Last night I attended what was a first for me: A staged reading of a musical. Tom Diggs, of NYU's First Look fame from some time ago, wrote the book and lyrics, and invited me out for it by replying to
. This could be the most direct evidence of the importance of simply being present in the New York theatre community as it relates to contacts and casting: People call on the people they've heard from recently. More evidence of this was to be found in my own efforts to assemble a cast for my upcoming reading -- I had a couple of people respond as unavailable, and when I searched my files for replacements, I realized I had neglected a whole throng of good possible actors for the roles. Why? Because I hadn't spoken to them in a while. But I digress.
Once Upon a Wind
is a musical that concerns itself with the story of two children coming of age in WWI England. Jay d'Amico wrote the music, and Jeremy Dobrish directs, which was an unusual coincidence -- Friend Todd is now appearing in
, a play he directed for the MCC in 2007. I was impressed as all hell with the cast. I find readings to be difficult to act, given the restraints of physical movement and all the conventions involved (such as music stands). These people gave a very effective reading
with full song
. A small feat for musical-theatre types perhaps, but I was impressed as hell with them: Molly Ephraim, Alex Brightman, Laura Fois, Kavin Pariseau, Marcus Stevens and Ken Triwush. Oran Eldor gets a lot of credit for that, I'm sure, as the musical director and (I assume) pianist. The reading was a part of the
at The Players Theatre, exactly the same venue at which
. It's a showcase for plays seeking production, and specifically focuses on getting feedback and advice from accomplished producers.
The play also concerns itself with an interesting phenomenon in England at the time --
. It takes some inspiration from the story, I should say, and it's a story I have some familiarity with. When I was very young, I went through a period of some obsession with "paranormal" occurrences and sightings. I wasn't so much interested in ghosts, rather with mythological or prehistoric beasts that might, in fact, exist. So I had read a little something about Elsie and Frances and their faux photographs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the reading I was watching would be using that kind of source material. As you might imagine a musical doing,
Once Upon a Wind
explores the world of believers versus pragmatists, but it does it with a surprising balance. It never goes Disney on you (one could just about wait for the Tinkerbell meta-joke), yet keeps a sense of humor in the face of serious subjects like the loss of a loved one and our dueling needs to grow up, and to remain innocent. I hope Tom continues with it, and that it develops into a full production.
Personally, I don't feel that the will to believe is necessarily childish, or delusional. I think it's creative, and creativity is a strength, not a weakness. During the turn of the century, and the world wars, a lot of people turned to spiritualism and its cousins in search of something. We tend to view such searching as naive and, in a sense, this is as true as can be. It begins with accepting the possibility that we don't know something. And that's the beginning of any good discovery.