by Aidan Carr
For the next two months, my writing here will document the process of creating a new work of musical theater. This process is lengthy and not particularly glamorous: indeed, much of the groundwork and infrastructure for the project that this creative diary follows has been in development for nearly two years. It is the final portion of the working, however, the tail end, that is most interesting; myths of frantic out-of-town tryouts and hotel rooms covered in scribbled-over drafts abound in theater circles; any given episode of NBC’s Smash inevitably invokes the trope. These myths are hyperbolic iterations, but they stem from a real and palpable creative excitement surrounding musical theater work nearing completion—an excitement that I hope to communicate in the postings that follow.
Musical theater typically is a most collaborative art form—there is a composer, a lyricist, a book writer, a director, producers, a musical director, an entire orchestra and ensemble of singers/dancers, and a host of other design staff, every single person contributing to the aesthetic of what the audience experiences. My project is somewhat unusual because, by its nature as an academic thesis, I am required to assume the first four or five roles by myself. Normally, this would be more than problematic, it would be fatal to a production; hence, a lowering of ambitions is in order. The end result of this process is to be what’s termed an “unstaged reading.” A company of actors with scripts and scores on music stands will take the stage, stand when they are in a scene, and sit down when they are not. Two or three musicians and a narrator to read stage directions will accompany them.
The work itself is an adaptation of a horror film called MAY, directed by Lucky McKee. It is a macabre fairy-tale of sorts, an amalgamation of Frankenstein, Faust, and The Bell Jar (at its heart), and its two most distinctive features are an ensemble of singing imaginary dolls and the extensive and intricate employment of electronic music.
Thanks for reading. Now let’s get started.