Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

BAKING A MUSICAL FROM SCRATCH: The Only Way Out is Through Playwright and Producer’s Diary January 9, 2010

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Self producing a world premiere has its joys…and its major frustrations. Here’s a peek into the world of Fertile Ground project “The Only Way Out is Through” through the lens of playwright/producer Miriam Feder.

INSTALLMENT 1

SO FIRST I WROTE A PLAY:  Maybe it was a crazy idea—aren’t they all.  But I wanted to see more people like me on the stage.  After all, there are a lot of us: educated baby boomers. career-women, divorced-Moms who’ve been around a few blocks.  We’re reborn into a midlife world that allows us to be ourselves—outside the noisy realm of desire, glitz, war, and TV drama. I know, we’ve been a whiny generation, taking our (huge) share, maybe more, of the music, social movement, news, advertising bucks, and soon, social security and Medicare dollars.  We’ve subjected everyone to our discoveries, our crises and yes ladies, even our menopause.  And as a generation, we haven’t exactly lived up to our promise.  But in a small way, in the woman’s way of unheralded everyday life and discovery, we are just getting started.  And it can be so good, even stepping through the rubble of the last 50 years and the landmines of now.  How do we get that onstage in a fun, watch-able way?

I worked with a friend who was good enough to come over almost every week and read through/talk through whatever I was thinking about. We improvised a little bit, we got goofy, we got personal.  I felt obligated to have something ready to share with her each week and a little pressure never hurts.

PRODUCTION MONEY–YOWEE: Within the last couple of years I’ve produced three one-woman shows from my original writings to be performed by me at an inexpensive alternative theatre space. They were consuming and self-funded. It’s been lonely and nerve-wracking (albeit wonderful.) I didn’t want to do that again.

This time I had a two-woman idea and a generous production grant. I felt very fortunate and a little grand. After I deposited the check I admired it in my bank account for a few months.  It seemed huge–thrice my previous budgets. I knew I would hire a Director—that’s a must. I’d also hire an Arranger.  (I’ve written songs for years and I’ve written two musicals for student-production and I’ve never stuck to Finale (the musical notation program) long enough to eek out a semi-respectable score.  Enough of music-in-my-head.)

The first check I wrote was going to be my single biggest expense—arranging the music. This major commitment would get me a highly accredited musician on my side, clever arrangements, a score and recorded tracks for performance. Suddenly, in an EXCEL flash, the whole grant was committed away plus about another 50%.  I was the proof of Parkinson’s Second Law–on steroids: Expenditures rise to meet income–and then some.

But nobody likes talking about money.  After all, the important part is

THE PLAY:  I worked up a good reading and singing of the play with my friend.  Based upon the comments we got from our band of trusted, theatre-going friends, I completely rewrote the play, just in time to hand it off to Tod Rainey, the arranger, that week.   keep watching for Installment 2.

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