Past

Engaged

Hey, friend.  Just a quick note to say I’m thinking about you.  Slowly getting back up to speed around here, I’m actually on my way out the door to an appointment just now.  Thought you might be interested to hear that I’ve started to have conversations with folks who saw the musical to get a sense of what the experience was like for them.  Really interesting the number of people who used the term ‘radio play’ to describe it.  And they found that approach quite refreshing.  And it looks like there was enough of a story to keep their interest, and enough spaces for their imagination to fill in to keep them engaged.  Some folks really enjoyed the show even though they don’t particularly like musicals–apparently the story caught and held them, and the songs didn’t get in the way of the story.  I know I’m not likely to hear from anyone who hated it.  But it looks like there’s something positive here–a show that engages people.  And more than one person was heard leaving the hall singing things they’d just heard.  That’s got to count for something.  I have no idea what to do with all this, but that’s the shape of the response so far.  Looks like I can’t ignore it.  Going to have to gather my energy and push on.  I know the next step is to update the charts and script based on the revisions.  Past that I’m really not sure.  Should I try and interest a professional company in doing another workshop?  After that I might have a more solid idea of whether I’ve got something that might be a work of significance with the right support, or whether it should go right into a happy life in syndication.  Or is it as done as it’s going to get and I should just find a company to do a full production?  I have no idea.  So for now I’ll finish the updates.  Hopefully once that’s done the next step will be obvious.  Wish me luck.

A Few Snaps

Mostly still napping.  But today I start to put the numbers together, beginning the work of assembling the final report which is part of the deal when you get a grant.  Hardly onerous, especially considering the grant was what made this all possible.  Thankful?  You bet!  At the moment I will admit to feeling like the musical is a million miles away, something that happened to someone else a long time ago.  But I know that’s not reality, so I’ll keep working until the weather changes.  In the meantime, a few snaps just for the heck of it.  With thanks to Lori.

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It's a reading. Meaning no set, no blocking. As several people pointed out--pretty much exactly like a radio play.

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On your left--Jack did a lovely job of some of the funnier lines in the show, his talent expands to fill available space, a beautiful thing.

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Moving to your right--Nabi could sing the phonebook and it would sound great, happily there was more plot in this material, if fewer characters.

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I figure they put me in the middle so they could keep an eye on me.

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Moving along to your right--Jay having a good time with some of the juicier lines, the man sparkles when he reads, can sing, too.

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And on your far right--that'd be John playing the part of sweet reason, and holding down the bottom end, those charts were not easy and he delivered.

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Having survived the run, four-fifths of the cast are asked to put on a funny face. I notice Nabi was the only one who had to do anything special.

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And if you know the story you will find it amusing that Jack appeared to be lost when we were asked for a group shot.

The Day After

Done.  Applause over, smiles from the audience, and some tears in the right places, too.  Migosh, so many people to thank…  But for now I’m going to hold that support close to my heart, and yes, go have another nap.  And if that’s all I accomplish today that’s just going to have to be okay.

Once More With Feeling

One more show to do, friend, and then it’s done.  At least the visible part.  It’s kinda like an iceberg, in that most of the work ain’t obvious.  I mean how many people are going to know that the soprano part needs to be written down an octave in those sections?  Heck, how many of ‘em know that’s a soprano?  She sang the lines in the right place, just went there naturally.  But I’m pretty sure there are a few spots where the charts have the right note, but the wrong octave (if you’re playing along, that’s the distance from doh to doh, all eight notes of a scale, an octave, you knew that, right?).  And my brave and willing cast members are very kind to be okay with reading my hand-written charts, but the only thing worse than my hand-writing is my hand-notation.  Now that the notes are more or less settled into place we’ll be able to finish the charts in Lilypond.  And of course once the dust has settled and the notes are there I’ll want to have one more look at the script.  I like how it sits now, but I have a couple of thoughts that I’d like to at least explore before I call it done and start hauling it around to see who wants to play.  Might even be fun to try to get back over to Britain and put together a cast over there to do the Fringe in Edinburgh.  Figure I may as well use that dual citizenship.  If I’m not going to be gigging I’ll need to do something to pass the time, might just as well be over there.

But for tonight I’m setting all that aside.  See, the way these things go I may never get to play this part again.  I didn’t intend the show to be a vehicle for me as a performer, I’m not up for it.  And frankly I’d much rather see it in someone else’s hands, I’m really tired of my own cooking just now.  But just for tonight I’m going to work it a little bit and see what I can get out of it.  I don’t figure anyone will notice.  And when it’s done, time for a nap.  Yeah, maybe two.

How Did It Go?

Okay, you asked me how did it go?  Migosh… let’s see, several times I needed to get my thoughts together having strayed into ‘this is really happening’ territory.  Mostly backstage, although there was one moment.  Oops, where are we?  In that particular instant having written it was no help at all.  Wasn’t tragic, neither I nor the story died.  What else?  To feel the audience get it, the serious things and the not so serious.  To feel the cast working the script…

Oh yeah, we had a full cast.  Miracles do happen.  ‘Nuff said.

How else did it go?  No time to think, really.  I know I was reminded that although this project has been about workshopping the script and the music, actually doing it in front of people is so helpful, and so instructive.  I knew that, but wonderful to be reminded.  Also nice to have some decisions about things work out and a few others not so much, a healthy balance.  I work with good people, their thoughts were the sensible ones, the goofy bits were mine.  Happily no urge to trash it or re-write from scratch so far.  I guess that’s good, although it could merely demonstrate a complete lack of both taste and judgement on my part.  And I don’t know for sure, but I do fancy I heard the sound of several nice folks relax just a little bit when it turned out to be not something they were going to be searching hopelessly for nice things to say about.  These being my friends, we being bound to bring it up in conversation, that being a discomfort I wish on no one.

But mostly what was going through my mind was how many people had pitched in to get this thing this far.  You’ve often heard me say that I figure life is a team sport, this apparently is too.  Yay team.

Thanks.

Opening Night

It goes on pretty soon, just a few hours.  But apparently this is where it gets interesting–one of our number is sick.  Really sick.  At the moment I’m not sure whether we’ve got a full cast or not.  We’ve got someone on standby to read the part, and I’ve re-arranged the tunes just in case.  So now I’m waiting for a phonecall.  Y’know, they tell stories about things like this.  It’s not supposed to happen in real life.  No sense getting upset about any of it, though.  I know that the script and music we’ve got out of the workshop process is the prize here.  The performances are just the bonus, where we get to show folks what we’ve been up to.  Still, I’m hoping we have a full crew tonight.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Tomorrow

Well, tomorrow we see how it all turns out.  I know it’s most likely not the end of anything, more of a beginning I suppose.  But one more day and we get to see how all it all works in front of an audience.  I have no idea whether they’ll laugh or cry.  Or yawn.  But there’s nothing more can be done now, except maybe try to get a good night’s sleep.  Not much I can say about it all, really.  Either this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, or the coolest.  And quite possibly both.  All I know for sure is that at the moment my opinion is pretty much useless.

The predominant culture around here teaches us that our feelings are of supreme importance, everything else is supposed to be purely secondary.  That message comes at us in so many ways, we’re hammered with it again and again until we don’t even think about it anymore, it just becomes part of the air we breathe.  But in my life I have experienced more than one set of circumstances where that’s simply not true.  Here’s another one.

Doesn’t mean I mustn’t pay attention to those feelings.  I just know better than to let them drive just now.

So at the moment the best thing I can do is try to get some sleep.  Thanks for your support, friend.  No way I could have come this far without it.

Wish us luck, eh?

Then It Occurs To Me

kbsitepicgig018It came to my mind in one of those moments.  Working out the parts for one of the songs in the musical, and I reminded myself that when the workshop is over I’ll have to take the changes and write up a proper finished guitar chart so someone else can play it.  I mean, I know that.  But it wasn’t until I’d acknowledged that thought, plus maybe a couple of seconds, that it occurred to me.  Wait a minute, I play guitar in a tuning which isn’t so normal.  I mean it’s not as unusual as it once was, but still…  Apparently I have a decision to make.  Either I’m going to have to rearrange everything for a more normally tuned guitar, or I’m going to chart it up in it’s native format and expect the guitar player to either play it that way or make do.  Of course then I remember that the solo guitar version, or solo piano for that matter, isn’t the end goal.  It’s to disassemble the guitar part back to the original parts that it’s representing, bass, keys, percussion, horns, and yes a guitar part which would likely at that point be charted and played in standard tuning.  Oh okay.  The solo piano part’s gonna be a grind because I’m not fluent in the language, but all the ensemble stuff is just a matter of transcribing what I already either play or hear.  But can I tell you the funny part?  All this is passing through my mind as I’m trying to read and sing a vocal line not improvise it the way I usually do when I sing the song myself because right now there’s four other people singing it, and trying to play the guitar part both as written and groovy enough that there’s something coming off of it that people can work with and I’m not just making dishwasher noises, and I’m trying to read five lines of vocal score which I’m noting where I need to make corrections while listening for how all the parts are working so that when someone says did I hit the right note back there I have something vaguely intelligent to offer.

And it’s at that particular point in the proceedings that I apparently choose to begin to have complex conversations with myself.

I mean really.  What’s with that?

Am I getting this across?  Somebody throw me another plate.  Most days I can barely do long division without tragic consequences, but the second I’ve got six plates spinning apparently some part of me way back in the lizard-brain either thinks I need more of a challenge or is bored and needs to keep busy, or both.  That.  What’s with that?  Geez.  Shut up and sing wouldja.

I mean really.

Re-write

Hi friend, how’s your day?  I hope you’ve had a bit of useful in it.  I’m still trying to decide whether I’m being useful or not.  I’ve got my mind stuck on one aspect of the musical, and don’t know quite what to think.  No big deal, really.  See, the performance at the end of the workshop process is going to be done without set, without movement.  Five people on mics.  So what do I do about the stage directions?  In some cases things won’t make any sense without some kind of context.  So what do I do?  I’ve been arguing with myself whether to have someone read them.  But I’m not sure that’s the right answer.  And it’s really tempting to just turn the whole thing into a radio play, where one of the characters walks the listener through what’s going on.  But I’m not convinced that’s the best idea.  So I’m stuck.  Good thing I’m still working on re-arranging the charts.  Otherwise I probably would’ve started on the re-write already.  This way I can at least think about it for a bit.  One thing that is a bit challenging about this workshop process is that there’s not much time to live with an idea and see whether it feels right.  It’s very similar to when I’ve produced recordings for people.  It’s always best if one can live with the mixes for a while, making sure it’s really feels how we intend.  When you’ve got your head buried in the work you often have trouble seeing the overview, eh?  Takes walking away from it for a bit, then you’ve got a chance of seeing it fresh again.  It’s something I’ve been told I’m good at, being able to get to the listener’s position to experience the work from their perspective.  I think I remember someone joking that it was one of the benefits of short-term memory loss.  But I forget who said it.  No really.  But I do have to figure out what to do about the stage directions.  I’m sure I’ll think of something, I usually do.  Wish I’d hurry up and get on with it though.  I’d really rather not be giving these nice folks a whole new script at the last minute.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Witness (a musical)

Ken Brown will present his new musical “Witness” at The Registry Theatre in Kitchener, June 25, 26 and 27 at 8pm.

A woman comes to town to find her sister.  Downtown she runs into four guys singing to pass the time.  Together they work the town and end up finding more than they bargained for.  Five voices and fourteen songs, part mystery and part R&B romp, the cast is Nabi Loney, Ken Brown, Jack Cole, Jay Moore, and John Watson.

Ken Brown has been called a musician’s musician.  To some people he’s known as a singer of powerful songs, to others he’s a masterful guitar player.  Audiences across North American and all over Britain have applauded his compelling arrangements of traditional music.  Others know his own insightful songs, or his happy deconstruction of Beatles tunes.  Some people only know that he plays upright bass.  And that suits him fine.  No one knew he’d written a musical until now.

Between being written and its first full production there is a period of workshopping a musical, where actors lift the words off the page for the very first time and the material is re-shaped based on that experience.  It’s an exciting time in the life of a musical.  These three performances will present the results of that workshop process in a staged reading with full music.

This workshop presentation of “Witness” takes place June 25, 26 & 27 at 8pm at the Registry Theatre, 122 Fredrick Street in Kitchener.  Tickets are $15 and will be available at the door, or can be purchased in advance from The Centre in the Square box office online at www.centre-square.com or by calling (519) 578-1570.  Directions and parking for The Registry Theatre can be found at registrytheatre.com/contact.shtml

wraflogocThis production gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund