First Look (Day 161/365)

[finally written on 12/14/07]

Well, we did it.

I got everything set up in the studio at the Newnan School of Dance, and the cast drifted in on time, and we hit a few rough spots. All will be well, and yet all will be well, I assured them.

The audience arrived, about thirty people, which was not bad. Lacuna itself was under-represented, I thought. Perhaps that original group has lost all momentum.

I got flowers! The card said, “Best wishes, William Blake.” No one will confess to having sent them. We all suspect (or hope) that Nancy Willard sent them. Here’s the picture:

Dale's First Look flowers

I explained to the audience what the evening was, and what it was not: it was a sing-through of the work so that people could hear it and judge it for a possible production; it was not a polished performance. (The cast made me say that.)

And so we began. It went very smoothly, no train wrecks at all. Yes, there were glitches. Mike Ferrante, who after all had only seen the music for 48 hours, slid over some rhythms, but he never got lost and he never sounded wrong. Melissa Houghton, our intrepid clicker, was off on the slideshow a couple of times, but since it was the first time she had had the opportunity to even try to do the whole show, who cares? Marc insisted on singing “snails and knotholes” instead of “nails and knotholes,” but let’s face it, that type was awfully small. Malcolm began his solo on the upper melody rather than the lower, but again, it didn’t sound wrong at all, so all was well.

Audience response was enthusiastic. They loved the poetry, they loved the music. I was gratified.

We allowed people who were not interested in talking about the future of the work to leave, and then we talked about the future of the work.

I’m not going into detail here, because some of what we talked about counts as backroom machinations, and we don’t need to be sharing those with the world at this point. But I will give the gist of what we decided.

First, we will move forward with the work. We will invite anyone who’s interested to join us on Wednesday nights, starting January 24, to workshop three pieces: Sun & Moon Circus, Man in the Marmalade Hat, and Two Sunflowers.

In late April or early May, we will invite “backers,” i.e., those in the community who have the authority and the money to make this happen, to a special performance where we feature the workshopped numbers. This is because we felt that non-theatre types might be at a loss to visualize what the work would look like on a stage (especially since some theatre types have been at a similar loss as we’ve worked on this.)

If all goes well, then we will begin working in August on the production itself, which would take place sometime in 2008. More definite than that, we cannot be.

So life is good: after 20+ years, William Blake’s Inn is coming to life.

Some comments on the performance: it was the first time I had heard the work all the way through. I was struck by how completely it took you in, and what a complete experience it gave you. There is movement from the beginning to the end, and you are left with the impression that you have been somewhere and that you have been shown things that you didn’t know existed.

I also found that the choral writing is very effective. The storm sequence in Tale of the Tailor in particular was striking, and that’s a section that I had had concerns whether or not it would work.

The solos are all delightful. They will enchant the audience as they showcase the inhabitants of the Inn.

Finally, it actually gave me confidence. (I am now pausing for everyone to finish snorting coffee out of their noses.) Seriously, anyone who has read this blog knows that I have not been at all sure that I know what I’m doing. But you know what? I do, and I am ready to tackle new stuff: my symphony, the fugal quartet movement, even Mike Funt’s musical.

All in all, a very good night indeed.

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