Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tulipomania--A Quickie

I'm stage managing a short gig at the Arden Theatre, a workshop of a new play entitled, Tulipomania. It is indeed about that period in Dutch history (around 1640) when buying tulips was like starting a dot-com in the 1990s. The price of tulips rose and rose until, oh you guessed it, tulips flooded the market, the bubble popped and the tulips were nearly worthless. Although without the tulip craze, what would we associate with Holland?

Anyway, Michael Hollinger (a local playwright) wrote the script and Michael Ogborn wrote the music and lyrics. The Arden is hosting a staged reading of the play in order to see where it stands: does it need any re-writes, is it ready for production, etc.

We have (under AEA rules) 29 hours to rehearse and "perform" the play. I put perform in quotes because a staged reading has little if any blocking, no costumes, no props and the actors have their scripts in hand. We're rehearsing over 4 days and most of the actors were also in Candide. A friend of mine, who also worked on Candide and is currently stage managing Asher Lev, remarked, "It's like Candide lite."

It's so exciting to see theater in its most nascent form; right when the piece becomes a collaboration between writers, director, and actors. No matter how many times you write or re-write a play, it is intended to be interpreted by others. As the actors learn the music, it's interesting to watch as the composer tightens up certain songs or adds measures to make a an ending stronger. During this time, the playwright makes changes as well after hearing his words come alive by the actors. For one character, he changed quite a few lines because, as Mr. Hollinger put it, "He's just not that nice."

The final collaborator (before a full production with designers jumping on the band wagon) is, of course, the audience. While a polished staged reading is not necessarily the goal, their reaction is important in gauging what works and what does not as the piece moves forward in its development.

So I'm having a great time watching the growth of Tulipomania while hanging out people I love to work with and getting out of the house for a few days. Plus, I have no blocking to record or props to track. It's a sweet gig. I told the production team at the Arden, "Anytime you have one of these workshops in need of a stage manager, call me." Who doesn't love a good quickie?

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to watch the creative evolution of a play. You have a unique vantage point to observe this. Thanks for sharing,