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.