These Girls at It Again

Wow! I saw today for the first time these girls perform my new script.

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Yes. Lexi and Yzzy. These are the two whose performance at Short & Sweet Penang 2015 swept 5 awards with their poignant rendition of a mother and daughter in “Words to Say at the End of the World.”

Well, they are at it again. One more time. They are preparing for the Southeast Asia Forensics Competition which is coming up in two weeks.

Today, they performed my new script entitled “Me, Myself, & the Bridge of Sighs” in our high school assembly.

Yes, I teared up. Partly because they’re chemistry is something you don’t often see. The push and shove, the familiarity and intensity – just perfect. I also teared up because this is the last script where they will be performing together. It’s like I’ve found my own Tracy and Hepburn – magic happens when they are around. And I’m going to miss them. Lexi will be heading off to study medicine in Australia and Yzzy will be going into film studies in the UK.  Yes, talent overflowing.

It’s such a blessing to see a script of mine come so much alive because of so much talent. I actually wasn’t sure if it was a good script, but they confirmed, with their performance, that it was.

Watch out, competition. Yzzy and Lexi are back one more time. You’ll be happy to see what they are going to do.

Big Weekend Ahead

Lots of fun drama activities this weekend at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre!

It’s the final weekend of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival, and one of my new plays entitled “A Writer’s Satire” is being performed by a group of Malaysian actors. Here’s the one sentence synopsis:

A writer is summoned to appear in front of the Industry Review Board – a new government agency which was established to help creative artists become more politically correct.  

It’s a (hopefully) funny and engaging look at where (perhaps) our society is heading. Director Henry Tan (whom I’ve never met) I’m sure will be adding his flair and touches to the piece, so I’m excited to see it.  I’m flying down to KL on Friday so I can watch the final two nights of the festival. Then late  Friday night, the best productions of the two weeks of the theatre festival will be announced and will perform one more time on Sunday night as part of the Gala Finals where the awards will be given out. I have no idea if  our show will make it or not, but  here’s  hoping!

However, make it or not, I DO have a show in the Gala Finals. My piece “Words to Say at the End of the World,” which swept 5 major awards at the Penang Short & Sweet Festival in August will be performed by my award-winning students, Ysabel Loh & Lexi Zimbulis. They were invited to bring the piece to KL as a showcase piece for the Gala Finals. Quite the honor! We are very excited to bring this meaningful piece to the packed house in KL.

So I’ll be on scene all weekend at the Festival. I’m sure I’ll have photos  and comments to share.

Until then, time to pack and get ready. Should be a blast!

Remembering a Musical: A Woman at War

I was recently reminded that my short WWII musical -“A Woman at War” – had its debut one year ago this week at Short & Sweet Musical Kuala Lumpur 2014. It’s a moving piece of musical theatre about a woman on the home front trying to live life while her new husband is overseas.

For this debut, the piece was directed by veteran actor Alvin Looi, who was trying his hand at musical direction for the first time. Alvin, along with his wife Karynn who worked as musical director, pulled together an awesome cast and an overall first-rate production which brought moved the audience to tears – exactly the effect I had originally hoped for. For nostalgia’s sake, here’s their second performance from last year.

Later in the year, I had the opportunity to direct it myself along with my student drama group the RLT Players. We used a performance track recorded by my colleague and co-composer Laura Danneker.  I enjoyed both performances a great deal. I hope you do too!

A Rarity: Completely Unbiased Feedback about Your Writing

It’s rare to be in a situation where one receives detailed and completely unbiased feedback of one’s writing. Sure, unknown reviewers leave ratings and reviews for my novels, but not many leave a score and give an assessment of the overall thoughts of an author’s writing.

I received that recently and found it very interesting and encouraging.

I submitted a play entitled “A Writer’s Satire” to the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. And while it was not one of the plays chosen for production (out of the 250 submitted), I did receive interesting feedback from two anonymous judges who evaluated my script.

The first one gave it a “recommend highly” and an overall score of 75/80. Here were this judge’s thoughts:

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Here’s what the second one said. This judge gave it a 70/80 – “recommend.”

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A couple points I find interesting on this one. This person liked the plot better than the other judge, but gave me slightly lower marks on both character development and dialogue. The judge was also annoyed with the format that I chose for that piece. I admit, I didn’t use standard American format for that play simply because I find it more time consuming to write in that format and I must have been too lazy to switch it over when I sent it in. I wonder if that would have affected the scores? It certainly seems like it might have. My bad!

I also find it interesting that this judge calls me a “young playwright.” Fascinating, and not completely untrue. While I’m not as young as I once was and no-one will ever confuse me for a youngster, I am still a rather young playwright. I wrote my first play about seven years ago. I became serious about my writing about four years ago. I’m still learning. I have more than a half-dozen full-length plays under my belt and more than 50 short plays finished. So while I have a lot of experience, I am young in playwright years. I don’t mind that comment.

Overall, I was thrilled with what the judges thought about this piece. It’s a piece I really like, and it will be produced in Kuala Lumpur as part of the Short & Sweet Festival Malaysia in October. I look forward to see what they will do with it.

It’s always an encouragement to be validated in one’s craft by anonymous industry insiders. Now I just have to keep writing. I wonder what will come out next.

 

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Our new show – “For All Generations”

Today I organized the read-through for the nine new scripts that I wrote (mainly) this summer which will be produced as a show called “For All Generations.” It will be performed by my lovely and fun drama group called The RLT Players. This is our fourth year to be producing a cohesive work of short plays, centered around a theme. Here’s an overview of the scripts in no particular order:

A Pinch of Fate, A Shot of Destiny – The grim reaper meets his match when Mitch shows up to unexpectedly rescue his next victim. (This one is also being performed as part of the Penang Short & Sweet Festival in early September.

If Love is a Crime, String me up – in 1852, a runaway slave finds herself on the doorstep of a northern lady, who makes great biscuits and has a tender heart

The Will – a billionaire decides to play an evil trick on the freeloading relatives who show up at his funeral expecting a payday

A Minute Problem at the World’s Last Clock Shop – A silly comedy about a grandfather playing a trick on his granddaughter who wants to buy him a birthday present

More Heart, Less Attack – Two mothers and two sons, fundamentally misunderstanding one another have a chance to bridge the gap of understanding between them

The Last Princess – When the spoiled princess of evil King Antoine finds out the truth about his barbaric rule, she is determined to end the family’s legacy.

A Woman at War: A Musical – Dedicated to all the women who fought for their love on the homefront. (This will also be part of Short & Sweet KL Musical Festival in September.)

Revenge of the Grandparents – A child, spoiled by her grandpa, has no idea what her parents are plotting to do once the child grows up and has children of her own.

What was it like – A series of questions and statements meant to trigger thought and discussion about understanding the previous generations before it is too late.

“For All Generations” – November 21-22 @ PenangPAC.

 

A Woman at War: The Musical

I’m very excited about my 10-minute musical called “A Woman at War” being produced for the KL Short & Sweet Musical Festival, September 24-27.

I’ve been in contact with the director and I’m excited about he actors he has chosen and the direction he wants to take the musical. He’s also putting together a 3-4 piece band for live accompaniment.

I have the best job of all. I get to sit back and watch. That will be fun for a change.

It will be performed for 4 nights in a row. Then, if it is chosen, it will be performed for the Gala Night on the evening of October 5.

Here’s a link for the specific Facebook page of “A Woman at War” and if you are going to be in Malaysia during that time, please make plans to stop in and see it.

A Woman at War Musical PAGE

 

My Musical “Captured in Time & Space” Heading to Short & Sweet KL 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m very excited that the 10-minute musical I wrote with my musician collaborator, Shion Beak, was selected to be produced and performed for Short & Sweet Musical KL on September 25-28.  Here’s how it happened:

March: I wrote the lyrics of Captured in Time & Space, set to some simple melodies, and made a very rough vocal recording of it.

April: I recruited Shion Beak, because she’s actually a musician unlike me, to listen to my painful recordings and see if she could transcribe the melody.

May: She came back to me with the basic melodies recorded from a keyboard. We met several times to where I drove her crazy as we perfected the melodies of the 4 basic songs which make up the musical.

June: Shion did her magic in Garage Band, adding lush instrumental harmonies to the music, creatively taking my ideas and making them so much better. We met several times, again, to work on the final performance track.  So we ended up with three distinct recordings for our 9:30 musical.

A performance track with the melody still in it. (to help the singers learn the songs)

A performance track without the melodies (to be used during the actual performances)

A performance track with demonstration vocals (sung by my daughter and myself)

We sent all of this, plus our registration form, to the director of KL Short & Sweet Musical for evaluation.

They liked it! So what does that mean?

A musical director will be chosen. He/she will audition a group of singers/dancers, and then, following the musical’s libretto, they will choreograph and stage our musical.

It will be performed for four nights in a row, in conjunction with 9 other short musicals. On Saturday September 28, awards will be given for the best musical, director, composer, etc…

So I am very privileged to get to attend and watch my musical come to life. It will be thrilling to see how they interpret it.

I will personally be up for two possible awards:

Co-Composer (with Shion Beak) and Lyricist.  Awards or not, it is the first time someone else has staged one of my musicals.

It’s going to be very exciting.

I write musicals – yeah, right

I’m not a musician. I have very limited range on a guitar  – my only instrument –  but I’ve always loved creating songs. I remember back in high school when I mowed grass a lot, I would just create all kinds of tunes and songs in my head. Sometimes I’d remember them and write them down. Usually, they rattled in my brain until the mower stopped its rattling and then they’d be gone.

When I started writing plays a few years back, I wrote some songs for some of them and then turned them over to the real musicians to bring them to fruition.  A favorite of mine was the musical called “A Tad of Trouble” which really has some catchy tunes in it.

Two years ago, I co-founded a drama group called the RLT Players (Road Less Traveled).  We do skits and short plays of a variety of genres – all original – and each year I like to write a musical (10 minutes or less) to the mix just because musicals are fun. And yes, I am a man. But musicals are still awesome.

Anyways, two years ago I wrote “Walk” – a short musical about the different types of walks that people have in their lives. I prerecorded the melodies and then tapped someone who actually had musical talent to come alongside and record a track on Garage Band so our troupe could perform it.  It went over well, so I decided to try again last year.

I wrote Disconnect: The Musical about our crazy on-line connected world. It was a lot of fun, and one of our RLT Players – Shion Beak – who can play every instrument and who is amazing at Garage Band too – came up with some awesome acompainment tracks so that we could stage it.  It was a hit when it was performed last November at PenangPAC during our 4 performances.

SWe finished it in June. Submitted it before July 1, and today I received this email:

Dear S+S Musical Composer & Lyricist,

Congratulations!   Thanks for registering S+S Musical 2013. I am here to inform that your musical “Captured in Time and Space” has been selected for S+S Musical 2013.

Very cool!  So I’ll be flying to KL in September to watch our musical come to life.

Later this week, I’ll give a fuller explanation as to what “Captured in Time & Space” is all about.

But for now, I must admit, I actually do write musicals.

Finishing Touches on New 10-Minute Musical

I’ve had the privilege twice to work with musically talented Shion Beak on short musicals. Here’s how it works:

  • Me, extremely challenged in music, come up with a musical concept, lyrics, and basic melody.
  • I make a (very) rough recording of it.
  • I give it to Shion, and she does her magic, sending back a multi-layered, multi-instrument track which always makes my jaw drop.

She finished her part on the musical in early June. It’s entitled “Captured in Time and Space”, basically 4 songs rolled into one with a common chorus repeated 4x that gives it cohesiveness. The premise is quite simple. Three individuals who face different obstacles calling out to the heavens asking for help “Where you want me to go? What you want me to say? I can’t go alone.”

This weekend I just finished recording, with my daughter, a track with sample vocals to send to KL’s Short & Sweet Musical Festival later this month. We’ll see if it will be chosen to be put into production. Hopefully it will. Shion and I are sharing the composer credits, while I’m the sole lyricist.

Eventually, it will be part of Season 3 of the RLT Players – my amazingly fun drama troupe that performs short plays and musicals.

I’m really happy with how “Captured in Time & Space” turned out. Any choreographers out there who want to work with my RLT Players this fall?

Thought I’d ask.

Lyrics and sample music to follow at some point!