It may not look as if I’ve been doing a lot of work on this project, but actually I did SEVERAL things that were not quite Thing enough to post. None of them panned out and I forgot to do any more work on this project because I was quite busy having multiple depressive episodes and anxiety meltdowns. You know what helps with those? Small achievable tasks. Like making a decision and then telling people about it. You know what doesn’t help? Binge drinking. Just FYI.
The thing about me is, I’m always having Great Big Ideas for things and then not quite following through. I keep wanting to work on this project, I keep wanting to write, but then I get bogged down with “but I don’t know how to DO this” or “this probably isn’t going to be very good.” Those of you who are Makers Of Things are no doubt intimately familiar with this process.
However, the entire point of this project was to learn a new skill, so chances are it probably won’t be very good at times. Surely the chance of failing publicly will be a very good lesson for a lifelong perfectionist with a sun in Gemini and a moon in Virgo. Yes? Yes? Sure.
So here goes. As you may recall from several months back, the first assignment for the project is to musicalize an existing play, one you think is good, so you can learn the structure of a play that works. My immediate instinct was August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. I absolutely love this play, and it has a larger-than-life quality that I thought would suit a musical adaptation. There are nuanced female characters, interesting conflicts, and best of all, a dramatic scene where the entire cast talks at once. Musical numbers where every character is on stage singing a different song are my all time favorite thing in musicals. Alex Lacamoire calls those “all-skates” and he and Lin-Manuel Miranda did one of the best ones in history, so:
I went on a quest to try to get the rights to write an adaptation of August: Osage County and made it ALL THE WAY TO TRACY LETTS’ AGENT only to be very politely shut right the fuck down. I still really, really want to write this musical. My new plan is to somehow befriend Tracy Letts and ask his permission myself, and I’ll report back as soon as that happens.
I also submitted to a fellowship of sorts for female musical theater writers. I wasn’t accepted, which is mildly disappointing as these things always are. When I applied I was in a place where I really needed to DO SOMETHING, and I’m glad that I did. Also the idea that I proposed was my original idea for Musical Number 3 of this project (a show based on a source material that is not a play), so I’m fairly certain I will still end up writing it at some point. Watch this space!
So I got a little discouraged and a little distracted, and while I didn’t forget about this project entirely I did focus my attentions elsewhere for a few months. Then I took a scene study class, and one of the pairs was assigned a scene from August: Osage County. Oh yeah, I thought, I was going to do that thing. I should still do that thing. Only I’m gonna need a play I can actually get permission to adapt.
So we’re taking it straight back to the archives of the public domain and doing some motherfucking Shakespeare. Originally I thought I would try Richard III, but after some consideration I realized I don’t actually care about what happens in that play after Lady Anne gets engaged in front of her husband’s corpse. I couldn't even fight my way through the re-read, and I figured in order to do this project well I'd need a play I really felt strongly about. If banter-based sexual tension is something I’m drawn to musicalize, then perhaps it’s best to start with the Shakespeare play with which I am the most familiar.
Oh man, did I ever love Much Ado About Nothing when I was a kid. I went through a period in college when I watched the 1993 movie every day, and I’m fairly certain I have every one of Emma Thompson’s line readings committed to memory. My mom had an antique book of this play when I was a kid which I straight up stole when I moved out. I like a lot of Shakespeare plays, but I have yet to read one that grabbed me the way this one did. It taught me the valuable lesson that if you’re better at making jokes than boys are, eventually one of them will fall in love with you. Any minute now.
I’ve never done the show, or even seen a production of it staged, so I’m able to come to it with a relative lack of outside influence. I honestly think this play has everything you need for a really fun musical: dueling lovers, gossiping servants, a compelling villain, and a happy ending, however problematic by modern standards. You may have noticed that I don’t really have much of a plan here - I’m pretty much making this whole thing up as I go along, so our collective mileage may vary. This play has lived in my head for most of my life, however, so I think it will be a good challenge and an excellent place to start.
You’re going to cast yourself as Beatrice aren’t you? That does sound like something I would do.
Foolish girl, what makes you think you can top the sexy banter of THE IMMORTAL BARD? How dare you, I am excellent at sexy banter, as evidenced by my Several Boyfriends. Seriously though, I am worried about trying to do Shakespeare for this exact reason. Do I try and write my own jokes, or just rethink the witticisms of the original text? The Savage Insult Flirting in this play was unfortunately an important part of my sexual awakening, so rest assured I will at the very least treat it with the reverence it deserves.
OMG I LOVE THAT PLAY CAN I BE HERO PLEASE? Really? Hero’s your choice? You don’t want to be Margaret or maybe Michael Keaton? If you’re sure then fine - Hero doesn’t have a lot going on and when she does it’s because everyone is kind of a dick to her. I’m going to try and give her SOME agency in my version, so you’ll have something to do.
Hannah, I don’t have any proof of this in front me right this second, but I am confident that someone somewhere has already made a musical of this play. Live footage of me giving zero fucks about all that: