Playing a gig at World Cafe Live Downstairs on July 16! Thanks to Jeffrey Barg, and looking forward to working with Gary Kurnov, David Kurnov, Jesse R. Tendler, Sarah Levine McClelland, Eric Johnson and Laura Boyce again! We’ll be doing Bard-inspired songs from Love’s Labours Lost: A New Musical (Shakespeare in Central Park 2013); Wars & Whores: The Henry IV Musical (Fringe 2011, WXPN Folk Show, I was in it.); Shakespeare in Clark Park’s The Tempest, whose composer – Sean Hoots, lead singer of Philadelphia folk band Hoots & Hellmouth – will be joining us onstage; plus much more, and we’ll be joined by many more talented actors and musicians. Buy your tickets early!
I got into “Wars & Whores: the Henry IV Musical” after Benjamin Kamine, a friend of mine from college, asked me to help out during Philadelphia auditions for the show. All I knew about it was that it was based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 (which I had not read) and was to contain folk music, most of which wasn’t finished at that point. During Philadelphia auditions, there was one auditionee… however, Ben knew a bunch of people in New York, where he had recently moved from LA to work in the theatre community there as a director. The show was cast in New York, finally.
As Ben and Jeffrey Barg, the composer, worked on getting the show on its feet, they brought in old Penn friends Sally Ollove as the book adapter and Charles Forster as lighting designer, and then somehow managed to corral in Peterson Townsend, the fight director and sometime-consultant for the Metropolitan Opera; Moriah Smith, a costume designer for Drexel and the Walnut Street Theater; several New York acquaintances as assistant directors and producers; and Megan Edelman, a recent Penn graduate, as the Philadelphia producer. I was brought in as keyboardist and Jim Jordan as bassist.
The band was essentially given free rein to do whatever. Jeff gave us lead sheets and we just figured things out as we went along. I was given the accordion and I picked that up, rather quickly, though it was just used in one song (and a few pre-show numbers). We rehearsed in Philly, while the actors and Ben did their thing in New York. I did go up one day to help the actors learn a couple of the numbers; they got some great rehearsal space at Pearl Theaters, a block away from Penn Station.
The show describes Prince Henry’s coming of age during a time of civil war against his father, King Henry IV. The conceit was that this whole thing was taking place in a Western milieu. More Western punk than country yokel was the idea, though my own costume definitely screamed yokel. Blue plaid shirt, suspenders and dark blue jeans with black boots. Our pre-show was a lot of old folk and country tunes: Dark as a Dungeon by Merle Travis, Early Morning Rain by Peter, Paul and Mary, Ring Around A Rosy Rag by Arlo Guthrie, Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm by Tom Rush, some Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and even Chris Isaak’s Foolish Games done up a bit bluegrass-like. By request from donors, we did Salt of the Earth by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love. Hootenanny.
So the performance itself: in conjunction with the Underground Shakespeare Company from Penn (who supplied some free food to us, and also did the setup and strike), part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival of 2011, and done in the Sanctuary of the Rotunda. This building was a former Christian Scientist church, and featured a sloped sanctuary hall with enormous iron chandelier, and a resonant echo throughout the space. The space is beautifully decrepit, with paint chips continually flaking off the walls and ceiling, and the slightest whisper magnified a hundred times. We knew the acoustics would be a problem, so we draped lots of curtains, blankets, canvas and other such items to help dampen the sound. One could not shout, as the echoes generated by shouts would be so muddy to be unlistenable; talk too softly, and nobody would hear either. The trick was to resonate from the center, near the “sweet spot”, and direct the waves in the general direction one wanted to speak in at just above a normal conversational level. And then the band had to figure out where to be…
In any case, all that stuff got settled. We had Dave & Gary Kurnov as our Hotspur and Hal (added dimensions considering they are brothers); Ron Bopst as our King Henry (hard to imagine as a serious king until he actually spoke the role); Eric Johnson as Falstaff (looks like a Falstaff); Tommy Crawford as Douglas/Poins (whose girlfriend is the company manager for the Flea Theater in Tribeca); Zane Johnston as Worcester/Bardolph (who looks exactly like the Pacific Northwestern hipster that he is); Jesse Tendler as Sir Walter Blunt (somehow had the easiest voice to hear in the space); and Sarah Levine as our sympathetic and flirty Lady Percy/Mistress Quickly (now off to Merry Olde England to get her MFA).
We raised money for the show through IndieGoGo, was the cover story in the Philadelphia Weekly, was on Gene Shay’s folk show on WXPN LIVE, and finally, got an awesome review from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Toby Zinman, a notoriously hard-to-please reviewer. Amazingly, the show sold 450+ tickets in a 4-show run, which means that it was a pretty solid hit during a festival that has 100+ shows going on.
First big video project, eh? Seems like a lot of fun to me.
A lot of time has passed since my last blog post. Mostly because I was busy with all kinds of things.
July 23: Hicks St. block party. I worked with Jeff Barg on Wars & Whores for the Philly Fringe (a separate post), and it was his wife’s birthday party on this little block.
July 28: Cirque de la Symphonie at the Mann. Saw with Brian. Acrobats and such doing their thing while the Russian National Orchestra played Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Borodin and Tchaikovsky – even Kabalevsky was thrown in there. Worked well for the most part… but the clapping for awesome moves every 5 seconds was really annoying. Trying to hear the music too, guys.
July 29: The Decemberists at the Borgata. Free tickets: I won them for liking a Philly2Nite post. Random. Good show – also, had never gone to the Borgata so first time there.
July 30: A birthday party for a few of Emilie’s friends. One lived in Toronto for half the year and was doing the consulting-always-traveling thing. She lamented not being invited to her friends’ parties any more since they never knew if she was going to be in town, so they just assumed she never was.
August 4: Potluck dinner at my house. Bulgogi from me, pasta from Jess L, some vegetables from Liz Z and Josh and a bloody steak from Mike. Plus lots of wine. Finale: singing, singing, singing.
August 8: Up to New York for rehearsal with the W&W cast. Pretty good first run for a bunch of the songs.
August 14: Saw Lisa and Anthony in NY. Had an, er, interesting time hangin out with the crew.
August 19-21: A TON of driving to get to Chicago and back in essentially 2 days, with Christine Tan, Norman and Sylvia Korompis, Nancy Yuan, Dave Ta and John Chak. Not a lot of sleep. Did the architecture tour in the RAIN, which was miserable, but worth it. Met up with Lou and Chris Balach for deep dish pizza, Al’s Beef (ehh), and the Verdi Requiem in Millennium Park with the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. Hung out a bit with DanTantheMan. Lunch at some swanky brunch joint. Meanwhile, our car got towed. Spent 3 hours and $170 getting the car back.
August 22-23: Instead of going home after coming back from Chicago, I went directly to New York for Affiliate Summit New York. Brian and Jenica joined up at night and we all went to eat ramen. Went to Affiliate Ball and hung out with Elissa Rubman, Crystal Chavez, Amy Monier and some other people. Did the Dougie with Doug E. Fresh. Next day: earthquake. Didn’t feel it. Artichoke! Catch Me If You Can!
September 3: Hangin out in Lavallette, New Jersey at the Shore. Had a great time with Alyssa Cwanger, Rachel and Nicki Dlugash, Julie Yannalfo, Cory Walker, Lisa Voyticki, Grisette Rodriguez, Joshua Hamberger and a few other peeps. Left early on Sunday to get back into the city for….
September 4: On the air on WXPN! Played a few songs and then Sally Ollove and Jeffrey Barg talked for a bunch about Wars & Whores.
September 8-11: Setup, rehearsal and finally the whole run of Wars & Whores at the Rotunda. Afterwards, caught up with fellow Fringee Jessica Ciaramella (whose show I will be seeing soon) and later, with Steven Ujifusa, Andrew Colket, John Bansemer and Shelley Hicklin at the Cantina and South Philly Tap House. First time at the Tap House, which was cool. Plus, good food. Oysters were good, and the chicken wings were tasty (despite there being no WINGS. Should have been sold as “Spicy Chicken Drumettes.”)