From Gary Rue
October 20, 2016
My first attempt at a blog. (I’m told by my team that this will be a good thing for exposure; I look at it more as reminding myself of how I got into this in the first place, and how dearly I love it, and how to share that passion, which, I would guess, is the same thing, now that I think of it) My intent is to show where M4YA came from, what’s goin’ on, and what might be in the offing M4YA, some thoughts about the creative process, and commentary on the theatre world in general.
Musicals 4 Young Audiences was born of the realization that most creative and talented artists are so busy moving on to the next gig they don’t have time to promote the last wonderful project and so, there it sits, relegated to a shelf in the back room where, someday, someone might find the time to give it another lease on life. I had been in the business of theatre (acting, composing and directing) since 1956. Yep, 1956. In Kindergarten I was cast as the lead in “Johnny and the Magic Carpet”. (If anyone has knowledge of this musical, please forward it to me. I can’t find information on it anywhere!) Lit my fire, yes it did.
I went on to act in five high school plays, did a stint in the theatre department at SW State in Marshall, MN (although I only dabbled there, Viet Nam was bigger news). Fast forward to 1984: my roommate, David Ira Goldstein (Richard Dreyfus’ 2nd in “Close Encounters” an NEA jurist, and currently artistic director of Arizona Theatre Company in Tucson, AZ) asked me to write a few songs for “A Careless Love”, written by (then) up and coming playwright, John Olive (John has since made it to the mountain). “Hell yes!”, I exclaimed. It got me out of the bar scene and into something with a little more depth.
Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris at Illusion Theater in Minneapolis were the next kind and trusting folks to let me ‘poke my head in the room’. My first project with them was “The War Plays” with English playwright Edward Bond. We subsequently went on to write and tour an AIDS educational musical…THAT is a story and a half, protests reminiscent of a present-day Trump rally…more on that later…
The next significant happenstance in my career went like this (‘best made plan of mouse and man): I was sitting on my porch in St Paul one beautiful autumn day in 1994, and a dark blue compact screeched to a halt and double parked in front of the house, and a woman trotted up waving a script in her hand (out of the blue, this) and said (breathless): “We hear you write music. The composer who was to have written a score for our upcoming musical took the deposit money and made off for LA! We open in two weeks!” That was the remarkable beginning of my close relationship with SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development of St Paul. I would come to compose music for, over the next 22 years, more than 35 shows for the company (mostly under the artistic direction of Richard Hitchler, now with MN State Arts Board). And THAT is where the bulk of our wonderful catalogue comes from.
I’ve worked with many great artists over the years; Aditi Kapil, Kent Stephens, Dane Stauffer, Steven Dietz, Ann Schulman, Randy Sue Latimer, Jenna Zark, Rick Shiomi (IVEY Lifetime Achievement Winner 2015), Rhiana Yazzie, Isabel Monk, Christina Ham, Mark Jensen…the list goes on and on, of course. We have written some wonderful musicals together, but as I mentioned previously, those musicals had their debut, but there was no machinery in place and no one to put shoulder-to-the-wheel to keep them flying. So in 2011, I contacted all of my co-creators and asked if they’d be interested in being a part of this licensing company, Musicals 4 Young Audiences. Their answers were all a resounding “YES!”.
What's Goin' On
Speaking of Aditi Kapil (“Hanuman and the Girl Prince”, in our catalogue)… Aditi is an incredibly gifted playwright, which you’ll grok when you see ORANGE her 7th world premier, opening November 11th at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. (Coverage via Broadway World)
(This song feature Madana, Chief Courtier of Manipur, extolling the virtues of proper royal attire to Chitrangada, the Girl Prince’. I envisioned the delivery as a ‘Rex Harrison-Professor Higgins style of talk-sing. Rather entertaining, I should think!)
The Creative Process
Aditi wrote much of the dialogue and lyric in iambic pentameter (the language of the court in India). This made writing the music a whole lotta fun. There are two schools of thought regarding music and lyric, which comes first, etc. I respect both schools, but usually prefer to have one build off the other, moving them down the field in tandem. But Aditi was so adept at writing these lyrics, all lines in ‘like’ sections scanning…Imagine having to set ‘free’, or ‘blank’ verse to music! The music quickly took on a Gilbert & Sullivan feel (I’m a big fan of those two English gentlemen), as exhibited by the song featured in the link, “We’re the Handsomest Men”. Aditi’s lyrics are strong, well built, witty when it’s called for, somber when THAT is called for, she hits the mark every time, made my contribution a pleasure and a breeze. I love this musical…(I’ll be posting all of the music soon.)
In the Wings
There are many works in progress I’m excited to tell you about, most of them with M4YA playwrights, some involving theatre for all ages. But like any well-written song, I can’t let it all out at once, gotta have build, new information, a pay-off!
Finally, and on a more informal note, I think this blogging thing will be enjoyable revealing. I’m told I’ll get better at this the more I do it (like ice-skating, for instance, but unlike playing the violin, a gift I have yet to be blessed with), so stay tuned, I think a lot of theater people (actors, singers, directors) would be interested in seeing the roots of progress and change, and I’m happy to be a part of it.