Taking your show 'Beyond the Trees' - thoughts on the second reading of 'Steep Themselves in Night'
Updated: Sep 5, 2018
It's been said, though I can't remember by who, that musicals are not written, but rewritten. Looking at my hard drives, I've been through 10 drafts of my musical, 'Steep Themselves in Night', in the past 12 months alone. In my notebook, there are pages full of characters and lyrics that haven't made the cut (though I guess they might be revived in the future), and countless notes on my phone of me wailing a new musical idea into the little mic.
'Steep' was born after 18 months of me writing alone in my bedroom, by my piano, occasionally in hotel rooms, and less occasionally whilst in the shower. Once I finally had a draft which I felt wasn't TOO bad, we got a bunch of actors in a room and asked them very nicely to read and sing through the material. For the first time, I got to hear the piece outside of my own head. I've never felt so vulnerable yet excited as a composer in my short career so far. It was magical to hear people laugh at the bits that were supposed to be funny, and to ask interesting questions about these little characters I've fallen in love with, and to hear them lend their gorgeous voices to my score. It was equally as exposing though - I quickly realised I didn't need quite so many pages of exposition, and that some songs were perfectly nice but didn't really fit at all (and a few bits weren't even nice and DEFINITELY didn't fit at all). It wasn't just the constructive feedback I received which helped guide me through the following months of writing, but the very act of hearing and watching my characters come to life for the first time.
I came away from the first reading in March with plenty more notes and ideas, but I've realised that the way I work best is to give myself plenty of time to rest and unconsciously process stuff in the background. I tend to work very intensely on my writing for a week or two, and then purposely leave it in a drawer or locked away on my hard drive for a month or so. I've found it really helps me stay fresh and keep things in perspective.
Two weeks ago we had the second reading of the piece. There were still many tweaks I came away wanting to make, but for the first time, I felt truly confident that the story was all there, and most importantly, it was being told in the way I want it to be. It was MARVELLOUS being able to get together with these beautiful actors again and revisit our work from months before.
Hopefully you'll be just as excited as me to hear how they sound - so I made you a montage of clips from our day out at The Other Palace. Take a look and tweet me what you think at @steepthemusical !