Friday, October 1, 2010

I Hear Music

So I have not real epiphany to share- I still don't have a great plan in order to fill my artistic needs but I did have a little nerd out last night. I mean I guess this happens to me often- but in the process of preparing for the part of my next lesson on Frank Loesser I put on an album of his songs and I just felt my endorphins know when I'm listening to good music. And that was really good. Later I was giving examples of Cy Coleman's versatility as a composer for Evan...and again I got really excited. If I could get paid for being excited about musicals...I would be a happy camper- if I got paid every time I was happy about a musical...I would be a millionaire.

Right now I'm just happy:)


Thursday, September 23, 2010

There's always a woman

Ok- So I don't have a plan yet. But here are some thoughts:

1) A Women's Musical Theatre Workshop- that would somehow entail women writing/directing/performing/creating new works of musical theatre- there is a history of women being delegated to the backseat of this art and I think it's time to do something about it. I was noticing all these women who had the original ideas for shows and then get co-credit for writing the book only...ok so I really just noticed that it was Dorothy Fields idea to write Annie Get Your Gun, and Bella Spewack's idea to write Kiss Me Kate... and oh apparently Mary Martin was the one who was working on a project about Maria Von Trapp before it became the Sound of Music- and we really only ever think about the men who wrote them- not to mention True...and on that subject...

2)Trude Rittmann- at least the wikipedia page! Even if there is no book in my immediate future (and I really still need to send my thesis to Bruce) there is still no Wikipedia entry for her- and I could really do that guys. And I should get on it. I was just rewatching this Richard Rodgers documentary that I first watched before I had even heard of Trude. First off they don't even begin to talk about Robert Russell Bennett let alone Trude so that peeves me. But then they go on talking about the ballets and the Twin Soliloquies moment as if that's Rodgers music and it just makes me boil. Which is why I wrote a thesis which I should not just let get dusty in my room. I should make it known. That is all....

3) Which brings me to something else I've always been meaning to if I actually got my act together to create a Wiki page for Trude I might as well go in there and fix all those stub pages for musicals I know way more about. That would keep me busy and happy. And then I could post them here and people could see them. Maybe that would be a good calling.

So those are my ideas- more to come I hope


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stop worrying where you're going...

I'm not writing for any special super epiphany has come to me...and clearly it's been a while. But something has to be done and really this is more for that for anything else right?

I'm engaged/married. Just in case anyone who doesn't know me is reading this and cares. The love of my life and the man I've lived with for three years wanted to put me on his health insurance and buy me a ring. So I'm legally married (for the health insurance) and publicly engaged (although anyone I know well knows that the wedding next year is the fun celebration part and will have nothing to do with the federal governments view of our union). It was a perfect proposal. And if you're dying to know all the details I'll probably publish it on a wedding website sometime in the next few months. But just know it involved Disneyland and the Peter Pan ride and it was the happiest moment of my life.

So now that I'm back to reality I'm kinda jumbled in my life's work. I'm teaching a musical theatre history class to seniors on Mondays, Pre-school with toddlers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and mime and clowning to high schoolers on Fridays. I've mostly been panicked about the Monday and Friday classes in recent history and that's why I haven't been thinking much about writing, but the more I prepare for the classes and the more I'm trying to find the essence of what I'm teaching...the more I realize there is a greater purpose in all this if I can only pinpoint and then articulate it.

Let me try to make that clearer for my own sake. Musical Theatre with Seniors on Monday is really cool, don't get me wrong, I've been wanting to teach this class since high school. It's a strange dynamic to be lecturing to a group of people who are at least twice as old as I am. They appreciate me, think I'm cute and energetic and obviously are interested in the material and enjoy being there...but I can't help thinking I'm a fraud...even though I know I'm not.- On the other hand Fridays are a bit peculiar since I really have very little mime training and I've never taught this class before...and it's three hours long once a week so it's kinda epic. So far it's going well but again, and maybe it's just that I'm a new teacher, I feel like a fraud. But even while I think these things to myself- that I'm not good enough to be teaching these things, that I don't have the right, that I'm a failure at life- I'm starting to realize, and maybe even believe, that it's less about the transfer of material knowledge, and more about what I'm providing and how I'm making each one of my students feel about what they are doing and how they are learning.

Ok so that really wasn't articulated much better but "the ideas have to come out like children" as Rachel says in Inherit the Wind. I'm still not convinced the teaching is my vocation- which is why I continue to question and write. I would like to challenge myself that even in this time of stress (because I'm literally stressed out everyday about whatever class I have next to teach) to do something more creative- some dedicated writing exercise just for me, or just for somebody else even...but something that means something to me- I'm thinking somewhere between Suzanne Lori-Parks 365 days/plays and Seth Rudesky's deconstructions. Somewhere in there there is something for me to do...something that's bursting to come out of me and maybe the longer I sit here and spew the more likely I am to come up with it. Nope. Well I'm gonna keep thinking...maybe I'll come up with something today...maybe that will be my goal...let's see.


p.s. I'm totally talking about Trude in class on Monday...that should feed some semblance of my soul.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all.

As a sort of an update on the job front, I have managed to secure myself one more teaching gig for the fall, which I'm a little nervous about but ultimately should be lots of fun and hopefully lead to a great deal more opportunities. So that's good.

On a what-makes-me-a-truly-happy-person front" I've just finished up a week of rehearsal and performance of a first reading of my company's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. And here's the kicker...I'm so friggin in love with Elizabeth Bennet. I mean truly who doesn't enjoy this story and look on Elizabeth as the heroin of all heroins...but I had no idea what reading those words would do to me. As I've officially stated to severally people, there is no way I am giving up this part and I have every intention of holding firm to it through it's full staging...and perhaps beyond...because I am entraced with it all. Lizzy (in our two night P&P by Mr. Donald Hardy) runs the gammet, she is snarky, witty, determined, happy, infuriated, mortified, and best of all, falls slowly and beautifully in love beyond her own control. I'm sorry but who wouldn't die to play this part? Who wouldn't die to do this show?

Well ok that's not such a hard one to answer. It is very simple and clear that the men who are most passionate and intrigued about this show are the gay ones. I'm not even making generalizations. It's the women and the gay men and the straight has its moments they say ....but overall I noticed a complete sense of "why do we care who Mr. Darcy marries?" which sort of makes my mind can you NOT care who Mr. Darcy marries? From my first hand expereience with my boyfriend for example I was holding out great hope. I mean I was mortified when I realized he had never read or even seen a film adaptation, but not surprised. (Same deal with Anne of Green Gables...what's up with that?) I had high hopes that he would be intrigued by the story, it's a comedy of manners and he loves Earnest...not the in: romantic comedy, not compelling story, not enough conflict...etc. etc. I find this totally incomprehensible...but not inconsistent with other straight men's take on the classic work.

I can't help but thinking there has to be some sort of reason, what is it about Austen that atomatically turns off men of the hetro persuasion? It's not as if a good deal of the population doesn't find it enthralling, romantic sure but also witty and comparitivly well structured as these stories go. So I ask you, gentle reader, what is it about P&P that turns off men? It must be culturally manufactured because most gender constructs are but truely I find it baffling. How is it that something that women find so appealing is so utterly uninteresting to men? My righteous feminie side argues that the female author aspect has at least something to do with it...and once I follow that route I am forced to be furious by the shear neccisity that male authors, stories with male heros, are somehow more universal than anything written by a woman. A story with a female protagonist written by a woman is automatically too feminie for men to appreciate? understand? relate too? Of course these are questions that have bothered me for quite some time but having them so appear in my everday life is always maddening.

I understand that Elizabeth is the protagonist in P&P and that therefore it may be easier for females (and at least a certain percentage of gay men) to relate to. Most of the male characters have their share of faults but what is so wholly wrong with men aspiring to be like Bingley? Or even as manly and ultimatley modest and hero like as Darcy? Don't they get if there were more like that we would like them more?

I digress a little perhaps but I just felt that there must be other people who have noticed this particular phenomenum (I hope there is already some thesis written about this very subject) but I thought I would just get it out of my system, as I am sure to be obssessed with it for at least the next 6 months.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Putting it Together

So I've just finished Summer Camp. 18 campers aged 7-11 performing Once Upon a Mattress (the gtk version....R&H's jr version short for Getting to Know you....that cracks me up). Anyway, it was a great group of kids and the show was very cute...had I had more than 4 weeks 4 days a week it could have been great and cute...but it was really cute none the less.

So that leaves me back at my search for work and meaning in life and theatre...this week I'm trying to take it easy...mostly because I'm exhausted but good things are coming my way anyway.

Tonight begins rehearsals for our one week speed workshop reading of my companies adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (by the phenominal Don Hardy). For one precious week I read Elizabeth's like the cherry on top of the rest of this year...Thomasina, Ophelia and just doesn't get much better than that!

I also have a meeting tomorrow with some folks from OSA (Oakland School for the Arts) who are looking for a master class kinda teacher to do one day a week starting in the fall...I don't think I'm exactly what they want but they want to meet me so that's a good sign right? Pieceing things together...putting it together?

Anyway I suppose I should start my conserted search for a full time job again starting next week sometime...along we going back to my fabulous pre-schoolers who are probably taller and talk more now and I'll freak out...a month for little kids is an amazing amount of time.

And through all this and figuring things out...I've had this nagging thing in the back of my mind. I really had fun with Summer Camp this year...and working with kids who had never been onstage before and had little to no experience with theatre made me feel important. Like I was actually teaching them something that would help them...I mean obviously that's the point but on that point is something really really important. I feel I'm tetering on the edge of figuring out what make change. I sometimes feel guilty because I feel like what I'm doing doesn't make change, but the more I do this the more it feels like it matters and so this might not read like it makes sense...but I'm seeing things start to make a little more sense in the bigger picture I guess is what I mean.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dear Friend,

Why are letters so awesome?

I forced Evan to write letters to me when we started dating because I insisted that someday all our emails would be lost and even if they weren't I could never keep them in a romantically perfumed box. So I have a romantically perfumed box with our love letters in them...that I hope my grandchildren will find.

But getting entirely to the point. I spent today at the Library of Congress...not finding out quite as much about Trude as I would like but still getting some gems. Mostly from Joshua Logan's papers. He saved several letters from Trude. They make me feel more attached, because I feel so much like her in so many least I write letters like her :)

I don't think the Library of Congress will much mind if I reprint my favorite's a letter she sent to Josh on November 8, 1954 just after Fanny opened (their second show working together) :

Dear Josh,
Thank you so much for that wonderful basket a la francais. It touched and cheered me up (I had the opening night blues and didn’t go!)
I shall drink a toast to you no less affectionate than Panisse to his wife. There are never enough words to express what working with you means to me. (I have no gift for words) and so instead, I send you an affectionate hug and kiss. How I wish you could rest now-
All my love to Tom and Nedda

That's just a short one...none of them were very long but there were all very sweet. Holding them in my hand was amazing. It moves me deeply. As do letters in general.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

But I cannot choose but weep

While I am off to Washington D.C. tomorrow in hopes of digging through Fritz Loewe's letters stashed away at the Library of Congress I don't think I have the heart to think about research today.

We're back to soul searching I suppose. I found myself in tears last night. (And this was after I used quite a few onstage for my final performance of Ophelia). And it's not like I don't understand the process. In fact I was thinking about it yesterday. Theatre kids, even seasoned ones, have a difficult time closing shows, tend to hang onto the moment and the important people attached to it and I think it's because they understand deeply the emotional implication of the "life" cycle of doing a show, to put it simply. There is nothing more organic than a good creative show. The collaboration of working with people to create a process, something on a page that literally comes to life. It is born and grows. You put it in front of an audience and it breathes life. And then the day comes when it must close (and everything must close someday ,,,Phantom..take a hint). And when it does I think it's usless to ignore the mourning process. I think children, who feel things so intensly and understand the pain of loss without ignoring it, might cry when a show closes. I did when I was eight.

And then I did again last night. I won't bore you with too many gritty details but it did make me feel like a child again. And I felt slightly justified because it was really a release from the last two shows I worked on (essentially most of the same cast came straight from Arcadia into Hamlet...try that brain fucker sometime). But there are maybe little things. Like my Hamlet, who is a remarkably talented young man who knows Hamlet better than some of my professors, who proclaims he may not go on stage again (I respect spending time with God but at the cost of theatre? I'm not that kind of girl.) Or maybe it is the end of the season. Spring might bring birth but it also is rife with closure (and allergies I might add) and therefore has never been an entirly satisfying time for me. I don't like when good things end. Maybe a little bit steams from the thrill of playing Ophelia, something I most likely will never do again...and honestly after this expereience I don't know that I would want to do it again. But mostly I just feel like a child again...emotionally anyway...letting it all come out without much matter for who sees me do it, or reads this I suppose.

And it comes from this individual deaths that we experience every few months that actors begin to learn to store up their emotional strife, and bottle it for the next appearance onstage. Sometime my bottle spills I'm not gonna lie. And if it spills at the end of this beautiful season I don't mind so much. The last five months have reminded me of who I am.
So I find solace and happiness, a) in the library doing research b) writing c) being onstage d) singing really loudly. Too bad no one will pay me to do any of those things :) It's strange to be twenty-five and still figuring out who I am, but then again, I am grateful that at least I know this much. And I am grateful I have had the oppurtunity to do it all at least once really well. Thank you.


Monday, May 24, 2010

We Know What We Are But Know Not What We May Be

Well I supose I should begin with a Trude update:

The Sound of Her Music: Musical Arranger Trude Rittmann's Life and Work, has officially been accepted by the Graduate Office at SFSU and I guess will be available in their library starting in the fall...I actually have no idea if that is true but I do know that it is currently being bound and all that. One hundred pages and I don't even feel like I've begun to do her justice. Exploring two ballets, two choral numbers and a couple of moments of underscoring doesn't even come close to expressing the sweeping talent and body of work. I'm really not joking when I talk about making it a book, but I'm also kidding myself to think that I will have the time or resources to really do it any justice any time soon. I guess it's ok to be 25 and already have a lifelong goal, something you feel you have to finish before you just makes things feel more urgent already.

The reason I'm not settling in to write the book is that I would like to get a job in order to make some money in order to get off my parents payroll and therefore have some greater sense of independence (not to mention get married and have a family etc. etc.) So I'm searching for jobs...maybe not as hard as I should be. But the problem is there is nothing quite like sitting in the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center and doing research all day. And then talking to someone like Bruce who understood me. And then coming home and writing it all down at Peet's. I'm not at the stage in my life where anybody is going to pay me to do that. And I understand. So I'm taking the CBEST and applying for teaching jobs, and editing jobs, and anything that I can see that remotely relates to theatre.

But I have this other problem. I'm falling in love with acting again. We had a falling out. I made the decision not to pursue it as a profession, and I still stand by that. But being a part of a company that feeds my soul, and being onstage in delicious roles. It's all too much. I love it too much. And so I desperately want to find jobs that understand this and can work with this "addiction" as it were. But who knows what I will find.

At the TBA conference one speaker talked about finding your personal mission statement. Or at least that's how I interpreted it. So I jotted some notes in my journal about feeding my theatrical desire, my desire to write about theatre, and spending plenty of time with my loved ones (specifically that really patient man I share a house with).

Anyway it's all really life should be. If it wasn't I'm pretty sure I would spontaneously combust.

Bustibility, bustibility combustibili-


Saturday, March 20, 2010


I found a quote today (which I can't believe I haven't read up until this point) that made me remember why I'm doing this. From No Intermissions: the life of Agnes de Mille by Carol Easton:

According to Trude Rittman, rehearsal pianist on Brigadoon, “Aland and Fritz didn’t trust Agnes. They though, ‘She is so much involved in the balletic aspects, she doesn’t have the whole show in mind.’ On every show, it was always a struggle for her. Rarely did she get what she needed-not just for herself but fro costumes, for whatever she needed for her dance! We used to say that we had to be doubly as good as men in order to make it in the male-dominated theatrical world. It was marvelous that we had each other to exchange our private jokes and comments about all these men for whom we worked. We used to talk about how ridiculous Lerner and Loewe sometimes were with their women. Incredible! Fighting over girls, fighting over divorced women. Always a crisis. They loved each other, couldn’t work with anyone else, but then they hated each other. Agnes was very often much stronger than these two men together. She would fight for her rights, and the creative aspects of certain things. They always felt. ‘She’s going overboard and ruining our show! It’s not her show, it’s our show!’ Nobody won; they compromised.”

Can we take a moment to thank Trude for so beautifully put into one sentence the impetus behind why I'm doing this and why no one knows about her... "We used to say that we had to be doubly as good as men in order to make it in the male-dominated theatrical world." There it is right there. I couldn't have put it better myself. Here she is, being totally brilliant, literally picking up these strands of music and filling them out into the reason we love these shows, and she had to work twice as hard just to make that happen. Think what she would have been doing if women weren't always forced to prove themselves. In the words of Trude Rittmann and John Adams both, "Incredible!"


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

There's gotta be something better than this...

Woho! So I have got 3 chapters and 30 pages...if there was a good way of posting them I would but that's a lot of reading for anyway to do...
I'm writing out of frustration for a totally different reason now. My thesis proper is going very well. So far chapter one is a little rough (it is this vast overview that I feel needs to be trimmed). Chapter 2 is everything I know about her early life (her niece's email address bounced back so that's not a whole lot) and the ballet (which I could write a lot more about but honestly I'm not that knowledgeable in that area anyway). Chapter 3 could probably go on for days but I've ended it for now. It's an overview of musical theatre in the golden age, specifically all the various types of composers and what they do. The really cool thing is for vocal and dance arrangers I have these long lists that Trude compiled for a lecture or something so I know have this incredibly defined description of both of those roles with examples etc. I'm pretty proud.
So that's not what I'm worried about. What I'm struck with now is Trude! The One Woman Show. I've thought about this for some time and now that I have this weekly assigment in my "playcrafting and dramaturgy" class to creat an adaptation from a non-fiction source and describe it in a page and then give a sample of the script. So it's not like I even have to come up with the whole thing. And as soon as I got this assignment I knew that was what I wanted to do...but I can't think of how...that's much more difficult. I thought at first it should just be her..but I think that would miss out on stuff...and I still like the idea of having a pianist be symbolize the composers and play and the dancers doing bits of choreography and also symbolizing the choregraphers...but then I need a through line and I thought it would be fun to put me as the narrator...but now I just feel dumb. That is all. So I'll probably turn something dumb in and I feel dumb about that obviously...but I don't know if she's meant to be a show folks...that's all I'm saying. Oy.
The things I like most right now is a kind of overture that is a medoly of parts of scores she was responsible for...starting with Small House and ending with the big beautiful vocals at the end of Camelot.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

If I start writing now...

It's harder to start writing than I want it to be. There is no lack of love for Trude by any means. I just really have trouble sitting down and saying to myself: ok it's your thesis write it now! That's rather difficult I'm finding. The research part is easy. I could do that all day, and once I start I rarely want to do anything else but what good is it if I can't write it down. I've been pretty good at writing throughout this whole grad school thing but maybe this is just harder because it's this big looming thing. Everytime I tell someone about Trude I get excited. That means I can do this right? I just need to buckle down and make a plan. Oy. Ok. Just writing this gives me ideas about what I need to do. Oh blogging you are wonderful.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's a metaphor...

Great. So now I have tons and tons of information, a very real deadline, and not an ounce of energy to get through this. Trude still makes me really excited but I am just not making this happen right now. Here I am approaching the end of my break (the optimal time to be working on this paper) and I truly have next to nothing concretely finished. I mean yes I have a lot of information. So much information I'm maybe a tinge overwhelmed. But when it really boils down to it I'm scared and lonely and that makes things difficult I guess. And writing here makes me feel a little more confident, or at least motivated, if not more lonely and less important but c'est la vie here it goes.

I'm in Arcadia right now and while I'm in the 19th century part I'm listening to the modern part and so much of it is about research and finding truth, trivial as it may be. I guess I am finding truth, or at least putting two and two together. Hannah is convinced that the Sidley Hermit is a symbol of the romantic meltdown. Does that mean that I can believe Trude is a symbol of the integration of America Musical Theatre? I mean I know I don't need the permission or anything but here's my thought process. Trude's exceptional musical talents coupled with her unique understanding of dancers and choreographers makes her sort of the power behind the intgrated musical thought process. Bringing together book, music and dance to tell a story is perfectly combined in the person of Trude Rittmann. I don't want to go making her into a metaphor but I think that she's maybe a bigger part of the picture than I originally thought. She's not just a fascinating character with an unreveled story, she's an instrumental part of what makes these iconic shows great.

With that said I think that maybe I've collected enough courage to go back to my first chapter. Updates as I need the rant space.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gott Sei Dank!!!

So 2010 is off to a bang. And by bang I mean like 25 hours at the performing arts library in New York focused entirely on Trude Rittmann. (I've been spelling it wrong because at one point she just gave up trying to get people to spell it right...but two n's is correct.) So besides having compiled into this little computer more information about Trude Rittmann than probably exists anywhere else in the world, I also meet the nicest man in the world who far from thinking what I'm doing is stupid thinks that it's very important and wants to help me in any way he can. Bruce Pomahac is the head of music at R&H and besides being wonderfully kind and generous wants me to know things. And by things I mean everything he could tell me about Trude, who he spent time with in the last ten years of her life. He told me she was a lovely woman who, at least to him, expressed no animosity toward Richard Rodgers (even though Agnes de Mille apparently thought differently). Among the most exciting things about meeting with Bruce included his complete admiration for what she did, and even though he probably knows more than anyone what exactly it was that she did (for Rodgers anyway) there remains the question of if what weather what Trude did was arranging or composing. He played me bits of music, conveying how she had elaborated on them to create that magic that seemlessly bled into Rodgers original work. Every doubt I might have had about the importance of my looking into the life and work of Trude Rittman was completely blown away by Bruce's excitement and passion for what she did and he's excitement that I was going to make it known to the world. He sort of endowed me with the power to be a musical theatre historian...he was maybe the first person who knew anything about what I was saying and what I meant when I said it that didn't laugh. In fact he encouraged me, and honestly I can think of no better way to start than by writing the story of Ms. Rittmann.

And that's not even anything about the library. Oh the library. 25 hours on the 3rd floor...most of it spent in the special collections reading room typing everything that might be even a little bit relevant...for example the entire transcript of Nancy Reynold's interview with Rittmann. You can't make copies of it...but you can look at it for however long you want, and while you do that you can't have a pen (only pencil on the third floor)...but you can have your computer. Shhhh don't tell the NYPL but I pretty much have a digital copy of that interview transcript...all 87 pages...don't joke it took me two days (the second day of which I spent 5 1/2 hours sitting and didn't even get up to pee). I knew going into this research trip that if I got nothing else out of it I would at least be able to read that interview. The real problem became that there were so many other things to look at. Folders filled with miscellaneous notes about her credits, how to be an arranger, how arrangers and choreographers should work together; not to mention the scores. 33 folders full of her scores (many hand written). I even got to touch the infamous Small House score with her notes to Bennett about the orchestrations and a "Gott sei Dank!!!" at the end to mark her completion. I found the infamous photo that I had been searching for that I could have swore had Trude in it (it totally does by the way) and even a bio in the Gigi program which described her as having "a creative skill in developing songs of a musical into ballet music, vocal and music continuity arrangements which have made her name well known to musical theatre audiences throughout the world." I was flabbergasted. Clearly this meant that she should be a well known name...and I'm going to make sure that it becomes one. Not whining about the credit she never reserved, but exploring the work she did do and pointing out its complex beauty and complete brilliance so that she could never possibly be looked over in the future.

So off I go into the wild blue yonder of thesis writing. Armed with many names Bruce is going to give me contacts for, the hour and a half interview with him, and most of the typeable documents the NYPL had to offer...and I've only just begun.