Be a Rebel and a Scofflaw

I write about a lot of different things on this blog -- our creative process, analysis of the shows we work on, thoughts on the art form, lists of cool books, shows, movies. It's been really fun over the last six years to explore the blog form and to develop a "house style" for my blog. It really is a different form of communication.

Back in spring 2007 when I started this blog, the main purpose was to chronicle our creative process. Partly just because that seems like something I would've loved to read when I was in high school and college -- one of my favorite book genres is collections of interviews with directors. But also because our process at New Line is relatively unique. We've developed a process over the last twenty-two years that takes from both mainstream regional theatre and also the experimental theatre movement in New York in the 1960s. In 2007 New Line was already in its sixteenth season, and I was realizing that our continued success was making a strong case for a non-commercial, "art" musical theatre. We were proving that it works, that there's an audience, and that there's plenty of brilliant, original work to produce.

And now there are other companies following in our footsteps -- The Music Theatre Company in Highland Park, IL; Minneapolis Musical Theatre in Minnesota; Kensington Arts Theatre in Kensington, Maryland; Factory Edge Theatre Works in Baltimore; Dreamlight Theatre Company in New York; Musically Human Productions in New York; Slow Burn Theatre Company in Fort Lauderdale; Little Radical Theatrics in Westchester, New York; Not Your Mom's Musical Theater in Derry, New Hampshire; and others. Only a couple of these companies even existed ten years ago; some are just a few years old. The American musical theatre is changing, and it's mostly happening outside of New York City.

Bukowsical has been such a wonderful experience partly because I know very few other companies are ballsy enough to produce it, and partly because I dearly love musical comedy. I had my infatuation with Rodgers and Hammerstein, and a long love affair with the Sondheim musicals, but my real love is musical comedy. The first musical I was ever in was Anything Goes, still one of my all-time favorite shows. A couple years ago, I started writing about the neo musical comedy, the new 21st reboot of the classic form. I've had such fun the last few years really diving back into musical comedy, with I Love My Wife, Cry-Baby, and now Bukowsical. Even in the form's latest evolution it still has everything that made me fall in love with musicals in the first place, their fundamentally American personality, comic, high-energy, aggressive, vulgar, muscular, rowdy, ironic, and almost always big-hearted. Even with our serious shows, I use so much that I learned from musical comedy.

And I've learned that comedy is a great way to make a serious point.

Bukowsical is one of those shows that makes me laugh just thinking about some random moment. I burst out laughing in the car last night on the way home from rehearsal, at least five or six separate times, just remembering how funny something in the show was, or how funny it will be to watch an audience react to this wild ride...

We're almost ready to open. Saturday afternoon we had our lighting cue-to-cue, where we move slowly through the show, moment by moment, so the lighting designer can see his lights and make adjustments or changes. Sunday afternoon, we had our sitzprobe, where the cast sings with the band for the first time and also with mics for the first time. It's just a few hours when the sound designer, the musicians, and the actors get a sense of each other's work before we run the whole show.

Each night this week, we run the show, full tech, band, lights, sound, costumes, props, the whole shebang. If the actors really have the show in hand before this, then these few nights -- we call it Hell Week -- aren't too bad. If the show is precarious at all, Hell Week can be hellish. But honestly, our Hell Weeks are almost never hellish anymore, partly because we get eight on nine full run-throughs of the show before Hell Week -- and most of them on the set -- a luxury we are very grateful for. The best part of this week is that the actors get to run the show, no stopping, with all the elements in place, for three nights in a row -- you'd be amazed how many problem get fixed and how much important fine tuning can happen in those last few rehearsals.

Bukowsical is in great shape, so the fine tuning is very subtle this week, mostly asking actors to move a foot this way or that, to be more fully in light, or to make sure a prop gets moved at the right time, or to correct a word in a lyric, small stuff like that.

Thursday we'll have a preview -- no critics and a small-ish house. The show really isn't finished until you add the audience, and it sucks to add that final element to the show in front of critics who are judging your work. The Rep and Stages get several previews, but one is enough for us. Every time you add an element to the show, it changes everything -- and the same is true with the audience. They change the show. So we love having a performance to orient to that before anybody's writing about us.

Friday night we'll open the show. In the last few years, we've started making a bigger deal out of opening night, encouraging all the New Liners to come that night if they can, and we have an after-party to which we invite the whole audience. It's a fun way to celebrate the opening of another wonderful adventure. And it gives us a great house on opening night, which gives us an awesome launch and gives the critics our best possible show. Also, because we have essentially no money for advertising, we rely a lot on word-of-mouth, so the more friends we get there that first night, the better the rest of the run will probably sell.

I love this show and I love this cast and, as I often do, I feel incredibly lucky that we get to do this kind of wild, adventurous, audacious work. New Line is very special and as we close our 22nd season with Bukowsical, I'm more grateful than ever to our audiences, the press, and the writers who keep writing this wonderful stuff and trusting us with it.

The adventure continues!

Long Live the Musical!