Search blog:
Subscribe to blog posts:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Gonzales Cantata at the 2009 Philadelphia Fringe Festival

I have been so busy, I haven't had time to blog about this outside of Twitter.

In a fit of masochism, I am bringing my composition the Gonzales Cantata to the Philly Fringe Festival this September. Earlier this year, after it was premiered at West Chester University, I was considering shopping it around to chamber choirs, but quite suddenly in April, I realized I wanted to do it again myself. It was one of those out-of-nowhere revelations that occasionally birth themselves fully formed into my head, like the moment I decided I wanted to switch to the viola when I was 14, or a couple of years later when I decided to move to Sydney to go to college, or the snap decision I once made to realize my dreamed-of solo American vacation plans and possibly meet up with that one guy I'd been talking to on the internet for a couple of years. These things always seem to turn out quite well.

Once the revelation comes, there's no stopping it. The Fringe Festival submission deadline had passed, but the form had been left online, and I filled it out and pushed through my payment before anybody could protest. I set aside a large chunk of my savings to finance the project. I was recommended the perfect venue: the Rotunda, a cross between a Capitol building and a church which is owned by the University of Pennsylvania, fortuitously the school where I will be starting my Ph.D. two days after the performances.

Since I have quite a lot of spare time this summer (my only employment commitment is a theater camp at Village Productions), I'm going all-out control freak. Directing, producing, conducting, preparing the space, promoting, costuming. It's all down to me. In other words, I'm a certifiable nutjob, or at least, as I mentioned, an extreme masochist.

I am being helped, though, by the wonderful Dina Steiner, who is stage managing, Becca Burrow, who is designing the marketing materials, Dan Williams, my marketing liaison, and Doug Durlacher, tech director. And most of all, of course, by Matt, who is helping in all kinds of ways, not least by being very patient with my "artistic temperament."

The cast, aside from a couple of instrumentalists, is now locked in, and I am so excited to start working with them. The Cantata is being sung by talented performers from as far as Baltimore and New York - graduates of Peabody, Juilliard, Oxford University, CUNY and Temple, and undergrads from the University of the Arts and of course my alma mater West Chester University. Two of them are currently at the Tanglewood Institute, one as a vocal fellow and one as a member of the faculty. I'm so delighted by the cast's enthusiasm, especially since the only financial carrot I can dangle is profit sharing -- which doesn't amount to much money in each performer's pocket with a cast of thirty. I'm especially thrilled and grateful that so many West Chester students are on board to sing the Cantata yet again after our two efforts in February and March. I regard that as a very high compliment.

Right now, one of the challenges I'm focused on is securing the venue. The space I'm using at the Rotunda, the Sanctuary, is unoccupied and not up to code, so I have had to apply for special permission from the Philadelphia city council to hold a temporary event there. The process has been so arduous and stress-filled - and expensive - that I'm planning on writing a complete guide in a future blog entry so that future event planners have an easy step-by-step process and budget to follow. First, however, I need to have my application approved, so that I know I've done everything right. Cross your fingers for me.

It's going to be worth it, though. Here's a photosynth (3D multiple-photo view) Matt created of the Sanctuary a few weeks ago. It's absolutely beautiful, acoustically terrifying (ten-second decay, with nifty dome reflections) and perfectly fits the line from the show: "It's almost as if the walls are actually crumbling on this huge department." The walls are crumbling. There's a giant 9-foot iron chandelier lying on the floor as though it came crashing from the ceiling. If I had millions of dollars in my back pocket, I would blow it on bringing this space fully back to life.

Also coming in a future blog entry: a full report on a 12-minute phone conversation about the Cantata I had with former Attorney General John Ashcroft at the end of May. Possibly, though, I'll just link you to the Live Arts blog; I'm being interviewed by them tomorrow afternoon, and that brush with the Justice Department is definitely being discussed.