A wise person once said, “The difference between bad and good is from here to the ceiling. But the difference between good and great is from here to the moon.”
There’s a mysterious alchemy that goes into creating a new piece of musical theatre. To those of us attempting to tap into this magical world it’s called “development” and without it, shows don’t experience the necessary growing pains required to turn something good into something great.
Many writers rush to production (as if it were that easy) without the tedious, often mind-numbing task of rewriting and shaping a show until it’s ready to be put before a paying audience. What results is something that may be decent and even entertaining, but rarely is as good as it can and should be. Through the support of wonderful folks at Chicago Dramatists, Porchlight Music Theatre, and Roosevelt University we got the necessary feedback in the earliest stages of writing to make crucial choices and changes. Our story got clearer with each reading and talk back. Constructive criticism was crucial and every audience member filled an important role.
Then along came Pallas Theatre Collective, a smallish Washington D.C.-based theatre with very big ideals. Over the past year they’ve taken us on a journey of discovery, providing workshop and public reading opportunities at the Anacostia Arts Center, Ball State University, Point Park University, and shortly, the International Spy Museum. At each step we’ve been able to hear our words and music presented to audiences who owed us precisely nothing; not praise or commentary, not even applause at the end of a song. All have been invaluable experiences.
Pallas has been a tireless advocate for us as writers. They've provided guidance and direction, never asking for something we didn’t already know in the back of our minds needed fixing. We’ve been challenged with questions that demanded answers, and our show has been made stronger as a result. A year-long association with one theatre is a luxury writers crave, and we've been blessed with this rare opportunity as we shoot for the moon with this play.
It can be tempting to stay on the “Development Merry-Go-'Round” forever, spinning and spinning, never moving forward, workshopping and revising every last drop of joy and spontaneity out of a piece. How does any artist know when any piece of art is ready to be let go of and declared finished? It’s an enormous leap of faith, and at some point you have to say, “This is it, it’s done, this is the best I can do today.” We hope our efforts have carried this show at least past the ceiling and upstairs into our neighbor’s apartment. Next stop: The moon.