Well this was a big weekend. I presented a thirty minute excerpt of Failing That at StageWerx, including twenty minutes of brand new material. If that was all that was going on this weekend, that would have been plenty. Unfortunately, it was one of those weekends where just about every aspect of my life had something going on.
How did the workshop go? Well…I’ll get to that. First let me give you a glimpse into the days leading up to it…
That night was the usual rehearsal with my a cappella group The Richter Scales. After the rehearsal we sang a short set at an underground speakeasy show at Chicken John‘s warehouse/loft/performance space for a bunch of burners. It was a loud space, and we had to project a bit more than comfortable (especially considering all the singing I had ahead of me), but they were very appreciative.
The day was spent recording voice over tracks for the workshop production of Failing That and then copying the tracks over to my iPod so I could start practicing it on the drive down to Menlo Park for a corporate opera gig. (Me and two other guys pretend to be waiters for some private event and end up singing opera arias. It’s actually a pretty good show. If you happen to plan any corporate events you should give us a look.) Again, more vocal exhaustion. And I had to miss the Cypress String Quartet’s program at the Herbst theater. Wah.
I was supposed to be rehearsing for the workshop, but the whole day ended up getting sucked up by constructing a set piece for the workshop instead. I needed a table that allows for a surprise puppet to emerge somehow. I found a sewing station at Goodwill for $20 and rigged it so the puppet could pop up at the right time. It’s a nice sight gag, but that’s one day less to actually rehearse.
The night was spent recording my string quartet at Talking House Studios, which was amazing. I’ll write more about this session as the tracks get finished up, but the amount of talent (and hardware!) devoted to making these tracks is truly humbling (especially considering the small amount of money I was actually able to spend). These tracks are going to sound great!
Unfortunately, this found me on Sunday morning, without having actually rehearsed my opera with the puppet or worked out any staging. (Big surprise there.) That was a bit harrowing. After the first few run throughs, I have to admit I was very concerned. The puppet bits felt false, hollow. I was starting to get worried that I was crossing the fine line between absurd and just plain stupid. Between the falseness of the puppet work and the distance of my pre-recorded falsetto singing, I started to think that the audience was going to disengage entirely. But it was the day of the workshop, there wasn’t going to be any time for rewrites or adjustments. We were going to war with the opera that we had and would soon find out if it was the opera that we wanted.
Arriving in the space didn’t make me feel any better. It was the first time I was able to hear the audio in the theater and the puppet’s voice over was getting drowned out by the orchestra. I had mixed it at home as best I could, but you don’t know how things will sound until you’re there in the actual space with the actual speakers. So with 30 minutes until house open, I found myself on my laptop remixing levels and burning a new CD.
And then, before you know it, I was on. And it happened. There were no major mishaps and the parts that reliably get laughs got laughs again. Most importantly, it wasn’t awful. And although there’s a lot of room for improvement, there were a couple of genuine emotional moments with the puppet. I feel like the concept has been proven, this CAN work, and when I actually take more than three hours to practice with the puppet, it can actually be quite good.
After I finished up, I got to sit back, relax, enjoy a couple of tootsie pops, watch Katie Rubin kill it with her amazing show Insides Out as the second half of the show, go home and devour the leftovers from my wife’s mushroom cooking class with Eric Tucker at Millenium, and then get to work finishing the grant application due the next day.
So that weekend is done. And now it’s time to get back to writing the rest of the opera. And cleaning the house.
Thanks so much for those of you who able to make it to the workshop. PLEASE feel free to send me your feedback. Let me know what parts you liked, which parts, you cared about, which parts you weren’t so interested in. Especially let me know if there was anything you were confused about or anything that just didn’t make sense to you.