A look back at a loss, at Save The Date, at FringeNYC, and at an incredible
By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
Sometimes things happen so quickly. One minute you’re sitting outside your parent’s house on a lovely April afternoon in Sonoma, California, sipping on a glass of sparkling wine as you leisurely check your Gmail and notice a new email from the New York International Fringe Festival – And the next you’re sitting in your New York apartment on the eve of Labor Day weekend, sipping on an iced Red Eye and writing your weekly blog post, surrounded by the physical remains of the musical you just mounted in the Fringe.
The past four months have been a whirlwind. I welcomed a whole family of new friends into my life in our cast and crew after saying goodbye to someone very important to me. Less than a day after I got one of the best emails of my life informing me that Save The Date was to be produced in FringeNYC, my grandfather died also so quickly after suffering a sudden rupture in his esophagus out of nowhere. That emotional roller coaster of 48 hours – euphoric high followed by earthshattering low – indeed propelled me into the process of putting on the show. My grandfather wouldn’t get to see the end product, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t produce something I knew would make him proud – if not for the content, than at least for the accomplishment.
Mounting the show was quite the process, and sitting on the other end of it now there are any number of things I would have changed about it. But I’m also certain that if I had, something else would probably have arisen that needed to be addressed in their place. It was Fringe, after all, and as Rachel writes this week, sometimes you roll with the punches.
Like life, no theatrical endeavor comes without its bumps and bends. In my experience, if absolutely everything about your show goes smoothly and no one disagrees with anyone else, you’re probably doing something wrong – or at the very least making bland theatre. The very act of making drama should include a little drama. Especially with a new work, there should be a little suspense and disorientation and last-minute fixes, because if those aren’t there I put it to you that you never had a moment of discovery, large or small, and discovery is what process is all about.
When you enter into any collaboration of any kind there should be push and pull. Two or more human beings can’t possibly always operate on the exact same wavelength. And when you’re talking musical theatre – which in my opinion is the single most collaborative art form of all – you’re talking collaboration between a whole team of people.
Writers, directors, actors, musicians, designers, and yes, even producers, managers, and technicians are all artists. They each must enter into a collaboration with each other to put on a show. If you count everyone in the company of Save The Date, it was a collaboration of 32 individual artists, each with their own unique experiences and artistic voice. That’s quite an ambitious collaboration – even more so when you consider the limitations of the Fringe Festival, and it’s one I’m proud to say we totally pulled off.
Barrett Wilbert Weed interpretative dancing all over my apartment to Noah’s singing while our stage manager, Theresa Labreglio and I died laughing. The rehearsal when Chloe Williamson wore deep red lipstick and it got smeared all over her and James Penca’s faces for the rest of the musical number after they made out, and we had to cut the idea because it was WAY TOO funny and totally distracting from the song (it was so damn funny I had to leave the room because I was laughing too hard). Sitting in the first band rehearsal and hearing my music on something other than a solo piano for the first time. Every single physical choice and discovery Kristine Reese made with that gargantuan suitcase we gave her. The thrill of opening, the bittersweet feeling of closing, and all the amazing performances in between – and the satisfaction of being able to drink with everyone afterwards thinking collectively: “we did it.” There are so many more I could mention, but this post would go on forever. Suffice to say that I love this cast and this company, and feel truly blessed to have met them.
Sitting at the closing night party and awards ceremony for FringeNYC with Rachel and our venue director Kristine Ayers and hearing producing artistic director of the festival Elena K. Holy call my name up onstage to receive an Overall Excellence Award for the show was one of the most thrilling in my life. Not that I put so much stock in awards, but the fact that the talent and hard work of my 31 collaborators and myself was recognized just meant the world. Also, hearing that the other show to receive an Overall Excellence Award for a Musical was this really awesome show called Gertrude Stein Saints! – a truly unique sung-through piece with a powerhouse ensemble that I caught a glimpse of at the FringeNYC press conference – I knew we were in very good company.
In the end I can sum up how I feel post-FringeNYC in one word: fulfilled. I know Save The Date will move on from here and there will be plenty more in store for the show in the future. And I’m truly honored I got to take part in this iconic theatre festival.
But this summer. This crazy, crazy summer. I just can’t believe it’s drawing to a close already. My grandmother was able to come see the show that my grandfather could not. "I loved it" she said, giving me a hug while exiting the theatre, aware I had a mere 15 minutes to load out the show as dictated by FringeNYC. I'm sure her late husband would have loved it as well – again, if not for the content, at least for the accomplishment. I closed out my final email to the entire company of Save The Date – the last email to this group of 31 collaborators – with one of my favorite quotes in the English language (often and likely incorrectly attributed to Groucho Marx): “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
And now if you need me I’ll be heading to Fire Island for my one and only beach day this entire summer.
GREGORY JACOBS-ROSEMAN is a composer/lyricist and theatrical sound designer. His musical Save The Date: A New Musical Wedding Comedy premiered in the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival. And now he needs a vay-cay. www.gregjr.com
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