Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Orchard Project - We've Never Been So Sappy!

We just got back from developing INBSH at The Orchard Project in Hunter, NY. We left the day after the public showing of the work we did (Scenes 1, 3, and 5) with the University of Texas Musical Theatre Initiative that was thoroughly and beautifully blogged by UT dramaturg Christina Gutierrez (thank you!). She just sent me all of the pictures from the 2 weeks at UT and they really do tell the story of that amazing workshop! Orchard Project - yes, so Kirk, Lana, Thomas and Peter Stopschinski flew to Newark, rented a car and drove to Hunter without incident. We arrived and were ushered immediately into a play reading, which was really amazing - the experience of it, the play itself. Annie Baker wrote it, Patch and Mike performed it along with our assigned Core Company Member, Sean Cummings - who at the age of 19, (yup - twice as old, ouch) already knows more jokes than anyone alive. I'm not sure what we did next, but I think a game of mafia probably ensued and everyone learned that Kirk, the great obfuscator, should be killed early if the townspeople want a chance a survival.

The next morning we took up residence in the old cinema on main street - our dedicated work space - and met to decide what to present for the workshop production in September. We only have enough money left on the project to do it exactly as we did December '08 - 7 rehearsal days and 2 weeks of performance. Then it's all over, unless more money drops from the sky. This means, for all of us, that we have to walk in with performance booths conceived/built, script done, music done, overhead design done and directing as done as it can be without bodies. Kirk came with a draft of the ending. It used to end with a long song by the father (now the mother, Julie) about the "3 possible ways this could end" - I'm sorry to see that song go because it brought a really great gospel feel into the piece, but happy to have an ending that delivers so much great writing and music, and another dance number(!).

First - we read the draft of the piece, gave Kirk some time to keep writing on it, and came back later that day to talk about Annabellee's story - the gender politics of the piece, and some fairly funny plot points created by a land conflict between Julie & Brutus, the magical properties of the rope that Julie uses to tie Jeremy to the lion, and the unexpected demise of one of the characters. Over the next few days, Kirk worked on the draft and wrote a new first scene, "Annabelle's Dream," to complicate her story.

Peter kicked his time off by teaching us the word dongle and making the mountain lion song - death metal, yes. In all, he wrote & recorded 5 songs. Thomas and I climbed a small mountain, created a new layout for the room, brainstormed performance booths (they will be outside now and before the show, we think), story-boarded the entire play, and created a new dance for the lion hunt. Honestly, we could not have accomplished this much on the project anywhere else.

Our open rehearsal/presentation on Friday included the new first scene "Annabelle's Dream" which was performed by Core Company members Starry and Alisa (thank you!); the lion hunt dance which was performed by me, Thomas and Core Company members Starry and Tyler (thank you!); and the Julie vs. Brutus scene, which is a song about the "western way of living" from their perspectives that jump-cuts to Annabellee setting her trap for the lion, performed by Peter, Lana and the lovely Shana Gold. We were so ahead of the game, we really didn't know what to do with ourselves Saturday. Thankfully, we had a long brunch meeting about the OPs future, we led a master class with the Core Company on "collaborating alone" and we tried to help them with the devised piece they've been assigned to make. And the rest of the day was goodbyes. We ended the day doing a full (and wine-sloppy) recording of the entire play so Peter could make a demo with all of the songs (demos too). Big thanks to Sarah and Meg who dropped in just in time to read.

In the end, we still all agree that our dream for this piece would be a ghost-town tour of America. A full day of exploring performance booths throughout the town with scenes happening throughout the day and into the night around a campfire. BYOBBQ, definitely. Very chautauqua - Charlotte, you would be proud. But for now, we want to hang on to the booths in this theater format because they were so integral to the December workshop and offer an active route to audience engagement around the deeper themes of the piece.


Oh people, we were so lucky every single day to be hanging out with and seeing work from Mike Bartlett & Nick Gill from Royal Court, Louis Cancelmi, Shana Gold and Leila Buck from The Public, and the team the team the team - rumors of a trade are indeed true. We played mafia, wiffle ball, board games, we attended an AMAZING cabaret put on by the Core Compay and OP Staff, we made smores around a campfire in the rain, we played capture the flag and the other team CHEATED all night! We walked away winners in the joke contest (thanks, kirk), the dance-off (thanks, thomas) and a bizarrely overpopulated round of mafia (thanks lana & peter). Alex Harvey & John Gromada - we hung just enough to know we should know each other better. So sad we just got one night with Naked Angels... call me on my cel, MIKE JONEZ!!!


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