Friday night was a final performance of Broadcast, the culmination of all of the work done during two weeks at the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.
That performance was kind of a magical experience to me—first of all, that I got to share it with Emily, who turned up in Connecticut the day before, much to my delighted surprise. But also, because I got to see all of the work that Scott and I had done during our residency, because our director Joe Calarco and the amazing cast had continued to refine the show’s performances, and because the energy in the audience was so enthusiastic. Emily kept turning to me during the show and whispering, “Look at everyone! They really love it!”
I think it’s easy, as an audience member, to underestimate the power that you hold over live theater. The more you respond with applause, with laughter, with focused attention, the better the performances will become. It’s true. Yet another reason that theater is not simply a movie on stage.
After the performance, we all went over to the little pub housed in a log cabin next to the big barn theater for an O’Neill Center tradition called “pinning”, where the authors sign their program and tack it up on the wall of the room. I said a few words expressing my thanks, and explaining how this opportunity at the O’Neill saved Broadcast from disappearing back into the drawer for who knows how long, and we were given three cheers—literal shouts of hip-hip-hooray! It was quite an experience.
Such an event is not the time for critique and analysis of what still needs to be fixed, so it was nice to circulate and just enjoy unmitigated praise for a while.
One of the actors from the next musical being developed there, which had its first performance Saturday night, told me how much he enjoyed Broadcast, and said he had to repress a twinge of jealousy seeing our show that tries to have depth and complexity, while the show he’s in is funny but not very deep. What’s funny is that Scott and I inevitably feel the same jealousy in the other direction—nothing invigorates an audience like a rollicking comedy, and it can be hard to listen to peals of laughter and think, Broadcast is never going to get this kind of reaction. What that actor and I ended up discussing was that the two shows are simply different. There is room (and need!) in this world for all kinds of art and entertainment.
There has been discussion of a recording (I certainly want one!), but while a cast album is certainly a next step, it is probably not the next step. The difficulty is that a recording freezes your work, and we are still in the process of refining and adjusting. The demos we have for the show were recorded years ago, and while the show has continued to improve, our CDs are still stuck with the primordial version. A recording is going to be an amazing tool for us to share Broadcast with the world, but we want to make sure that the score isn’t picked before it’s ripe.
The most immediate next step will probably be to do a reading in New York, so that the theaters there that might be interested in producing Broadcast can have a chance to see it. Hopefully that would lead to an actual, full production there.
Why is a production in New York important? I certainly don’t believe that New York is the only place for theater. I would love to see our show performed in Oklahoma! But in the theater world, a New York production gives a show a level of credibility. After all, technically any crackpot with some money can record a cast album. (And they do. I’ve heard them.) But if your show has taken the stage in the most competitive theater market in the world, then that’s really saying something.
A production could be a springboard for us to get our cast album made. Or, if no production is forthcoming, we can go about making that recording happen on our own. After that, the goal is to have Broadcast picked up for licensing, which means it could be rented out and produced by theaters all over the country and beyond.
So there is still some journey ahead, but our two weeks at the O’Neill have been a true godsend in allowing us to make a big step towards putting Broadcast on stage—I can’t wait! I will be forever grateful to Paulette Haupt and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center for giving us this opportunity.