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Chapter 46: The Blank Page

staring at blank page

BIRDIE –
The questions Rebecca and I are personally asked the most pertain to writing a NarroWay show: “What does it take to create a show? How long does it take? Where do you get your inspiration?”

For this reason, we are dedicating this chapter to answering those questions.

REBECCA –
It doesn’t seem to be the most interesting of subjects to us, but there must be some who are curious.

BIRDIE –
So, here goes...

REBECCA –
It starts with a blank page and a conviction from the Lord. I don’t try to come up with ideas for shows, they come to me as titles. I hear it in my spirit or in someone speaking and it’s like it is highlighted and in bold. I know that is a show.

BIRDIE –
When she first tells me, Rebecca may have no idea how that title translates into a script.

 

REBECCA –
Sometimes the crux of the story is obvious from the title, like in the case of “SAMSON.” Other times I have no idea how the title will play out, like “THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TENNESSEE.”

BIRDIE –
When Rebecca first speaks the title to me, I’m careful not to start spouting ideas. In fact, unless the Lord clearly impresses something on me, I just listen and ask Rebecca questions.

director talking

REBECCA –
Birdie’s questions help me to verbalize the conviction and concept I feel. That’s very important, because, if I can’t verbalize it, I can’t write it.

BIRDIE –
After all these years, I can see it in her eyes when it starts clicking.

REBECCA –
Before I start writing, I research. I study everything I can about the story. I write pages of notes, notes that may end up having nothing to do with the end product. I star anything that the Lord impresses upon me as a relevant Truth.

notes
notes

BIRDIE –
I immediately start thinking thematically! As the characters start to take on life I begin to musically underscore them in my mind, as a hero or villain, etc.

Birdie at keyboard

REBECCA –
Then I outline how the story might unfold and start writing.
In the process of writing, if I know something isn’t exactly right, I don’t get hung up on it. I mark it like this - //////, and keep writing.

BIRDIE –
Through the whole process, we spend a lot of time staring at a blank page.
When Rebecca can “see” it and I can “hear” it, it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a struggle to the end. We spend a lot of days blind and deaf.

staring at computer

REBECCA –
After a production is finished everyone thinks, “Well, of course, that’s the way it goes.” But when you’re the one staring at a blank page, only God knows how it goes. So we spend a lot of time asking Him.

BIRDIE –
I begin composing motifs based completely on the emotions I feel as the story is unfolding. The hardest thing is to just START and give myself permission to be wrong and throw it away if it’s not right! Many times the development of these themes leads me in a direction I would never have dreamed.

REBECCA –
There is a time to get bogged down in the details, but it isn’t as you start. For example, in writing “SAMSON,” I couldn’t allow myself to bog down on how the columns would fall. Was that a real, unavoidable problem in the storyline? Yes! But I had to put off thinking about that problem. Once a storyline is stable, I start tackling the “what the heck was I thinking when I wrote that!!!” stuff.

director talking

BIRDIE –
Like a kid on a long trip who keeps asking: “How much longer?” I ask Rebecca constantly: “What happens next?”

REBECCA –
All the while, I’m wondering the same thing!!
As the script unfolds, Birdie tells me where she envisions music or I say, “This is a perfect place for a song.”

BIRDIE –
Lyrics have to be written.
Melodies must be created.
Most often Rebecca writes the lyrics, so I must passionately sense what she is communicating. Then the melody has to be made to rhythmically work with the lyrics.

REBECCA –
Around this time, deadlines are set and preparations are made with a recording studio and live musicians.

recording engineer

BIRDIE –
Decisions have to be made: Is this a solo? Duet? Trio? Sung by a man? Woman? Soprano? Alto? Tenor? Or Bass? Or is this song for the entire choir?

REBECCA –
In which case, choral parts have to be written.

BIRDIE –
What key is it in? Will it change keys?
What repeats? Where will it climax?
What’s the right tempo?

REBECCA –
When all this is done for every song, the scores are printed.

music score
choral score

BIRDIE –
Now, two processes start at the same time. The music is ready to go to a cast to begin rehearsing. And I begin orchestrating each song, to create the soundtrack.

REBECCA –
This is where Birdie’s strong background in instrumental music and conducting come to the forefront.

orchestrating music
editing music

REBECCA –
Then I rewrite the script. I cut scenes out, switch scenes around. I delete dialogue and add more action. I make sure all the dots are connected from beginning to end.
This is where a Clydesdale script becomes a Thoroughbred.

marked up script
rebecca with notes

BIRDIE –
With the script finished and the music is in process all we need is a cast.

REBECCA –
The cast managers issue a casting call.

BIRDIE –
Auditions are conducted. Rehearsals begin with two separate casts.

REBECCA –
Then I sit on a stool, in front of the entire cast, and read them the script for the first time. I read it, just as I felt it in my heart, as I was writing.

director reading script

BIRDIE –
Then, as soon as possible, I start the NarroWay cast singing the music so I can hear how it sounds in real life. I, too, make changes.

This recording is from one of the earliest rehearsals for "Samson." You'll hear the click track playing alongside the unfinished music orchestration as the choir rehearses "Delilah of Sorek."

REBECCA –
Costumes are designed. Seamstresses begin work. And I start work with the production team figuring out set design, props, video and special effects. Some effects are extremely difficult to execute.

seamstress working
video screens
working on set

BIRDIE –
When the cast can perform the music with accuracy, I record them. Then I take their recording and a host of enormous music files into the studio. Hearing the vocals helps the studio musicians to quickly grasp the personality of the song.

recording in studio
director in studio
recording massive choir
recording massive choir
with recording engineer
at recording studio

REBECCA –
Choreography begins. Massive rehearsals, with both large groups and individuals take place. Professional training. Critiquing. Coaching. Over and over and over.

cast rehearsing choreography

BIRDIE –
Then comes the lighting design.

REBECCA –
More than one hundred lights must be programmed for every changing scene, to direct the audience’s focus and enhance the emotional impact.

BIRDIE –
Microphone belt-packs and headsets are assigned and fitted. Sound checks and EQs are set.

REBECCA –
Then all these numerous individual elements, which once had a life all their own, place their arms around each other and a show is born. On average, the whole process takes about two years.

BIRDIE –
Rebecca and I watch from the top. We never cease to be amazed at what God has done. And to think... it all started with a blank page.

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Comments 1

Guest - Betty Moore-Bell on Thursday, 23 February 2017 07:43

Praise Jesus for those blank pages, your God-given talents, and your patience and persistence!

Praise Jesus for those blank pages, your God-given talents, and your patience and persistence!
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Monday, 20 August 2018
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Chapter 47: NarroWisms
Chapter 45: The Show Must Go On


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