Back in February, I did a table read of my latest musical, The Distant Bells. I hate table reads. I love table reads. I love-hate table reads. I love them because it’s an invaluable way to gain insight into a show I’m writing. Nothing helps me take a step back and focus on all pictures (big, little and everywhere in between) than sitting in a room and hearing actors read through the show. On top of that, it is the least difficult type of reading – rent a studio, call up some actors you know and away you go.
Which is why I hate table reads. Actors can easily sit down and read a part in a script without much preparation – well, many actors can. It won’t be a nuanced and fully realized performance of course, but that’s not the point of a table read. They can get through the show, bring something to it and help you see the characters in a different way – all by cold-reading the script with other actors. What actors can’t do – even the most amazing, professional, talented and wonderful ones – is “cold-sing” a score they’ve never heard before. It would be…let’s say “unfortunate” to try and most likely depressing to me, the actors and any passers-by in the hallway outside the studio.
But, love ’em or hate ’em, a table read is valuable – especially when the show is just not ready yet for a week-long reading or workshop.
So, after the table read in February, I suggested we set a self-imposed deadline of June 1st for another draft of the show incorporating all we learned from the table read and the things we already knew before it. A lot of things changed – and I mean a LOT of things! – between February and June 1st. It wasn’t always easy nor did it always move forward quickly, but, we got to June 1st and we now have a draft which took us several significant steps forward from February.
Great! Finished! Crack open the champagne, get your suit tailored for opening night, kick back and enjoy! Right? right…?
Though I’ve been working on, outlining, plotting, writing and rewriting The Distant Bells off and on for just under two years now, the June 1st draft is really the “first draft” of the show. Oh, there have been many, many drafts before this one. But none that successfully realized the two separate but complimentary ideas for a musical (one mine, one the book writer’s) which became the show I hope you’ll all see on stage someday soon!
So, what DO I do when a draft is finished…well, a few days after this draft was done I did a reboot on the third song in the show. I didn’t write a completely new song, but made big lyrical, tonal and musical changes to an existing one to set up the relationships between the characters better.
Yup – that’s right, I’m finished with the first draft of The Distant Bells…which means it’s time to get to work on the next draft…and the next draft…and the next draft…