What Have You Been Doing?

This is an excellent question, and one I’ve been getting a lot of lately.

And why?

  • Perhaps it’s because I have looked consistently tired over the past several weeks?

  • Perhaps it’s because I’ve not been very social this past month.

  • Or perhaps it’s because the rabid fans of my blog are craving the more in-depth content that I have not had the time to deliver much of this fall! (ehn?)

I’m sure all of these are correct, at least to a degree.

But it’s a good question, nonetheless.

What have I been doing? What’s been keeping me so busy?

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Quelle Surprise!

The Dramatists Guild - the closest thing that playwrights and composers have to a union - has a program called Friday Night Footlights, which happens in 4 rounds throughout the year.

In each round, you may apply to the program with a show that you would like to do a full reading of, and you choose from a list of the offered 4-8 dates that work for your schedule. It’s a lottery system, so you never know who is going to be chosen, but it’s an excellent opportunity if you get a slot.

If you are chosen, the Dramatists Guild provides you with their lovely reading space at their headquarters in Times Square called The Mary Rodgers Room, which is beautiful and contains a grand piano owned by Richard Rodgers.

About 5 weeks ago - after approximately 4.5 years of applying to this program - I was alerted that I had been selected for a slot to perform a reading of The King’s Legacy on Saturday, November 16th!

And because I’m a glutton for self-inflicted deadlines and buttloads of work (a real measurement, by the way), I decided to make it a big ole industry reading by getting Broadway performers and inviting all sorts of industry professionals!

As Shaggy would say: “Zoinks!

(And I think you can figure out to which Shaggy I am referring, lol.)

 

Buttloads To Do

I’m telling you, it’s a real measurement. Google it!

So, this kicked me into high gear to get a lot done in a very short period of time. Particularly because I have been acting as producer, general manager, and writer for this event - though with a lot of extraordinary help from amazing friends and colleagues like Jacque Carnahan, who will also be in the reading!

Basically, I’ve been:

  • Rewriting/Editing the script and score with changes from post-this summer’s production

  • Writing 2.5 new songs

  • Writing underscore for a few new script elements

  • Getting performers on board, which is tricky this time of year

  • Getting a director and musical director

  • Creating an industry invitation list

  • Sending save-the-dates and invitations, intermittently staggered by the calendar

  • Re-copying and compiling the script and score

  • Finding spaces for rehearsals

  • Compiling everyone’s availability into a workable schedule

  • Printing all of the necessities

  • And a lot of emailing and other little things that have popped up along the way

And the first 3 weeks of this was while we were still putting together/getting ready for TudorCon!

It’s been a truly crazy time.

And I don’t list this out for a sense of accomplishment - the actual event has yet to occur, or even start rehearsing! Instead, this is more about why I have sort of disappeared from the world recently, which is something I don’t love to do.

But sometimes, you just need to get things done for deadlines and throw yourself into projects that could potentially be some sort of boost. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do!

 

The Reading

Next Saturday is coming up quickly, but we’ve got a great team assembled, and I am thrilled! The cast and creative team are listed in the image above!

Wait, that’s an amazing group! Michael, can I come?!

Well, dear reader, according to the guidelines under which we are doing this reading, I cannot give an open invitation. Seats are also limited in the space. My apologies!

But! If you are in the industry and are interested in potentially attending this reading, please feel free to reach out to me personally to ask for an invitation.

And with any luck, this reading will lead to the next public presentation of The King’s Legacy, so keep your fingers crossed!

Until next time, friends!

Interlude

Dear Readers,

A Happy November to you all!

Today is one of those days where other writing must take precedence over the blog, for which I offer my apologies. I hope to return with a full post next week!

In the meantime, I offer some small words of advice:

  • Be kind to yourself

  • Be kind to others

  • Get a flu shot

  • Check on your “strong friends”

  • No-Shave November is optional

  • Spooky Season is year-round, if you so choose

  • Clocks change this weekend (don’t even get me started on this topic)

  • Art Isn’t Easy

With kindness, love, and not nearly enough caffeine…

-Michael-

Become A True "Renaissance [Wo]Man"

As I discussed last week, this past weekend was the first ever TudorCon at which myself and a small cast performed a concert of music from The King’s Legacy as the con’s Saturday night entertainment.

So silly. So fun. And wonderfully affirming!

I met a lovely group of smart, giving, caring individuals who all gathered together to share their love of this time period and its stories. And even more than that, they gathered together to support the research, knowledge, and creations of the speakers and their fellow attendees.

After the concert, a small group of people was standing around speaking with some of the performers, and they were asking where they would be able to see the show next.

Now, as you know dear readers, this depends entirely on when and where there is an interest to produce the show, as well as having the money behind it to make it happen. And this was explained to the group.

But then one of the women said: “You should start a Patreon page! I would definitely give, and I bet many other people would as well!

And what a delightfully canny idea that was!

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It's TudorCon Time!

Yes folks, you heard (read?) that right! TudorCon.

The world’s first ever TudorCon, in fact.

And The King’s Legacy has been booked to provide the Saturday night entertainment at the con’s inaugural year with a concert of music from the show!

“So, what is this thing?”

“What are you doing there?”

“And why should I care?”

I love your propensity for questions, dear reader!

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There Must Be More

“…than this Provincial life!”

Sorry, I just needed to have my Belle moment. That’s totally not what this post is about. I just adore that score.

Onward!

Over the past week I saw 3 shows - 2 Broadway and 1 Off-Broadway.

These shows were (in the order I saw them):

  • Scotland, PA

  • The Inheritance Part 1

  • Tootsie

Now, regardless of how I felt about each of these shows, or how much I did or did not enjoy them individually, they all had something in common per my experience in watching them.

At one point (at least) in every one of these shows I had the thought: “…But must we? This again? Isn’t there more out there? There must be more.

Allow me to explain.

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You're Allowed to Call "Hold"

For those of you who are not aware, in the theatre we have this thing where you’re allowed to call “hold.”

What does that mean…?”

Excellent question!

During the tech process of a show, it is common practice that anyone in the room is allowed to call “hold!” and stop the rehearsal process. This could be due to a safety concern, a missing element (prop, costume, light, etc), something that went wrong onstage or backstage, a person missing an entrance, needing to fix a technical moment, a mis-fired cue…or for so many more reasons.

Basically, you can call “hold” for anything major that goes wrong because everything is a priority.

I want to repeat this.

Anyone in the room is allowed to call “hold” because everything is a priority. And not a single person in that room will (rightly) judge you for it.

Okay. So what?

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Take It To The Chorus

What is a chorus? And for that matter, what is a verse?

These seem like fairly general music terms that we all know, but do we?

I’m pretty sure that most people could at least tell you that they’ve heard of the terms chorus, verse, and bridge before, and could most likely give you a general definition.

Well, at least as far as pop music goes.

But in musical theatre, these things have a slightly different meaning. And it has dawned on me slowly over the past several years that there are many creatives in the industry (directors, performers, etc., and yes, some writers) who are not exactly sure what these terms mean when applied to musical theatre music.

So, what do they mean?

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Let The Sunshine In

Lately, I’ve been hearing a common refrain from people throughout my life - friends, family, students, parents, and even strangers and acquaintances on social media…

I’m just so tired. Everything is exhausting.

And when exploring this a little further, I’ve begun to notice a pattern. A very common pattern, in fact, and one that I have fallen into many times.

Does this - or something like it - sound familiar?

  1. Wake up

  2. Caffeinate/Eat

  3. Work

  4. Eat

  5. Work

  6. Exercise perhaps?

  7. Obligations

  8. Eat

  9. Obligations

  10. Zombie out in front of electronics

  11. Sleep

Rinse and repeat.

This is a common pattern - and I have absolutely nothing against patterns or routines, I personally thrive off them! But the above doesn’t seem to be leaving much, if any, time for joy.

Now, I’m not talking about carving out big periods of time on a daily basis for “relaxation” or regularly skiving off obligations to instead do something fun. What I’m talking about is finding a way to include just a little bit of joy in your daily life. Just a little bit of sunshine amidst all the necessities.

But how?

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A Good Story Is Everything

Anyone who knows me well knows that - in all honesty - I’m not very good at telling stories.

Now, I’d like to qualify this a little since - yes - I’m aware that I’m making a career as both a writer and a performer, which are both types of professional storytelling. And when I can provide a narrative in such a structured, prepared, and well-crafted way, I feel totally confident delivering an engaging story.

But as for more pedestrian, real-life stories? It’s been a struggle.

It was first pointed out to me about five years ago when someone turned to me and said:

Yeesh. I hope you’re a better writer than storyteller!

Ouch. Harsh, Gretch.

But it was true! I have always loved telling anecdotes from life, particularly the funny or really out-there ones, but I tend to hold my tongue these days because I know that my stories tend not to land.

So I’ve worked on it. I’ve researched (cuz it’s me) how to tell a good oral story and what makes this craft different from a written story, and I think I’ve improved greatly. Huzzah!

But why am I bringing this up now?

Well, if this summer taught me one thing only (and it taught me waaaaay more than that), it’s that people of all walks of life respond to nothing as well as they respond to a good story.

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And On To The Next!

Hello dear friends and readers!

This week’s post is less of a post and more of a hello! I feel like I’ve been so out of touch with the blog most of the past 3 months because…well, you know. You read those posts! …Right???

If not, you can check out the summer’s-worth of posts and theatrical craziness here:

But now that the summer is over, I’m back in NYC, and the school year has begun, I will be returning to my regular schedule of a weekly post on Friday afternoons!

I hope to bring even more content this year with things like interviews, guest blogs, and even more new topics!

And so, dear friends and readers, I will return with some new content next Friday!

On to the next!

Hold Your Breath. Make A Wish. Count To Three.

You know how you sometimes have this dream - it could be a nighttime thing, or a daydream, or some lofty ethereal goal - but it’s something you just can’t quite imagine. It’s there and you can almost picture it, but only ever just almost.

I’ve had so many of these dreams that I lost count long ago. But I think it’s something that’s just in the DNA of artists and creative types.

Right?

Well, beginning sometime around the fall of 2016 I had this dream (the goal kind) of what it would be like, feel like, look like, sound like, etc to see The King’s Legacy - which had finally found the correct structure - come to life in a full production.

It simultaneously felt easily attainable and yet a thousand years off. I truly could almost see it happening. But it wasn’t happening - not yet anyway. So all I could do was just keep imagining and letting various scenarios pass through my head.

But I will tell you that, when it came down to the reality, it was nothing like I had imagined.

It was so much better.

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6 Years Later...

  • October 26th, 2012 - I completed the very first outline for the first version of The King’s Legacy.

  • December 6th, 2012 - There existed a first draft of a script, including a large portion of lyrics.

  • March 14th, 2013 - I had a fully realized first draft with all scenes, music, and lyrics completed.

And so it all began.

It’s been a long long road to the first ever full production of The King’s Legacy, and what a strange, magical, frustrating, and fantastical journey it has been. It’s had its peaks and valleys, but it has brought us to where we are now: Less than one day away from the first rehearsal for the premiere production. (!!!)

So how did it all start? Where did the show come from? And how did it get to where it is today?

As per usual, I’m thrilled you asked!

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*And* I Have To...What?

We often ask a lot of our performers - and directors, designers, and everyone else of course as well, but this post is performer-focused.

We especially ask a lot of our performers in a summer stock rehearsal setting.

But sometimes we ask for even a little more.

Perhaps you have a special skill that the director would like to include in a show. For example: you play an instrument, you tumble, you’re a gymnast, you can juggle, you can do impersonations…or a thousand other possible talents.

And then there are shows that ask for even more than a little more, and to do it all in 8 days.

And that, my friends, is the zany, fast-paced romp that is Murder For Two at Bristol Valley Theater!

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Love Is Alive And Well On Broadway

This past Monday night I was honored and overjoyed to attend the 4th annual Arts For Autism Broadway benefit concert!

For those of you who have not yet heard about this event, please allow me to tell you about the magic that is late June evening each year.

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Just The Perfect Blendship

One of the absolute best parts of the theater that I feel people don’t talk about enough is the people - the community.

Sure, every June as we all get ready to sit down together in NYC and across the country to watch the Tony Awards, or are preparing for one of the major benefits like Broadway Bares, or even just during Pride Month in general, theatrical and non-theatrical publications will talk briefly about how Broadway is a community. And it is! It’s a fantastic community with the same pros and cons that any community might have.

But only “Broadway” is discussed as being the community itself.

And as soon as you call something the “Broadway” community, there is an innate elitism to that term - whether geographically or in terms of production budget - which gets thrown into everyone’s minds.

But what is this Broadway community? Is it just the thousands of people actively working in NYC’s largest theatrical houses? Just those who contribute to the city’s multi-billion dollar industry?

I don’t think so, no.

I think the Broadway community is far larger than that. Personally, I would consider the Broadway community to include anyone and everyone working in theatre across the entire country. I would even consider the Broadway community to include the multitude of theatre lovers - those who don’t necessarily work in the industry, but participate through other means by supporting those who do, or even just attending all productions they can and keeping tabs on what’s happening in the industry.

In my opinion, it is crucial to consider everyone involved in the theatre everywhere as part of the Broadway community.

“But why?”

Allow me to explain!

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From The Ground Up

The term “Devised Theatre” tends to elicit strong reactions from people - whether that be eyes lighting up in excitement, a shudder in remembrance of the ghosts of devised theatre past, or questioning looks from those who aren’t exactly sure what it means.

Essentially, devised theatre is a theatrical piece including any performance elements (dance, music, lights, speech, sound, movement, etc.) that was built from the ground up by an ensemble of people without a physical, linear-plot script.

Often these types of piece are made to be experimental and off-the-beaten-path, and audiences aren’t necessarily expected to feel a sense of familiarity in experiencing the performance.

But then, other times that’s exactly what they are meant to feel. And that’s where it gets super tricky.

Tonight is the official opening night of So Happy Together: The Music of the Swingin’ 60’s at Bristol Valley Theater - for which I am the Musical Director - and that’s precisely what this show was built to be: a devised musical revue show meant to be a delightful, familiar, and joy-sparking experience for the audience.

And folks…I think we did it?!?!

But how?

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Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy...

Well, folks. For me, summer has now officially arrived!

Hooray!

I am now settled into Naples, NY for a three-show contract that will take most of my summer between June 1st-September 1st! (There will also be a little vacation and a week-long teaching contract thrown in the middle there as well!) And it’s all going to be super fun and not crazy or exhausting at all!

…Right?

Well, not quite. It’s all extremely exciting, but it will be incredibly busy as well!

So let me tell you a little about the exciting parts while I have your attention! :-D

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Stress? Psh! Injury...? Why Would You Even Say That?!

Let’s have a brief conversation - one-sided, of course, since this is a blog post :-) - about stress and physical injury in the theatre.

This is a topic that most artists - performers in particular - avoid, and for a few reasons:

  1. Injury is scary and no one wants to think about it.

  2. Everyone has stress and no one wants to look like the “complainer.”

  3. Injury has become stigmatized as something shameful.

  4. We wear our stress, and ability to handle it, as a badge of honor.

There are others as well, but I generally see these as the biggest reasons this topic is avoided. People don’t want to talk about these things, but if we don’t talk about them they become these big scary monsters that we hope we won’t have to endure.

But we do.

Stress and injury will affect everyone at some point, so let’s just talk about it.

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The Rumor, The Legend, The Mystery

Most people - and writers in particular - are drawn to stories about larger-than-life people, figures, and times. Moments and personalities that disrupted the status quo and changed the course of history. The extraordinary.

These are the stories that live on, passed down through facts and records (contemporary and non), as well as rumor, gossip, and anecdotes that may or may not include a kernel of truth.

The people at the center of these stories are some of the most compelling, and they have attracted the attention of people throughout generations.

And writers love them.

Historians and creative writers alike love to tackle these gigantic stories filled with change and drama, as well as mystery and intrigue, and put their own spins on them. But what they never tell you is just how difficult these people and stories are to write.

I too have fallen victim to this type of alluring narrative and - despite this post’s title - I am not speaking about the great historical mystery of Anastasia as adapted by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

I’m talking about one of Western history’s most debated women from one of English history’s most infamous time periods:

Anne Boleyn.

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Love The Art, Hate The Artist?

Society - particularly American society - loves to demonize or to “other” art and artists.

We deride people who create:

  • Oh, you’re an artist? You’re one of those.”

  • Oh, you’re a writer? I wish I could sit at home all day.”

  • Oh, you’re an actor? You must love starving.”

These are of course specific examples using common ideas and tropes, but these kinds of reactions are common and probably sound familiar to you.

We tell people who want to go into the arts:

  • Why would you to throw your life away?”

  • But you have so much potential!”

  • But there’s no money in the arts!”

Being a creator is clearly seen as being *less than,* but why? Less than what? Why would we consider becoming an artist or writer or performer or designer a path that is throwing your life away or not using your skills and talents?

Well, Capitalism.

But this type of thinking and behavior not only can be unlearned, but it needs to be unlearned. Art and the products of creation are everywhere, but we’ve been conditioned to have a blind spot for most of it, and what we do see we are told to feel contempt for. Let’s just see how pervasive art is, shall we?

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