The Producing rollercoaster (and bumper cars)

Sometimes it is cathartic to read a book where the roller coaster is so much more extreme, the bumber cars are brutal, and the end is never in sight. Especially good when on a theoretical international roller coaster with some hefty bumps and still a long way to go.  I recommend Glen Berger’s Song of Spiderman for anyone who ever wondered how big theatre is sometimes made. Do not let your parents read it if they wonder your sanity in choosing to go into writing, directing, production management, performing, or (god forbid) producing. Just tell them you are going into a nice safe profession like being a test pilot or the first astronaut to Mars.

But anyway, I am sitting in my hotel room the night before the very first sharing of the very first Musical Theatre workshop with the very first ensemble of heart warming aspiring professionals, here in Riyadh. Tomorrow they share with family and friends 30 minutes of polished material which has come from the 36 hours (call that 18 hours because of translations) of workshop evenings.  We now have a core crack team of 19 adults from the original 30 who came into the first workshop (the others have had to move on with their lives, but were never deselected by us)  They will be singing ‘Broadway’ songs in English and Arabic, original solo material they have written during the course, and a couple of numbers from the canon of our creative team – which allowed a freedom of lyrical adjustments to really get the English/Arabic ideas to land.

We have no idea who will come to the quiet sharing – apart from some senior Execs from the Theatre and Performing Arts Commission and some of the participant’s friends. We believe a few producers and agents may be sneaking in, which was not the plan.  I keep saying that this is the equivalent of doing a ‘sharing’ at the end of ‘freshers week’ (ie first week of class) of a 3yr BA degree – something no drama school would ever do.  These were strangers when we met less than 3 weeks ago. Some had never sung western melodies. None had been in a musical theatre show, because they have not (yet) been created in the Kingdom. Many had never sung anywhere except maybe their car.

Last night the final essentials were being planned by the Ministry and their executers/local vendors – the catering, the banners, the certificates, the programme, the photographer, and the attendance process.  Meanwhile our creative team were helping the participants focus on tone and pitch, ensemble work, embodying their character, harmony, English diction, and how to enhance the impact of a song in Arabic.  It is a tribute to both sides of the sharing process that they will, inshallah, all come together in time for the first attendee taking their programme and sitting down to see our participants.

Some of those taking part will go on the be stallwarts of the Saudi Musical Theatre business; Others will develop their songwriting and performing skills; Still others will see the power of the arts to allow expression and personal growth; Some may teach, others may be the most enthusiastic audience members in this future creative industry.  The joy in the room is palpable. As a creative team we have had a wonderful time sharing the experience and being a UK/US completely harmonious family.

Looking out at the horizon from the roller coaster and bumper car all of us see a very real future for Musical Theatre in all its forms, and delivered in a tribe of languages, to the delight of Saudi and visiting audiences. Tomorrow some of us return to UK, others move on to Dammam to get the sharing prepared there, whilst others are in Jeddah completing the first week of that course. Those of us travelling are loving the pride in, and rivalry between, the Cities across the Kingdom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *