The start of a new play

Summer is here, and for the past several years, that has meant one thing: it’s time to start writing a murder mystery comedy.

Every year, I’m commissioned to direct a murder mystery play at a local high school, and for the past four years, I’ve co-written an original play with my brother (and sometimes with a few of the students.) Since I’m busy this summer directing Godspell and with grad school, I don’t have time to collaborate with students. My brother and I will be writing on our own, which hasn’t happened since the summer of 2009 when we wrote A Family Reunion to Die For.

My brother (who lives in L.A.) flew to Jersey for our cousin’s wedding this past weekend, and we spent last night discussing the concept for this year’s show. We work best in the middle of the night, so between 2 and 5 AM, we chatted about how many characters we want, where and when the setting will be, and how we can do something different than we have ever done before.

Without giving too much away during this early stage of pre-writing, we are excited about a few things:

1) For the first time, we are writing a period piece. Instead of a present day setting, we are planning to set this play in the 1940’s. This will be a challenge because we will need to be true to the time in terms of dialogue.

2) We are returning to the dark and stormy night setting that is popular with murder mysteries. It’s been awhile since we’ve done that, and we think the audience will respond well to this more traditional feel.

I’m excited to begin work on this show. The production is slated to open in a little less than five months. …Here’s to many days sitting at the computer!

More press for Godspell has a little write-up on their website about my upcoming production of Godspell with M & M Stage Productions at The Kelsey Theatre. There’s even a little quote from yours truly. Hopefully, this will appear in the July 1 editions of their monthly publications that are delivered to homes across the county. We could sure use the publicity.

Take a look: Hamilton performance company to present Godspell

An idea on the drive home from rehearsal

Last week at a blocking rehearsal for Godspell, I got to the part of the script where one of the characters sings the ballad All Good Gifts, and I said to the cast that the choreographer would teach them the choreography for the song at some point.  As the words left my mouth, I realized that this was one of the songs I had told the choreographer I would stage myself back when we discussed the music several months ago.

While driving home that night, I thought of how I wanted to stage the song.  I saw the recent Broadway revival twice and remember the staging quite well, and have also seen clips of the original production.  My take on Godspell is quite different from both major incarnations, and I wanted to come up with staging that wasn’t a take-off of either.  Suddenly, it hit me: American Sign Language.  I had discussed somehow incorporating ASL into the show with the choreographer a few days earlier, but we weren’t sure where it would be most appropriate.  I started envisioning how the cast would sing, sign, and move around the stage.  In my head it looked beautiful.  The only problem is that (except for the standard alphabet) I don’t know ASL at all.

Luckily, a former student of mine signs with her church choir.  I got in touch with her right away, and over the course of the past five days, she not only developed an ASL translation of the song and recorded a video tutorial for the cast to review, but she came to rehearsal today to teach the cast.

I have to say, the cast picked up the signs very quickly.  I’m really excited to see how the song will come across in the production.  Combined with what our lighting directing is going to come up with for this number, I have a feeling it’s going to be stunning to watch.