A guest post from Gordon Leary, lyricist and librettist of this year’s show The Loneliest Girl in the World, written with Julia Meinwald. Leary and Meinwald have previously been a part of the NAMT Festival in 2011 with their show Pregnancy Pact.
There are so many things to be excited about when your show is accepted into the NAMT Festival of New Musicals. You look forward to getting to know seven other writing teams and their work, working with wonderful actors and directors, and having the opportunity to share your writing with NAMT members from across the country… Then you remember that you need to do it all in 45 minutes.
Few things can feel as daunting as the idea of cutting your show. Ciera encouraged us all to identify an emotional high point in the show and condense up to that point. It seemed logical for us to work up to the end of the first act of The Loneliest Girl in the World to see the point at which the views of our protagonists clash for the first time. Feeling confident in that choice, we faced a few other choices about what was most important to highlight in the cut. Should we try to show the variety of the score? The style and tone of the world of the show? As many beats of the plot as possible? Overwhelmed by the options, we tried to cover them all with our first draft. There may not have been a logical way to fit 75 minutes of material into 45 minutes, but that didn’t stop us! We abridged songs, we chipped away at scenes, we summarized emotional moments. We got it down to forty-some pages and felt accomplished.
Thankfully there were people to talk some sense into us. Our consultant Steve Stettler, director Michael Berresse, and Ciera encouraged us to take another pass. Reading it again, the cut felt as overwhelmed as we had felt while assembling it. We were reminded that we could never let people see our show in 45 minutes, but we could let people feel it. We had to recognize what our show is – the story of two, opposing outsiders who need one another desperately – and find a way to ensure that every one of our 45 minutes leads back to that emotional arc. While we won’t get to share the second of Anita Bryant’s pop songs or our very own Holiday Inn jingle, we know we will get to share the heart of our story. Now we just have to cross our fingers that our timing holds up!