I'D LIKE TO THANK ALL THE LITTLE PEOPLE...
27 September 2005
I had e-mail from my friend Stephen Peithman yesterday. We are having our first meeting for the new show that "we" are writing, "Phantom of the Pinafore," (a parody which combines "H.M.S. Pinafore" and "Sunset Blvd.") next week.
It's fun to work with Steve and I love the laugh sessions that result when we get together to discuss plot lines and decide who is going to write which song (I usually write one or two and Steve writes the rest).
But it's never quite what it was when Gilbert and I were writing shows together. We kind of revolutionalized the annual Lamplighters annual gala, which prior to 1983's "Major General Hospital," had been a funny show using songs from the shows that had been performed in the previous year.
In 1983, Gilbert came up with a funny title and I convinced him that it would be possible to use songs from the entire Gilbert & Sullivan canon, not just the shows from the past year. I convinced him that he was working with professionals (even though they weren't paid as professionals) who could learn new lyrics for songs and learn the music to songs they might not be familiar with.
The show was a funny slam at the medical community and centered around 2 plastic surgeons...I've forgotten most of the details of the plot now. I do remember a very funny number with someone ringing up every single thing that went into a patient during an operation on an in-operating room cash register.
The project turned out to be a rousing success--so much so that for many years it was still spoken of with some awe, medical communities wanted us to bring it to their meetings, etc.
From "Major General Hospital" on, the annual gala became a major production, like writing an entirely new show each year. Gilbert and I, with others, wrote two more shows and, following his death, a talented committee, many of whom had been major contributors to our previous shows, took over the writing. I stayed on the committee for a few years, but my involvement with The Lamplighters pretty much ended with Gilbert's death and my writing the book about the last 10 years of his life.
I discovered that in order to really be effective in these committees, you need to be au courant with the company, with the actors who are involved, with company gossip, etc., etc., etc. More and more, I was a stranger to the new people who came onto the committee, I didn't know the actors for whom they were writing, so I couldn't write for their particular strengths, and basically I just lost interest, though I love going to the shows and seeing what clever things the group has come up with this year.
In all honesty, the level of professionalism has risen to where it far exceeds what Gilbert and I did on "Major General Hospital."
So when Stephen suggested, a few years ago, that we write a show together ("Pirates of the Casablanca") for the Davis Comic Opera Co., I jumped at the chance. I found I missed that creative process and wanted to be involved again.
The difference between Stephen and Gilbert is that Stephen has a much quicker wit and gets plots in his head which are fully formed before he ever contacts me. Gilbert was a bundle of talent, but he worked more slowly and the creation of a plot was more of a collaborative element. What Stephen needs is just to discuss the plot that he already has in place to find which bits are funny and can be tweaked. It is a collaborative process, and works well for us--but I don't have that "pride of ownership" that I did with The Lamplighters. It's Steve's show and I've always felt that he has graciously added me to the program as a co-author, but I know the truth about who does what.
In 1999, our second show, "A Streetcar Named Mikado" won an Elly award, our local equivalent of the Tonys, for best original production. I didn't want to go to the awards ceremony because I thought we might win (as weird as that sounds). And as we sat there in the huge Crest theatre and I watched people get up to accept their awards and give their acceptance speeches, I knew there was no way I was going up on that stage, even if we did win, mostly because I felt it was Stephen's show and I had done very little. I felt he should take the spotlight.
But when our name was announced and I told Stephen I was going to stay in the audience, he pulled me up and insisted that I go on stage too. It's a huge house and filled with people and I get terrible stage fright. Steve gave a lovely thank you speech and then it was my turn.
When Paul was alive and dreamed about becoming a "star," I told him that some day I wanted to see him standing up on some stage accepting an award and thanking his mother for "making it all possible." This award show took place in September, and Paul had died in April.
I took the award in my hands, stepped to the microphone, trembling from head to toe. I raised the award into the air and just said "this is for Paul" and left the stage.
I'm looking forward to working on "Phantom of the Pinafore"
and sincerely hope that it wins no awards!!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
I remember seeing these guys when I was