A guest post from Alana Jacoby, the lyricist and librettist for this year’s Festival show Mortality Play, written with Scotty Arnold. Mortality Play was featured in the Songwriters Showcase at last year’s Festival.
Today is our fifth first rehearsal for Mortality Play. As I put on my Black Death European Tour shirt this morning (which I think I’ve worn to every one), I played them all back in my mind. There was the first first rehearsal, for our thesis reading at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program: the first time anyone outside of our program said these words and sang these songs; the first time we felt like real musical theater writers. There was the second first rehearsal, for ANT Fest at Ars Nova: the first time the show left the safe space of an educational setting and went out into the world. There was the third first rehearsal, for the Yale Institute of Music Theatre: the kick-off of an amazing two-week workshop and the longest period of time when Scotty and I got to be in full-time writing mode since graduating. First rehearsal number four, for our Joe’s Pub reading two years later, felt like getting the band back together after too much time away. And here we are at first rehearsal number five, walking into the room with this overwhelmingly talented cast and amazing creative team.
First rehearsals remind me of birthdays. It’s perfect that this one happened this week, because Scotty and I just celebrated our shared birthday two days ago. It’s a day full of excitement and promise, all about watching something begin to unfold. Listening to each song during an initial read-through feels like opening presents. Peeking over my script to see the actors’ faces as they fearlessly dive into a cold read, wondering how they’ll react, hoping they’ll laugh at that joke, hearing how each song will sound in their particular voices. It’s like giving and getting presents all at the same time, which Scotty and I are used to, as collaborator birthday buddies.
This show has grown up so much over the past five years to get to this point, and each first rehearsal has been a chance to look at it through new eyes. Not just the eyes of the new people around the table, but through our own, which have also grown up and changed. My mother died between first rehearsal number three and first rehearsal number four, which turned my world upside down and made me think about death and loss, such integral themes of this piece, in a much different way. And on my birthday two days before rehearsal number five, my boyfriend and I got engaged, which made me hide in my binder today and take a much closer look at the dialogue in our proposal scene. It makes me wonder, with some fear and some excitement, where we’ll be and what will be happening in our lives as we head into first rehearsal number six.
For now, Scotty and I are sitting in this room enjoying this best of all possible birthday gifts, soaking up the amazing energy of our teammates and thrill of being part of this festival. We can’t wait to share our excitement by presenting Mortality Play in front of our NAMT audience a week from today!