Thursday, December 02, 2010

Welcome To My Life

Last Monday, my friend, the brilliant composer/lyricist Bobby Cronin, had his debut concert at Birdland. About nine months ago I met Bobby at an industry reading for one of his musicals and shortly thereafter joined him on what has been one of the most thrilling journeys of my life. In the months following that initial introduction to his music, he and I collaborated on the book for the powerful rock-musical Welcome To My Life, one of the many musicals Bobby wrote the music and lyrics for. During Monday's concert, Bobby said that every parent and every teenager should see this musical. I couldn't agree more - and not just because I am one of the writers on the project. I remember what being a teenager was like. It sucked. I can't even imagine what it is like to be a teenager today, let alone being a teenager in crisis. How wonderful to be able to tell the story that touches upon several of the issues facing today's teens in the form of new musical theatre!

That said, Bobby and I are ready to take the next steps in our journey together. 2011 promises to be very exciting as we work to put Welcome To My Life up on the boards and introduce this honest, moving and thrilling new rock musical to a new generation of audiences. The new year will also see Bobby and I working on some new projects together, an opportunity for which I am exceedingly thankful. Truly - the best is yet to come!

To preview some songs from Welcome To My Life, check out the videos below of Katrina Rose Dideriksen, Gerard Canonico and Tituss Burgess singing some selections at the Birdland concert.



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Check Out The Paving on the Road to Hell!

OK. I had a week where I did a couple of posts. Then I vanished into the thin air of the blogosphere. I guess you are going to have to take what you get and not get upset. I truly am striving to write more and more often. But I'm a busy gal.

Since I last wrote, here are a few of things that I would have blogged about individually: we had to put our dog Shakespeare to sleep, the family saw Elf on Broadway, I produced a concert at The Palace (Gaby Alter and Sophie Jaff's Not That We're Bitter) and I celebrated my 2 year anniversary of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Actually, since I have your attention, I wouldn't mind if you took a minute to check out this American Diabetes Month PSA.

You may not have known I had diabetes, it's that silent a disease. But to the one diagnosed with it, trust me, it screams. That shrill constant reminder to check your sugar, give yourself insulin and be aware of potential complications. It is precisely for this reason that you see me accomplishing so much in my life. It is because I live in constant fear that there will be no tomorrow. So in a way, my diabetes makes me live harder. And for that, I am oddly thankful.

In fact, those who know me, I don't live any harder than when I'm in the theatre. The theatre, my sanctuary. Tomorrow is the first day of auditions for a production of Parade that I am directing in Ridgefield, CT. This show is so seldom done and I am blessed to be at the of helm this powerful and important production. Take a glimpse of what will be coming to Connecticut in March 2011.

So if you are wondering as you wander by this little page of mine why there hasn't been an update, it is most likely because I have rehearsal. And to say that phrase, "I can't, I have rehearsal," is to utter what I believe are some of the most beautiful words in the English language.


Friday, November 05, 2010

The Darling Apprentice

Today I am busy. And the clock is ticking. So today you get a gimme.

Last week I set aside a little time to do something that I haven't done in a long while: watch The Apprentice. It seems like eons have gone by since that day I scrambled to have my Apprentice submission video transferred to DVD and overnighted from Martha's Vineyard. Now I hardly watch the show, save an episode here and there when my husband is watching. However, when I heard that the task was related to pitching new musical theatre to potential investors, I was interested. When I heard the talent included several of young Broadway's A-listers, I was excited. So I tuned in

The episode featured presentations from two new musicals: Darling by composer Ryan Scott Oliver (with bookwriter B.T. Ryback) and Little Miss-Fix It by librettist Kirsten Guenther (with composer Joy Son). And here's a tidbit for you: Ryan and Kirsten collaborated on the award-winning Mrs. Sharp and also the revue Out of My Head. Not unexpectedly, coverage of the task was largely dedicated to the actual teams executing the task and not the presentations. The actors were shown so fleetingly that I did a double-take when I thought I caught a glimpse of the uber-talented Nick Blaemire. I watched the episode up until the board room, which is where I lost interest.

If you would like to watch the whole episode of The Apprentice, click here. Fortunately, NBC was kind enough to indulge the MT geeks and post both full presentations on their site. To watch the presentations and vote for your favorite, click here. RSO also has a wonderful post on his blog about the whole experience, click here to read it.

When you watch the presentation, take note of Jay Armstrong Johnson's insane riff at the end of the Darling presentation. Insane. I am such a fan of Ryan's music, so I am compelled to share with you one of my top-rated RSO songs. This is "The Ballad of Sara Berry", with Johnson, Lindsay Mendez, Alex Brightmean and Natalie Weiss. Take note of the transformational notes that come out of Lindsay Mendez. Mindblowing.

To check out the lyrics for "The Ballad of Sara Berry" (and hear some other RSO tunage), click here.

Yes, the future of musical theatre is bright. Blindingly so.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween & Shakespeare

I am a contradiction and I think that is what makes me interesting.

Yesterday was Halloween and, therefore, as a mother and a citizen I went through the obligatory motions. I applied my creative skills to help create a a dead Miss America, a corpse bride and a gladiator. I then piled my brood in a car, took them to a party and accompanied them as they went trick or treating. As I said yesterday on Facebook, I've never been a fan of Halloween. I don't like to dress up, I dislike being scared, I don't have a sweet tooth and I'm not a fan of walking around in the chill of late October asking for treats.

Whenever I say that I don't like Halloween people get this shocked look on their faces. They will often proclaim, "But you're a theatre person!" And I nod, understanding. Most of my friends are REALLY into Halloween. You see? I'm a contradiction.

I was also a Writing major. And I can't stand Shakespeare. Go figure.

This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the awesome costumes that people dream up on Halloween or the important contribution that Shakespeare has made to literature and theatre.

It's just a reminder not to judge a book by its cover. A reminder that the contradiction that lies within could be the source of the best story you've ever heard or the spark of the best conversation that you've ever had.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Flex Those Muscles, Girl!

I'm going to try something new. I am not sure whether or not I will be successful but I'll never know unless I try, right? I am determined to give my writing muscles a more disciplined and steady workout and I am hoping that this blog will be where that happens. Starting today, I am going to commit to posting to this site at least five times a week. Beyond that, all is fair game. You may get a review, a musing, a project update or perhaps a shopping list. Don't know. It's pretty much going to be a WYSIWYG situation. Enter if you dare.

So, what has been going on in my life since my post-back surgery blog in early August? Firstly, I have recovered from the surgery. Now my aches and pains are just age related, not herniated disc related.

In September, TheStage Repertory Company launched its monthly Musical Mondays! series at The Palace Theatre in Danbury, CT. Each month, our company produces a concert featuring the songs of new and exciting musical theatre composer/lyricists. So far we have heard music from the canons of Bobby Cronin and Robert Rokicki. On November 15th, we are going to feature Gaby Alter & Sophie Jaff's Not That We're Bitter, about the high, lows and further lows of dating. For December and beyond, we are preparing an exciting lineup that will be announced very soon! If you can spare $15 (or $35 including train fare for those of you in the City), don't miss the chance to see original and fresh musical theatre performed by some of Broadway's brightest rising stars!

At the end of September I went to The Catskills with Bobby Cronin, Erica Ruff and a group of deliciously talented young actors. Over the weekend, we put the musical formerly known as The Beaten Path up on its feet. From that weekend emerged Welcome To My Life, a beautiful, moving and important new musical about the challenges of growing up and what can happen when make missteps on the journey to adulthood. I am so excited for people to see the first collaboration from the writing team of Cronin & Dempster. It really is a powerful piece of original musical theatre! In fact, if you want a sneak peek at some of the songs, why don't you head to Birdland NYC on November 29th to see The Roads I'm Taking: The Music & Lyrics of Bobby Cronin. You won't be disappointed!

I continue to reallocate focus to my writing, which has become an increasingly more rewarding and exciting way for me to spend my "spare" time. I am in the process of putting some pitches together for some new projects and I'm thrilled to say that I'm going to be collaborating on a new project with Bobby. You can certainly expect to hear more about my writing adventures in the coming months. In addition to working with TheStage Repertory Company and my writing projects, I am beginning to put together the pieces for the production of Alfred Uhry & Jason Robert Brown's musical Parade. This has been a longtime favorite of mine and I am thrilled to be at its helm for The Ridgefield Theater Barn's March 2011 production. After it goes up, I will be taking a bit of a directing hiatus as I spend more time writing.

I continue to go to New York and, when I can, try to catch my favorite performers in action. As part of NYMF, I saw some amazing productions including Anthony Rapp's Without You and Jennifer Ashley Tepper & Kevin Michael Murphy's If It Even Only Runs A Minute 4. I was at the first preview of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, caught a Times Talks panel discussion with Tom Kitt and the new cast members of next to normal, took in a couple installments of the Joe Iconis Rock & Roll Jamboree run at The Beechman (where the breathtaking "Ammonia" made its debut) and I saw Off-Broadway Close-Up, which featured the pleasant surprise of the entire [title of show] cast joining the ever-cramazing Susan Blackwell in a kick-ass performance of "Die Vampire, Die!".

I will take a brief moment here to say that the 2010-2011 Tony Season on Broadway is getting off to a smashing start. I know that time and money won't allow me to see everything but if both were in abundant supply, these are the shows that I would be getting tickets to: BROADWAY: War Horse, Catch Me If You Can, The Scottsboro Boys, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark and Godspell. I am interested in The House of Blue Leaves with Ben Stiller & Edie Falco and Death of a Salesman with Philip Seymour Hoffman, admittedly this interest is primarily because of casting. OFF-BROADWAY: Angels In America, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, Compulsion, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, and One-Arm. I am also really, really hoping that I make it down to DC to see Follies at The Kennedy Center, featuring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Linda Lavin and Elaine Page. It will be interesting to see how many of these shows I actually get to see. Thank God for things like TDF.

Tomorrow is Halloween, which really marks the beginning of holiday madness for me. In addition to raising three kids, wrapping up the year at the 4o-hour a week income generation establishment, producing a couple Musical Mondays! and casting Parade, the family has some exciting trips planned including the much-anticipated trip to Great Wolf Lodge in The Poconos. This time is also known as "time for mommy to write, while the kids conquer the indoor water park". Everybody wins.

So there you have it. I have written something. I have caught you up. And I've probably exhausted you a little bit.

I think I'm going to go take a nap.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Help Diabetics & Vote for Tony's Plate

Although it is not something that I spend a lot of time advertising, there is something about me that you probably don't know. I am a Type I diabetic. I was diagnosed in November 2008 and, as you can imagine, being diagnosed weeks away from my 40th birthday with a chronic illness typically associated with children was like a punch in the gut. However, I am one that is fairly adept at rolling with the punches and my diagnosis was no exception. Almost two years later, I have grown accustomed to the inconveniences of diabetes: the constant carb counting, the incessant pricking of my finger, the occasional low blood sugar episodes ("Drink the juice, Shelby!") and being constantly tethered to an insulin pump.

Last week I had a herniated disc removed from my back, which required an overnight stay at the hospital. After the surgery, I was wheeled up to my room. It was about 5:00pm and, having not had any food since midnight the night before, I was a bit hungry. I proclaimed that I was starving and, shortly thereafter, I was delivered my hospital cuisine which consisted of macaroni and cheese and some of the best damned canned peaches I ever ate. Alongside the tray was a menu, with the carbohydrates conveniently listed next to each menu item. I took my blood sugar reading, entered the BG level and the total carbs into my pump, and I had a very satisfying meal of institutional cuisine.

The next morning, after a virtually sleepless night, my breakfast arrived. This menu, however, did not have the convenience of the carbs listed next to the menu items, so I asked the nurse if someone could get me that information. After asking three times and getting no response, I stared longingly at my breakfast and resorted to my trusted Blackberry to Google each individual item to ascertain what the carb value of my breakfast was. By the time I had all the information at hand, my scrambled eggs were cold. Believe me, there is nothing worse than cold, hospital prepared scrambled eggs.

At lunchtime, as my sugar levels had elevated to near 400, the same thing happened. The food was delivered and there were no carb values listed. At this point, I was reduced to tears. Quite ridiculous, really. A 41-year-old woman sitting there sobbing because all she wanted to do was eat her lunch and get her blood sugar under control. This was certainly one of the moments that I missed the convenience of being able to eat anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. A convenience that the average, non-diabetic takes for granted.

Now that I am home from the hospital, recovering from back surgery, I spend a lot of time on the computer. Yesterday, the cramazing Susan Blackwell posted a video on her Facebook page and it came through my news feed. When I saw the [title of show] gang in the thumbnail, I clicked on it, diehard Tosser that I am.

This video, embedded below, is a call to action. Susan Blackwell's nephew was recently diagnosed with Type I diabetes and, in response, her brother built this amazing application called Tony's Plate. The application is a one-stop calculator where you can enter all of your food items and portion sizes online and it calculates the nutritional information for you - most importantly, the total carbohydrate intake. I cannot express how invaluable this tool is for a diabetic. Believe me, I wish I had known about it a week ago. It would have spared me a pretty pitiful emotional display.

This application has been submitted to Michelle Obama's Apps for Healthy Kids Competition as part of the Let's Move Campaign and, if it wins, Susan's brother gets to go to the White House and could win a couple of doubloons for this invaluable effort. So please, click on this link and take 90 seconds to vote for this application. Do it for Susan! Do it for me! Do it for diabetics everywhere! Do it because you're a Tosser! Do it because John and Susan are from Ohio! Just do it!

Rock the vote, kids!


Friday, June 11, 2010

In Memoriam: Patrick Lee (1959-2010)

It would seem you have stumbled upon a rare post on a neglected blog. This blog started in 2005 and through the last 5 years, in spits and spurts, I’ve posted my thoughts and musings about theatre, film and life. Writing for my blog is a beloved hobby. It started around the time I was writing the screenplay Harvest Home and, over the years, has morphed into a blog that is primarily theatre-centric.

I love theatre. I love it hard and I love it true. I’ve said it several times in my life and I will say it several more: it has been my one true constant, ever since I toddled around backstage during shows my father directed. Theatre never disappoints. She entertains, she educates, she energizes. She is most definitely the jealous mistress in my life and she will always beckon.

Not many people feel the way I do about theatre. But I’ve been lucky in my life to find a few. Several of them are bloggers themselves and are included in the “Bloggers You’ll Learn To Love” list to the right. I’ve met most of these passionate and intelligent theatre addicts and my appreciation for this glorious art has undoubtedly been made richer by reading their blogs.

Someone who has been included on this list for quite some time is Patrick Lee who, among other things, was the author of the blog Just Shows To Go You. On Wednesday afternoon, a mutual friend and fellow blogger posted a link on his Facebook page, informing us that Patrick had unexpectedly passed away at the age of 51. Through the magic of social networking, it did not take too long to realize just how many lives Patrick touched.

My only face-to-face meeting with Patrick was at a bloggers brunch at Angus McIndoe in March 2008. For the majority of the brunch he was seated at the other end of the table. However, before dashing off to a matinee of Passing Strange, he came to our end of the table and introduced himself. We chatted briefly about Show Showdown, our blogs, Taboo and Passing Strange, for which he had a great enthusiasm. That afternoon, I was off to see Lit and Messy and Not At All Ashamed at NYU, a concert featuring the music of my composer friend Joe Iconis. At the time, he hadn’t heard of Joe (also a Passing Strange fan, BTW) but soon thereafter he became a big fan and supporter of Joe’s work.

Following that brunch, I started reading Patrick’s blog. I would also read his reviews on Theatermania, became Facebook friends with him and followed him on Twitter. I knew him virtually, as so many of us did. It did not take long for me to realize what a gift to the theatre community he was. Most definitely, Patrick was a champion of new and original theatre as evidenced by his love of [title of show], Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Amoralists, Joe Iconis and more. We are so fortunate, to have an online legacy of Patrick, where we can Google his reviews, interviews and musings to our heart’s content.

I am lucky to also have a tangible reminder of Patrick. When Equus returned to Broadway, I won, via a Just Shows To Go You contest, a Playbill that had been autographed by the entire cast of said revival. Little did Patrick know, Equus was an instrumental part of my theatrical development, so it was a thrill to own such a meaningful piece of memorabilia. While I don’t know for certain, I am going to presume that Equus was one of Patrick’s favorites as well, since the original logo is the first tile on the banner affixed to the top of his blog. Ironically, one of Patrick's last published articles on Theatermania is an interview with Sam Underwood, who is playing Alan Strang in Tony Walton's production of Equus in East Hampton. From this day forward, whenever I look at that Playbill, I will think of Patrick.

It is always very hard, when someone passes away suddenly and unexpectedly, to make sense of it. I barely knew Patrick and I instantly became immersed in thoughts of his life, his family, his close friends and his colleagues. If I’m so deeply affected, how do those closest to him make sense of it? Then I think to myself, how wonderful it is that Patrick was a writer! How wonderful that so many of his friends are writers! As Patrick’s family and friends gather this weekend to memorialize him, they need only turn to the blogosphere for comfort. The online eulogies that have been cropping up on the internet are numerous, several of them by the bloggers listed to the right. In them, Patrick is remembered as an intelligent, passionate, sarcastic, inspiring, jovial, caring, witty, kind and much loved person. Most of us can only aspire to be remembered so fondly.

In whichever way great or small Patrick Lee may have touched your life, I think we can all agree we are better for having known him and for having known the work that he loved so dearly.

We have learned that Patrick had a heart attack and passed away quietly in his sleep. While nobody knows for certain what happened, I like to think that Patrick enjoyed a nice glass of wine, posted his interview with Joe Colarco about Burnt Part Boys, climbed into bed thinking about his predictions for the upcoming Tony Awards and then drifted off to his final sleep dreaming about the theatre, something he loved hard and that he loved true. A love that, thankfully, he shared with so many.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

There's A Woman At The Piano!

A recent project that has come across my "desk" has once again stirred up my ire about the disparity in opportunities for women in the arts. I was asked to think of living female musical theatre/composer lyricists that would perhaps like to have their work showcased in NYC and after rambling off a few names, I soon came up dry.

Many moons ago I posted about the imbalance of female directors in Hollywood. I don't know why I should be surprised by the same irksome fact about women in the theatre arts. According to 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists, female playwrights, directors and designers receive only 20% of professional production opportunities nationwide. Sadly, this is not surprising. Testosterone still dominates on Broadway, with the big three, The Shubert Organzation, Nederlander and Jujamcyn, helmed by men. Without getting on a soap box, I will simply say that as a female theatre artist, I certainly hope that the male/female ratio on Broadway does reach 50/50 in 2020. Much can happen in 10 years, that is for certain.

So, back to the task at hand. Below is the list of female composer/lyricists that I was able to come up with. Have you got any to add to the list? Surely there are more female musical theatre composer/lyricists with a story to tell. Let's make sure that their story is heard!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Rising From The Ashes

Today is the first day of a new decade. Today is also my birthday and, thusly, the beginning of my 41st year (or, depending on perspective, the beginning of my 42nd year).

Last year was difficult. And I'm not going to lie, I'm happy to see it end. I worked hard and I was let down hard. I made friends and I lost friends. It was a year of accepting truths - about myself, about my relationships, about my illness and about my aspirations. For me, 2009 was not only the last year of the decade but the end of a significant chapter in my life.

After my most recent blog post, the following T.S. Eliot quote appeared as the Facebook status of TBTA's future leader: “For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.”

At first, I took it very personally. Last year, I spoke words in a language that will soon become obsolete. This year, a new voice will speak new words, in a new language. With one single quote, I felt both hurt and dismissed, as though all of my contributions were for naught.

Appended to the end of the quote from "Little Gidding II" was a fragment from a different T.S. Eliot quote: "And to make an end is to make a beginning."

Now, T.S. Eliot holds a special place in my heart. As a child, my father read to me from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (before Andrew Lloyd Webber got his hands on it). As a student, I explored the deeply complex world of T.S. Eliot, most specifically The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land.

Of course, I know that my friend's usage of this quote was more likely predicated by the onset of the New Year rather than as a personal affront to me. However, despite its intent, I choose to use that quote, in its entirety, to begin the next chapter of my story: "What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."

Much like the Seneca quote in my previous post, T.S. Eliot purports that without an ending there cannot be a beginning. Endings are hard and often sad but they are, indeed, where we start from. Beginnings are exhilarating.

From the ashes rises the Phoenix and, as such, I am proud and excited to announce that, in collaboration with B. Peter Hughes and Joseph Russo, a new theatre company is being born. TheStage Repertory Company, devoted to championing new and lesser known theatre, will spread its wings in 2010.

TheStage Rep will begin producing theatre for our community in Spring 2010 and will announce our inaugural season in February 2010.

Join us, won't you? Because beginnings are, indeed, exhilarating.