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.
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.
Come With Me And You’ll Be In A World Of Pure Imagination
Writers are often asked:
“Do you see the show in your head as you write? Are you staging it? Directing it?”
And I am absolutely certain that some writers can and do.
But not me.
That’s not to say that I’m not imagining how it could possibly go and making sure that it seems workable, both as someone who has directed and continues to perform as an actor. But I either do not have the ability or the synapse wiring to fully direct the show in my brain as I write/create the entire world of a possible production. For me, it’s more a conglomeration of possibilities than it is a concrete idea.
And that’s where Chris J. Handley comes into the story.
I’ve known Chris as an actor since 2014 and one of the first things that struck me about him is that he is - plainly and simply - extremely good at what he does: as an actor, singer, emcee, and overall professional. He is an artistic force to be reckoned with.
Last year I had the pleasure of finally encountering Chris as a director as well (in The Spider’s Web at BVT). I had a small role, but I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on the rehearsals - even when I was not needed - just to watch Chris work and direct. His intelligence and grasp of overall picture, while never letting the details slip away, is really a special experience.
So when I was told Chris would be the director for The King’s Legacy this summer, I was thrilled.
There is much I could say about the process of working with Chris on the script prior to the actual production, but the biggest takeaway for me from our early conversations was that he had a complete and utter grasp on what the piece was, wanted to be, its flow, its importance, and all of the layers that were on the page. It was like being fully seen for the first time - our conversations were deep and productive and wonderful.
And - if you would indulge me another moment - when we got to the summer and I finally got see the production elements that he had put together with the designers, I knew he truly understood the piece.
There was no doubt: this musical was going to truly come to life.
We’ll Begin With A Spin
There is a flow to the script of The King’s Legacy that is, potentially, a little difficult to find.
With the framing device of having the show performed by a troupe of Elizabethan Players, there are elements of narration and driving storyline that move the piece quickly between scenes and songs. And there’s a great deal of storytelling that must be done very quickly.
What Chris and the entire design team put together was a show that could move as quickly, freely, and easily as the words and performers have to move.
There is space. There is freedom. There is an element of play built directly into the production from the top down. And it’s awesome.
In a show where there is a great deal of information, 20 characters, and countless scene shifts, the whole experience can be somewhat dizzying at times. And when that is appropriate to the piece, they’ve allowed it to continue to exist in that way. And at times when we’d rather not give that experience to the audience, they figured out a way to create a more grounded experience, without losing the sense of movement.
Running through the show for the very first time in the rehearsal room was, as an actor, an exhausting and delightfully rewarding experience. The show is a runaway train that can never slow down or stop until it absolutely must, and it is this movement that Chris has infused throughout the entire show so masterfully.
The core, the heart, of this show has been lain bare for the audience, and it’s a beautiful experience.
Traveling In The World Of My Creation
Now, as the writer, walking into the theater is an awe-inspiring experience. Every time.
They built a world. There is literally a different world built in our space. And it’s the world of the show that I wrote…
I mean, whoa. That’s the coolest thing - like - period. Holy wow.
It’s beautiful. It’s magical. It’s period. Yet it’s not. It’s theatrical. It’s musical. And it’s our world - our home - for the next 9 days.
There have been a number of incredible experiences for me working in theater - as an actor, musical director, educator, and so on - but the experience of walking into this world fully realized for the first time is not something I am going to forget any time soon.
There it is. It’s right there.
Is it what I imagined? Nope. No way.
It’s so much better.
If You Want To View Paradise, Simply Look Around And View It
So, as we walk into our opening night tonight, what do I want to say?
I’m really not sure.
All I know that I can say is that I am so thankful and grateful for having been given the opportunity to bring this show to life for the first time, and with this insanely talented group of people. This team has been nothing short of incredible, and I could not be happier with the work they have done and the world they have built.
This world - this dream - exists because of these amazing individuals, who I must give credit to:
Executive Artistic Director - Karin Bowersock
Associate Artistic Director - Katelyn Cantu
Director - Chris J. Handley
Assistant Director - Kate Reynolds
Set Design - Christopher and Justin Swader
Lighting Design - Mary Ellen Stebbins
Costume Design - Sammi Miller
Costumes/Wardrobe - Valerie Frizzell
Costume Assistants - Joan Luther, Joan York
Sound Design - Rich Miller
Musical Director - Annabelle Revak
Stage Manager - Morgan Montgomery
Assistant Stage Manager - Andrea Armer
Choreographer - Adam Corcoran
Assistant Choreographer (+) - Meaghan Finlay
Dramaturg - Liz Porter Woods
Technical Director - Sam Santoianni
Assistant Technical Director - Mary Atchley
Props Mistress - Ammy Roth
Props/Paints - Mary Claunch
Carpentry - Mars Peterson, Ace Evans
Electrics - Amber Hahn, Amanda Ryan
Marketing/Administration - Emily Haan
Administration - Angela Einwachter
House Manager - Mary Peaty
Box Office/Front of House - Caity Peaty, Angela, Kyle Rook
Player 1 - Mike Kinzer
Player 3 - Mark Poppleton
Player 4 - Jennifer Arfsten
Player 5 - Hannah Karpenko
Player 6 - Alex Loucks
Player 7 - Tess Marshall
Player 8 - Leigh Martha Klinger
Player 9 - Bunny Baldwin (care of Joyce Baldwin)
As you can see, it really does take a village.
And now, all that is left to do is to soak in this paradise together - as artists, as creatives, as audience, and as lovers of theatre.
Yeah. Let’s do this thing.