My goal this summer was to finish projects.
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When I think about the summer, I'm kind of awed.
So much happened.
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First, the people.
One of the most satisfying parts of directing Bloody Ground in Green, Ohio, was the chance to reconnect with a lot of friends, especially those connected to the theatre.
Yes, it was overwhelming to have to cast 25 people within three days -- and that involved a lot of phone calls.
But the conversations were actually the best part (although it destroyed my voice, temporarily). Because I probably spoke to about ten people for every one person I cast, the experience allowed me to connect, make, and develop a lot of friendships.
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Just before I left for Ohio, I spent about a week doing rewrites of A Tale of Two Cities with my co-writer. Two of the principals for the show are now cast -- Lucy and Carton -- and I'll be casting the rest of the show over the next few weeks.
The Hollywood Repertory Theatre is holding company auditions in three weeks. If you are interested in trying out for the show, please email me at StevenDenlinger@aol.com. I'll forward your email to the president of the company -- and he'll arrange for your audition.
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Yesterday, I handed the completed libretto for Bloody Ground to my composer, Myron Fink. As I write this, he has begun to compose the music -- which he expects to complete by December. Yes. He's fast.
I am now in the process of casting the best opera singers I can find for a development workshop and bare stage performance of the opera (using piano accompaniment only) here in Los Angeles this coming spring. The date and location has not yet been set.
The goal is to use the performance as a chance to interest opera producers in the work.
We'll be posting updates and audition notices on the Hartland Theatre website, so you can follow the development of this opera or get involved.
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For me, the most powerful aspect of the theatre involves the feeling of family that emerges within a cast. Perhaps it's the atmosphere of crisis which helps everyone pull it off.
People fall in love. Develop lifelong friendships. Become addicted to the theatre.
That definitely happened this summer. We literally had six rehearsals to put the entire show together. There was no time to spare.
Granted, the show was performed, scripts in hand, but because the actors are performing, the audience quickly blocks out the sight of the scripts, and gives itself over to the story. Hard to believe, but it's true.
I blocked the show during five three-hour rehearsals, August 3-8: Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at the West Hill Baptist Church's gym.
On Wednesday, August 9, the company moved to Theatre 8:15 in Green, Ohio. Where we had ONE run-through -- which was also tech night and dress rehearsal. The cast had never been in the theatre before, and the run-through was a disaster.
But I remembered what a professor told me at Breadloaf in 1997. So I sank down lower and lower in my seat, let tech handle the problems, and kept my mouth shut. Afterwards, I told the company to get some sleep, and we all went home.
The next night, I swear, we had a show. Which opened in front of a paying audience. Where audience members cried because of the story's emotional impact.
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I made some new friends. Fell in love again with the power of language. Restored an old friendship. Connected to my own family in a new way. Bonded deeply with several wonderful friends.
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Jason Swank, a former student of mine, put it best: "Theatre accepts all kinds of orphans."
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My composer and I learned so much by staging and watching the performances in Ohio. The three audiences responded so positively to the show -- we know the surprise ending really works, especially.
The musical pieces were especially satisfying. I didn't expect them to affect me so deeply, but they did. To hear words that I had written set to such beautiful music -- it really was awesome.
My casting director, Suzi Rohr, told me yesterday that the high school and college kids involved in the show -- who hang about her home in their spare time -- are still singing the drinking song: "The Smithtown Hero."
Nice to know an opera can have such memorable tunes.
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The moment I'll never forget was watching the first performance of Bloody Ground, and reaching the hairbrush sequence.
I suddenly realized that the woman sitting beside me was crying. That's when I knew that I had tapped into something primal and universal -- from childhood.
I was prepared for many reactions, but not that one.
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I made a commitment of love while I was in Ohio. To the theatre.
I'm planning to return to the Northeastern Ohio area for a month every summer to play the role of artistic director for the Hartland Theatre Company. Each summer, the company will produce three shows in rep: a drama, a musical, and a new play.
For example, next summer, the festival will produce Romeo and Juliet, The Music Man, and a new musical.
Essentially, the festival will be a development lab for new works -- supported by the revenue from the festival's more established shows. I will then bring the new piece to Los Angeles, where it will undergo the next stage of development.
This festival is actually a dream I had three years ago after developing A Tale of Two Cities at The Players Guild in Canton. But at that point, I didn't know how to put all the pieces together. Now I do.
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Without question, the most seminal film I've seen this year is Natalie Portman's V for Vendetta, which is out on DVD.
Throw 1984, Brave New World, and The Matrix together -- and add a really wonderful script of words, words, words.
I saw the ending at the home of a friend in Ohio. So I picked it up at Blockbuster when I returned to LA.
I watched it the night before I left for San Diego to revise the Bloody Ground script, and V's images haunted me the whole time I was there. So I watched it again when I got back last night. It really was that good.
Maybe it has something to do with masks, and the impact they can have on the subconscious. Who knows?