09 December 2008

Fair Winds

Last night I attended what was a first for me: A staged reading of a musical. Tom Diggs, of NYU's First Look fame from some time ago, wrote the book and lyrics, and invited me out for it by replying to my email about Blueprints. This could be the most direct evidence of the importance of simply being present in the New York theatre community as it relates to contacts and casting: People call on the people they've heard from recently. More evidence of this was to be found in my own efforts to assemble a cast for my upcoming reading -- I had a couple of people respond as unavailable, and when I searched my files for replacements, I realized I had neglected a whole throng of good possible actors for the roles. Why? Because I hadn't spoken to them in a while. But I digress.

Once Upon a Wind is a musical that concerns itself with the story of two children coming of age in WWI England. Jay d'Amico wrote the music, and Jeremy Dobrish directs, which was an unusual coincidence -- Friend Todd is now appearing in Spain, a play he directed for the MCC in 2007. I was impressed as all hell with the cast. I find readings to be difficult to act, given the restraints of physical movement and all the conventions involved (such as music stands). These people gave a very effective reading with full song. A small feat for musical-theatre types perhaps, but I was impressed as hell with them: Molly Ephraim, Alex Brightman, Laura Fois, Kavin Pariseau, Marcus Stevens and Ken Triwush. Oran Eldor gets a lot of credit for that, I'm sure, as the musical director and (I assume) pianist. The reading was a part of the TRU Voices series at The Players Theatre, exactly the same venue at which I performed in American Whup-Ass last spring. It's a showcase for plays seeking production, and specifically focuses on getting feedback and advice from accomplished producers.

The play also concerns itself with an interesting phenomenon in England at the time -- the Cottingley fairies. It takes some inspiration from the story, I should say, and it's a story I have some familiarity with. When I was very young, I went through a period of some obsession with "paranormal" occurrences and sightings. I wasn't so much interested in ghosts, rather with mythological or prehistoric beasts that might, in fact, exist. So I had read a little something about Elsie and Frances and their faux photographs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the reading I was watching would be using that kind of source material. As you might imagine a musical doing, Once Upon a Wind explores the world of believers versus pragmatists, but it does it with a surprising balance. It never goes Disney on you (one could just about wait for the Tinkerbell meta-joke), yet keeps a sense of humor in the face of serious subjects like the loss of a loved one and our dueling needs to grow up, and to remain innocent. I hope Tom continues with it, and that it develops into a full production.

Personally, I don't feel that the will to believe is necessarily childish, or delusional. I think it's creative, and creativity is a strength, not a weakness. During the turn of the century, and the world wars, a lot of people turned to spiritualism and its cousins in search of something. We tend to view such searching as naive and, in a sense, this is as true as can be. It begins with accepting the possibility that we don't know something. And that's the beginning of any good discovery.

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