Friday, September 4, 2015

"Lyra" - Final Music Rehearsal

Photo by Craig Sculli 
So today we had our final music rehearsal for “Lyra.” We’ll be working on music of course as we continue on, but today was our last day to just learn music before we start staging the show, where the focus will be on blocking and acting choices. We’ll have to try and sneak some music polishing time in whenever we can.

We had a whirlwind morning. Evan finished the music to the final song he needed to write at 2am, so we learned it first thing good old-fashioned sight singing style. There are lots of awesome, intricate rhythms that I will be drilling as soon as this post goes up. Getting the final song was actually kind of sad in a way. Of course Evan and I will be doing lots of rewrites on the show, but for now all the music is written. Which means no more Christmas mornings getting new demos from Evan to look forward to in the immediate future.

This song was a HUGE rewrite from our last draft. We basically threw out an entire scene and song, and started from scratch. The new song is much more effective story telling wise, and adds a much needed beat to the show. It’s also one of the only times Lyra and the Illusionist actually sing together, so it’s a moment that’s been building for a long time, and feels quite cathartic for many reasons. It’s pretty much the only time I really get to belt in the show, and I’m really going to enjoy that – although the moment poses an interesting technical challenge. In the show (as in “The Little Mermaid”) SPOILER ALERT! Lyra loses her voice. Basically I’ll be completely silent for a huge chunk of time, and then suddenly have to do awesome belty song. Keeping my voice from getting cold will be hard, especially since I don’t have any time to re warm up off stage. Talking with the musical director about possible solutions.

Also not a big fan of the title of the song. Evan and I are brainstorming alternatives.

After that our musical director taught another song that’s new to the show. This was another moment Evan and I scrapped and started from scratch on. It’s super fun, and I can’t wait to hear it with the band.

Then we did a sing through of Act 1. It’s a very odd experience to hear your score sung out of context, and completely technically. Music rehearsals, for writers, kind of become like a giant mental rubrics cube. These are all the things going through my head during a music rehearsal:
1.)   Do the lyrics in the score match the lyrics in the script? If not, which one is correct? Must consult with Evan. (Immediately send him a text even though he’s sitting a foot away from me so as not to disrupt the rehearsal.)
2.)   Do I regret that lyric change I made? Maybe there’s something better… let me brainstorm…
3.)   Are the notes being sung the same notes on the demo?
4.)   Are the notes on the demo the same as the notes in the score?
5.)   If the answer to either #3 or #4 is “no” – then why not? Is there a typo in the score? Did the demo get recorded incorrectly? Did the singer read the music wrong? And of all those options, which one actually sounds better?
6.)   Imagine this rock song currently being sung with just a piano being sung with a full band before you decide the vibe of the song is off…
7.)   I’ve heard this song so many times I can’t actually tell if it’s good or not anymore…
8.)   Oh! That sounded really nice! And moving! I’m kinda good at this whole writing thing!
9.)   I’m terrible at this whole writing thing. They hate the song. I can tell. Don’t ask me how, I just can. I mean, they complimented the music. And the other singers. But they didn’t say anything about the words. That means they think they’re awful and I should never put pen to paper again…
10.)                  Wait, I forgot something. What is it?! I know it was important….Oh. Food. Did I eat today? No. I should probably get on that…

And that’s for every note and every word of every measure of every song. You have to have such a ridiculous memory that you can look at a score and instantly tell if one tiny word is different from what you know it is in the script, or one note is different from the demo. You don’t get time to go back and cross-reference.
Oh yeah, and Evan also has to be making changes in Finale...
But I love that stuff. I like mental gymnastics. Working on all the intricacies can give you a kind of fantastic artistic high.

And it’s actually one of the reasons why I, on the right occasions, love being in my own work. Everyone always talks about needing to step away from your work to really see it (and yes to that, and it’s an incredibly valid point.) But sometimes being on the inside can show you things you never would have seen otherwise. Often I can FEEL when a beat is wrong from doing it more then from being on the outside just observing. I find it fascinating that at the dawn of theater – way back in Ancient Greece, there was no distinction between being the writer and a performer. It was just a given that the writer of a show would perform in it as well. I’ll get more into this in a later blog post but, while wearing more then one “hat” can certainly go awry, when it’s done for the right reasons I think it can often be a huge plus to a work.

The character of Lyra was actually one of the hardest roles I’ve ever written. Which shocked me since I adore “The Little Mermaid” and very much connect to the character. But, especially when you take her out of the realm of literally being a mermaid, she suddenly has to walk a VERY fine line between falling into being a ridiculously dumb ingénue, and a bratty girl who acts idiotically impulsively. Right in between those two things is a glorious character who is both beautifully innocent, and fiercely intelligent and, in a loving way, fights to be active in a world that wants to keep her anything but. In my first draft of “Lyra” the character of Lyra sounded fine. It was only when I took on the role, and read it out loud at a table read with a group of amazing actors that I knew, from the inside, that Lyra was drifting dangerously into the doe eyed passive girl camp. I wouldn’t have realized it to the degree I did unless I had intrinsically felt the, well, wimpyness in the beats the script was asking me to play. I could FEEL what I wanted to be doing – and that instantly informed the rewrites I did. I’m really good at looking at the big picture. Being in a piece forces me into the intricate details.

So, after our sing though most of the cast was released, and the creative team took a break. Then our wonderful Young Lyra came in to work on her song. She sounds fantastic and just brings the song to life. As older Lyra I have to sing a reprise of the song later, and I took some notes on her vocal choices and style so I can hopefully reference her performance in my own.

Then Young Lyra left, and Evan and I got to spend a little time together debriefing. When you get into rehearsals you don’t always get a lot of time alone with your collaborator – you’re always meeting with the whole creative team, and then often going away on your own to get your work done. It’s nice to have some time to just check in with your collaborator one on one.

Then I had a phone meeting with my fight choreographer for an upcoming production of “Hamlet” I’m doing that starts rehearsals the day after “Lyra” ends (I know, I’m insane.) And I may be interrupted from writing this any minute to jump onto a phone meeting with Evan and our musical director to talk about todays rehearsal and set up a game plan for Sunday, and heading into next week. We’re off tomorrow, which isn’t really a day off since I have to prep for Sunday. But I’m hopefully going to have a little time with some friends to relax a bit.

I’m so excited for you to see this show. I’m really proud of it, and am already sad thinking about the next couple weeks coming to an end.

On a side note, as I continue this blog, please let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to answer.

P.S.  We did a little vlog interview with one of our cast members today (we’ll film more in the coming days,) and he was teasing me about “stumping him” with the questions I asked. I said he should read this blog and prepare REALLY good questions to try and stump me when it comes time to film my vlog interview.

So, hi Craig! Bring it on!

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