As I wrote last week, my day job now is to write a “bawdy libretto” for an operetta about the seventh deadly sin: pride. It will be performed in NYC (and hopefully elsewhere) next year. I now have three plays in the works. One was produced in New York last October and remains in development for future professional productions. One I have reworked and is now as fresh as spring time and ready to be sent out. And one I killed by overwriting, but it is on the autopsy table for study.
Right now the future is the libretto for a bawdy operetta. This is what I’ve learned so far:
My bosses and co-collaborators are Christian and Patrick, the founders of Mind the Art Entertainment. Their six previous operettas about the six other deadly sins have either been performed in New York or are in development for performance. This thing is going to happen, baby! These guys are real, and real talented.
But this is what they have taught me: collaboration. They are amazing. They told me to write a libretto. They said they needed 10 songs in the first act and eight songs in the second act. There would be eight actors performing over 35 rolls, it would be entirely sung and it would be a bawdy comedy. Once I wrote the libretto Christian would put music to it. But I had never really understood artistic collaboration before. I kept going to them and saying “is this what you want?” “Is this what you want?” And I kept getting the answer: “Write the libretto you want to write! Make it your voice. Make it your story.”
“How about if it’s totally rhymed?” “How about if I try and do hip-hop?” “How about if I have a singing dog?”
Last Friday I met Patrick at the Opera Center in New York and we were scheduled to work through the first draft that I had provided. It was a corner room with wood floors and perfect acoustics. The sunlight came in through the seventh floor windows. We worked at a central table in the middle of a room, which was much larger than we needed.
I started with my same stubborn questionings: “Is this what you want?” Patrick, almost with an air of irritation, said again: “Write the story that you want. Tell the story that you want. We will collaborate. We will collaborate.” And we did for the rest of that day.
He knew the first draft as if he had written it and just offered ideas for consideration. They were amazing and creative beyond my wildest expectations. I had expected head-banging. I got laughter and collaboration instead. Later on the next night Christian and I went out to dinner at the Algonquin Hotel, the historic home of the round table and Dorothy Parker, and he leaned over and laughed and said, I can write to your words. The rhythms makes sense. And we both laughed. I asked for his thoughts and because I had not brought paper I took notes on both sides of a bar napkin and carefully folded it and put it in my wallet before we left to say good night.
I am now halfway through April and deep into the second draft. This is more fun than I could ever have imagined.
As we closed the bar late that night, Christian said: “Our job is to create art and have fun.”
Thanks to Christian and Patrick, I’m learning that.
Let’s agree on one thing.
We are Americans.
We are not two polarized political parties. We must never forget that. We are Americans. We agree?
In light of our agreement let’s take a fresh look at: 1) gerrymandering and 2) the Mueller report.
First let’s look at gerrymandering. Politicians should not be able to reelect themselves by defining their districts. They are our employees. Our taxes pay their salaries and lavish benefits ( but that’s another story). Whoever heard of dividing a country to secure your own job?
The Supreme Court has once again an opportunity to address redistricting and gerrymandering. This issue is so much greater than any single provision in the Constitution. It is at the very bedrock of our republic/democracy. Very early on the Supreme Court recognized “the right to travel between the states” or “Constitutional judicial review” that are not in the language of our Constitution but are at the bedrock of our government. We are Americans.
Second, let’s look at the Mueller report. It is absurd to define the question as “collusion“ or “conspiracy.” There is no doubt that the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government both wanted to see Trump elected. Two horses pulling the same wagon don’t have to “conspire” or “collude” to make the wagon move forward, if it is in each horse’s interest to move in the same direction.
The question is, should the Russian horse be pulling the wagon at all. I think every American would agree we do not want a foreign government involved in any way in our elections and in any way affect our choice of leaders. The Mueller report misses the point. Who cares about “collusion” or “conspiracy”? That’s not the issue. The issue is that no foreign government should intervene in our democracy in any way. We are Americans.
There are two things I learned as a lawyer: 1) if you let me define the issue I will always win the argument, and 2) once you make up your mind any reason will do.
As Americans I think we have let others who do not have our interests at heart define our issues.
I think all Americans would agree that they do not think it is appropriate for their elected officials or political parties to secure their jobs at our county’s expense.
I think all Americans would agree that it is inappropriate for a foreign government to affect our elections in any way.
Polarization can create this kind of chaos. As Americans we have prospered because we have always trusted each other to talk, and then compromise. How did we lose this? That is our genius.
Rise up! We are better than this. We are Americans.
The impossible dream continues and maybe even is gathering steam.
Sue Marinello, Onaje’s producer and her ever-talented daughter Katie, are marketing Onaje after its spectacular reception at the New York Fringe festival in October. During the preparation for Onaje’s opening and throughout the production and thereafter, I have made many friends who have taught me in a way that only talented and experienced people can.
After the close of the show I was invited to write a libretto and help co-write the book for an operetta produced by Mind The Art entertainment for Christian De Gré, the super talented composer of, and producer of numerous successful operettas and musical pieces in New York.
I am finishing the first draft by the end of March and then going over what I have written with Patrick Alberty, the co-writer of the book and Christian in April, and then going to Mexico for a week with this team to put Vox Populi, “the voice of the people,“ based on the seventh deadly sin of pride, into a final format for marketing and production.
I have almost finished the first draft already and I’m optimistic and full of joy at the future prospects of this and other pieces I am working on. Though I loved the service to others that I was blessed to be able to do as a business lawyer, this life after law is truly a dream I have always had come true.
I will keep this blog alive and track my progress by it.
For years and years, I practiced law and total strangers would stop me and say “Yer a lawyer, aren’t you?”
I mean, really!
It started about a year after law school when I was learning to be a litigator. I loved being a lawyer but now I’m retired and in recovery. Strangely, no one asks that question anymore.
What changed? What were they picking up on in the first place?
We all know the world through our five senses, so which of the senses lead me to be identified as a lawyer? I’m portly enough to be the mayor of a small town. I’ve got a voice perfect for broadcasting large sports events. I’m not one of those instant huggers. I bite my own nails and when these people identified me as a lawyer they were not all downwind of me.
When I walk down the street now, I’m waiting for people to recognize me in a new light. “Yer a playwright, aren’t you?” Come see ONAJE this October at FringeNYC and help make that dream come true!
Join me on this adventure at http://theplayonaje.com.
In prior posts, I have talked about how polarization has been caused by gerrymandering and now the judiciary is stepping in to dismantle it.
In North Carolina, on January 9th, Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. struck down the North Carolina congressional district lines. The three-judge panel ruled if state politicians draw district lines for the purpose of protecting their own interest at the expense of the other party, the districts are invalid. Then last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned gerrymandering, citing the state constitution, and required new districts be drawn by the 2018 midterms.
Most importantly now, the Supreme Court has heard arguments on a gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin and has asked for re-argument of a Maryland case, which will probably be part of an opinion that strikes down gerrymandering nationally.
God bless our state and federal judges. It is long overdue for “we the people” to get the chance to take back our country from our politicians.
Let’s see what would happen if “we the people” (the audience), wrote our own musical and cast the playwright & librettist as the Congress and the President, and cast their investors as the titans of Wall Street? (Wow– could this be a “revolutionary” musical?)
The Time & Place: How about our politically gridlocked America? (It is starting to sound like a revolutionary musical!)
The Cast of Characters: Since we are writing it let’s make us, the audience, the heroes, and the playwright, librettist and investors our official villains since they are all dedicated to entertaining the audience by feeding us what they want to hear in order to be able to secure their jobs and protect the wealthy from taxes — employing a smokescreen of misinformation and false news in order to entertain their audience by keeping them angry. (They probably won’t be singing Hamilton hip-hop but let’s see what they come up with “for a song and dance.”)
The Plot: The playwright and librettist entertain us by creating manipulated conflict between the bottom 99% of the audience. The poor versus the poor (which pretends it’s the middle class) so no one will see the puppeteer, the super wealthy? ( I feel a song coming on): Let’s have Wall Street Open the show by singing: “Market Share.” A big bang up number! The first lines could be:
“The bigger the market, the bigger our share /
The more we steal, the less they care! /
Let’s fleece my sister, let’s fleece my brother /
As long as they’re angry at each other. /
Isn’t it sweet, isn’t it funny /
How they love us when we take all their money?”
Hey, it’s “the song and dance”! Let’s call it “The Political shuffle.” (Oh man, the songs are coming fast and furious):
Congress can swing the next song:
“Make Yourself the Perfect Job” (about how gerrymandering can get our elected representatives lifetime employment with the best benefits and retirement their audience can afford, and then the entire audience can rise in opposition and sing:
“The No Wealth No Healthcare Blues” (which can be sung by ZIP Code first by anybody who lives around an emergency room, including patients, doctors, healthcare professionals, and then by everybody in the surrounding ZIP Codes spreading out across the country who is paying (unless you own your own hospital).
Now let’s give the politicians some hand clapping songs:
“I hate ‘tax and spend’ /
Unless I’m where all the taxes end.”
And then a solo for a tone deaf President:
“Free the rich, enslave the poor /
The land of opportunity is no more.”
And then some hand clapping songs for us:
“The false news, no news… /
The Propaganda blues.”
(We could even have the Supreme Court do hip-hop, but they would have to have a rhyme scheme of ABBA because they are too polarized to agree to rhyme together) but maybe they harmonize with the song “Ventriloquism”:
“Yo- Citizens United, long may it last! /
‘Free-speech’ is that what you call it? /
You vote now with what’s inside your wallet /
And we speaketh from where once we passed gas?”
(But wait – just occurred to me – how can we pay for this?) Well if we are the audience, we already have!
So what should we call our new musical?
“Just Keep Us Fighting Among Ourselves?” – No.
“You Think We Are Too Stupid for Democracy?” – No.
“What Happened to My Country? – No.
How about, “Let’s NOT Follow the Money”? – No.
We could close with a kick line and just drop the curtain or …Maybe we could all stand up and remember that we are all Americans who can sing together?
This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.