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

February 25 - 28 'All That He Was' at Tisch




The cast of "All That He Was"                         Ryan Amador (director), Cindy O'Connor (composer)


Will Seefried and the thankful writer


Composer Cindy O'Connor and I traveled to New York this past weekend to attend the NYU/Tisch School of the Arts student production of our musical 'All That He Was'.  We weren't involved much, other than to answer a few questions here and there, with the production.  So, of course, we had some fears that it might not live up to our expectations.

I was completely blown away by the cast and by the direction, and the audience was as well.  I attended on three subsequent evenings, and all three were sold out.  Two of the three shows received standing ovations, and many people came up to me afterwards in tears to thank me for the show.  It was an overwhelming feeling, and one I will not soon forget.

Particularly effective were the five primary characters, all of whom were fantastic actor/singers, and embued their roles with aggressive, interesting and dynamic choices.

The director, Ryan Amador, made so many unusual and effective moves which I can't possibly list here.  So many illustrations of memories which are not dictated in the script and were very effective.  Most effective of all, however, was his choice to keep all of the characters interspersed throughout the audience for much of the show, which really made us feel like we were no just observers, but participants in the 'event.'  Based on what I saw this weekend... Ryan is a great director.

In one of the male leads, Will Seefried was also exceptionally effective.  The character is loosely based on occasions and events in my own life, and it was (and always is) so odd to see someone else play a role in which I recognize myself.  A highly flawed character, of course, as those of you who know me will attest, and the trick is to make him likeable and active, and pointedly funny, without being brash, overly self-effacing, or self centered.  (These are all things I face in my own life, of course.  This self-centered paragraph illustrates that point.)  Will was instantly likeable and pulled it off with aplomb (better than I often do in my own life.)  Of course, he is much more adorable than I am or ever was, which doesn't hurt.

It was an amazing weekend, and I have to admit I am somewhat depressed that my 'month of theatre' is actually over.  I hereby promise, therefore,  to create many more 'months of theatre' in the coming years.  And to keep you all posted!



February 20th and 21st - Travels

I got up at the crack of dawn Saturday, returned the rental car, repacked my bags so they'd fit within weight limits, and got to my gate just to sit and wait.  On Saturday evening I returned to Chicago after a long delay at the Burbank airport, including nearly an hour on the tarmac.  My partner and I grabbed a nice dinner and Margaritas at That Little Mexican Cafe, and then settled in for what ended out to be 10 hours of sleep. 

Sunday it was catch-up day, dealing with over 300 emails, transferring files to my desktop from my laptop, sorting through all of my snail mail, paying bills and balancing checkbooks.

Meanwhile, Cindy and I began the careful discussion of what to do next with '40 is the New 15.'  A new song for Winter in Act Two?  A new opening number?  A reorganization of the scenework to make it less structured and therefore less predicatable?  Changes to 'Something Wrong With Him' and 'Flying By?'  A revamped closing number?  We shall see.  All of this may have to happen quickly, as it appears that with the backing of ANMT and some private investors, there will be another production this summer; this time with a substantially increased budget, and a beautiful venue, the NoHo Arts Center.  Fingers crossed!


Friday February 19th - Closing Day

On Friday night the Disney/ASCAP workshop wrapped with a presentation of 'Empire Burlesque' by Dan Castellanetta and Deb Lacusta (bookwriter/lyricists) and Laura Hall (composer).  They did the first 50 minutes of the show, which included 25 minutes which they had presented two weeks ago.  I appreciated their efforts, their rewrites were effective, and it continues to be an intriguing (but not-fully-realized) concept.  The show, told in the manner of a burlesque, describes the political climate at the turn of the last century, drawing obvious parallels to the current political situation.  For me, of course, the best part was their clear left-wing political leanings (or am I reading that into it because of my elitist intellectual bias?)

Anyway... It was relaxing being able to see a show knowing my work was done.  Cindy and I said our goodbyes, and celebrated a successful three weeks.  Now it's back to Chicago for a few days... before heading off to NYC!


Thursday February 18 - Presentation #2!

Tonight was the longform presentation of '40 is the New 15' for the Disney/ASCAP panel. The performance went off without a hitch, and I was very proud of the actors and the presentation.  The audience... a full (if not overflowing) house... loved the show.  There was extended applause after nearly every song, constant outbursts of laughter, and the many many many effusively positive comments I heard from audience members after the presentation and at the end of the evening were  heartwarming, reassuring, and wonderful.  Clearly we were doing something right, and since my goal going in was to touch and effect some people through theatre, mission accomplished!

The panel, unfortunately, were a bit harsh and their general tone was negative, which was disappointing and off-putting.  Stuart Ross (writer of Forever Plaid) started things off with some statements about the songs in general, which set the tone for the evening.  (I have to say, that when panelists in this situation use words like 'all' or 'none', this is particularly off-putting for me.  Things like: "All the songs do this," or "None of the scenes do that."  Please don't lump all show moments into one and give them the same comment.  Be specific!  Not every song or moment is an accurate example of the particular issue you are discussing!  Some are, in fact, examples to the contrary!)  Despite this annoying trait, his notes included some gems that we will certainly take into account.  And he did appear to really like the scenework, and had some nice things to say about that, so I suppose I should mention that, in the sake of fairness.

Leslie Dixon (writer of Mrs. Doubtfire, among other things) was absolutely wacky, and I loved her.  At times it seemed as much a standup routine as it was a critique, but surprisingly, amongst the hilarity, I actually thought she 'got' the show, and I found quite a few of her comments to be quite useful.   

Stephen did, as he does in this forum, sum up the comments and use the opportunity to discuss an over-arching issue.  In our case, it was subtext; he felt there was too much text in the songs and not enough subtext.  (He felt that the scenework was much more effective in this balance.)  I agree with this note wholeheartedly, certainly there should be more subtext in the lyrics, and I suppose my only defense would be to say... but that's haaaard!  (There are, of course, moments where we do use subtext effectively in the lyrics, so I'll take a moment to celebrate those here!  Hooray for us!)

Anyway, the show clearly isn't perfect, as no show is, and we will continue to craft and refine it as we move forward.  And these notes will definitely help do that.  Meanwhile, I had three different people, none of whom I had met previously, tell me that our presentation brought them to tears.  So there you have it.  It was a success!


Wednesday February 17th - Uganda: Broadway Bound?

I had the rare pleasure of seeing a presentation of a show last night that had some real promise for a big future.  'Witness Uganda', with book, music and lyrics by Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould had its 50-minute presentation last night, and it was riveting.  The music was glorious and the script was powerful and fresh.  The panel raved about the amazing talents of its creators, and had some helpful comments about clarifying plot elements, but made sure that the writers knew they had something truly special on their hands.

Since this is my blog, perhaps you'll indulge me to make this next paragraph about me?  I was jealous.  The writers, with the buzz of their project, were swamped by the crowds; while Cindy and I were invisible.  It was difficult to handle.  As a kid, I was frequently last pick in sports, and it felt a bit like that.  Writing musicals is typically something that I am one of the 'first picked' for.  So, despite my joy at seeing a fantastic new work, I was in a decidedly self-pitying mood.  Yeah, I admit it... I was being a 15-year-old. 

This morning I'm in a much better place.  Tonight we have our presentation, and guess what?  We won't be 'Witness Uganda.'  There will probably not be an overabundance of buzz. and it will likely not be standing room only.  (Who decided to put our show against Figure Skating anyway?  What were they thinking!)  The panelists will likely not call us 'geniuses.'  Nonetheless... Our audience will laugh, hum along, possibly cry, and be entertained.  They will see a finely crafted work, with spectacular acting and singing, and an important message.  Many people will see themselves on the stage, and feel that their story is at last being told.  This is what our show has to offer.  Our show is all about accepting yourself for who you are and embracing what is unique in you.  So that's what we will do tonight!  Here's to the little underdogs who will shine tonight (and to the underdog in us all.) 

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