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Our First Christmas from ALL THAT HE WAS - performed by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles

Friday February 5th - Prep Day

At Brunch with My Friend and Future Personal Assistant Janice Lehman

With no workshop, presentation or rehearsal today, I spent the day preparing to direct the 'Now and Then a Hero' reading, and also spreading the word about that reading on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  One thing I've definitely learned is that the writer is always (unless you're someone huge like Sondheim or Schwartz) called upon to market the work.  I used to hate having to 'sell myself', but it's completely necessary; no one will do it for you.  There's no room for someone to be humble here... you have to believe in your work (and supress the demons telling you that your work, and therefore you, are not worthy) and you have to spread the belief in your work to all who will listen.  It's also about repetition; you need to tell people multiple times in order for the message to sink in.  In this current culture, people are bombarded with thoughts and sounds and images, and more often than not, they only remember what they see multiple times (at least 3.)  So, while it may piss some folks off to get word about the show on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn... and get multiple emails about it... so be it.  It's the only way to get people to remember.  This approach, with constant reminders from multiple sources, worked like a charm last summer and helped to sell out every house in our developmental production of '40 is the New 15' at the Secret Rose.

I did take some time out to reconnect with friends; I had brunch at Marston's in Pasadena (try the corn-flake-french-toast!) with my friend Janice, who when I make it to the big-time I have promised a job as my personal assistant; and I had dinner (and hugh margaritas) with my friends Joey, Dean, Joaquin, Kent and Tod at El Conquistador in Silverlake.  (Happy Birthday, Kent!)

The rest of my day was spent marking up my script in preparation for directing the reading.  To save some cash, Jake and I decided to handle directing duties ourselves; I'll be doing the stage direction and he's doing the musical direction.  For a reading, all that means is that I will be delving into the character, story and scene arcs, and making sure they know which music stand they go to for each scene to get the most of the interation and storytelling capabilities while still being on-book.  It's really very less-is-more, actually, so it's a bit of an art.  I've done it several times, for multiple readings of past projects, and it's something I am good at, so I feel okay about doing it; even if it might be a better choice for me to be able to sit back and watch. 

So much for my 'day off' - it's back to work tomorrow, from 3:00-10:00 with the cast!  (Aaah, but work is fun, right?)



Thursday February 4th - Now and Then a Hero - Music Rehearsal



Things are shaping up nicely in 'Now and Then a Hero' land.  It's a bit hard to believe we are doing the reading on the 10th... seems so soon... and we're still buried in our books.  But there were some flashes of brilliance tonight that got me very excited.  The opening and closing sound glorious, and the ladies (Selah Victor, Jennifer Chu and Elise Dewsberry, pictured above) got some good rehearsal in on their Chinese-language lyrics.  We didn't get to spend much time on Jen and Selah's numbers, but we were treated to Elise's commanding and ballsy take on 'Jane of All Trades' and 'That's Not Why I'm Here.'

David Holmes sounds beautiful on 'No Use in Wondrin' and 'Someone Else's Hands', and Jimmer Bolden gave me chills on both of his numbers, 'Just a Litrtle Bit' and 'Sittin' Here A'Waitin'.  On the latter, he has the potential to bring down the house, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't.

I chatted with the cast about the framework of the show... and how they are a bad of actors who are 'playing' together on the stage, creating characters, transforming themselves, and sharing stories.  In the finale, the actors make the realization that they have the potential, as all humans do, to harness greatness, and 'start making stories of our own.'  It was a revelation to me, and it really resonated for the group, and for Jake.

Tomorrow night off, and big blocking rehearsal on Saturday!  Can't wait!


Wednesday February 3 - Witnessing 'Witness Uganda'

Tonight the featured presentation at Disney/ASCAP was 'Witness Uganda', an amazing work in progress by Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould.  Since our first presentation was last night (and we aren't presenting again until the 18th) I was able to relax and just pay attention and enjoy while someone else was in the hotseat.

I was completely blown away by it all, really more of a 'play with music' than a musical, merging a compelling story and dialogue with some amazing African music.  The performers kicked butt, sure, but they had some amazing stuff to work with.  And composer Matt Gould was so impressive to me; such mastery of the style and harmonies and rhythms... okay I've gushed enough.  I can't wait to see more.

I have to confess that I was more than a tiny bit jealous of all the attention and buzz the project got afterwards.  The panel recognized (quite rightly) their genius.  Meanwhile, Jason Alexander last night called our show 'pleasant.'  Cindy reminded me that it isn't a competition.  Still, the Sarah Diamond in me was assessing our moderate success-high and wondering 'where's my Higher?'

Insane reaction, right?  Oh well, I suppose the first step is realizing you have a problem.


Tuesday February 2nd - The First Presentation!


It was a pretty exciting night, I have to admit.  The presentation at Disney went very very well.  We presented the first 25 minutes for a packed house of about 250 people.  The cast was totally on their game, and it went off without a hitch.  We certainly were professional, well rehearsed, and the direction was clear as a bell.  Angela, in particular, was possibly the most 'on' I've ever seen her, which is saying a lot.  Kevin got tons of laughs, Ed was engaging as always, Jennifer had her act so together you'd never know she was new (and she sang the heck out of her song, too) and Tod was absolutely adorable. And Cindy, of course, played perfectly.

The panelists, Stephen Schwartz, Jason Alexander and Brendan Milburn were all very gracious and had some interesting things to say.  Jason was perhaps the most negative of the three; he was put off by the presentational nature of the show (which is most evident in the first 25 minutes of the show, and gradually fades to non-existant by the show's end.)  Brendan seemed to like the show the most (in fact, he jumped in on more than one occasion to disagree with Jason.)  Stephen was somewhere between the two; appreciating the show for what it is and also conjecturing as to what it might additionally be.

Cindy and I will not be making any immediate changes to the show based on this presentation; we don't want to rush into something without lots of time to ponder; however we will likely consider some of their suggestions for our next draft.

Our fan club president, Chris Smith, helped out by taking photos and running the videocam, so I will have some archival footage.  When I have time, I will load some footage onto youtube and some more photos onto facebook.  Tomorrow it's back to Disney where we will take a look at the work of another team and I'll get to relax while their work is assessed.  For now, I'm going to bed!






February 1st - Rehearsal Heaven



Here it is, February, and the first day of the busiest Theatrical month I've ever known.  With three productions happening on two coasts, I'm getting to really live the life of a writer for perhaps the first time in my life.  Crazy that I can be fourtysomething and just now doing this.  But here I am.

My goal and mantra for the month has to be to allow myself to relax and actually enjoy this.  Sometimes I get so lost in the stress and pressure of things, so afraid of the criticism and potential failure, that I don't really let myself appreciate it all.  I'm not going to make that mistake this month.

My flight arrived at Burbank at 2pm, which left me just enough time to get my luggage from bag check, get my rental car, stop by my friend Brian's to get his keys, and head to rehearsal for '40 is the New 15'.  It was great to see the cast again (4 of the 5 cast members were in our August production of the show at the Secret Rose) and Michele (our director) and Cindy had done a fabulous job so far getting everyone ready for tomorrow's presentation.  Tod Macofsky, Angela Wolcott, Ed Martin and Kevin Noonchester are all back, and slipped right back into their roles comfortably.  The new addition to the sandbox is Jennifer Shelton as Winter.  This is the fourth actress to play Winter, and all of them have, in their own ways, been wonderful.  But Jennifer really brings a maturity and depth to the role that is all her own.  Dry and sarcastic and yet also completely likeable.  And her voice kicks ass.  I'm really eager to see how the audience responds to the new Winter.

I'm also eager to hear the response to the new Act Two song for Oren.  Replacing 'What Next?' was a challenge, but we knew it had to be done.  The new song, 'Flying By', is the most emotionally deep song we have written for this character, and it's the fourth (!) song to inhabit this place in the show.  It sounds beautiful in Kevin's voice, and when he learns it better, it will be great I'm sure.   

The trimming we did to Sarah's act two song, 'Higher' seems to be turning out very well.  I don't miss the lyrics we cut at all, and Cindy's changes to the score really work.

Anyway, tomorrow we present the first 25 minutes of the show at Disney, and get feedback from the room.  So far all I know is that Stephen Schwartz is heading the panel, I don't know who the other panelists are yet,  but I'll keep you posted as soon as I know.  I'm going to do my best to bask in the moment and not allow my inner demons to spoil it for me.


The second half of my evening was spent at another rehearsal, this time for 'Now and Then a Hero', in preparation for our reading at the Secret Rose on the 10th.   Elise is back with us, the only holdover from our previous reading at the Colony last year.  She looks great!  Apparently she's lost about 20 pounds and about 10 years while she's at it.  If she gets any younger looking, we may have to recast her part.  The rest of the cast are all new... Jimmer Bolden, Jennifer Chu, David Holmes and Selah Victor.  Selah wasn't there tonight, but the others were awesome.  Jimmer has such a beautiful, booming baritone voice; and David's dramatic and powerful voice will be in full display with this score.  Jennifer has a huge voice as well... and a huge infectious personality that fills the room.  I liked her immediately.  (And the fact that she is fluent in Mandarin will really come in handy for the Sue Koh Lee sequence!)

It was definitely a rehearsal tonight, the cast is just now getting their parts and there was a lot of plunking-out parts and repetition.  But I can feel that there is a diamond in there.

That's about it for now... admittely it was a lot!  Tomorrow it's off to Disney/ASCAP.  The presentation starts at 7pm sharp.  I can't wait.  I'll fill you in here as to how it goes!  And I promise to take pictures.  And to ENJOY IT.  No matter what happens.  ENJOY IT.