Now that last week has settled down, although it’s not completely, still, I’m finding it difficult to stop and think about what we did and did not accomplish.
Clearly, we accomplished our main goal, which was to interest someone, anyone, on the Cultural Arts Commission in heading up the organizing committee. And several people told me that they now understood what the possibilities were in creating a stage work from my song cycle.
On a personal level, I was able to impress quite a lot of people with my music. That’s not unimportant. When we set out on this journey, Marc wondered whether my pushing William Blake’s Inn as I was doing would be indelicate. Previously in my life, I would have agreed with him. (Yes, I was actually quite insecure about my music, and we could politely call it modesty.)
But I have come to the realization that self-promotion is what artists do, if they’re smart. All kinds of examples spring to mind: Beethoven’s mammoth concert in which he premiered his 5th and 6th Symphonies and the 5th Piano Concerto; or Schubert a few years later, finally putting some of his stuff into a concert after friends exhorted him to, but not daring to attend the concert himself; or, God help us, Wagner, terrorizing everyone in a 500-mile radius into doing his music exactly as he wanted it. “Art isn’t easy,” Sondheim reminds us in exactly this context.
So one accomplishment is a healthy self-confidence on my part. (It helps when your singers are complaining a week later that they can’t get the music out of their heads. Of course, the same complaint could be made about “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” or “At the Copacabana.”)
A very interesting thing I learned about our process, and I don’t know that this is an accomplishment or a failure, is how wasteful it can be. We wanted eight Toast Heads (three banners, two pennants, and three band members); we built six (ditching the pennants, the fabric for which had been bought); we used three. We made the band instruments, but didn’t get them finished and didn’t use them, or didn’t use them and so didn’t finish them. We replaced the wooden poles at the last minute because of their weight. The angel’s gown went unused, although we worked with it several ways. The turtle lights didn’t really work, and might have if I had thought of the much cheaper battery-powered tealights rather than the Radio Shack-inspired lights/wires/switches.
Have we learned enough in doing this to control more tightly the expenditures associated with the experimentation? Or is this something we just need to build into the budget?
Another thing I learned was that we have to decide how to handle the actual design and construction process. We brainstormed very well, and we came up with all kinds of visual prompts. But when it comes time to build everything, we will have to hand over to someone working drawings, costume plates, blueprints, all those things which will allow someone else to build our vision.
Do we have designers take our visual prompts and turn them into the drawings for the tech crew? Do we do it ourselves? Or is it going to be more fluid than that?
Those are all the thoughts I can force to the front of my head at the moment. I’m sure I’ll come back to this forum soon with more.
88 days to go.