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Broadway Bound

Episode 33

HOW NOT TO GIVE AN INTERVIEW


THEATER

September 3, 1998

Rising Stars: Robin Paige
At Age 19 She's Moving from Actress to Director, Don't Get in Her Way


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In Rehearsal with The Rehearsal; Drema Paige is Back, and Ready to Remind Us Of What We've Been Missing

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by The Galactic Sardine

We arrive at the rooftop rehearsal room above the Drema Paige Theatre this glorious late summer morning, anticipating the pleasant prospect of chatting with what we have been informed is a beautiful and charming young lady. Word on the street has it that Robin Paige is worth keeping an eye on. Beautiful? Yes, without question. Charming? Possibly, in other circumstances. The morning does not turn out as expected.

She may be only 19, but she is already a force to be reckoned with and she is resolutely determined to have her own way. That much, at least, is clear from the start. Robin Paige, daughter of Millicent Paige and granddaughter of Drema Paige, has yet to learn how to give an interview.

Rather than the prearranged quiet hour of questions and answers, we are treated to a rare backstage glimpse of what goes on during the creation of a musical, a project the none too demure Robin Paige has just been hired to direct. We are greeted with a casual "I'm afraid everything's a bit chaotic this morning. Tag along and I'll try to get to you as soon as possible." Protests are met with a disapproving glare and a sharp "You need me as much as I need you. Either keep up with me or get out of my way."

We have, it must be admitted, apparently arrived at an awkward moment. The creative team behind the musical in development, Neverland, seems to be falling apart. Miss Paige has just fired Annie Wynter, the composer, who has stormed out in tears. And several phone calls concerning the whereabouts of the show's lyricist, missing for the last 48 hours, have this moment been resolved with the unpleasant information that he has been arrested earlier this morning, at one of Chelsea's seedier gay bars, for attempted rape.

Miss Paige ends a phone conversation with her producer with the observation "I may move back to England; Americans lead such complicated lives."

David E. Leigon, the actor playing NoŽl Coward in The Rehearsal, rehearsing next door, stops in to ask about Drema Paige's condition. Robin explains, "Drema was admitted to hospital last night, coughing up blood. She's sedated and under observation. We won't know anything until the test results are back this afternoon." They speak privately for a few minutes, then David leaves and Robin fixes herself a cup of tea and settles down to talk.

"Poor David. Rehearsal is scheduled to open for previews in two weeks, and now everything is on hold pending Drema's condition. They are at a loss for what to do next door."

We remark that, under the circumstances, she seems remarkably calm and composed.

"I'm worried, of course. But, until we get the test results back, the only thing to do is wait and take care of other business."

Robin Paige is known in England as a promising young actress. Why the sudden desire to direct?

"It isn't all that sudden, you know. When you're first creating a character, it's fun and very rewarding. But, if you're lucky and the production is successful and runs on and on, even in rep, it ends up being just plain, hard work. After 50 or 60 performances I'm going crazy with boredom and the stifling routine of eight shows a week. I've done it for years, and I don't want to do it anymore. With directing, at least you have the chance to move onto something else fairly quickly. There's always another project ready to go."

Are there that many job opportunities for a 19-year old director?

"Explain this obsession everyone seems to have about my age. I have a resume better than most actors twice my age. I've got over ten years worth of solid legit credits to my name with some of the best companies in the English-speaking world. Doesn't that entitle me to be taken seriously in this country?

"My grandmother had it right. She always told me to go out and create my own opportunities. That's what she always did. That's the secret. I just hope my career is half as interesting and rewarding as hers has been."

What are the problems associated with being the third generation of what has become a theatrical dynasty?

"Expectations. People always assume I'm a clone of Millicent or Drema. I'm not. And I don't think I'd call it a dynasty. We're just three women, from different generations, who have all independently decided to work in the theatre. The only thing we have in common is a common set of references when we're arguing about something."

Who usually wins these arguments?

"It depends who's arguing with whom. Most of the time either Drema or I win. Millicent says neither one of us know when to give up. But isn't that the secret of winning most of the time, not giving up?"

Why Neverland as your directorial debut?

"Philosophically or technically?"

Both.

"You're not asking for much, are you? Well, in a technical sense what attracted me initially was the scope, the time frame. Neverland tells the story of a man's life from traumatic childhood to old age and death. It was originally written in three parts: the childhood, the middle years (which are interesting and fun, but in which nothing much that moves the story forward happens), and then the final years, when the trauma and the story resolve.

"However, Neverland cannot be presented effectively in a chronological or linear fashion. You'd end up with a fascinating first act, a second act that's just marking time, and then a good strong third act. Our solution is to play acts one and three concurrently with, but against act two. In other words, the entire story is told during act two, with any number of flashbacks to the events of act one and flash forwards to the events of act three used to establish the context and meaning. It's not easy, but it seems to work dramatically.

"Philosophically I'm drawn to it because it presents a very positive and strong argument for a man's ability to survive and triumph over devastating emotional problems by the simple act of belief, both in himself and some higher being."

Are you saying Neverland is a musical about God?

"No. Actually, in Neverland, our higher being is Peter Pan. But when you think about it, they could be or mean the same thing, couldn't they? But belief - faith, if you want to put it that way - is really why I wanted to involve myself with this project. From what I've seen, somewhere in their twenties, everyone seems to lose the capacity for naive belief - "

Innocence?

"Whatever. Anyway, for those who continue to be able to believe in anything, their . . . innocent belief . . . seems to be replaced with a belief system founded on compromise. Experience - which isn't necessarily always the great teacher it's supposed to be - has shown them too many times that, yes it's good to believe, but always have a backup plan just in case. From a practical standpoint, that's probably a bloody good idea. But from an emotional or spiritual viewpoint, it's the beginning of a lifelong sense of loss and depression, and the end of the ability to believe in oneself. This innocent belief is the core of the story Neverland tells. It's what I'm bound and determined to make sure the audience actually sees on stage."

Isn't all this a bit heavy for a musical?

"Is it? Give me the name of a successful musical that doesn't at least partially address this issue. Lion King and Ragtime, Les Mis and Phantom, hell even Cats all speak directly to it. In a sense Gypsy isn't about anything else but."

I wonder if Betty Buckley knows about this?

"Who?"

Never mind.

PRODUCTION NOTES

THE REHEARSAL

A new comedy by Wilbur Valentine, starring Drema Paige with David E. Leigon as NoŽl Coward. Previews begin September 18 for a September 24 opening at the Drema Paige Theatre.

NEVERLAND

A new musical in development by Neverland Theatricals. ______________________________________

That Afternoon
At the Hospital

Drema? Are you awake?

"Of course, darling. Come in. I'm waiting to be rolled out to have a CAT scan, whatever that is."

A sort of x-ray, I believe. Do the doctors have a diagnosis yet?

"Nobody's saying the word, but I can tell they're thinking cancer."

Oh, Drema.

"Get that tone out of your voice right now! I will not suffer anyone, including you, feeling sorry for me. The very thought is intolerable. And, speaking of which, what the hell has that granddaughter of mine been doing giving unsupervised interviews?"

You read it?

"This morning, after some strange young man came in thinking he was going to give me a bath. I told you not to leave her alone with the media! She doesn't have the slightest idea how to handle them yet."

I know. He slipped in yesterday morning, while I was here waiting for you to come out of the emergency room. Apparently she set the interview up herself.

"Then she deserves what she got. The little fool. Who the hell is this Galactic Sardine, anyway? Doesn't anyone go by their real name anymore?"

If you wrote interviews like that, would you?

"Lord knows what goes on in that twisted brain of his. Who is he?"

A pretentious fringe theatre critic with a BA in Mass Communications from City College and a penchant for deservedly little known wine labels, so I'm told. He occasionally freelances for the Trib.

"Well, I'll deal with him later. What's this I hear about you canceling Rehearsal?"

Honestly, I have been thinking about it. With your condition -

"My condition is exactly what it should be. I'll be out of here tomorrow and rehearsals will resume Monday. Is that understood?"

Monday's a holiday.

"Tuesday, then. No arguments."

Of course. Tuesday.

"And get that damn condescending tone out of your voice. What's that?"

This? A book I picked up for Robin.

"Leave it with me. I need something to read, stuck in this antiseptic excuse for a third rate hotel room. They don't even have Bravo on cable. Barbarians! And don't forget, rehearsals will continue Tuesday morning!"

Writing the Broadway Musical by Aaron Frankel is the first book to explore in detail all three crafts of the Broadway musical: book, music, and lyrics. Copiously illustrated with examples, this is a "how to" book that provides enormous insight into its subject.

Included in discussion are: definitions of musical theatre; the differences between musical books and straight plays, between show songs and pop songs, between lyrics and poetry; how song, dance, and dialogue each function in the plot to create a "balanced economy": how a score develops, with particular reference to My Fair Lady and Company; what writing for the voice requires; the multiplicity of dramatic uses that songs serve; and other basic unique to musical theatre. Chiefly emphasized is the need for and practice of collaboration. Further help is offered on how to audition musicals for producers and how to deal with the testing and revision process of rehearsal and tryout once in production.

Writing the Broadway Musical demonstrates not only what this unique art form has become but also what its future holds in store.

Writing the Broadway Musical
by Aaron Frankel
List Price $19.95
Drama Book Publishers
ISBN 0896760448


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Broadway Bound is written by Mike Reynolds


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