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Episode 26

THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING

The big rehearsal room with the piano. Thursday, July 16th ...

May I come in?

"What? Sorry, you startled me. Yes, come in."

Am I interrupting?

"Not at all."

The delivery boy just dropped of another pizza and six-pack of mineral water. I thought I'd bring it up while it was still hot - the pizza I mean.

"Thanks. We got hungry and decided to take a break for dinner."

Speaking of whom, where is our composer?

"She went down to take a hot shower in one of the dressing rooms. We've been working since early this morning."

Yes, I know. How's it coming?

"You tell me. I noticed the red light was lit on the building intercom two days ago. You've been sitting in your office listening to everything we've been doing, haven't you?"

Yes.

"How long have you been listening to us?"

Long enough. Off and on. I don't listen in all the time.

"Long enough to ..."

Long enough to have overheard your - how shall I put this?

"Making the beast with two backs?"

You're quoting Shakespeare now? Yes, long enough to have overheard your enthusiastic coupling Monday night.

"Why am I not surprised you sat there and listened to the whole thing?"

Believe it or not, as soon as I realized what was going on, I did turn the intercom off. However, the grunts and squeals and cries and exclamations were quite loud enough to be clearly audible throughout the building with no artificial amplification.

"Sorry if we shocked you."

I wasn't shocked. Impressed might be the correct word.

"Don't let onto Annie you know. It would embarrass her."

My lips are sealed. Although I am going to caution you that it is seldom a good idea to sleep with someone you are working -

"But we weren't sleeping, were we?"

Whatever you want to call it, just be careful.

"What do you think of the songs, so far?"

We're christening the theatre this afternoon at two o'clock. That's why I'm still here this time of night. They've just finished bringing in the flowers and setting up for the reception. I'm expecting a couple of hundred people. I've arranged tours of the theatre afterwards. I may want to bring a few groups up here to show them the rest of the building. Why don't you kids take the afternoon off?

"You don't want to risk having them walk in on us doing something other than writing a musical, huh?"

That's part of it. The other part is I don't want anyone to overhear anything you two are working on. It's too early for that right now. Today is all about the new theatre and Drema's Rehearsal. We wouldn't want to pull focus now, would we?

"You don't like it? You don't think it's good enough?"

What?

"Our songs?"

Perhaps the three of us should meet tomorrow and sit down and discuss what you two are doing with the score.

"Don't do that to me. Not now."

What do you mean?

"You obviously have reservations about the songs we're writing. Don't make me wait for 24 hours to learn what they are."

It's too late to get into all that tonight. I've got to be back here in six hours. I need to go home and get some sleep.

"Don't do this to me! Don't ... you can't do this to me. This last week - cooped up here ... creating ... making Neverland come alive ... writing - I've never experienced this sense of euphoria before. I've never felt as complete, as .. . whole ... as I do right now. I close my eyes and I can see Neverland - where we need to go, what we need to do - with a clarity I never thought possible. All the answers are in the air, just waiting to be put on paper. Magic is happening in this room. Don't break the spell. I ... I don't know if I'll ever be able to get back here again. Can you understand that?"

Yes, I can.

"Really? Then explain it to me."

You've learned your lessons well. What you're experiencing isn't magic - far from it. Somehow, over the last several months, you've taught yourself how to write, how to create. Everything - what you've read, what you've seen, what you've written - has finally come together and fallen into place. It's a big step. Most people who want to write never make it this far. You have internalized all the hows and whys and you are now working on a visceral level. You've gone past the point of having to ask yourself "is this right" or "is that wrong," now you just know.

"You do understand."

Yes. I've been there myself. Don't think you're finished. You've still got a lot of lessons to learn. And the next one is one of the hardest.

"Tell me."

This euphoria you feel right now is nothing more than the discovery of muscles you've never used before, abilities you never realized you possessed. You didn't expect anything like this to happen, so you didn't draw yourself a map of how you got here. That's why you don't want to stop now, as you said yourself, you don't know how to get back.

"Yes."

Your next lesson, my young friend, is to learn to trust yourself.

"I don't understand."

You don't need to worry about not being able to get back to where you are right now. You have no need of a map for the simple reason that, now you're here, for as long as you continue to write, you'll never be able to leave.

"I still don't understand."

You're a different person now. I could get all mystical about it and say you've been reborn into a higher level of consciousness or something. But the simple fact is that you've gained a certain wisdom and understanding and discovered a few abilities you never knew you had. Now you need to learn to trust yourself again, to trust these newfound talents. They won't desert you, but you've got to believe that before you can go any farther.

"Farther? There's more to it than this?"

Quite a bit.

"Tell me."

Just as you made this breakthrough all by yourself, so it's going to be from now on. You're off on your own path of discovery, teaching yourself what you need know to take the next step. I could talk until I'm blue in the face telling you where you're going. But, you wouldn't really understand a word of what I'd say until you discover it for yourself. The most I can do is occasionally point out where you are and what you've achieved. That's all you really need from anyone else now.

"Why don't I hate you anymore? Ten minutes ago when you walked in this room I hated your guts. I know you're a complete bastard and I can't forgive you for what you've put me through. But, why don't I hate you anymore?"

That's just another one of those questions you're going to have to answer for yourself.

"And why, all of a sudden, am I so tired?"

A sense of relief?

"Maybe. I don't know yet."

You kids need to take a break. Why don't the two of you take a long weekend and just relax? We'll meet Monday morning.

"Okay. But, I still want to know what you think of the songs."

They're brilliant. You've come up with one of the best musical scores I've ever heard. But, I want you to scrap everything and start over.

"What?"

The musical you two are writing is good, but it's too big. I want to see what happens if we make it a smaller show.

"What do you mean smaller?"

Can we do Neverland with a cast of six or possibly eight at the most? Something tells me that smaller is better with this project. And I don't want to waste time downscaling what you two have already written. That's the wrong approach. I think we need to rethink the basic concept from the beginning.

"But, it's great the way it is!"

Why settle for great? Let's see if we can make it better. I also want you two to start thinking in terms of dance.

"Dance?"

Right now you're telling the whole story through words, the book and lyrics. Remember, Billy Finn is a dancer. And a lot of his story can best be told in dance, not words. I want you two to think about that for a while, look at telling part of the story in dance.

"But that's the choreographer's job."

Maybe it's time to do things differently. I think one of the reasons we haven't had many good dance shows lately is that the choreographer is handed a bunch of songs - where the story is told in the lyrics - and expected to stage them using dance to support the lyrics. Granted, you can come up with some interesting numbers that way, if the choreographer is any good. Just look at what whats-her-name did with A New Brain. But, I want to see what a good choreographer can do when you two have conceived and written the show telling part of the story through dance.

"My head hurts."

So relax for a couple of days and think about it. For starters, you can take a look at this book.

"Bird's Eye View: Dancing With Martha Graham and on Broadway?"

It may give you a few ideas. See you two bright and early Monday. Have a good weekend.

Bird's Eye View: Dancing With Martha Graham and on Broadway is a satisfying dancer's tale of struggle and survival. Bird began studying with Martha Graham in 1930 at Seattle's Cornish School, arriving with no thought that the 12-week stint would change her life. But her nervy, high-spirited memoir recounts how this change took place, offering shrewd glimpses of Graham at a critical early point in her choreographic career, and following Bird herself beyond induction into Graham's modernism in New York and onto the Broadway stage. Bird explains the sources of Graham's unique pedagogy and her working methods when creating dances.

But, Bird's Eye View is also an insider's view of Broadway musicals of the 1930s and 40s. Dorothy Bird is the only dancer of the period to have worked with all the greats: Graham, Humphrey, Limon, Robbins, Tamiris, Balanchine, Sokolow and theater notables Gertrude Lawrence, Danny Kaye, Orson Welles, Elia Kazan and the Adler family. Bird's Eye View contains much historical and hitherto unpublished material about that embryonic time of fun, fire and fury when Martha Graham was creating a new form of movement, and the Broadway musical theater was at its peak of glory.

Bird's Eye View: Dancing With Martha Graham and on Broadway
by Dorothy Bird and Joyce Greenberg
List Price: $29.95
University of Pittsburgh Press
ISBN: 0822939800


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