Monday, 28 July 2014

Hooded and Miked for a Musical?

Klaus-Louis Jansen van Vuuren, Chandré Bo, Gerrit Scheeprs and Aliza Graham

This past week Music! – The Musical? a new musical written by myself and my friend Mr Gerrit Scheepers debuted at the Krekvars Student Arts Festival. When it comes to staging, musicals contain a whole new set of challenges. Technical challenges I rarely have to deal with when directing and staging straight drama or dance and physical theatre productions. Such as head microphones. With receivers. Head microphones we pay for per production and technical rehearsal and are temperamental at best. For both our technical rehearsals Aliza Graham’s head mic decided to stop working at the beginning of the run. And with a cast of four where three of us never leave the stage there is no opportunity to switch microphones, or to fix anything once we've started the run. Luckily for us she does have a strong voice, and she could still be heard without her mic, but as we started the tech run, sans her microphone, I told her not to push her voice. Save it for the actual show.

Klaus getting Aliza's mic pack in her dress while I'm tuning the guitar before our technical rehearsal

I know no premier runs 100% smoothly. There are always things that need to be fixed after the first run. Something unforeseen. But I do try to plan

For marketing the day of our first show there was an opportunity to perform a 5 minute excerpt of the shows. Also for marketing purposes I had bought 4 hoodies to be printed with the show’s name the Friday before. My planning was sound. We had a rehearsal the morning from 8 to 12 to work in the notes a friend had given from our technical run the weekend before. At 1 I was to fetch the hoodies giving me enough time to go home, shower and get ready to perform the excerpt at 3 and then be ready to move into the theatre at 4:30 to perform at 6. I should have known that something wouldn't go as planned.

During rehearsals we realized that 1: only Gerrit and I would be able to perform the excerpt; and 2 there would also be no place and cabling for a keyboard, so it was either up to the guitar. The songs played with the guitar were all sung by Aliza. The song on the ukulele sung by the entire cast was our only option, so Gerrit and I had to pull it off. The text leading into the song played by the ukulele was performed by Gerrit and Aliza. I wrote the script, so I had an idea of the words. We went through the text and song quickly twice before I was off for the hoodies.

I arrived at the shop just after one to pick up the hoodies. The secretary in the office was not the same lady who had taken my order. I should have known. She went round the back for order and returned empty handed. She made a phone call to her colleague who had taken my order and was now on leave. As she flipped through the order book I saw my sheet.
“Chandré” and “Music! – The Musical?” were written along with the quote and information pertaining to the sizes of the lettering.
I showed it to her. She retreated into the workspace and returned without the hoodies:
“I think your order got lost between the orders”
This made no sense to me “Are these your hoodies?”
She showed me the large plastic bag with the 4 black hoodies inside and the word “MUSIC” written on the back with a black marker.
“Those are my hoodies” I said redundantly.
“When do you need them by?”
I wanted to say NOW
“At the very latest I need them by 2:30” it was 1:30 already. I still had to go home and shower and to my makeup, which as I have written before is challenging.
“It’ll be done by 2:30. Did you email my colleague the image you want on the shirts”
“I gave it to her on a flash drive. She saved the image.”
“Her computer is hanging.”
Excruciating minutes later.
“Oh, here is your image, but it doesn’t want to open. Can you email it to me instead?”
I raced home with her business card in my hand. I fired up my laptop and sent the image to her. I jumped into the shower. As I got dressed I saw the email on my phone with a slightly altered image:
“Would this work for you”
I replied that it would and I wondered how far the printing was by then. I dried myself, painted on a face fit for the stage and ran out of my flat at top speed with sopping wet hair. At 2:35 I walked into their offices again.
“I'll go check if your shirts are ready”
They weren’t. I could feel my soul start to whither. Especially when the technician walked around to the reception area where I was standing. He asked me some or other technical question while holding up a very-much unprinted hoodie. I had no idea what he was asking:
“I need to leave now…with the hoodies”
“Don’t worry Mam, it will only take 10 minutes”
“I have to leave in 5 minutes. I need to perform with these hoodies at 3”
The secretary answered the question and sent him on his way. Then looked at me in a very awkward silence.
“Well, can I pay so long so that I can leave as soon as he is finished?”
“Yes, we can do that”
I wanted to bang my head on her desk. Or perhaps hers.

At quarter to 3 I flew out of their offices with four printed hoodies, and receipt, for which I was offered no discount. And at 3 Gerrit and I were on stage in our hoodies, performing an excerpt which was not our own for marketing purposes. At 10 past 5 Aliza flew into the theatre, after being stuck in traffic with no makeup on. We taped her into her mic and checked her for sound, she did her makeup at top speed and was ready to go on stage as the show started. Her microphone worked.

For two technical rehearsals the rest of our cast had had no microphone problems. The housing station for the head mic taped to my and neck stayed in put on the band of my jeans. During our first show, the mic pack freed itself from the band of my jeans while on stage, taking some of my hair with it as the tape ripped from my neck on its decent. But by some or other miracle it still worked. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Making... a Musical?

These past few weeks has seen the creation of a new musical…Music! – The Musical? A (hopefully) comedic look at the lives of performing artists, specifically four members of a band who are desperate to make it, or at least pay their rent.

A very good friend of mine from school, Mr Gerrit Scheepers, who is currently busy with Masters degree in music and I sat down over many cups of tea and pages of scribbled pieces of paper to create our new musical. Two years ago we wrote the music for Suikerbossie, and Afrikaans musical made in collaboration with my friend Miss Jesto Marx. At some point much earlier this year we decided to write another musical called Music and that it would be about musicians and performing artists. The opening of entries for the Krêkvars Student Arts Festival provided both the motivation and timeline to force the two of us to get the musical done. So we started writing. A meeting or two later we narrowed down a list of friends who had good voices for singing and acting experience and a few messages and confirmations later we had a cast. Gerrit, the recently married Mrs Aliza Graham, Mr Klaus-Louis Jansen van Vuuren and myself.

 Gerrit and I have learned in the past that when the music doesn’t flow you just can't make it. And sometimes creating new music calls for watching videos on youtube, and definitely calls for cup after cup of tea and coffee and definitely a glass of wine here and there. And when it just doesn’t want to work don’t force it. On the previous musical we had written together for we had sat for about 4 hours one evening really trying. We researched themes, looked up meanings of words and battled to come up with original lyrics or inspiring melodies. Every word I wrote that evening just felt clichéd. Eventually we decided to just get takeaways and watch a movie instead of spending the night working. Two days later when we got together to work on the same song we wrote the whole thing in less than half an hour. Inspiration and creativity is not something that you can hold to a schedule, but unfortunately needs to be held to a deadline.

As per usual, the writing of the music was the easy part. But just as Jesto and I had mulled over the same point in the past we found ourselves once again without a climax. We knew the themes we wanted to explore, we had a general story line, but we didn’t have a climax and ending. And the fact the Klaus would not be able to rehearse for a week and a half before our technical rehearsals made the writing of the script even trickier.  And so commenced the familiar game of “what if….” which tends to work as follows:
The creators of the script which was Jesto and Myself in the past, and in this instance our entire cast are in the rehearsal space. I sit with poised pen and paper and affirm our need for a climax. Then it starts….

“What if someone dies”
“What if the main character ….”
“What if a sub-character…”
“What if we bring in an outside element”

After and hour of this I usually feel like exploding whenever I hear the words "what if?" 

Aliza’s idea of a phone call had already been rolling around in my head a little before she mentioned it. I had thought by then that an outside element would be necessary to bring an emotional climax to the show. The Deus ex Machina as we had learned in a first year theory class about classical Greek theatre. From the circumstances of the play we couldn't go anyway, and nothing could be resolved with an outside force. It took literally a full day before my penny dropped. At was only at our next rehearsal, while awaiting my next cup of tea, that the idea came to me for the climax of the show.

From the left, Mrs Aliza Graham, Mr Klaus-Lous Jansen van Vuuren, Gerrit Scheeprs,
myself, Chandré Bo

We are very proud to be presenting Music! – The Musical? at the Krêkvars Student Arts Festival held at the University of Pretoria. SO…if you happen to be in the area please come in and support our hard work. And click right here to connect to our facebook event for the show!