Sunday, December 20, 2020

What does "Method Composing" mean?

"Method Acting" is a well-known term that's used to describe the training and rehearsal techniques that encourage an actor to deliver an emotional identification with a part. It was prominent at the Actors' Studio in New York City, and is associated with actors such as Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.

Sometimes the fundamental elements of "Method Acting" can be found when creating the score for a music theater work; for example, in the new Musical "the Isle of Eigg" there's a small group of townspeople that get together periodically to discuss politics, drink and play Ceilidh music. The Musical's development team decided the accordion was a natural fit since it is often used for musical accompaniment or as part of the festive ensemble in Scotland.

April Alsup, the composer of the work, is an accomplished pianist and performer, but it takes a lot of effort to learn to play a new musical instrument and there are a lot of differences between a piano and an accordion; however, there are similarities too and April was up to the challenge. The first step was to find somebody that has the knowledge, expertise and a proven process of teaching someone how to play the instrument and how it fits into a Ceilidh band.

It was just a coincidence that April visited Monarch Accordions in 2020 before the pandemic forced small businesses to shut down in Colorado. The company was founded in Denver Colorado in 1946 and purchased by professional accordionist Mike Aman in 1976. He had spent 50 years in the accordion field as a teacher, professional player and businessman. He was eager to help April come up to speed as quickly as possible and they scheduled weekly lessons through Skype.

Mike Aman and April Alsup
Mike Aman and April Alsup at Monarch Accordions (July 2020)

His virtuoso accordion orchestras have won first place at every major competition including American Accordionist’s Association, Accordion Teachers’ Guild, Accordion Federation North America, and the Rocky Mountain Accordion Society. In 1984 he produced a national solo champion. Mr. Aman makes regular trips to the Monarch factory in Italy to stay on top of the changing needs of the American accordion market.

It's been nearly 6 months since they all started working together and already the music instrumentation and score for "the Isle of Eigg" has changed dramatically. Each scene delivers a more authentic Scottish experience now and the whole team is thrilled. Just like "Method Acting" encouraged Robert De Niro to go out and work 12-hour shifts as a real New York cabbie for the movie Taxi Driver. "Method Composing" encouraged the Isle of Eigg's development team to learn to write and perform on an accordion in a real Ceilidh band.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Music theater development in the COVID-age.

There are a lot of pieces to a musical theater production. One of the most overlooked is creating high quality audio tracks from your show. Live audio feeds can deliver a complete performance, but they never have the production quality found in studio recordings.

Over the last year the coronavirus pandemic has forced artists to collaborate with their colleagues remotely. We've all had to rethink our processes and now, many of us are adding in-home recording capabilities to our portfolios and providing our parts remotely.

Anne Jenness and Brendan Vonick recording "Secret Admirer" remotely
Anne Jennes and Brendan Vonick
recording WYSIWYG vocal parts

April Alsup, our resident music theater expert told us that, "a lot of the most important elements to producing a Musical are often overlooked and can actually be done remotely". She provided us with a schematic to show how she works with local theater companies to provide the various components for a soundtrack. "Once you've completed the orchestration for your show, each singer downloads the audio files, sheet music and any related guide tracks and records their parts remotely. The final soundtrack is assembled remotely and mastered as a complete musical theater scene."

We all want to remain safe, but we still need to express our creativity...this project is a great example of how artists across the country are working together to find a way to remain creative in the COVID-age.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Music theater and the new COVID-normal

This year has been really hard for the Colorado theater community. We've all had to accept a whole new way of working with each other. I think a lot of us were reluctant to embrace collaboration technologies at first, but eventually we had to adapt to the new COVID-normal.

WYSIWYG the MusicalApril Alsup in Portland Airport

Naturally, the Denver-based show (WYSIWYG the Musical) was not immune. The team was planning a full year of shows at various venues and festivals across the country, but the cancellations started pouring in. Eventually, the disappointments turned into opportunity when they decided it was time to adapt to the new online format. To become COVID-friendly the show retooled its rehearsal processes and physical scenes were transitioned to one-to-one device apps, online therapy sessions and happy hour groups. A new soundtrack was created and the rehearsal materials are available from the WYSIWYG website

WYSIWYG (WIZ-ee-wig) is a contemporary Musical created by award-winning composer April Alsup. Far from the gender bending stories we’ve come to know, her characters find living day-to-day to be hard, lonely and heartbreaking, so they go online to live out their dreams and escape the harsh realities of the world.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Dramatist Guild embraces technology through teleconferencing

The Dramatist Guild is a great resource for just about anyone involved in the musical theatre business. Over the pandemic, they've provided all sorts informative performing arts related discussions online. The sessions are typically broadcast to their members on Zoom and consist of a moderator and several leading experts on the topic at hand. 

We were recently invited to participate in a discussion on the various issues regarding copyright. Everyone can agree that it's helpful to listen to the experts advice and join in on the discussion with specific questions. Doug Wright, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, provided several real world anecdotes of some of his dealings with copyright issues while other members concentrated on case law and how the guild provides resources to their members. It was a fabulous discussion and very informative too.

Monday, June 15, 2020

PAP project makes final cut for RAVE Theater Festival in NYC

Earlier in the year our WYSIWYG team made the short list for RAVE in NYC. April Alsup and her new 90 minute version of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) the Musical was selected for the celebrated festival and had already started lining up the Manhattan talent and production team when she received the news that the 2020 festival had been canceled.

It wasn't a big surprise though with the pandemic; of course, everyone here at the Performing Arts Project was excited, but a little nervous too. We all need to be patient, theatre will come back and WYSIWYG will be back on our stages again soon.