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Creative process Musical Musical Theatre Performing Arts Playwriting

A Difficult but Just Decision

Even after the Good Cop Bad Cop maneuver, only six out of twelve showed up on Friday’s rehearsal.   That, on top of other factors, has caused me and Dave to make the decision cited in the email below:

Team:

We have come to the difficult decision to postpone our reading of Eden in Babylon. After a couple of weeks of cast fluctuations, some difficulty with scheduling and a hard look at our current workloads and available resources, it makes sense for us to step back to reduce the stress and to be sure to give this piece the attention it deserves. The hiatus will give us an opportunity to find additional collaborators to help us with logistics. And it will give Andy time to finish up the scoring and materials to help teach and learn the music most effectively.

At this point we don’t have a new target date for the reading. We’ll let you know as we know more. You’ll all be on our list when we get ready to put together a cast in the future.

Thank you all for the work you’ve done. We truly appreciate it. We will keep in touch as we look for the right time to do this show.

Thanks again,

Dave and Andy

The wording is Dave’s after a lengthy discussion, and he and I are in agreement.  Not only will this give me two months distance from a situation in which my overloaded, all-over-the-map semblance was promoting a loose and chaotic atmosphere, but it will clearly communicate to the Kids who have been screwing around that we mean business with this thing, and they can’t just take my kindness for weakness.  A lot of the Street Kids were like that, too. They saw me as a pushover, and that shit’s gotta stop.  The ones who are good know who they are.  Their loyalty will be not be forgotten.

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Christianity fitness gratitude Musical Theatre Playwriting

Gratitude List 853

1. It’s great to have my own shower and be able to change into clean clothes, and lay on my own bed, and feel as though I am an honored guest in my own home.

2. Good exercise today, a brisk three mile walk in the warm breeze, between around six and seven.

3. There is a wonderful woman in my life today who loves me.

4. God loves me. He doesn’t see me according to my past, or my sin; but according to my future, and my righteousness in Christ.

5. Nice hanging out with R. today, and having him over for conversation with me and Jan.

6. It is great that Echo found a room on the Delta, and that she’s going to have a dog.

7. I finished Eden in Babylon on July 4th, and here it is again linked to you, formatted as best I can. It’s a much better script, thanks to the MFA playwrights at the critique, and very special thanks to Jan.

8. Stats are booming:

booming

9. Jan gets to visit our friend Sippa for a few days, and this is a very good thing.

10. God is Love.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

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Activism Berkeley Classism Creative process Homelessness Musical Piano

Use Fire

This post has been deleted by its author.   Enjoy the comments.   

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Art Artist Composer Composing Creative process Music Musical Musical Theatre Performing Arts Songwriting Writing

Sacrifices with Strife

I had to go back to the post The Next Step to find out exactly where I had begun to veer off course. For it was clear that I had strayed, and very clear what kinds of elements had characterized the diversion.   I only lacked a decent starting point, in order to resume my course, and avoid those elements that earlier had polluted the purity of my path, and had instead instilled a sense of paralysis and meltdown.   The deleterious elements of which I speak involved, invariably, the ill-timed and often ill-equipped efforts with which I most awkwardly attempted to enlist the allegiance of local talents of various sorts to assist me in some way in promoting my project.

First. there was the concert that never came about.  We had to cancel our earlier show when it came clear that my musicians could not possibly get enough practice to turn in a decent show by the predesignated time.   It was suggested we reschedule; I, for one, insisted we cancel entirely.   My music seemed intimidating to them, and theirs to me.  I would have to listen to them first for a while, and they to me, before thinking about making something like we had all earlier envisioned come about.  So that was rightly set aside.  Instead, I would set about to try and find singers for my demo.

This proved to be only another example of the same fruitless expedition.  It was far more stressful trying to get these singers together than it was to concede that it just wasn’t going to happen.  It would cost money – money that I don’t have, and that I knew not how to get.   As I began to endeavor to raise funds, a part of me that I hate rose into prominence, and I cannot feed that demon inside me in any way if it’s going to lead me to some of the preposterous propositions such as I began to entertain.  I was sickened with myself, infuriated, disgusted, disillusioned with my fellows, disaffected with society, alienated, isolated, self-abnegating, neglectful of my needs, abusive of my body, disfigured, disheveled, mistreated, misshapen, mortified, mutilated, and finally: majorly incapacitated.  I lay on the gurney in the Emergency Room, electrodes probing every pore, as the third EKG in my entire doctor-leery life assured me that this steady chest pain I’d developed was nothing more than pleurisy, and treatable by ibuprofen.

drawing-boardI believe I should leave the rest of the community out of the picture for a while, and dismiss any idea of enlisting their services.  Clearly, this was not the course.  The Next Step reveals exactly where I would be wise to begin.  Aside from talk of organizing a read-thru, which may or may not be necessary (or even wise, considering all I just wrote), the guidelines in that post paint a clear picture of a new starting point that doesn’t involve awkward attempts at creating new associations among my acquaintances, but only involves things that I can do all by myself.  I was thriving when intensely focusing on my music or my script, and their seeing me so thrive is what impressed them from the start — whoever “they” are, which is probably more irrelevant now than I’d ever thought before.

It doesn’t matter who they are, or even what they see, just so long as they don’t see what I’ve been showing them most recently.  “Better a dry morsel,” saith the Preacher, “and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

That’s the only house that I’ve been building lately.  It has no sure foundation.  If I sit still, and quietly proceed to notate my piano-vocal score, and look for reasonable revisions to be made in my script in the process, there’s something sure and steady about the construction of that house.  Whatever dry morsels I might chew on throughout, their cost will not be half the cost of what I just endured.   And maybe by the time it takes me to complete that score and second draft, I’ll have a thousand dollars in the bank to invest on hiring singers for the demo, not just trying to round up people in my midst whom I cannot pay and all have better things to do.  I risk being perceived a pest.  This will not do.

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Let’s throw some chicken gumbo soup into the microwave and make another turkey sandwich.  No sense in doing the town.  The town has just done me.

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Art Artist Creative process Creative Writing Creativity Mainstream Musical Musical Theatre Performing Arts Playwriting Spirituality Writer Writing

Moment of Decision

I’m trying to relax my high goal here, but at the same time not be wasteful with the energy that I need to apply toward it.  I just now made the difficult decision that has been blocking my efforts ever since I finished Act Two, Scene Two in the musical play I am writing.  I have finally decided to reduce the size of the Chorus Line of Street Kids from 12 to 8, and eliminate the Chorus Line of Mainstream Citizens entirely.  I had previously decided to double parts in the two chorus lines due to having earlier been cautioned that my cast size was becoming too large.  The two chorus lines never appeared at the same time in the same place anyway, and there would be plenty of time for costume changes.  But still, the presence of the Mainstream Chorus Line is unwieldy and unnecessary. 

in-any-moment-ofAlthough I sort of knew this to be true, I was resisting making the right choice because it would involve going all the way back to the beginning of the libretto, yanking out unnecessary parts and, if need be, replacing them with parts that can be performed by existing players.  So now, I have to do that very thing.  Of course I am a bit daunted by the ardor of the task.  But it’s the right thing to do.   So I’ll do it.

This changes things.  I’m thinking that, because the eighth and final Scene still remains to be written, hopefully the task of sifting through the show from the very beginning up until the end of the seventh Scene will help clarify decisions I need to make in the last Scene that have still been vague in my mind.  In any case, it seems highly unlikely that I’ll be able to crank it all out in one sitting.  On the other hand, there’s a chance it will be out of the way by Wednesday night’s choir rehearsal.

I told the people at work that my application for Minister of Music will be in by Thursday.  The present Music Minister does need to retire, and I’d like to rise to the higher calling if I can.  But I don’t want my absorption in this project to be a deterrent.  I want this draft to be done by the time of my interview.  If that’s putting too much pressure on myself, so be it.  All I can say is that working without any deadline whatsoever as of the past five years sure hasn’t gotten the job done.

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Art Christianity Creative process Creative Writing Creativity Homelessness Musical Theatre Performing Arts Playwriting Writer Writing

Alive for a Reason

frustrated-woman-cursing-while-doing-her-taxes-royalty-free-clipart-1nulfg-clipartThere’s something I haven’t mentioned yet about this musical script I’ve been trying to write.  I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for me to put pen to paper on this project until I have cleared my head of any resentment or anxiety that could possibly deter me along the way.   This is undoubtedly why I was not able to work on the script for three years following the essential completion of the score.  There was a resentment against a certain individual that was so unwieldy, I basically couldn’t even look at the script without beginning to cuss the person out in my mind (and sometimes even out loud.)  This is also the reason why I wrote nothing at all yesterday.  There were simply too many resentments and anxieties to have to get out of the way first.

This morning, however, I think most of them have already been successfully banished.  I’ve been up for a little less than two hours, and I’m about to get rolling.  One thing that did occur yesterday, as I found myself immersed in the annoyances of moral and practical obligation, was a huge and sudden illumination that just about took my breath away.

I suddenly realized the parallel between the suggestion in Part Four of my anthology and the huge happy ending that my musical Eden in Babylon is headed for.   I’ve also not mentioned the anthology, and just this morning created a new page  to explain it.  Essentially, it’s an account of the five year period of time when I lived continuously outdoors, except for ten months out of those five years.   The suggestion in Part Four of the anthology is extremely radical and no doubt will make many people uncomfortable as they endeavor to grasp it.  However, in the musical it can somehow be transformed into a happy ending. 

This is because musicals traditionally do not depict life as it is.  They depict life as it ought to be.  This at least is how I was brought into the realm of musical theatre, with a high school production of Man of La Mancha.   Since I was terrified of going to VietNam at the time, the message of hope and idealism in the story of Don Miguel de Cervantes and his famous creation, Don Quixote, was enough to convince me that I would probably be doing musical theatre for the rest of my days.

Unfortunately, however, musical theatre is not what it once was — or at least what it once ought to have been.  Hamilton and Les Miserables notwithstanding, most of the musicals that have come out in the past twenty to thirty years are disappointing crap.   Many of them appeal to musical theatre people only, and not to the general populace.  I frankly gave up about thirteen years ago.  I’ve only done one show in the past thirteen years – a Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Yeoman of the Guard, at Stanford University.  Outside of that, and teaching a few workshops, I’ve mainly been a recluse.  But in that isolation, one thing I did begin to do — was write.

In writing this musical, I hope to help brighten the picture of musical theatre in today’s world.   I’m thankful for all the years I spent outdoors.  It wasn’t easy to write about at the time, but the wealth of source material for this musical is something I could never otherwise have harvested.   As far as the anthology, which obviously draws on the same wealth of material, I have found a publisher as of approximately six months ago.  He contacted me when he was ready about a month ago, and I had to tell him that I was not.  I could finish the compilation, but it would mean dropping the musical, and I just can’t do that right now.   In fact, it’s entirely possible that this musical will be my gift to the world.

I am alive, after all I’ve been through, for a reason. 

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

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Art Artist Christ Christianity Composer Composing Creative process Creativity Musical Musical Theatre Performing Arts Playwriting Writer Writing

Writer’s Guild

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been feeling the need to find a writer’s support group in order to help motivate me to finish the musical script I’m writing.  A couple people suggested I contact the professor who teaches the undergraduate playwriting class.  He replied very cordially to the email I sent him, but told me that the class was filled up to capacity this semester, and that he also did not think he could help much with the “musical form.”  

Although his suggestion that I contact the School of Music was a logical one, I really am not in need of support on the musical level.  The music and lyrics to this show are essentially complete, and I’m pretty happy with the score.   It’s the script that continues to concern me.  

I last reported I had made it up to p.53, then reached an impasse.  Since then, I’ve made it up to p.58, which is almost to the end of Scene Four.   I could probably write a couple more pages this morning and wrap up the Scene, more-or-less sloppily.  But at this rate, without a support group to sustain my motivation, I probably won’t finish the script before the Second Coming of Christ.

guildIt occurred to me that there might be a Meet-Up writer’s group in the area.   With very little online research, I located one that happens to meet this very morning at ten.  They call themselves a Guild, and this morning’s meeting will take place exactly one block from my apartment!  So I’ll be there at ten this morning, either with the first four scenes completed, or ready to wrap them up on site.

The facilitator of the group also informed me of another writer’s group that meets at a bookstore also located fairly near my place of residence.  That group includes another playwright who prints out his scenes so that other members of the group can read the different characters.  In addition, there is another meeting of the Guild taking place at a restaurant this Tuesday evening.  While the meeting this morning is “write only,” the Tuesday night group will provide, according to the facilitator, “valuable feedback on plot and story line.”  All three of these resources could prove invaluable.

So – I think I’m on the right track if I can only relax about this thing a little bit.  The process of writing music is much more enjoyable for me.   The process of playwriting is arduous and annoying, but it will be worth it in the end if I will have produced something of value to offer to the world.

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Art Creative process Lyrics Musical Theatre Playwriting Writer Writing

Baby Steps

I’m sitting in the local pub in a highly neurotic state.  No worries – I’m not drinking, and perish the thought.  But when the clock struck 4:20 a few minutes ago, I must admit I experienced more than a vague inkling to dip into the dubious diversion of delectable desirability, duck into the nearest dark alley, and burn one.   It’s hard for me to deal with anxiety; and as I expressed quite emphatically earlier, taking a valium or a klonopin is no longer a viable option for me.

Since the previous post, I actually went back to the beginning of the script and wrote up to p.53 a second time, making adjustments – some minor, some fairly significant.  I got into the “zone” at one point and completely rewrote the intro to the female antagonist’s first song, which I call “Midnight Screams.”  I sent it to my brother and my daughter hoping for feedback, haven’t heard from either, and am feeling a bit pathetic on this whole feedback thing.  I hate it when I become “insistent” that people peruse my work.  It never works in the first place, not to mention it makes me feel like an annoying pest.

leonid_pasternak_-_the_passion_of_creationThere’s no getting around it.  I’m going to have to break out of isolation here, and present myself as best I can to the world of other artists and writers  engaged in projects of equal importance to them.   So, I more-or-less boldly wrote to the fellow who teaches the current undergraduate Playwriting class at the University, even though I could already feel the stab of rejection slicing through my heart over the Intraweb — pseudo-prophetically, as it were.  My confidence is at an all time low.

But – it was a baby step.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll see if there’s a Meet-Up group of some sort.  Either way, I’m going to have to stop bugging my friends and family members for feedback.  I need to go about this decently and properly.  Bottom line is, the idea of sitting around a table in a classroom and sharing all my crazy ideas with a bunch of other writers is scaring the living daylights out of me.  But that’s all the more reason why I’ve got to take the plunge.  You don’t learn how to swim, after all, by avoiding the water.

Opening up to p.53 and the current minor impasse.  The wheels are starting to spin.  Obviously, a twisted love song is in order, both lover and lovee a bit on the delusional side.  Welcome to the wonderful world of Musical Theatre.  Maybe if the owner of the pub steps in, she’ll let me play the piano for a free meal like she did last Saturday.  Here’s hoping.

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Art Artist Christianity Classism Creative process Playwriting Writing

The Bottom Line

It’s been a very depressing day for me.   I’m not a person who is prone to depression, though I certainly recognize it.  Depression strikes me rarely enough, however, that I pale at being able to navigate it.  It always seems like new territory, and highly dismal, unrelenting terrain at that.

I started thinking about going word-of-mouth on the “advertising” venture alluded to earlier, and I received some referrals to people who might be interested but who haven’t gotten back to me yet.   Then I began to ponder the idea I had last Saturday that would neatly take me from my most recent impasse to the end of the Winston Greene show, so that I would have a completed rough draft at last.  So I thought, well, I’ll try to do it myself – it is my idea after all, my “baby” as it were.  But as soon as I hit the pages of that script, I felt this familiar surge of resentment against one particular individual, whose identity it would be completely inappropriate to disclose.  Let’s just say he is a dear old friend of mine, somebody who is precious to me but who for some unknown reason has decided that he cannot have any contact with me.  Even that decision was communicated to a third party to convey to me, and rendered three years or more after the fact.

That alone baffles me, being as I am actually incapable of making such decisions, nor as a Christian do I believe them to be loving or godly.  I can’t think of anyone on earth whom I have ever decided is not worth my time.   And I’m fine with that.   Many people shun me because of my personality traits anyway.  I know what it feels like to be shunned, and so it is basically a Golden Rule issue for me.  I don’t like being dissed, and I don’t diss people.  

But this guy – I tell you, it would be so easy for him to take an hour out of his day and participate in the healing of my wound regarding him.  Yet I cannot control the actions or reactions of any person other than myself.   So of course there is nothing I can do or say to change this man’s mind about me.   Yet the way that the severance came about was so ugly and so entirely unnecessary, and its resolution so entirely doable if only he would do his part, it calls to question not only his morality – though he claims to be a Christian (which of course says nothing) – but his actual professional integrity.

How could he have ripped my script apart at a moment when he knew I was only looking for support and encouragement, and he also knew that I respected him very highly and would no doubt internalize his comments?   How could he then proceed to never answer emails, never answer phone calls, when the solution would be so simple?  If there are, for example, “over the top political references” in my script; and if they do, in fact, “get in the way of the story,” why did he refuse to tell me where these references are and how they get in the way of the story?  I have scoured this script ad infinitum, and he could have meant practically anything.  I don’t see them, personally, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

He commented on a typo on one page, objected to capitalization in stage directions, and happened to note that I had set up one of the scenes very nicely – as though all the scenes had not been set up impeccably.  I took graduate playwriting course at U.C.Davis; I rarely got a grade lower than an A+, I am not some hack!   Where was this guy coming from?  It seemed as though he skimmed the script during a ten minute coffee break, looking for innocuous peccadillos to shove in my face, as though taking pot shots at me.  It wasn’t what I expected from a longtime dear friend at all!   Nor from a professional in the field!  I am absolutely horrified by this inexplicably unacceptable behavior from someone of his obvious highly esteemed stature in the Performing Arts.

He said the show was ‘unproducible’ due to the cast size.  I chopped the cast szie in half and sent it to him; he still ignored me.  I sent him personal handwritten letters to his home address, sometimes even letters of apology – though God knows what for — and still he would not budge.  Yet before this notorious critique of his, we had been in contact probably two to three times a week.   After ridiculing me while I sought his encouragement, he curtly turned his head away and removed me from his existence as though I were a piece of human feces being flushed down a toilet.

Was it because of class?  Is he only supposed to extend professional respect toward rich people, or famous people, and not toward those who are struggling?   He used to always send me a little gift on my birthday into my PayPal, fifty dollars or so.  Enough for the poor bloke to get himself a dinner, and maybe a date, or perhaps a glass of red wine.  Even that kindness stopped abruptly.   Why?   Does he only answer to those who “count” in his world?   And why do I no longer count?

While assaulting this “over-the-top” character that I had created for dramatic effect in a musical – as though characters in musicals are not by their very nature “over the top” — he quite casually added: “This of course has no reflection on the author of the show” (meaning me, of course).  I was not born yesterday!  This borders on character assassination!  And of course, I was hurt emotionally by that sarcasm.  But what hurt the most was that he absolutely refused to address any of these issues that he himself had raised – and there were many others.  Instead,  he proceeded to avoid me completely, block all my email addresses, delete me from all interfaces, never return phone calls, and basically blot my existence out of his mind as best he could, I would presume, for three years.  As though he had nothing to do with the matter, and there were nothing he could do to resolve it.

Because I’m a Christian, I have to forgive him.  Because I’m a human being, I have to get over it.  Because I have a job to keep and an apartment to maintain, I have to focus away from it.  But it just irks me that I should now be left, not only with a failed friendship, but with a total psychological block against finishing this project that is dear to me.  You see, every time I open up the pages of that script, I practically burst into tears thinking about how a scathing critique full of mockery and insult, followed by three years of silence, ruined a forty-year friendship.  All this fellow would have to do would be to own up – to man up — and my whole block would disappear for good.  It would take an hour, at the most, of this man’s time.  And yet — he will not give me that single hour!

Is it Christian love that would refuse to bend that far for a human being whom you have hurt?  To see the solution so clearly, to hold the very solution in your own hands, and yet refuse to render it?   I could easily forgive him if he owned up.   I do my best to forgive people their understandable transgressions, even as God has forgiven mine.   But when I’m having trouble forgiving someone, why do they make it harder for me to do so?  When they could so easily do something about it!   Why is this forgiveness ball always in my court??

What is forgiveness anyway?   Some say it’s simply “overlooking” the offense.  Scripture says “it is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.”  (Proverbs 19:11)  So I guess if I want any “glory” – if I want to ever actually finish this script — I’m going to have to overlook this offense – huge and overpowering though it may be.

Or maybe — I shouldn’t want any glory. 

I wonder if that’s the bottom line . . .

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Art Artist Composer Composing Creative process Creativity Musical Theatre

Creative Upsurge

There was a huge creative upsurge instigated last night at maybe around ten. At that time, feeling totally creatively dry and dismal, I decided to simply *listen* to my most recent playlist.   As I was listening, my creative juices started flowing again. I started randomly tweaking my “Ode” piece, and at a moment of particular satisfaction decided it was time for bed. I went to bed feeling quite fulfilled, but awoke two hours later, at around ten-thirty, with an unusual hankering to get back at it. So I stayed up till about three-thirty working on “Ode.” Then, finally, I went to bed again (or, more accurately, yoga mat on three layers of cardboard on hard wood floor.) I was up and at it at eight-thirty.

About an hour or so ago, I finished the Ode to my ultimate satisfaction. Then I pasted it to where it’s supposed to fit into my Urban Pathos sequence in show context. (This causes the “Urban Pathos” sequence to now reach 17:37 in duration.) But before I did all that, I had an insight. Also, right when I was done, I had a second, related insight.

The first insight was that, while I often am very concerned with the balance of fitting in my writing music into an overall, broader and more general, positive spiritual picture; I have been less concerned with something that I should be *more* concerned about; and that is, how my writing of music fits into my overall writing as an Artist and a writer. In taking a look at this, I have found that I have been neglecting all my other creative writing because I’ve been writing so much music.

So, I determined to finish this “Ode” and then, since I could tell I was going to finish it early in the day today, I figured I would work on one of my scripts for the rest of the day. Then I decided it would be the Winston Greene script. I’ve just gotta get that thing finished, and out of the way. And then, the second insight came, right after I finished “Ode.”

The second insight, in brief, consists of my now knowing where to proceed from here in that script. I had just reached the state, several months ago, when half of the Kids were going to defect and split off with the charming hustler Howard Trout, whom Winston discerns is actually Benzo Diablo, his nemesis, in disguise. But I didn’t know what to do next, except for that I had to bring in Cynthia Morales, but that I didn’t want to bring her in awkwardly or with too much of a sense of arbitrary contrivance according to convenience unto deus ex machina. But now I know how to bring her in boldly, in a way that will encapsulate the main character conflict between her and the protagonist, in a clear and timely manner that will surely engage the audience.

Ode

“Ode to the Universe” from Eden in Babylon.
Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Michael Pope.

All Rights Reserved.

So – all this stuff has come together for me, all at once. Now I need to run with it.