Made In China: The Last Entry

Nicky Weinbach concludes his chronicle of the first production of Made In China, his original musical.

As this is my last entry for this current guest blog, I’m going to make this brief. I want to thank everyone who came to see Made in China. It was a fantastic run. We sold out closing night. The audience was great and so was the cast. I’m so happy with how it all turned out. Though there may have been the rare detractor, it seems that, overall, people really enjoyed this show. One thing that remained pretty consistent was people’s reaction to the music: they all loved it. That was probably the most important part of this show for me, too. My primary goal for Made in China was that people would leave the show humming its tunes, and that happened a lot. As this musical grows and larger productions of it are produced, I hope that more and more of the world will be introduced to the music of Made in China. Nothing would make me happier than the rest of the world humming the songs that I wrote.

Thanks for continuing to catch up with this blog, and I hope to see you all at future productions of Made in China. Until next time, this has been Nicky Weinbach.

P.S. Don’t forget to catch my brother Max’s musical, A Match Made in Hell, premiering in August!

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Theater Around The Bay: Let’s Hear It From You

Stuart Bousel takes a moment to talk about how our blog has been growing steadily upward.

February has proven to be a breakthrough month for the San Francisco Theater Pub blog!

For the first time since the blog was started by one of our founding artistic directors, Bennett Fisher, in March of 2010 (so we’re coming up on our anniversary!), we have shot past 4,000 hits in one month- and a short month at that! Where as once we usually got about 25-50 hits a day and 500-800 hits a month, we now average 150-200 a day and 2,500-3,500 a month. This increase in traffic is, without question, due in large part to having moved to more regular content, and it’s thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cowan, Eli Diamond, Helen Laroche, Marissa Skudlarek and our various guest bloggers (like the cast and crew of The Odyssey on Angel Island, and Nicky Weinbach from Made in China) that we can start to say the Pub’s online presence is delivering the same mission of inclusivity and being a platform for the community, as it does in the flesh at the Cafe Royale each month.Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it: contributor and reader alike. We hope you stick around for more!

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be adding actress/writer Allison Page to the regular writer rotation, alternating weeks with Cowan Palace, and next week we’ll begin a new regular guest blog by actor/writer Evan Johnson as his new play moves towards its premiere production at the New Conservatory. That will be running alternate weeks with Theater Conservatory Confidential, on Fridays. Additionally, we have a new monthly event, being presented in conjunction with the Exit Theater, starting March 23rd, called Saturday Write Fever. Like all other Theater Pub events, it’s free and all about creating collaborations between artists and busting down the wall between the audience and the creators, so please join us!

At the same time that the blog has been gaining momentum and increasing its profile, I personally have found myself having more and more conversations with various theater people about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what they hope to get from it versus what they actually get from it and just how they feel about that. A lot of those interactions have started with, “I read your posts from a few weeks back and it’s had me thinking…” and I have to say, it’s been wonderful to hear that and even more wonderful to have so many exciting dialogues about this art form and all its social and practical complexity. In the last few weeks my life has been characterized by some of the most honest and inspiring talks I’ve ever had in the ten years of being part of this theater community. It’s been like… final semester of college level of sincere and memorable, but unlike the last semester of college, it doesn’t have to end.

The “Theater Around the Bay” section of the website (basically every Tuesday we don’t have a performance that night- which is most Tuesdays) has always been, and will always remain, an on-going catch-all for whatever news, rants, musings someone wants to contribute and I want to take a moment to remind people that we’re always looking to publish something- the days we don’t it’s literally for lack of content, not because we turned someone down. We shy away from reviews (unless it’s happening in service of a larger thesis) because we want this to be more of a discussion/process/promotion part of the internet (there are plenty of other places to post reviews), but after that caveat almost anything theater related could potentially have a home here. An article about what’s troubling your theater life. Your favorite place to get a burrito before a show. A profile of someone you think is doing great work. A profile of your own work. Upcoming projects or on-going concerns. All these things and more are welcome. Please pitch us if you have an idea! We want to hear from you, and the more voices we can get on here over the course of a year, the better.

On that note, thanks again for reading. And because I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about this lately, if you have moment, leave a comment about what inspires you to keep working and making theater. I feel like every one of these great conversations that I’ve been having lately, that’s the one thing we don’t talk about enough. We talk about what is wrong, sure, and we talk about our work, usually, and we talk about other the tenor the scene and other people, always, but I think it’s just the nature of many artists (or maybe it’s just human nature) to forget to take the time to also focus on what does work, what infuses us with the will to keep on, what makes the baloney worth cutting through and putting up with. So, today, let’s put things back in balance and tell us what you love about the medium, the scene, or yourself. Or all three.

The best thing about the internet is that there’s always room for more.

Stuart Bousel is one of the founding artistic directors of the San Franciso Theater Pub, and a prolific writer and director. His website, http://www.horrorunspeakable.com, will tell you all about it.

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach continues to chronicle the journey of his new musical, Made in China, which is currently playing at Bindlestiff Studios.

Hey readers. I don’t really have to much to say this time around. I gave you my last entry on the day Made in China opened. We’re now two weeks into the run, and I feel great about how the production has been going so far. Our opening night was sold out, and we’ve been selling all of our other shows pretty well. The audiences definitely seem to be positively responding to the show, and most agree that the music to the play is beautiful. That’s really what my primary goal was – for people to like the music – and it seems like I’ve achieved that.

Max_and_Amber

I’ve changed little bits of the play here and there from opening night until now. I guess it’s cool to have that kind of freedom as the playwright. You can keep improving upon the show even during its run. We’ve received some pretty awesome critic reviews in the process, too. I’ve noticed certain parts of the musical that I’d like to edit for future productions, but I won’t change too much this time around so as not to throw off any of the actors or orchestra members. I just want to keep making this thing bigger and better. When you’ve put so much work into something for so long, you don’t want to simply part ways with it after just one run. It’s a special kind of work. It’s not just a play. It’s a musical with a six-piece orchestra. It took me a lot of time to write out all the music for six different instruments and six different singers. I guess you can say that this isn’t an ordinary first show. It’s something that I hope will live on and get the bigger productions it deserves. I know that may seem a little conceited, but I know it’s a good piece of theater. I also know there are ways to improve it.

Max_and_the_Cronos

Overall, I’m happy with the way the show turned out. All the stresses and anxiety that I’ve incurred during the pre-production and rehearsal processes weren’t necessary. They were inevitable, and, sure, I certainly encountered a lot of huge road blocks along the way. But, you always gotta think in the back of your brain that things always have a way of working out. It’s never going to be exactly the way you envisioned it from the get go, but you’ll most likely be satisfied with the product in the end. The key is to remain motivated no matter how hard things can get. Never let cynicism conquer your drive. I hope I’m not sounding too preachy, but there were times in the months leading up to Made in China’s debut when I felt like I should have maybe given up. I felt depressed, and I felt like some higher power didn’t want me putting on this show. Those thoughts were futile. Just let your motivation help you out, and you’ll always get to where you need to be if you try.

I suppose I did have a lot to say after all. Please do come to see the show if you haven’t already. We have two more weekends left in the run, and tickets are on sale now at madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com/tickets. I’m sure you’ll have a great time, and, I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy the music if nothing else.

Max_and_Serio

I think this may be my last entry for this current Made in China guest blog. There is a possibility that I’ll provide you with one more after we close…actually, I will do that. Why not? Until then, I’ll leave you with a few press photos for the show (which can be viewed throughout this article) that I think are quite neat.

Thanks for reading!

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach continues his push towards opening

Since my last entry, the Made in China cast and I have made quite a bit of progress with rehearsals. We’ve learned a good bit of new choreography from our choreographer, Alexandra Daily, and have blocked out a great portion of the play under the guidance of our director, Nick Dickson. Choreography is a hard thing to do with books in hand, so I’ve tried my best to prepare the actors musically such that they can easily memorize the music and lyrics on their own. It’s already hard enough to really get normal blocking going when actors aren’t yet off book, but attempting to do choreography with book in hand is pretty impossible. Luckily, the actors are inching their way closer and closer to memorizing a couple of songs each week, but it definitely is funny to hear them mumble the lyrics when they don’t know them completely well enough. At least, they’re pretty familiar with the music at this point. I meet with each cast member once every week to two weeks for about an hour and a half each session to work on the music. I don’t know if we’ll need to do that much longer, at least for a couple of the cast members. At this point, many of them might benefit the most from participating in group music rehearsals which we’ll start up next week. Overall, I think we’re in pretty good shape considering we still have two months to go before we open. I don’t want to get to confident because I know two months will pass pretty swiftly, but I have a pretty good feeling about all of this.

On the producer end of things, I’m pretty busy. I’m about to send out press releases for the show, tomorrow, I’m in the midst of setting up a Ticket Turtle account, and, every day, I’m having a discussion with someone else about how to approach building the set. We obviously want to take the most cost effective route, but, when you’re dealing with four to five doors, it’s pretty difficult. During Thanksgiving week, I took a trip down to Los Angeles (where I’m from), and I met up with a friend from college who’s quite the carpenter. He kind of sketched out the easiest way to have five doors onstage and still be able to change sets pretty quickly. It’s a little tricky designing a set when you have the placement of a pit orchestra involved, but my carpenter friend offered some great suggestions. He’s even going to help effectively design the set, which is also great. I’m looking forward to what he comes up with in the next couple of weeks.

By the way, check out the Word Press site for Made in China at http://madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com. This is not really a blog site for us but serves more as an actual website for the show. When you visit the website, you’ll be able to listen to music from the show, learn more about the play’s development, eventually purchase tickets (which go on sale Sunday, December 30, 2012), and just hang out, looking at pictures. Check it out when you get a chance.

Well, I think that’s about it for now. Everyone involved in this production is steadily pushing ahead, and I think we’re at a good place right now (I hope I’m not speaking too soon). Until next time!

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach continues his chronicle of bringing his new musical to the stage.

I don’t have much time to write something too in depth this week, but for this entry I would like to talk a little bit about reserving rehearsal space.

I must say that it can be pretty stressful being a producer. One of the most consistently nagging issues to deal with as a producer is having to constantly scout out rehearsal space. It makes me long for the rehearsals when we get into the actual theater space in which we’ll be performing Made in China. Thank goodness that’ll be in the beginning of December. Until then, I only have one more rehearsal for which I still need to book space. This topic must be getting pretty dull by now, so let’s talk about something else.

At our first pit orchestra rehearsal two weeks ago, about 75% of the music went pretty smoothly. The other 25% seemed rough, and I realized that some of the harshness had to do with the actual music I had written. Since that rehearsal two weeks ago, I’ve revised / simplified some of the music, so now it’s easier to listen to and to play. Sometimes, simple is better. I realized that for some of the orchestrations, there was just too much going on, thus taking away from the actual melody that the singer(s) sing(s).The idea of a pit orchestra is to provide support for the singer without overpowering him. A score for such an effect can be a little tricky and requires practice. It sucks to have to revise music this late in the game, but you gotta roll with the punches. If you hear something that sounds off, you gotta change it. We have another orchestra rehearsal tomorrow. Hopefully, things will sound a lot better with the recent revisions.

Actor rehearsals have started off pretty well. Our new director, Nick Dickson, and I seem to see eye-to-eye on an approach for this musical. He seems to understand a lot of the esoteric humor of the play in addition to the more silly, quirky, and slapsticky humor. I think he’s leading the actors in the right direction and realizes what needs to be done to accomplish our shared artistic vision for the show. Next Tuesday will be our first day learning choreography from our talented choreographer Alex Daily. That should be a lot of fun.

Anyway, sorry to have to cut this entry short. I should have a lot more to talk about for the next addition to the Made in China guest blog in two weeks. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicholas Weinbach continues to chronicle his original musical’s progress towards its first production.

In my last addition to the Made in China guest blog, I talked about arriving at our first read-through with the cast. Well, a lot has changed since then. Due to scheduling conflicts, we’ve replaced our previous director with the very talented Nick Dickson in addition to changing up the cast a little bit. It can be very frustrating to lose multiple members of the team let alone one member, but you have to pick yourself up by the boot straps and push through. That’s definitely the job of a producer. You have to keep searching for talent until you’ve solidified a team that can fully commit to the production. We’ve done that and are excited to move forward.

Tomorrow, the pit orchestra will be having its first rehearsal together, headed by conductor Max Weinbach, my twin brother. Obviously, I’ll need to be at the rehearsal, too. I wrote the music and need to make sure everything sounds the way I intended. However, I’m very confident in brother’s ability to interpret my music appropriately. After all, he did conduct the orchestra for the staged readings / singings of Made in China, and that went very well. We even have more experienced musicians this time around. If I haven’t already mentioned before, the orchestra includes flute, two violins, cello, piano, and percussion. It’s a small ensemble so as not to overpower the relatively small cast, who will perform in a somewhat small space, but still big enough to provide a full and beautiful sound.

Actually, I had originally wrote the score with a harp included, but, when I was trying to find musicians for the staged readings, I had the most trouble finding a harpist who would work for minimal compensation. They’re not very cheap, and there aren’t many of them. In fact, every harpist I asked recommended one another, so I ended up contacting six or seven harpists who all knew each other. It’s a small circle. Lesson learned I suppose: when you’re starting out small, write parts for common instruments. Luckily, I was able to combine the harp and piano parts with moderate ease. Perhaps, a future production of Made in China will include harp. That would be cool and definitely play on the Harvey Schmidt (composer of The Fantasticks) influence.

I hope to have more news on the rehearsal process over the next few months. It’s definitely exciting, but thoughts about the whole production keep me up at night. I can’t stop thinking about this musical. When you’ve put so much work into something, you want it to do well. You want it to succeed. I hope the coming weeks will make me feel more confident about this production. For now, I’m just happy that everything is in motion. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies. Nah, just kidding.