Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Everybody Rise!

So as 2009 comes to a close...(what just happened this year anyway?) I'd like to propose a toast: to doing more and realizing you know less. This year I've finally decided I'm allowed to think of myself as a writer (Joel said I should and I worship Joel Schechter). I've also directed a show and a half...and while no one over 18 was in these shows...I still brought together some theatre and enjoyed doing it....another interesting observation. I've also taught a little more, I can now saw I've taught ages 1-20...not all the same thing of course...so that means I can teach more than one thing. I even got to lecture about musical theatre...twice! I wrote some lyrics for a non existent show and my boyfriend put music to them so I hereby officially announce I have co-written a song.
And with all of that my plans for 2010 are...
1) write about Trude...Trude will be my stability for the next 6 months as my thesis finally gets underway for real, starting with a trip to New York next week.
2) wallow in job hunting and unemployment as I try in vain to figure out what I'm really gonna do with my life. In theory by June I will have a masters degree and a long thesis about Trude Rittman but neither of these things guarantee employment.
So as we get closer to closing out this year (anybody else creeped out that it's also the close of the decade?) I'm anxious as usual, but more than a little pleased that somehow I did so much this year. And while I made the big jump of moving to a three bedroom rental house, two of my best friends got married and now one is pregnant (congrats Anne and Greg!) and I still don't know what I'm doing with the rest of my life. Huzzah!
In any case I've just about decided that maybe I should open my readership up (you know to more than just Annie and Lena) by posting this link on my facebook page....sort of to chronicle the thesis writing process. I'm thinking about it. Anyway. Much love to anyone who does read this and happy new year whatever it my bring.

Monday, September 28, 2009

May I play my cross hand piece?

I just had this blinding flash.
Imagine a 12 year old sick to death of The Sound of Music but so thoroughly caught up in performing in it she actually choice to play a song from it for her piano lessons. But not a song she could find in the the easy piano book. Oh no! She wanted to play the Landler (aka the song that Maria teaches Kurt to dance until the Captain comes in and makes Maria blush). It was fun it was catchy it was in 3/4 time! So when said insane 12 year old went to her all knowing musical theatre loving piano teacher she replied "Well it's not in the book all it is is "The Lonely Goatherd" in 3/4 time and with the left hand parts changed...you can do that youself!"
Did anyone else just catch what happened? I recreated a Trude Rittman arrangment at the age of 12. Sure it wasn't as good as hers (which coincidentally she wasn't credited for in the original production but was given credit for as orginal dance arranger in the revival which Jeanine Tesori also worked on as arranger wow that was a long parenthetical). I just had this incredibly epiphany moment that I had to share. Everyday I feel closer to Trude. It's incredible.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why Can't a Woman be more like a man?

So I am now immersed in Suskin's The Sound of Broadway Music and I highly recommend it (even though I am still upset about the "and a few women too" parenthetical) I'm still reading through the biographies of the 12 major orchestrators (all men of course) but I couldn't help but flip through the listing of more recent work to just check the genders of the orchestrators/arrangers who are working today. Right away I spotting Jeanine Tesori, who is responsible for a few dance arrangments (making her a great connection to Trude). I took careful note to look at The Secret Garden (since the majority of the creative team being women was a major historic point of the show). Here Jeanine is created as dance arranger which is super but the musical direction, vocal arrangement and orchestrations are all credited to men. Directly above The Secret Garden is a show that is a great weakness of mine, The Scarlet Pimpernell. Not a historic piece of art by any means but tons of fun and it had Douglas Sills so shoot me. I look up at the Orchestration credit: Kim Scharnberg. I am floored. I check all the other Wildhorn shows. All orchestration credit goes to Kim Scharnberg. Huzzah I think! What a find! 99.9% of the time Kim is going to be a women right? Well welcome when you're in the music business the percentage much change significantly. Kim Scharnberg is a man. I feel betrayed and bewildered...but unsurprised. The uncover Trude's contributions on a greater scale becomes more important everyday.
And now I'm thinking I have to talk to Ms. Tesori too...because she's awesome and a dance arranger...go her!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Somebody's Gotta Do Something

So the theatre that made me the person I am today is finacially in the pits so much so that they are making a desperate plea for help. Here is my letter to the editor if anyone wants to read it:

The Willows Theatre Company is a Contra Costa County institution that deserves to be saved. Besides the statistical numbers of patrons it has served and how many awards it has won it has grown alongside our community. I have certainly grown alongside it and it has made me the person I am today. When I was eleven I made my first acting appearance with professional actors there. When I was twelve the Willows Theatre Conservatory program taught me fundamentals in acting, professionalism, and confidence that helped me succeed through middle school and high school. When I was involved in the workshop production of Mountain Days The John Muir Musical and observed the process of creating a new musical I decided that developing theatre would be my life mission. When I graduated from college my first job working in theatre came from the Willows, working for the youth program that helped me become who I am. This past summer, after my first year as a graduate student in drama, I directed the summer camp with kids who were the age I was when the Willows began to nurture not just my artistic soul, but also made me the successful, confident person I am, dedicated to giving back what I learned growing up at the Willows Theatre. Please help this theatre to continue to create dedicated passionate artists and citizens. Thank you.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trude it is!

With Lena's positive reinforcement and the possible connection of being able to talk to Mary Rodgers I have decided on Trude. I can't sit around and think about it forever and maybe Morrie will get a book later in my life. Trude's story needs to be told and as Andy pointed out her life might make a very compelling one woman show....oh the ideas I have now. So hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen as the next month (and hopefully next 9 if it gets approved) become devoted to one of the great composers of our musical theatre work that you never heard of. Huzzah!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Capible, pliable women

I just get so angry! Maybe that's why I'm in grad school. Here's the newest argument for writing about Trude and her female colleagues. I just bought Steven Suskin's book, The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations. Anyway I bought this book partially because I heard Suskin talk about it on playbillradio (yes I'm a regular listener) and he mentioned Trude specifically. So I figure...I have to have this book it will more fully explain what it is exactly orchestrators and arrangers do. I just got it from amazon and I do my standard check the index for all of the pages Trude is mentioned on. A fair amount! Great! Except that her biography is a paragraph long (granted all the arrangers are given about the same length) and there is very little else about her actual work. One of the more frustrating references is the show index listening of The King and I. Suskin has already created Rittman with the composition of the "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet which at this point I feel like should be common knowledge to the world if they are listening! Anyway...in the King and I listing there is a strange note in the seciotn on the work Russell Bennett (orchestrator for Rodgers) did for the show, " 'Uncle Tom's Cabin Ballet ('The Small House of Uncle Thomas') is by Bennett, who names the composer on the first page as 'Trude Rodgers'. " Is anyone as offened by this as I am? I mean this is just reporting on Suskin's part (I'll get to my real bone with him in a moment) but who the fuck is Trude Rodgers? The fact that her first name and his last name are given so demoralizes her contribution, which no one seems to argue was the whole fucking ballet...all 130 pages or whatever it turned out to be. I must find out why that name was credited as composer. Who did that?!
Ok Suskin, now to you....and here comes my Wendy Wasserstein femisnist side coming out.... Suskin cleverly breaks up the sections of his book into refrain, verse, bridge etc. with a corresponding parenthetical title. Well here's the parenthetical within the parenthetical that drives me nuts. The "Refrain" is subtitled: Men of Notes (and a Few Women, Too). Ok. So to a man, that is being inclusive right? He comes up with a clever phrase...I can just hear him saying..."hohoho Men of Notes...get it?...notes! Oh, oh wait, what about Rittman and Pitot...well I guess I better not offend anyone...I'll add (and a Few Women, Too) hohoho." Well I'm frigin sorry but that offends me too. I don't know if it offends me more...it might actually now that I'm thinking about it because it's basically pointing out that women are just a parentical in musical theatre. It drives me bonkers.
So I'm back trying to figure out which is which. And right now Trude is calling my name. Once I read the book more thouroughly I'll report back.

I threw out the novel and then the musician I'm moving to Popular Science

Ok so this is way off topic for my blog but I heard on NPR about the three minute fiction competition and thought I would try out the second round's prompt: Write a piece of fiction in less than 600 words that begins with the sentence, "The nurse left work at five o'clock." So here's my best shot at it. I haven't sent it in yet...I want to edit it a little more but here's what I've got so far:

Guardian Stalker

The nurse left work at five o’clock. He always does on Tuesdays. I watch him. Today must have been a very hard day. Today he was slumped over with a heavy walk. He barely made it to his car. You could even say his gate was staggered. I watched him you see. I watch him every Tuesday. I get off at 4:45 on Tuesdays just so I can see him.
I’m not a stalker. I don’t know his name. I never follow him home. I just like the way his silky, shaggy hair looks brushing against his scrubs. And every Tuesday a different colored scrub. My favorite is the hot teal, but today he’s in forest green. His faded New Balance shoes don’t seem to be helping him today. They barely get him to the driver’s side. It’s 5:05 already. He’s usually racing off by 5:03. 5:04 at the very latest.
If I were a stalker when I saw the dark form of his silhouette flop onto his steering wheel at 5:07 I would have gone up to the car. Knocked on the window maybe and said, “Excuse me are you alright?” I would be a very polite stalker. If there was something wrong I might run into the hospital and shout, “Quick, quick there’s a nurse in trouble in the parking lot!” thereby saving his life ala Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping, but with fewer awkward moments. In fact wouldn’t we all be much safer if we had our own personal stalkers watching out for us?
But I’m not one. And I’m glad I’m not. Because if I was I would have felt pretty foolish knocking on his car window as he looked up at me with tears in his eyes at 5:10. It’s not my place to find out what he’s crying about. He’s clearly had a really bad day. Maybe his favorite patient died. Or he didn’t remember to give the old lady at the end of the hall her Vicodin and she was in excruciating pain. And who wants to confess all that to a complete stranger while you are crying in your car? Not me, I’ll tell you that.
I really don’t know if he should be driving right now. True, it is 5:14 and that’s about ten minutes later than he usually is but I’d hate to hear about him crashing on the road. Whoever is waiting for him can wait a few minutes more. He should walk around, or grab a cup of coffee first, anything. I should have just….I hope I see him next Tuesday. I’ll get off at 4:30 just to be sure I’m here…just in case he leaves before five. I’m not a stalker, but my Tuesday afternoons would be lonely without him.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is Anybody There?

So here's how it stands at present:

Trude (yes we're on a first name basis) does pop up in a lot of people memoirs. There is often a brief description of her personal appearance-she had a short mass of curly hair and thick glasses-and that she was a remarkable pianist. Clearly anyone could tell you that because that's all they tell you. But what really intrigues me is her relationship with Mary Rodgers. I'm sure they were aware of each other but I have no idea what kind of interaction they would have had. I was especially moved by an interview Mary Rodgers gave when she said she had no women composers to look to as role models. At some point in her life she must have been made away of Rittman's contributions because she demanded that the R&H organization compensate her for them, but could Rittman's public anonimity have accounted for Rodgers not counting her amoung the women who were doing what she was doing...or is the arranging process so different. It's all very mysterious to me and as Steven Suskin admits (and I'm totally stealing the phrase from him now) "I'm a musical theatre detective." (or something to that extent). He also talks about Trude in his new book but I need to get a hold of a copy before I can find out at what length.
Another thing that bothers me about the Mary Rodgers issue is that she credits that she was not talented enough to continue composing. I think that's bullocks. I don't think her music is any less complexe and tuneful than her father's...I mean maybe with Sondheim as a friend she felt inadaquet but I think her father had way more to do with it. And then here's the kicker...she goes on to write kids books right. Young adult novels about young girls growing up. Well you know who the one other female composer of the musical theatre was before Mary Rodgers...oh that's right...Kay Swift. And what does she do after Gershwin dies and she gives up composing to marry a cowboy...write books. I thougth she wrote children's books too but now I can't find that source... I'll get back to you on that.

Next subject of contention: The Diary of an Ex-President by John P. Wintergreen. Just in case anyone who has any swear over book entries of any kind...John P. Wintergreen did not write this book. In fact, John P. Wintergreen is a fictional character. Morrie Ryskind wrote this book...he didn't just edit it as the cover says....I mean really how many intelligent people believe S. Morgenstein wrote the Princess Bride....same thing folks. My concern is that this is an important book. Not in terms of content by any means but I feel fairly certain that this is the first musical fan fiction to get published. Not only that it gets published in 1932! Who was buying fan fic then? We're thick in the depression and here comes this comic book (taking people away and poking fun at politics much the same way the musical it came from did) and I can't find one stincking review. Somebody must have reviewed this! Somebody must have bought it and read it and thought something about it! And I'm getting annoyed that I can't find anything on it...anywhere. Harry L. Taskey did some beautiful comic illustrations and I found a very small amount about him...including some awesome etchings of New York, he did do some work under the WPA, but can't find out much about his life. The publishing company, Minton, Blach & Company, appears to be defunct. It was printed at the Knickerbocker Press in New Rochelle, which is now a historic monument (probably something else entirly with a small plaque outside). So I'm a bit frustrated. Why can't anyone tell me who read it, how it was recieved, who was buying these things, what effect it had on books about musicals in the future? I have questions!

So these are just a few of the mondane, possibly soon to be thesis topics that keep me up at night. Any enlightenment would be greatly appreciated.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Through to something new

It's discouraging how long it's been. But here I am again at a crossroads and this one leading me to finding my thesis. For anyone listening the strongest contenders at the moment are: Trude Rittman (and underrepresented female composers of the musical theatre), Morrie Ryskind (and what makes someone create provacative theatre and then turn his back on it), and The Diary of An Ex-President by John P. Wintergreen (as far as I can tell the first fan fic based on a musical)...what do you think?