Sunday, November 14, 2010

Strangely Beautiful the Musical. In the Beginning...

How does one make a show? A show on a trajectory to a Broadway musical? Very carefully. And with talented people. Step by step, a show comes together.

I hope you'll recall this spring when I excitedly announced that the option rights had been sold for my debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker to be adapted into a musical theatre production. As an actress / playwright / author who never expected all her talents to come crashing together into one enormous dream, there's nothing really more thrilling, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that its happening. Now to be clear, it's a long road to Broadway, with stops in other cities prior to the big move, but making a show begins small; in the minds and hearts of a core group of people, and for me, on index cards. I promised I'd offer an inside view onto the process, so here goes.

My role as script writer (in theatrical terms: "the book" of the musical) is to create the structure into which the composer and lyricist's beautiful (and I mean beautiful- they've done incredible work so far) songs will be placed, and make sure the connective tissue from one theme to the next is full of simple but effective storytelling.

To do this, I had to think of my book in skeletal form; to storyboard it out. To wrap my head around this, I picked up a stack of blank index cards. I've been working on the Strangely Beautiful storyline for a decade at this point so I pretty much know the story blindfolded, in my sleep, by rote, etc. Rather than picking up the book, I simply thought about the bare bones of my story. On the top card I wrote: "The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker As Told By Index Cards" (see photographic evidence). When adapting a work of fiction that is ostensibly longer than the work you are adapting it into, the main plot points are what needs representation, not all the details.
I then took what were the obvious bullet-points and typed up a document with headers and subcategories, the main events and the smaller moments, called "beats" in theatre. I also included in the document some quotes from the novel encapsulating the 'feel' and most important theme of that particular chapter. From this the composer and lyricist hopefully get a sense of things to take away into their own work, which is to write the big numbers, while I create the structure and weave in appropriate dialogue, which will either be spoken or sung, depending on what the creative team decides. I have to be a storyteller on a grand and bold scale, making sure the bare bones of what Strangely Beautiful is all about remains structurally clear, the musical numbers filling in and fleshing out all the information, conflict and emotion I've hopefully set into place.
Last week I sat in on a session sharing some of the themes, music and lyrics already composed for the show. All I can say is wow. I think the music is inspired, lovely and well-suited, atmospheric, beautiful when beauty is called for and spooky when called for. The team had a great discussion, we made some choices and got on the same page, I cut some characters (a necessary evil, it must be done!) in hard and fast decisions.
And I had a moment, sitting at the table, my book in front of me, music inspired from my book caressing my ears, and all my years of theatre training and playwrighting and fiction writing had led me to that moment where I felt a God-like voice murmur: You were meant for this.
And so it is; we're making a show. I'll keep you posted along this magical journey as it continues to unfold.
Newsy Bits:
We have a release date for A Midwinter Fantasy including "A Christmas Carroll" (Strangely Beautiful 2.5): November 23. (digital / eBook only). Join the Midwinter Page for access to more details.
I joined my new publisher's Teen Fire forum, where we'll be actively discussing YA Fiction and Magic Most Foul. Join in the fun! I just set up a group for Magic Most Foul, so come join me!
I just turned the sequel to Dark Nest, titled Dark Nest: Reckoning, to my editor and that should release from Crescent Moon Press within the next couple of months. Look at CMP's pretty new site! It's definately a change of pace to return to the Dark Nest world, a futuristic paranormal, but I hope all those who have been asking "what is going on on that ship next!" will be pleased. :)
If you still have not joined my new Facebook Page, please do, I'll be running a lot of contests from there in the months to come and a lot of information will flow through that portal in regards to Magic Most Foul, Dark Nest, and also, the future of the Strangely Beautiful series.
Cheers and blessings!


Larissa {Larissa's Bookish Life} said...

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! I cannot wait for this! =D I think it will be a beautiful and haunting play!!

raven said...

It should premier in MN. You know, where little shows like "The Lion King" and "The Scottsboro Boys" got their start.

Rosalie Lario said...

Well, if this isn't an inspiring post, I don't know what is! Congrats on working toward the realization of your dream.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

@Larissa Thank you! I think it was made for it as well. :) Thankfully the production team thought so and came to me with the idea!

@Raven I think MN could be a great market for it, I know we'll be keeping all regional options open!

@Rosalie You're the sweetest. Blessings and thanks!!