Nothing is Real

With every show, I try to find a show-specific collective nickname for the cast and staff. For Urinetown, it was the Urinators. For Spelling Bee, it was the Spellers; for Return to the Forbidden Planet, the Crew; for Hair, the Osage (our tribe name); for Johnny Appleweed, the Stoners; and for High Fidelity, the Hi-Fi-ers (true, some are less elegant than others). Well, this time, for Love Kills, I think I'm settling on the Love-Killers. What do you think?

Charlie Starkweather shortly after his arrestWe've staged half the show now, and I feel great. I feel like everybody's on the same page, like we all instinctively understand the style and energy of the show, and also like everybody is really happy to be working on this.

I'm also realizing as I work that this is becoming my favorite kind of musical theatre -- non-naturalistic, fully acknowledging the audience and the fact that this is a stage performance. This open artificiality allows me to do some really spare, lean, less realistic -- but I think often more expressive -- staging. It's very Brecht in certain ways. Frank Bradley, our set designer, is giving me an almost-abstract space to work in, and I really feel like I know where we're headed with this show visually.

In a lot of fundamental ways, Love Kills will use the style and vocabulary of our productions of Assassins, Urinetown, Cabaret, Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll, March of the Falsettos, and others. My favorite kind of theatre is the kind that never pretends, even for a second, that what's on stage is real -- because we all know it isn't, so why pretend? Why not admit that this is artificial by design, that this is storytelling, and it's wonderful for what it is, and it's one of the most fundamental and primal of human needs?

In other words, it doesn't need to be "real" to be real.

The more we work on the Love Kills script, the more complexity and ambiguity we find. Each of the four relationships has a very tangled connection. There is both innocence and evil in Charlie, maybe in Caril too. There is both sanity and madness in them both. There is both love and coldness between Merle and Gertrude, and they have both gratitude and resentment toward each other. There's both empathy and envy between Gertrude and Caril, and also both fear and, most interestingly for Gertrude, identification.

And then there's Merle and Charlie. Merle never tells anybody what he thinks or feels (aside from his one "interior monologue" song, "Hard Man"), and nobody can ever tell when Charlie's telling the truth or not. So their relationship is the darkest and scariest and most unpredictable of all. I love dark and scary and unpredictable!

Monday night, we'll run through what we've staged so far, and then we'll start staging the rest. It's not long before we move into the theatre! Ack!

Long Live the Musical!