Closer or Farther Away…?


As some of you know, I did a table read of my new show, The Distant Bells, about a week and a half ago. My frequent collaborator and director of the show, Stafford Arima, assembled a wonderfully talented group of actors – Nancy Opel, Kate Baldwin, Michele Ragusa, Matt Doyle, Andy Karl, Kasey Marino and Christopher Williams – to read the script and I made a “quick and dirty” recording of me singing through the score. No audience – just the actors, writers and director. The idea being, we get to hear the piece, basically start to finish, and assess where we are. Does the story work? Are the characters well-drawn? How does the book integrate with the score? Are the songs landing? And a hundred other questions…

I almost always learn a lot from these kinds of readings. They can be very exciting and encouraging or very upsetting and discouraging – or almost anywhere in between! So, where did this reading fall in the continuum? Well…

In the “big picture world”, as opposed to the last reading we did – about 9 months ago – this time, the basic story and characters are working. Both will continue to evolve and change as the writing process continues, but it’s a positive step forward that our 4 principal characters and plot/story are heading in the right direction.

Looking at the “small picture” things – ie, everything else! – there are also many positive things in both the score and book. It’s not a surprise that the second half of the show has more problems than the first half – To quote Mrs. Potts, that’s a tale as old as time! Not to say that the first half of the show is ready for opening night – we’ve got a long list of things to rewrite, tighten, focus, etc, etc, etc.PittsburghSkyline-MtWash

Writing is hard, but rewriting is where I think most shows ultimately live or die. Does that song work or not? Is that scene overwritten? It can be as “simple” as a line or two or as complicated as having the guts to throw out 10 pages and start over. And the choices you make will have a domino effect that might not be obvious for months down the line.

Sounds fun, right?

Funny thing is, it really can be! Frustrating too, but, if you want to tell a story, it’s all part of it. And, remember, The Distant Bells is a totally original musical, not based on any source material so, when we go back to “square one” about something, we end up looking at a very, very white piece of paper!

Ok, you got me – I’m not giving away too many specific details about the show’s good or bad points or even characters and story! Part of that is not to give things away for when you (hopefully!) see it one day. But I’m also a bit superstitious about letting too much of the cat out of the bag before the cat is ready for prime time…to mix a metaphor or two! So I don’t like to say too much too early…

…but, as we continue to write and shape the show, I will say that I’m optimistic that a reading – a real reading where the actors sing and we invite an audience – could happen in the next few months. There are a lot of factors that will determine that of course, but it is possible that The Distant Bells might be getting”closer”, little by little…

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