An incubator for musicals, the Apples and Oranges Studios THEatre Accelerator applies lean start up methodologies to the process of developing new musicals. The Accelerator Retrospective series shares the experiences of creators who have gone through the THEatre Accelerator. You can see all the updates and stories from the series here

Arriving in Orlando

“Then we started working, and suddenly it was 3 a.m…And that was a pattern we continued for the rest of the week.”

 

MEGHAN: Usually when I spend time with Sarah it’s in New York, so this was a great change of pace for both of us.

SARAH: We arrived around 11-11:30ish on Sunday night; it was late.

MEGHAN: I was on California time and refused to adjust, so I was still very awake when we got back to our hotel.

SARAH: Really spacious, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lovely dining area with a booth where we could sit and collaborate.

MEGHAN: That was the best part! I loved the booth! We walked around that night and looked at the fountains and got really excited. Then we started working, and suddenly it was 3 a.m.

SARAH: And that was a pattern we continued for the rest of the week.

MEGHAN: Yeah, basically any time we pretended that we were going to go to sleep, we were liars, we did not.

SARAH: We also pretended we were going to go to the pool or ride in the hammocks and all sorts of things outdoors because we were in Orlando. All our cast members worked at Disney and Universal and kept offering us entry into the parks, but we never made it into the parks – not on this trip at least.

MEGHAN: Nope. We made these beautiful plans about how we were going to sit in those hammocks… but we never did.

SARAH: Did not happen.

MEGHAN: So then the next morning we went to Tim Kashani’s.

SARAH: At Tim’s, we had coffee and laid the groundwork for the week. The calendar was really exciting for us because it included meetings each day and rehearsals each night leading up to an invited reading on Saturday. We also had one day set aside to completely rewrite the show; that was our time at the hotel to take all of the knowledge that we had gained from the meetings and rehearsals and just work.

The first rehearsal that night was thrilling. I feel like Meghan and I work best when we are in a room with a group of people and we can hear things aloud – and this cast was unbelievable. For a first read, I was absolutely stunned; they got the pacing, they got the humor of it. All of that then helped us understand what needed to be shifted in the script and the score. Even more helpful than hearing it aloud was the discussion we had afterwards, because our casting director Francie had cast people based on talent, but also on intelligence and the ability to give strong constructive criticism. Everyone was so kind, open, and eager to chat afterwards.

MEGHAN: It was a really smart group of actors. Tim led the discussion after the first read, and he had really pointed, insightful, specific questions. The response was incredibly valuable. We went back that night with so many notes, excited to get to work.

SARAH: And we walked to get a bottle of wine that night.

MEGHAN: We did!

SARAH: First reads are always really intense and really stressful. Meghan had sat there and taken notes, and I had played and sung through the entire score because this was the first time any of them had encountered it; we had gotten a lot of feedback and had a lot of things that we needed to process, so we took a long walk to get a bottle of wine. We came back; we had wine, pretzels, and cream cheese, which was a really regular meal for us. And we discussed everything that we had learned so far.

MEGHAN: That one, extremely large wine bottle lasted the entire week.

SARAH: It was amazing.

MEGHAN: The next day things really started to move in high gear. The Accelerator mentors gave us incredibly helpful notes. After combining their notes with ours, we ended up with about 50 things of varying levels of importance that we wanted to change. Tim gave us the advice to focus on the three or four biggest adjustments. We started out focusing on the big structural issues, but then we got really ambitious. It felt like we should take advantage of the Accelerator fully, so we decided to try and tackle as many of the notes as we could.

SARAH: Music rehearsal was great that night. This is not an easy score; certain parts of these songs will not feel natural until you have sung them many, many times. Luckily we had an amazing cast that did their homework. It’s hard putting up a musical in 29 hours, especially when the script and score are being adjusted so much over that short period of time. So we were lucky to have a really on-top-of-it team that was also having so much fun with the creative process. They even turned our opening number into a warm-up rap!

 

Welcome to Highbury Warm-up Rap: 

About the Authors

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Meghan Brown is an Ovation Award-winning playwright and member of the Temblors (www.thetemblors.com). She’s the resident playwright for L.A.’s Fugitive Kind Theater. Plays include The Pliant Girls, The Kill-or-Dies, and Shine Darkly, Illyria. She has written the libretto for the opera The Discord Altar (OperaWorks), lyrics for the song cycle Untuned Ears Hear Nothing but Discord (Lincoln Center, composer Ben Toth), and the book and lyrics for Emma (composer Sarah Taylor Ellis). (www.meghanbrown.net)
Sarah Taylor Ellis is a musical theatre composer based in NYC. Her contemporary classical work centers on women’s voices: Emma with librettist Meghan Brown, The Trojan Women with Ellen McLaughlin, The Yellow Wallpaper (Gallery Players and Pallas Theatre Collective), and Thank You, Mr. Falker (LA Festival of New American Musicals). Sarah is the composer-in-residence at The Nightingale Bamford School, where she collaborates with elementary through high school students on original musicals, song cycles, and film scores. She holds a Ph.D. in Theater & Performance Studies from UCLA. (www.staylorellis.com)
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