Bangin’ Pots, playing drums, gettin caught in a great big flood.
Bangin’ Pots, playing drums, gettin caught in a great big flood.
This is the cast learning the music for the end of act 1.
I found the lyrics to “Workin’ Man”, what is now known as the 2nd section of the opening sequence of Circus. The date reads February 18th 2010, I suppose a little more than 2 moths before our first staged reading of the show. I originally intended the show to open with this number. It was supposed to begin with a lone character, Emory (who we fashioned from our imaginations, he was not in the book by Cathy Day) tapping his foot to the beat. I’ve always been a fan of simple, effective ideas in my music. There no need to complicate things if a good feeling already exists from step one.
After awhile, we decided there needed to be a more “circus-based” opening to the show, as this number related mostly to our protagonist, Wallace Porter, and not the circus itself. We had long talked about two different kinds of people who live in the world of CIW, classifying the difference as “circus people vs. town people”. The idea to have the opening consist of two ensemble songs to represent both those groups was first executed when I composed an opening called “The Circus and Menagerie” (Original, right?) It was scrapped, because it was the most unoriginal thing I’ve ever written and we had about 30 people say it sounded like “When I’m 64”, by The Beatles. Because it did….it happens. Later it became what now opens the show, “Amazing”.
I don’t know why I wrote “5th” above certain words. I remember doing it because it used to be a perfect fifth leap in the melody…but it’s not like that anymore…hmm. There’s also a rhythm above the first page of “Recognition” where the second measure is one eighth-note short of being complete. Also, the top of the 3rd page, I wrote “So you smoke”, crossed out smoke, and wrote “fake”. The lyric now is “force a smile”. But smoke? What was Jennie smoking? What was I doing? Again…hmmm.
I also had Wallace (I guess) sing “Ooo, I’m a Workin Man”. Thats pretty dumb, glad that didn’t make the cut. The rest of the lyrics have never changed.
“Recognition” might be my favorite song in the show. It terrified me for the longest time, because there’s so much information to push through the tune. The novel features the story of Jennie Dixianna’s brutal experience during her childhood of seeing her mother die in childbirth, due to a mishap involving a voodoo spell. I always got real pumped about the idea of Jennie having some kind of paranormal power, I’m a sci-fi nerd after all.
The song shows Dixianna’s first of few vulnerable moments within the story. Spoken in to no one but the audience, she lets us into her childhood, and the sexual abuse of her father, until she eventually murdered him and ran off with the traveling circus. Lots of the team in the seminar were wary of whether the full story would relay in the script well, or if it would be a breach in the action, an unclear moment. At one point I wrote a completely different set of lyrics for this one, only to return to the original form. The bridge about Jack was inserted later by suggestion of the group, to draw comparisons to the two men who had impacted Jennie’s life in the same way. Now with a dance break, the song will be performed by Erin Oechsel in the fall.
I’m trying to figure out WordPress. If this looks like crap, sorry.
This blog is officially dedicated to my involvement in the past, present, and future of The Circus In Winter, a musical I have been blessed enough to compose and write lyrics for over the past year and a half. As I am in the process of composing the instrumental parts, and just finalized the vocal score for the opening of the full production (Sept. 29th at Ball State’s University Theatre) I felt like this might be a good time for me to reflect on how much this project has meant to me. Since its initial conception, it has become this seperate being I’ve been taking care of. I hate it sometimes. But for 85% of the time, it magic. Its magic not because of what I have done as an individual, but the respect others, actors, audiences, educators, and professionals have given to the work myself and others have done, and the connections that have been inspired from seven staged-readings in all different reigions of the country. I hope you enjoy this, but if you don’t, I’m gonna keep doing it anyway. I like nostalgia.
Inserted above, are scanned images from my moleskin journal I’ve had since before the VBC project began. A friend of mine bought me this little book before I wrote the musical so I could keep my ideas in it, and I have ever since.
The first entry I scanned was from December 29th, 2009. I came up with a lick in 7/8 time in double-D tuning that months later would become “All Your Days”, the concluding song in Circus. In the first script, it was a mother-to-son song entitled “My Little Brave”, later that entire script was scrapped. The riff was pulled back up by suggestion of the rest of the members of the seminar, and applied to become a great cap for the second act. The funniest part of this journal is looking at how I did things wrong. I began transcribing the riff (a new skill set at the time) in 7/4, only to later revise to 7/8. The score now has it as a 7/8 and 9/8 combo. Simple ideas turn into big stuff. The next one I remember writing in my living room.
Again, double-D, its the three tone rain simulation I used as the motif of the flood sequence in the show. It only shows up in the storm section, never reprized. I thought and thought and thought on this idea, I was really excited about myself and my collaborator Nick Rapley working together to give this heightened situation the right kind of drive.
The third image set, three pages from February 17th 2010. The song is entitled “The Very Best of You”, sung by Irene right after she and Wallace enter their new home after marriage for the first time. This was actually the first song ever performed publicly from the show, at a cabaret in Muncie at Vera Mae’s Bistro. Emily Behny sang it then, and Anna Segatti will perform it this season with the university. It stays with me because it was the first positive response to my music for the show outside of the seminar, the first time I thought “maybe this is going somewhere…”
The story follows Wallace Porter, a young and country-raised stable owner as he acquires a disheveled circus and menagerie. Set while the circus is winter-quartered in Lima, Indiana, Porter and company consider notions of risk, redemption and rebirth through relationships as graceful and perilous as an acrobat’s high-flying routine.