get some scans of the sketches themselves to post. Stay tuned.

"Target", by Jasper Johns, 1974The set will transform from high school auditorium to urban ghetto in the first 15 minutes. There will be sliding ladders (some up to 18 feet tall) and multiple platforms that can act as stoops, steps, and stages. Much of the staging will take advantage of levels.

And every set piece is intended to be its own piece of art (odes to Johns’ and Lichtenstein were mentioned in the presentation; here is an image of Johns’ “Target”, a version of which will be on the stage floor).

Designer Eric Hall talks about his vision for POPart's costumes.

Costume designer Eric Hall talks about his vision for POPart

Ken Martin talks about the set.

Ken Martin talks about the set.

Taking it Apart

Posted in Writing on September 18, 2008 by darylfazio

Last night was the first rehearsal where discussion and dissection of the text ensued between director and actors. A cool experience. Listening to how they interpret each line and, consequently, character relationships. Just reinforced how important every single little word choice is. Nothing can be a throw-away in the writing process. EVERYTHING can mean something. If you write something with no intent, one might be found regardless. So be careful, dear writer. Make it count.

Dance the Night Away

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2008 by darylfazio

Dance rehearsal tonight. Wow, look at that, it moves! “Smells Like Art” comes to life as a salsa-disco, Village People, Little Shop, Fame, Saturday Night Fever extravaganza. I could watch Barbara create it and the kids work it for hours. And since I can’t dance, to ensure that I CAN watch this sort of thing for hours, I’ll keep writing big ensemble dance numbers and insisting that Aaron set it to kitsch.

Monica began staging the opening of the show too and working on creating the high school environment–often a wall of people in this case—for Kitty to “blend in” to. I’ve been picturing this in my mind for five years. Seeing it come together in front of my eyes is an experience that’s difficult to put into words. I spend much of the time either grinning from ear to ear or having my jaw hang slack. Doofus, doofus, and, yes, doofus.

Getting accustomed to the space as high school students at J. Edgar Hoover High

Getting accustomed to the space as high school students at J. Edgar Hoover High

Working with Kitty and finding her place in the universe...or at least the opening of the show.

Working with Kitty and finding her place in the universe...or at least the opening of the show.

Rehearsal Uno

Posted in Writing on September 15, 2008 by darylfazio

First read-through (ever). Always an eye-opener from the writers’ perspectives—and we hope on the positive slant. Hearing it as a unit, I feel very good about the work Aaron and I have done (thinking about some minor additions to beef up the homeless couple, but otherwise nothing leapt out as being dead-on-arrival—okay, so a few moments met with chirping crickets, but that’s why we have a director). And no small part of that is due to the age of these performers (18-23 or so) and their charming eyes-wide-open approach. I told them in introductions today how lucky we are to have REAL youth in the show, versus the Broadway manufactured type (for example, most of the cast of Grease on the Great White Way is in their 30s). They may or may not believe me.

I feel like a kid in a candy store every time we’re at work, hearing them read,  hearing them sing, watching them start to embody these loopy characters and bring “crazy” to jubilant life (my presence is not necessary in most rehearsals, but I doubt I’ll be able to stay away; I don’t want to miss anything!). I hope the audience, old and young, prudes and whatever the opposite of prudes are, can hardly keep their rear ends in Wheelwright’s Maalox-colored man-made fiber seats this-coming October.

It’s a big cast.

Cast and crew assembled at Wheelwright Auditorium for the first read-through

Cast and crew assembled at Wheelwright Auditorium for the first read-through

The ensemble takes their first crack at learning music with MD (and composer), Aaron McAllister

The ensemble takes their first crack at learning music with MD (and composer), Aaron McAllister