This week has been a jam-packed one over here in the world of East o’ West o’! It’s wild to think that just two Thursdays ago, the cast and musicians performed five songs and two scenes after just a week of rehearsal (I have to give serious kudos to my music director, Kevin Lawkins, who came up with truly moving arrangements to the songs in just a few days!). It was exhilarating to show work to an audience so early in the process, but Alison Pincus (our fearless directress) reminded me that it was certainly no time to rest on my laurels, and that a lot of work still had to be done before opening night on March 8th.
This past week was a long one, where the cast and Elena Faverio (librettist extraordinaire) and I sat down to do a little thing called table work to finesse out the kinks in the script. We did a lot of talking, discussing, dreaming, postulating, line-changing, and scene-shifting, until finally, this Saturday, the script was finished. Elena has been working so hard, making edits everyday, supporting me through song struggles, taking in input and comments and suggestions from all sides and putting down a cohesive story on the page that is now a part of all of us. I cannot express enough how much she and the actors/singers/beautiful people that make up the cast of this show have illuminated the story and brought it to life for me. They have shed light into the nooks and crannies where writers fear to tread (a lot of big why and how questions lie in those dark places…), they have breathed new life into the characters, and they have been unafraid to critique and question, which is everything I could have asked for. I learn new things everyday as I trust the ensemble and invest in the collaborative process.
Away from the table, the music writing process this week has been a beautiful/difficult/incredible/frustrating/fulfilling journey. Days pass full of music, other days nothing comes. As I sit and hum to myself and write, it’s a constant mixture of spontaneous inspiration and hard editing—the worst times are when there are pages and pages of lyrics and possible directions for a song but no structure. Tension builds up in my neck and back so easily when I have melodies and no words… But when the parts all mesh together and a song finally crystallizes and I write it out, well, I would say that’s a good feeling but the true fulfillment comes from listening to the actors try them out for the first time… that will be happening a lot in this next week!
The most essential part of my writing ritual this time around has definitely been the space in which I write. The first few lines of music came to me in November as I was sitting on the Eye statues (you know, the ones between the entrance to the WCMA and Fayerweather Hall), looking out at the hills. I’ve tried writing in harshly lit, windowless, soulless rooms in the music building but to no avail. When it comes to writing, I’m like a plant: I need water and good sunlight and earth (or, at least, a view onto an earthy spot). Well-lit living rooms, chilly hikes and snowy rambles have continued to nourish and strengthen my creative self as I’ve been writing music about long journeys across the miles of hills and valleys, seas and dunes.
This developmental process has been a rewarding, challenging and encouraging one for me—and it’s not over yet! In about two months, a dynamic team of cast, crew and musicians will have made a tiny seed of an idea blossom into a musical! Don’t miss the show, March 8-10 in the Directing Studio!