inspiration…

It’s an uncharacteristically cool summer night in Bloomington.  After a surprisingly wet spring, the summer has been a pleasant cycle of easy thunderstorms with mild, breezy days happily interspersed.  It’s late, and we have the windows wide open.  I’m sipping on a bourbon and coke, feeling thoughtful and reflective, which makes this either the absolute best or absolute worst time for me to be trying to write.  I have a hard time, you see, resisting the temptation to be sentimental — if not downright maudlin — when I write while feeling thoughtful and reflective.  But I’ll try to be strong.

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Check this kid out —

I’ve shared some of his stuff on Facebook before.  I think this kid is just fascinating.  And not simply because he’s clearly talented.  But also because he is so unabashedly passionate about performing, and his talent and passion, broadcast to the world via YouTube, is bringing him so much praise, support, and affirmation.  It’s really a beautiful thing.  I remember having to stifle that kind of passion at his age.  It truly warms my heart — could there be a more cliche’ expression — to see him expressing it so freely and to receive such positive energy in return.

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I have a special relationship with YouTube.  I’d have no career to speak of without it.  Maybe that’s exaggerating, but there’s a certain element of truth to it.  Some backstory:

Back in the summer of oh-eight, feeling stunted and facing limited performance opportunities, I made the fateful decision to start producing my own projects.  That is, I came to the conclusion that if I really wanted to work on material that I found interesting and engaging, or at the very least would present me with an artistic challenge, I was probably going to have to make it happen myself.  No offense to the institutions in town like the IU Theatre Department or School of Music — okay, maybe a little offense… — but they clearly had, and have, their own missions and responsibilities and reasons for producing certain pieces of theatre and, by extension, not producing certain others.

There were other elements that prompted this desire to produce, of course — reading Richard Buckle’s biography of that ultimate producer, Sergei Diaghilev; discovering the overwhelming inspirational power of ‘[title of show]’; and the not insignificant amount of nudging from my friend, teacher, and mentor Tom Dunn.

Whatever the reason, it ultimately became clear there was no future to be had in waiting for the people around me to come up with projects I could get behind.

My first ever production was a one-act opera — Kurt Weill’s ‘Down in the Valley’, which, incidentally, had been commissioned by the IU School of Music back in 1948.  Being a sucker for gimmicks, I decided to present it as a one-night-only, sixtieth-anniversary performance.  In addition to being my inaugural effort as a producer, I also ventured wildly into the world of directing (I was actually quite proud of the job I did in that respect… sadly, the video camera that I bought SPECIFICALLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF TAPING THIS PERFORMANCE malfunctioned and I have nothing to show for it whatsoever… *sigh*).

While putting ‘Down in the Valley’ together, I was already looking for a new project to start, and this is where YouTube becomes significant.  Via my Facebook friendship with the exceptional and inimitable Kate Pazakis, I happened upon the delightful blog of Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who at the time was rehearsing for a reading of a brand-spanking-new musical called ‘VOTE!’.  After watching Andrew’s video about ‘VOTE!’ — on YouTube, duh — I decided I would email the writers — on Facebook, no less — and ask them if I could do their show.  Kind of bold and tacky, huh?  Well, it was an uncharacteristically cool summer night and I was online and sipping a bourbon and coke… well, you get the picture.

Anyway, I ended up negotiating for the rights to do a workshop-premiere of ‘VOTE!’ spring of 2009 — an experience I definitely should devote some more blog-space to at some point — and fancied myself something of an up-and-coming impresario.  And it was after many more late, boozy nights of browsing YouTube that I found my next couple of projects — Kooman and Dimond‘s ‘Homemade Fusion’; and Pasek and Paul‘s ‘Edges’.  Both new song-cycles by ridiculously young and talented songwriting teams that the musical-theatre kids here at IU were itching to do.  They were big hits.

And, naturally, it was on YouTube that I first heard selections from ‘Perez Hilton Saves the Universe (or at least the greater Los Angeles area): The Musical’ — ironically, another project Keenan-Bolger was involved in… — which I produced back in November.

Where am I going with any of this?  I’m honestly not sure.  That’s one of the hazards of writing while intoxicated…

A major obstacle I’ve been facing — and this comes as no surprise to anyone who happens to be reading this lately — is that I’m unsure of whether or not to continue working in theatre at all, much less producing theatre myself (even on the very, very small scale that I do).  But one of the things that continues to keep me grounded, and provide me with a little (sometimes more than a little) shot of inspiration, is to take a night off, start browsing YouTube, and find new work that is exciting, engaging, and totally worth doing.

So… what’s next?