Archive for the General Category

Real people playing fake ones…

Posted in General, NYMF, The Cast, Writing on July 20, 2010 by darylfazio

I was an acting major as an undergrad. I survived the degree but washed out of the real-world part. It ain’t no place for sissies. Pros, I bow to you and kiss your toe ring.

Now I find myself, for the first time, on the other side of a professional audition process. And it’s not just intriguing from the former-auditionee perspective, but also from the writer one. Because I created all these fake people, and now we have to choose flesh-and-blood ones to “be” them.

It’s daunting and life-altering. So much talent (we’ve all heard the statistics of the actor-to-job ratio; you actor people, honestly, please don’t ever get a CAT scan, because then we’ll find out you all have brains that need to be studied by science, and live theatre will go the way of the dodo bird). So many expectations, on either side, of what and who this is we’ll be making. We don’t know who you are yet (callbacks will be on us in a heartbeat). But here’s to what we’ll learn and who we’ll meet. It’s the best part of this theatre thing.

I can’t wait to bake a show with some real (crazy) people.

The End…

Posted in General on November 9, 2008 by darylfazio

POPart, The Musical has officially concluded its first workshop production at Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Audiences were sometimes quiet, sometimes raucous, sometimes small, sometimes big, but always in it. If laughter heals, the cast might have caused a few miracles.

And, though I’m not a mother, I felt like I was watching my 25 (26, if you count the script itself) children perform their faces off those seven nights and one matinee. That’s how proud I was.

Our lives all feel a little changed by this production (Monica Bell, you’re a born-director and were perfect for finding this show’s beating heart; cast, your devotion to this script and production was unwavering and moved me on a daily basis, and your growth as artists has been palpable). It’s hard to let go.

At the same time, though, I’m sitting at my laptop with the new draft of POPart percolating along (we have that staged reading in NYC tentatively scheduled for January–no rest for the weary). So I don’t really have to let go. In fact, I can’t. Inspired by all the magic moments in the show, I’m driven to make the close-but-no-cigar moments rise to that level. And I need to do so with the workshop fresh in my gourd.

Two new songs are planned to frame the intermission (which was added for this production). One of those songs will be an addition (Kitty sings to her reflection in the mirror as she accepts all her imaginary awards and does all her talk-show appearances after becoming famous; sure, you know what I mean; we’ve all practiced some sort of award speech in the mirror; I’m thinking Toni-O and Edward will join in from their individual spotlights); the other will replace “Critique Mystique”, a definite misfire in the show (we anticipate that the Homeless Man and Homeless Woman will sing this new one while Kitty melts down in the studio when inspiration fails to strike).

I’ve thanked the cast and director (and designers) a thousand times for helping me and Aaron “see” the piece. Consider this a thousand and one.

And remember. It’s not the end. Just the end of the beginning.

Opening Night

Posted in General on October 30, 2008 by darylfazio

…is tonight. And the joy I get from watching the joy taking place onstage is not possible to express with words. POPart, The Musical at Coastal Carolina University is a workshop, which means it’s finding its legs, not taking its final bow. Are there things that Monica, Aaron, and I are already talking about changing in a rewrite? Absolutement. Does that alter the importance of the work done over the past few weeks by 25 talented kids? Nope, it makes it even more important.

Does that alter the fun preview audiences have already had watching the production? Nope, not one iota.

So thanks, performers. You ALL crack me up. You ALL give it 110. Keep sharin’ the love.

And Amanda? Just remember I was NOT the one who gave you all the running and climbing to do during “Blow-by-Blow”, the wordiest song on Earth. You’re handling it like a trooper.

Kitty sings of art changing her world during "I Blend In"

Kitty sings of art changing her world during "I Blend In"

The Picasso Gang does not impress actor, Sly McCoy

The Picasso Gang does not impress actor, Sly McCoy

Transition out of the gang introductions

Transition out of the gang introductions

The Halfway Point

Posted in General on October 8, 2008 by darylfazio

Ah, yes, a red-letter day on Monday. We started Act 2! In the opening of the act and one of the longest scenes in the show, Kitty tries to paint and discovers she’s lost her inspiration.

The students in the background were doing some inspired improv as pretentious student artists summoning the art gods or painting one dot at a time, taking a step back, paining another dot, taking another step back. There was a lot of “playing” going on all night, and it was the FIRST time we were doing this material. I was very proud of them, and I got a helpful indication about dialogue quality and whether anything needed to change or be chucked out. Which it mostly didn’t. I wasn’t sure how the bit about Toni-O’s supposed abstract painting looking like hearts and puppies and baby seals would fly. It was a big change in this latest draft, as Toni-O’s character had previously been androgynous and painted portraiture in which we could never identify the sex of the subject. I like the new touchy-feely stuff and what the actor did with it. I think we’ll keep it.

Then we did “Critique Mystique.” I love the funk quality of the music. And the performers were really selling it. But I’m still not sure how necessary the song is. It seems repetitive of Kitty and Toni-O’s duet in Act 1 and also, to some degree, the next song, “Crit This!”

Speaking of “Crit This!”, we worked that last night. I’ve got pictures here of what I call “the empty frame dance.” Some great visuals that Barbara and Monica have put together. If only REAL critiques were this full of life and dance.

The "Crit This!" line-up.

The "Crit This!" line-up.

Edward leads the critique charge with the biggest painting of all.

Edward leads the critique charge with the biggest painting of all.


Posted in General, Music, Writing on October 1, 2008 by darylfazio

A lot to catch you up on.

We staged “Art is Your Rock” on Monday. I’m happy with the scene leading in—I wasn’t sure how the “silent talker” character of Miss St. Helen would work on stage. My fears were assuaged as I watched the students being directed to lean in as a group, in a carefully controlled synchronized movement, to try to catch her every unhearable word.

And it should make the all-out gospel choir direction of the song’s latter half that much more fun.

Getting choreographed (choreographer Barbara Hartwig out front) in "Art is Your Rock"

Getting choreographed (choreographer Barbara Hartwig out front) in "Art is Your Rock"

Miss St. Helen's "choir" of students flutter through sign-language like movements as they sing.

Miss St. Helen (in pink) leads the students in sign-language-inspired movements as they sing "Art is Your Rock...when life takes it all."

Tuesday night was a big one. We opened with work on Mr. Manne’s entré to art, “Ah, Oui!” It was the first time I’d seen it all the way through and in the big space. Some riotous staging–and brilliant actor playing (there are so many good things starting to happen with performances, I can’t even enumerate them; some of the kids are fearless, while others are more careful and calculated, but they’re all thoughtful about their characters and the choices they make)–as he makes his way completely inappropriately through the group of kids. The video here shows an excerpt–nope, it ain’t the whole thing–the more dance-oriented second half that goes for a no-holds-barred can-can (Mr. Manne is in the red shirt; on opening night, he’ll be wearing red, but not a shirt).

Then we ran about 25 pages of the show straight through (okay, we stopped a few times), and it was REALLY the first time I got to understand what this thing is. Timing, jokes, correlation between visuals and words, how well the songs are integrated, all the stuff that can’t, no way, not even close, be revealed simply by reading and listening to it.

It prompted me to understand some lines here and there needed to be cut. AND it made me question one of the songs in a big way. Something that had NEVER occurred to me until I saw it in context, from start to finish. Nothing’s been decided yet, so I won’t be much more specific than that until it is. But whether it stays in its current form or is changed drastically will be a joint decision.

Anyway, thank heavens for workshops.

Kitty (center) rides the subway for the first time and meets a couple of homeless.

Kitty (center) rides the subway for the first time and meets a couple of homeless.

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.

Casting Complete! (almost)

Posted in General, The Cast on August 22, 2008 by darylfazio

Call-backs last night were a lot of fun. It was my first time hearing actors read much of the text (the department did some serious recruiting last year and should really be proud of the freshman talent it’s attracted in addition to the returning students already making waves here). And, though taken out of context the scenes didn’t make much sense, especially to the kids who hadn’t read the show (I guess we’ll forgive ’em this time), some things already started to come into focus for us–the creators and director.

We’re very pleased with our chosen group, made up of all shapes, sizes, and colors, just like the Ghetto Art School it will bring to life.

Once the students have a chance to accept or turn down their roles over the next few days, we’ll have the list of the first-ever workshop production of POPart, The Musical engraved in 14 karat gold (or at least corrugated cardboard).

Rehearsals start September 14. Stay tuned!