Sunday, March 31, 2013

Keep on Truckin

If I were still writing my Bulletin's Over Broadway Blob,here's what I would have written.  Passover plus, which I am writing tomorrow will be our 999th blob. Almost 1000.
Sometimes the unexpected happens, unexpectedly.  For example, the “Wild Party” was a musical with a book by George C Wolfe and music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa. It was based on the 1928 Joseph Moncure March narrative poem of the same name. Oh wait.  “The Wild Party,”was a musical with book, lyrics, and music by Andrew Lippa. It too was based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 narrative poem of the same name. They both debuted during the same theatre season (1999–2000). While one was well funded and peopled with popular stars and a well-known creative team, the other emerged as the “Wild Party” of hip choice.

Two years ago, “Slow Dance with a Hot Pick-up” (having been work-shopped previously at Indiana University’s Premiere Musicals Lab, selected for development at the New Harmony Project by Tony Award Winner, Anna D. Shapiro, further developed at the Florida Studio Theatre and the legendary Barnstormers Theatre in New Hampshire where it won the New Hampshire Theatre Award for Best New Musical and then selected to be presented in Montreal at the 2009 Next Wave Festival of New Musicals), had its World Premiere in Boulder, Colorado at the famous Boulder Dinner Theatre.  A few months later “Hands on a Hard Body,” (based on the documentary of the same name), with the exact theme and similar story, was work-shopped in California, prior to its Broadway debut this month.

“Hot Pick-up” which was inspired by these same Hands On contests that came about during the 1980’s was researched and written by John Pielmeier (Agnes of God,  Pillars of the Earth , and many screenplays). Music and lyrics for “Hot Pickup” were penned by Emmy awarded winning composer Matty Selman (“Goddess Wheel”, and “Uncle Philip’s Coat”).  John and Matty’s story, about a grueling marathon contest, where the prize (a pick-up) was awarded to the last person still able to hold  on to the truck, was not based on the documentary.

“Hands on a Hardbody”, has a book by Pulitzer Prize winning Doug Wright (I am My Own Wife)  with music and lyrics by singer song writer, Amanda Green (Bring it On) and Trey Anastasio (Phish).  Both these shows, have notable creative teams and a “real American” tale to tell.  Both revolve around dignity, dreams, and frustrated aspirations to succeed in lives where they have had only disappointed expectations. Both are musicals.  Both are passionate and musically appealing.  But only one was able to be a Broadway show. Because only one had the financial backing to stay alive long enough to find out if the public is interested in watching what they have produced. It appears they aren’t.

Like “The Wild Party,” there seemed to be room for both productions. And like the Wild Party, one went to Broadway, while the other remained Off Broadway.  Broadway loves new visions for an old story (revivals) and themes that are universal, (love, hate, struggle).  But Broadway has room for only one production of the same story and that production has to be, if nothing else, well funded.

There is a kind of sadness in this theater reality. It doesn’t matter who was first or which show has the most merit. It’s not about talent since both of these productions are notable.  But it is incredibly expensive to produce a Broadway show, so the only thing that is for sure is, that if you have access to the money,  (are Phish, have parents who are legends, or have won a Pulitzer Prize), you will have the funding necessary to support an artistic effort.  And, if you fail, it will be considered a successful failure, because you raised millions of dollars, and you will not have to worry about being able to buy your own lunch.  It will be interesting to see what happens to both productions in the next few years.  Once a show is produced, whether it’s on Broadway, off, or off off off, it has a life of it’s own.  It can tour, or be licensed by almost anyone. If the show has a compelling story, memorable music, and interesting characters, it can play somewhere forever, as long as it costs a lot less than a million dollars. We're Just Sayin...... Iris

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Painful doesn't beGIN to describe...

An old writer friend opened a show off off-Broadway recently.  It was a painful but productive experience for him.  Speaking as a novice musical theater writer I cannot imagine why he didn’t have a nervous breakdown.  But I am told this kind of thing happens more often than any of us can imagine.

He didn’t care that there was no red carpet, he didn’t expect one and having never had one before, didn’t miss it.  All he wanted was for the actors to know their lines and for the musicians to be somewhat practiced.  Not so fast—apparently, it was too much to ask.
I could go on and on but it wouldn’t make any difference. We all (aspiring producers) invest a great deal of time on stuff that has nothing to do with what we envisioned. So moving on, I am always amazed at the depth of the correspondence on Facebook.  I love Facebook because it allows me enter into the lives of people who I have known for a long time, or are people with whom I would like a continuing relationship.

Let’s get back to my pal for just a brief moment.  Should he have known better than to trust strangers with his baby?  Should he have choreographed the piece so no one could make mincemeat of it.  Should he have been skeptical enough to know that the people with whom he entrusted his vision didn’t have a clue? Probably. But none of that happened, so what next?

Artists are a curious lot.  Unlike most normal people, artists think they are special.  They have to think they are special because they put their work out in public, where anyone can make judgments about what they have done.  If artists doesn’t believe in their work themselves, then why should anyone else think it’s special?  When an artist produces a work of art, be it a play, a song, a book, whatever, it’s like giving birth to a baby.  For some period of time, the artist wants to nurture what they have produced.  They don’t trust a stranger to protect its integrity, or give the baby the same attention they will give it.  As the baby grows the artist will give relinquish control but not until they know that they have left their baby in competent hands.

And on a totally different subject, (which I could connect but it would be too painful for our readers) has Mayor Bloomberg driven uptown, crosstown, or downtown in NYC?  Probably not,  because the construction and the condition of the roads are abhorrent.  Yesterday when he announced his concern over displays of cigarettes, and last month with his push forbidding 32 ounce drinks, I said (to anyone who would listen) “this guy is totally out of touch with the important issues.  He’s so busy monitoring our personal behavior that he has totally lost his focus on problems that effect those of us who try to live in NY.”  I want to yell, WAKE UP BOZO!, but it’s not respectful, much like someone decimating a lovely musical show because they have lost their ability to distinguish between what is worthwhile and what gives someone immediate gratification. We must protect ourselves from the people who only see superficial, and be on the lookout for those who value expediency over thoughtful decision making.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Lost..... and Found? No, Just Lost

English language words can be fascinating or bewildering.  So many of the words we use either mean more than one thing, or they are not pronounced the way they are spelled.  Such things as silent ough’s or a ph that is pronounced as an f, don’t make it an easy language to learn. It’s always been an amazing to me that a little child can speak and pronounce confusing words correctly. 

The other day, as a direct consequence of my exhaustion, I lost a day.  It is unclear whether it was Monday or Tuesday, but it got lost.  When I got out of bed on Wednesday, despite the fact that the trash cans in our neighborhood were all awaiting a Wednesday pick-up.  And, although I had watched NCIS on the previous evening.  When I went over to my cousin Debbie’s just to say hello, she asked if I was meeting my aunt for lunch the next day. “Yes,” I said. “I told her I couldn’t meet on Thursday so I was going to meet her tomorrow, on Wednesday.”

“But” she said, “today is Wednesday”.  I argued for a while, but she was right.  It was 9:30 and I had to pick  Auntie up at 11:30.  The trip would take an hour and fifteen minutes.  “Guess  better move my touchas or Auntie is going to be standing in the cold for way longer than she expected.”

There are a number of definitions for this four letter word.  It can mean no longer possessed or retained: lost friends.  No longer to be found: lost articles. Or having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.: lost children. It can also mean one has missed an opportunity to win some kind of a race.  The first “lost” I discussed does not really fit any of these. The closest it comes is to be bewildered. I was not bewildered or befuddled.  I was as sure of the day, as I was of my own name. And I was wrong.  I spent the day (after lunch) trying to figure out if I lost Monday or Tuesday, when I realized it didn’t make any difference.  The weird thing is that I knew exactly what I did on Monday and Tuesday,  and still, I insisted it was Wednesday.  Lost? Maybe.  Definitely.  Lost.  We’re just sayin’.. Iris