In the past month, I've had two theatrical works premiered to packed houses. The Story, Part 1: Alec and Grugh, ran during InTENsity 2.0, produced by Frank Higgins and Tony Bernal. Four of the five nights were sold out (and the other night had 2 open seats. So close!).
And this past Thursday and Friday, Till Coffee Do Us Part, ran. The evening, Rites of Being, was produced by Hunter Long and Black House Collective, and created in collaboration with Kansas City Electronic Music and Arts Alliance. Alison Heryer designed most everything, and Lisa Cordes gave her expert talents as the stage director of all six operas.
There was also some crazy guy that started voguing toward the end of Friday night...He was up on a podium and waved his arms like a damn fool. He did it because whenever he moved his arms, he heard music...and he likes music.
Yes, I was the foolish man.
Did anyone laugh at my title? It's a pun. Get it...Two shows? Two much theater?
These are the jokes people.
And what an experience all this was. I'm many years removed from my theater days. I did the community theater bit for...well, a hella long time. I played in some pits, and did a minor acting role for in undergrad. Worked for a production company, but didn't do much theater work while out East...Until Cake went up, and I was suddenly tossed back into theater.
Then four years pass, and I'm tossed back in again. People always seem amazed to know that I've been on stage since...8? 9? Can't remember...Anyway, a long freakin' time. My first credit as a lighting tech was when I was 12 (designed half the show. Poorly, i might add...but it got done!). My first directing credit was a children's production when I was in HS. I followed that up with directing Pippin, then directing 2 chamber operas for RTB's inaugural Opera Shorts program. I also waved my arms around then, leading several rehearsals when our conductor wasn't around.
Should have taken that "assistant conductor" credit. But I was already "Tech Director, Stage Director, Composer."
Anyway...Yeah, I've done a lot of theater...
But I've never had two shows run so close together. I've never had to flit from a rehearsal of one show to a performance of another. I've never had a show I've solely written the words to on stage. Cake was a collaboration with Eileen Wiedbrauk. Her story, and we sent the libretto back and forth (with a lot of "I have no idea what I'm doing..." "I don't know either..." "Hm, well...it's probably fine.").
So, my words, on stage. That was an interesting experience. The actors never stopped surprising me--in both shows, I laughed several times...which is hella awkward as you're prepping a to cue in the pit, and the actor does something so ridiculous you HAVE to laugh.
There's nothing in this world more magical than live theater. I know, I'm a musician, I should say "there's nothing more magical than a symphony," or something like that. But I'd be lying. There's something about the human voice, about seeing humans interact and draw you into the performance. There's something much more concrete. Music is abstract. Even when moving into more concrete worlds (using obvious quotation that will have cultural contexts, using real world sounds, etc.), music is always a step removed from the concrete image due to what's around it. (Does thunder have the same meaning when surrounded by rain, as it does when it's surrounded by gunfire without rain? a discussion for another time.)
But theater captures us in a snapshot of time. We see events unfold in front of us, and we are either drawn in, or kept at arms length as observers to judge the action (Oh Brecht...). I love me some Brecht, and when he's at his best, he's tricked himself and he's brought you into at least one character, while keeping the problem at arms length (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahoganny is the perfect example to me).
I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. It's not what I do professionally. I'm no actor. My directing is middling, at best. Same goes with my design. It's better for the world if I never sing again. And while I've enjoyed writing words, and think I'm pretty good at it, I'm best at writing music.
So, I'll continue to do that, and do it well. And keep your eyes open for opera number 3!
There's never too much theater in this world.