Actors Training Center and Underscore Theatre teamed up to commission and produce a workshop of the second show I ever wrote with Alex Higgin-Houser and Laura Stratford. It's a cute little show about a coffee shop in Minneapolis. We developed and produced it in four Fringe Festivals in 2010 while all of us but Laura were still in college. It's so exciting to be given an opportunity to revisit an old project you love! What a privilege and a great exercise, to relive happy memories and at the same time look at a show with fresh eyes, get a chance to build on stuff that worked, expand and enhance your original vision, and correct some mistakes born of haste or inexperience—as long as you don't overthink it too much and OVERcorrect such that you lose track of what made the original special. Anecdote time! At one point I told Alex and Laura that we needed to get rid of all the slant rhymes with which the lyrics were riddled. The following Gchat conversation ensued:
ALEX: literally exactly the opposite you argued for when we were writing this. we've traded.
DAVID: me? i argued for slant rhymes?
ALEX: oh yeah
DAVID: i have nooooooo meory
what on earth was my reasoning? jeez i was young and foolish
ALEX: I seem to remember a shouted line of "IT'S OKAY IF IT ISN'T PERFECT RHYME, IT'S OUR SONG"
DAVID: sit down, past david.
ALEX: "LOTS OF RHYMES AREN'T PERFECT. LOOK AT SHAKESPEARE"
I remember it vividly
DAVID: yeah back than i hated sondheim on principle
DAVID: THAT ME IS DEAD
LAURA: to be fair you were still much closer to rock and roll than musical theater at that time
and perfect rhyme is not a requirement of rock
DAVID: yeah, right
ALEX: nothing is a requirement of anything.
ALEX: but perfect rhyme is a really good indicator of crat
LAURA: your face isn't a requirement of my life
LAURA: it's just a really nice bonus <3333
ALEX: and is generally more impressive, and I lends credibility/the illusion of profundity where it may or may not exist
which I think is reason enough
DAVID: agreed. it's more satisfying and also one thing that has been mentioned in my classes--it's easier for the audience. the better the rhymes, the easier to comprehend the lyrics it is
LAURA: and it's fun to set up expectations and defy them...but in perfect rhyme
where they think they know what the rhyme will be, and it's not that but it still fits really well
ALEX: and, of course, Sondheim has the last word, in that the best rhyme is perfect rhymes or identities with different spellings, because of how the brain perceives them as more surprising
so, moral of the story: KILL SLANT RHYMES WITH FIRE
So, as you can see, I've grown since college. :) Side note, the show still contains slant rhymes (or as Steve Lutvak once said to my class, "not rhymes.") but we've justified them to ourselves because many the songs are diegetic or at least partially so, and written in an indie-rock and hip-hop style. So deal with it.
One of the most major changes we had to make was the title. We knew there was a musical out there called Grind—not the most famous musical ever, but known to aficionados. We got away with the title the first time around because in the Fringe you can get away with a lot. But we feel now like this show could really have some legs, so we don't want there to be any confusion (or lawsuits) as we move forward into whatever opportunities the future may hold. So we went with GROUNDS: A FRESH-BREWED MUSICAL because of the double meaning of Grounds as coffee and also "premises," a central tenet of the story: the Rush Cafe as a sacred ground of sorts, a home for many people in a community—a home that's in jeopardy.
As a bonus to this workshop, it's SO fun to see kids singing our songs. They are all crazy talented and bring such a wonderful freshness and innocence to it. Hopefully they are learning a lot as well! I wish I had had the opportunity when I was a kid to work on a new musical. So kudos and a million thanks to Actors Training Center for taking a risk on our show and on a new program in order provide that experience to kids. I don't know of any other teaching theatre company that offers such a class, and Adam Goldstein has done a fantastic job inspiring and directing the kids, not to mention inspiring us as writers and helping us immensely in refining our script.
If you're in Chicago next week, you can catch the ATC performance for free on Monday, April 17th at 6pm and 8:30pm at The Edge Theater, 5451 N Broadway. Hope you can check out what these super talented kids have done with it!
It's been such a fun experience rewriting GRIND and turning it into GROUNDS. Every time you create a new project you learn something, and every time you revise an old one you learn something else. Very excited for this performance, and for what the future holds for our little coffee shop musical.
View our facebook announcement on the GROUNDS facebook page!