28 July 2009

From MATT, part 3

Hey all!
I hope rehearsals continue to go well and that you're enjoying the tunes! Articulation, rhythm, precision. I hear you've got a few more questions, so here we go...
Inspiration for Sheldon? Nothing in particular, and I can say with confidence that Officer Krupke (a great tune) wasn't on my mind. Interesting you should mention that, though, because a great composer made the same comparison!
I'm not aware of video online - Jill would definitely know that :) I was very fond of our original production - we had some great characters. I hope you all will make a video so I can see your version!
Waylon the metrosexual jock was born out of circumstance. Between needing some kind of conflict between Waylon and Katie in "Locker Room" (tempo di George Michael, ie, "Faith") and the concept of "Macho to Metro" it just worked out to have Waylon be the way he is. Plus, it's so much more fun than a standard "jock" character. And real.
Waylon gets his name from the great country star, Waylon Jennings, who is not one of my all-time favorites, but who I happened to be listening to around that time. Needed a good, distinctive, two-syllable name.
Alas, I was a good boy, and didn't lie to my folks. I might omit certain details of my day, but everyone's allowed some privacy. I did and do often tell tall tales, exaggerations, and pure fictions, but that's a bit different. Jill and I were thinking of ways the characters could all come together as a group, and I was just drawn to the idea of coming together through lying and covering up for each other. How great to discover friendship (and with it, truth) through lying. I've long been delighted by the idea that great authors of fiction tell the truth by lying. The "Lying" tune is just a little allusion to that fact, plus a good time and a chance to bring Lotta into the second act.
Before writing Intervention, I had written a show called Middle School Madness - a revue of scenes (by a wonderful woman named Bette Glenn) and songs (by me) about middle school life, for middle school kids. Jill found out about it and decided to produce it, which is how I met her. Anyway, in Middle School Madness (MSM, as I call it), there are three songs which I call "The Michael Songs" - each a solo number for a girl about the same boy (who we never meet) named Michael.
The first is called "The Way I Am." Here's a girl in love with Michael, but she insists he only sees half of her - the loud and obnoxious half - and not the more true soft and loving part. ("For every time I've hollered or roared like a lion there were a million unnoticed times that I merely meowed...") Near the end: "When you finally see all of me I hope you love the way I am." etc.
The next is "Michael and I," which starts out:
"Michael and I used to play catch when we were small.
Our moms sat and talked on the bench while we threw the ball.
And sometimes he and I
Would pretend that a dragon was swoopin' down from the sky!
I was the girl; he was the prince.
Michael & I been best friends ever since."
It continues, "I've never kept a secret from Michael before..." and yada yada yada you guessed it, she loves him. Here it's a case of 'I like-like my best friend and want to tell him but I'm afraid of ruining our friendship.'
The third, a fan favorite, is the "Track Song" - a girl alternates singing about why she hates running track and why she loves running track:
"Track! Stupid track!
Why did I ever sign up for track!
Why do spring sports start in the winter?
Out in the cold running laps until I'm told
That I can go in and change!
Change gears and do my homework
Till the next day's rising
The routine's so tiring
I wonder why I'm doing it but...
[beautiful music]
When I lift my feet....
One foot in front of the other
I am practically in flight." etc.
Midway through, Michael calls - he wants to do homework together - and the song becomes about whether or not she should go out with Michael, who clearly likes her. Meanwhile, back at the lyric, the language of track and the language of love get all mixed up.
ANYWAY... when it came to Intervention, I thought - wouldn't it be great to finally meet Michael? So here we have three girls, all in love with him - and, just because - one LAST unrequited Michael song (just called "Michael")... and then finally, after a show and a half of waiting... "Oh my God! Here he comes!" Of course it turns out, he's gay! How perfect! How many girls did I know in high school who were in love with the gay guys, but they didn't know, because it was high school? And how many gay guys knew perfectly well they were loved, but didn't say anything (cause it was high school)? It just led to a mess. In this case, it instead leads to a fabulous musical number - one of my favorites.
As to what Michael himself would be like, I believe in putting on the stage what I would want to see, which is how Michael got the way he is, and Waylon got the way he is, and Lotta with her increasingly risqué double entendres, and Sheldon, the secret hero of the play - basically, you try to write something you'd like to watch.
Why high school? I did love high school, really, but that wasn't why it happened. After doing Middle School Madness, Jill pretty much refused to take no for an answer. She wanted me to write a show for high school kids - some of her high school kids had seen MSM and wanted a show for themselves. At first I didn't want to do it, but Jill, to her credit, kept at me until I agreed. So we said we would write a show for high school kids and put it up in the spring. Which we did.
Once again, I'm sure I've tried your patience with my longwinded ramblings! I only hope they're at least a little enjoyable, and don't take away too much of your valuable rehearsal time.
Go Company M!

23 July 2009

from MATT, part 2

Team Intervention!
As promised, here is the second half of what I intended to say yesterday but ran out of time to say. I guess I'm a little wordy, but you already know that. (More on the distinction between lots of words and extra words some other time).
You asked if one group is most popular... "Popular" in most contexts seems to mean the people you'd like to be friends with, look like, act like - circles you'd like to integrate; folks you'd like to emulate. That's not the case here - no group wishes they were more like or closer to another. In Intervention, I think any eyes looking jealously across the invisible lines that separate social groups are driven by romantic feelings, as opposed to aspirations for social status.
Which group was I in at high school? Actually, kind of all of them. Most clearly the academics, the thespians, the musicians... but all the kids who turned into big time jocks were good friends of mine - we'd grown up together and we were all close. I could tell that for many folks in school those 'invisible lines' were pretty visible - but I didn't experience that myself. People are people - the rest is just clothing, literally or metaphorically. Even the "spiky collar kids wearing gothic black" were great to hang out with because under the Hot Topic merchandise they were just nice kids who secretly performed in punk bands on the weekends, singing with faux British accents for no good reason. By the way, attending their concerts is why I'm a little hard of hearing. Cover your ears!
How long did it take to write Intervention? Jill and I came up with a rough roadmap of how the show would go in November 2006, and I started writing Jan 2, 2007. I finished the first act by mid March (two and a half months later) before going on spring break to Bermuda with the Hasty Pudding Theatricals (a group I was music directing at the time). Now, I had announced to everyone I knew that I would perform a preview of Intervention (just me singing through it all) at Harvard on April 14. We returned from Bermuda on April 2 and so Act 2 got written in just under two weeks, in time for the April 14 sing-thru - except for Sheldon's Confession, which I ran out of time for and wrote the following week. So, all in all, about three months.
It was a real magical and intense routine working on this show. I would wake up everyday at 10, wander over to the keyboard before even opening my eyes, and start working right away. I usually spent about three days on a number: the first day to get some musical and lyrical ideas together, the second to do the hard work of cranking out the bulk of it, and the third day to edit, tidy up, and make a demo recording. Those were long days, and I was on a diet of matzoh and Lipton soup, because I didn't want to stop to cook. It would suddenly be 11 at night (time for Jon Stewart) and I would call it a day.
I remember the first tune I finished was "Michael," but I didn't want to show Jill right away because she would get the wrong impression of what the show would sound like. I came up with the chorus for "Sheldon" in early January 2007, but didn't write the patter until early March. Sheldon, by the way, was originally called Lancers (I know...) to rhyme with answers (Three Cheers for Lancers, he gives us the answers...) - once I abandoned the possibility of rhyming the name with anything (thank goodness), Sheldon was in some ways a natural choice :) "Sheldon" is a crowd pleaser (I just performed it on Saturday) but it wasn't actually too hard to write because the math all works out, and it's all high school calculus. (By the way, I wonder if you can infer the actual question to the extra credit problem). "Why Throw Your Life Away" was really hard to get just right - that was the last tune I finished (other than the Confession), and the last part of that tune to get written was the bridge. Those two lines "I don't want to worry... spirit soar" took six hours to come up with! Well, better to spend the time and get it right than settle.
And finally - is this a personal story? Well, some other time we can discuss this, and I know Jill will have something to say about that, too. I've gone on long enough.
Thanks for asking, and for reading!
Break a leg in rehearsals!
PS: Please articulate :) It's all about the words.

21 July 2009

Go, Company M, Go! (from MATT, part 1)

Hey Team Intervention!
Thanks for the chance to jump in on your conversations and cheer you on during your rehearsal process (go Company M!). I hear from Kjerstie that a few things have already come up - so here 'goes.
Why not show the consequence of Sheldon's Confession? I always approach a work with the idea that if the writer hasn't given any clues as to the answer to a question, then the answer can't be that important (in context). To me, it doesn't really matter whether or not Amy reciprocates Sheldon's love - it's not important. It's human interest, I guess, but that's different. What is important is that Sheldon confesses it.
The characters aren't based so much on people we know as they are on archetypes we've come across. I do try to slip my friends' names into the lyric as much as possible, though... John & Jen, Josh Brener is the name of a guy who sang my "Track Song" (from Middle School Madness) - and it just happens to rhyme with tenor..., Lotta (spelled wrong) was the name of a character in a show I was music directing at the time, Michael - that's a whole other thing. Remind me to tell you about the Michael songs - but there was going to be a Michael. etc.
Favorite character? The actors decide who my favorite character will be.
What is Tempo di Les Mis!? Shame, Company M, shame! Tempo di Les Mis is Tempo di I Dreamed a Dream, of course :) Check out the arrangement there - it's pulled straight from Les Mis. Man, when I was in 7th and 8th grade, all you had to play was I Dreamed a Dream and the Piano Man and you were a pianist extraordinaire. In high school you had to add Seasons of Love (which was new) and the other kids figured you were basically pro. Anyway, we all know IDAD is sung too much by too many (even before Susan Boyle), but it still has a warm place in my heart. Plus, in every show I do, I always sneak at least a couple direct quotes subtly into the arrangement, usually just for the musicians' amusement. In different shows I've quoted Andrew Lloyd Weber, Al Jolsen, Kander & Ebb, Sondheim, so on. 1 part homage, 2 parts joke.
Gotta go, but more soon. Work hard, be good, and stay in touch!


Rehearsals have begun! Though many of us were just together on Saturday morning (less than 48 hours before the start of rehearsals yesterday morning) it was still great to connect with our summertime MadCAP friends. I am SO EXCITED to welcome guest bloggers MATT CORRIEL & JILL JAYSEN, creators of "Intervention". During cast discussions and rehearsal, we constantly come up with "wonderings" and often wish it were possible to simply ask the creators. Finally, we can! As the rehearsal period goes on, look for entries from these two on our blog. Thanks!