Day 3: August 19, 2014
Tuesday is the day to go in for the kill (gently). Yesterday I quietly noted what I thought each singer’s artistic goals ought to be for the week. But that only gives us till Thursday to do real work, investigating, trying new stuff, pushing away at old habits, discussing, analyzing, repeating, searching. By Friday we need to let the songs have their own say–get out of the way and give them the steering wheel. It’s a quick process but I’ve been amazed what can happen in a single, intense week of rehearsal.
We leave the doors open so people can amble in and listen. Of course, most people do the thing I most dislike: they hover right behind me in my blind spot so I can’t see them. I know they’re there because the singers are sort of playing to them, but I can only sense their presence and hear their breathing. I get it; they’re afraid they might be disturbing our work. Actually, having people lurking in the shadows is the only thing that really distracts me. So we invite them and to take a seat in the hall, and they always oblige.
A friend of ours, Bill McNaught, stopped in during his work day to listen. After the lurking ritual, he pulled up a chair and relaxed right in the middle of the hall. Bill arrived when Theo Hoffman and I were doing the title cycle of the program, Craigslistlieder. To us they’re well-known songs, almost part of the modern canon. But Bill had never heard them and didn’t know what he was in for. “You looked sexy, even though you were having a seizure…” sang Theo. Bill looked alarmed. “It was in the hair care section of the Vancouver Walgreens,” crooned Theo. Bill’s eyebrows went up. Way up. Theo growled, “I was the guy in the blue shirt holding your legs while that old man put his wallet in your mouth…”
We get to the end. Stunned silence. “Did you…like that, Bill?” I ventured. “What…what WAS that?” Theo and I explained Gabe Kahane’s cycle as simply as we could. I admit we were a touch freaked out; Craigslistlieder is brilliantly written and drily hilarious, but its sensibility is quite urban and distinctly Generation Y. But Bill was clearly intrigued. He stayed for the next three songs—“Assless Chaps,” “Half a Box of Condoms,” and “Two years ago.” When he got up to go back to work he was wreathed in smiles. “So…?” “Oh, I LOVED them! They’re amazing. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
We can still use more audience members in Bellport on Saturday, it seems, but we’re selling very well here in Orient. When people pass the hall and hear the singing, they go home and call for tickets. New York arts institutions: take note.