Life beyond deadlines: looking ahead…

After May 3 we can get back to developing our piece. Here’s a design concept I scratched out in Paint and worked a bit in Art Rage, another “successive approximation:”

I’ve taken Dale’s two torn strips and I’ve transformed one into the fabric of a world showing us Wm. Blake’s Inn set on a lovely green hill with blue sky in background (still a bit grammar school in execution, but I’ll work on it…). The other strip will feel more like a page torn from a notebook with sketches and a mystical watercolor wash beginning at the horizon line and rendering the sky, etc, in more “Blakean” hues.

Both strips will be scrim-like so that we can reveal night-sky stars and milky-way effects whenever we choose.

Note the circle on the notebook strip DSR. This will be one of the items sketched onto the notebook. At the beginning we will actually see angels inscribing this circle with a giant compass while Blake and chorus looks on. We will then begin to see the actual Inn appear USL. It is cylindrical and will rotate in harmony with the turning compass. The Inn will be about eight feet tall. It will have a back which can be removed so that it can rotate to reveal an interior. Various items will grow out of the top of the Inn like circus-tent umbrellas, sunflowers, telescopes, propellers, etc., and then retract when no longer needed.

The Concept at work is the following: Blake the poet transforms his visions into a living reality; so we have a page from Blake’s workbook and then a manifestation of that work in the reality of the Inn and its surroundings. It’s a piece for children, so I felt it important to make the Inn a concrete place on stage. SL is a playful realization for kids, SR is more abstract and mysterious. The tension between the two is meant to be a harmonious one. I want the kids to see sketches of Blake’s beasts and other notions on the notebook side which they then see brought to life during the production. But the entire stage is also to be thought of as the countryside surrounding the Inn (yeah, I went pastoral rather than a “house in town” but I suppose that could be negotiated…)

Plenty of room for coming and going, for the car, for dancing and puppets. Other set or scenic pieces can be brought on stage as needed. The Inn can rotate to its interior as a fireplace or window unit arrives downstage. Characters and puppets can emerge from the Inn as well as appear peeping through the windows. Plenty of room for chorus kids to stand and perch, achieving levels etc. Heavenly objects can fly in as needed.

I think the dragons mentioned at the beginning should appear later pulling the car.

Last minute thoughts. I think the platform should be angled a bit (more dynamic). The “notebook” half should be a touch wider. Not sure about what the “bare” stage floor areas should look like.

I may try a representation with the night sky glowing behind the scrims…

Still to be done…

Here’s what we still need to do in the next seven days, with the items in green being the ones I think I can get done before Friday:


  • reinforce breaks in edges with slices of “corner cardboard”; attach with box rivets
  • finish painting “woodwork”
  • glue chair rails to walls
  • paint fireplace panel with architectural detail
  • cut final fireplace opening
  • hang black fabric on fireplace opening
  • paint architectural detail on other walls


  • cut out cup handles (cardboard)
  • cut out pot handles (cardboard)
  • cut out tray
  • paper maché tray
  • shape cups
  • shape pot
  • attach cup handles
  • attach pot handle
  • paint cups
  • paint pot
  • paint tray


  • make turtle heads, feet (cardboard)
  • shape turtles
  • paint turtles
  • cut panes
  • glue topaz plastic (spray with hairspray/starch?)
  • cut out turtle bases (x3)
  • cut out turtle wheels (x3)
  • cut dowels for axles (x3)
  • make axel mounts (duct tape: create ring of duct tape, tape ring to base) (x3)
  • mount lights to base (x3)
  • mount turtle to base (x3)
  • string turtles


  • assemble frames
  • cut out cardboard faces
  • cut rope for handles
  • drill holes for handles in top center brace
  • mount faces
  • attach handles
  • paint


  • We need just to find a small table and drape something over it.


  • drill holes 2 ft up: 1/2” hole
  • insert 12” tube through hole
  • punch holes in top fabric (to avoid drill wrap!)
  • drill holes in tops: L, R, C
  • nsert screweye in top of pole
  • mount tops: bolt one banner, insert C bolt through eye, bolt other banner (nuts on either side of banner top)
  • screweye on ends of bottoms
  • wire bottoms through tube
  • paint banners


  • cut out gong, beater
  • paint gong, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, drum sticks (5)
  • mount straps on bass drum, snare drum


  • cut head holes in boards
  • cut foam: f/b = 12×14; sides = 12×11 (x10)
  • cut construction paper faces: f/b = 12×14; sides = 12×13
  • glue toast to construction paper
  • assemble foam panels in square
  • measure individual Toast Head, position head piece in foam block
  • attach foam to head piece
  • cut eye slit


  • cut 2×2 (12)
  • mount front face to 2×2, flush to floor
  • mount bottom to 2×2, flush with front face
  • paint front white
  • paint “inside” green w/ flowers
  • add felt sliders to bottom


  • cut backpack up
  • cut tabs for wings
  • cut out wings (cardboard)
  • paint wings (reddish phalanges; blue feathers)
  • attach wings to tabs
  • build angel gown (velcro slits in back to pull down over wings)


  • draft vest pattern to fit Dale (or buy one)
  • cut out vest: purple shag for front; gold lamé for back
  • sew vest

If you’d like to help, email me. If you’d like your personal copy of this punchlist, click here.

In addition to these items, I personally have to re-record most of the songs, i.e., bring them up in the new version of Finale and create new sound files from them. With any luck, my new laptop will be able to make the AIFF files without any hiccups (as currently exist in Milky Way and Postcard, to name two.)

Then I have to import those AIFF files into Final Cut Express and create a video for each song, with at least the lyrics and hopefully with images we’ve been creating in workshop since January. I have three done (Prologue through Wonderful Car). That’s a lot still to do.

I have to burn the DVD of all those videos, or rather the one long, 45-minute video, which we can pause between songs.

I have to create the program for the May 3 performance, get that to the printer, and get it picked up.

This is not counting the workshop/rehearsal Wednesday night, nor is it counting my involvement as chair of the State STAR Student event, which will devour Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon/nights.

And it’s not counting the Bjork swan dress I have to make before May 4.


Set crew

[cross-posted from Dale’s blog]

We met for set crew at Dale and Ginny’s house at 10:00 this morning, and by the time we finished, we got at least most of the items on our list started, although none of them were finished. We were hampered by not having a large enough crew, but those of us in attendance worked hard.

We started with the paper maché, since it had to dry before anything else could be done to it. Here we are starting the teacups and turtles:

The crew starting the teacups and turtles

Here’s Marc working on his turtle later:

Marc and his turtle

We also got the walls started, since we had to wallpaper them. The first step was to reinforce the edges so that they would flap over. We used some extremely sturdy corner packaging, originally used in shipping window blinds. Here are Molly and Carol Lee getting ready to cut one with a hacksaw:

Molly and Carol Lee with the corners

Marc and Dale took turns wallpapering the walls.

Dale wallpapering

Here’s one that’s done:

A wall

Mary Frances painted the edge reinforcements brown, sort of a wood-looking effect. She also painted the chair railings which we will have to attach later:

Mary Frances painting the woodwork

Ginny cut out the headpieces for the Toast Heads:

Ginny and the Toast Heads

Dale and Carol Lee worked on the Toast Head’s banners, which they hung on the fence to dry:

The banners drying

Galen measured out the lumber for the Sunflowers’ suitcases:

Galen measuring

We also got the snowdrifts and the Toast Heads’ instruments cut out of the cardboard.

So lots got started, but nothing got finished. I’ll assess all of that tomorrow.

After we exhausted ourselves with set crew, we had a cookout and just relaxed around a fire in the backyard. The weather was beautiful all day, and the evening was the same.

Workshop (4/18/07)

[cross-posted from Dale’s blog]

In attendance: Dale, Marc, Mary Frances, Molley, Laura, Melissa, and Carol Lee. We also had MMH Galen, Toast Head Maggie and Hedgehogs Taylor, Kennedy, Chiara, Preston, and Travis.

First up were the Hedgehogs. Heavens to betsy, are these cute critters!

This last one is of us all double-checking what hedgehog ears look like on my laptop. We decided to try knit caps with ears and noses attached to them, over their eggshell foam.

We worked bit by bit, starting with the hedgehog choreography and working our way backwards through the song. Eventually we added some “walls” and a fireplace for the hedgehogs to come bursting out of. We added Toast Heads. We added the Gang. I think it’s all going to be very merry, especially if we can get the Gang to the level that they actually look precise.

The hedgehogs are not very precise. We’ll work on that, but of course that is not the point. They’re there for cuteness.

They were troupers: they focused on what we needed to focus on, they hit their marks more often than not, and I think by the time we get to May 3, they’re going to be absolutely awesome.

After we sent them home, then we worked on Toast Head choreography. That was a lot shorter. In fact, it surprised me how little time it took to get that done. Of course, it takes forever to develop the choreography; transferring to real dancers (like Molly and Maggie) takes no time at all.

Finally, Galen arrived from his Music Man rehearsal, and we worked on the Marmalade Man’s stuff. I chatted a bit about how I had come to view the MM as a disruptive force in the Inn: he shows up, and things just get stirred up. He has that power, to straighten roads, to command the Gang to fall in for close order drill, to summon up hedgehogs, to change winter to spring. And yet when he’s done, things are better.

It’s sort of like Wallace Stevens’ image of the creative mind/act as a garden: sometimes you have to scrape it clean and start over. That’s the function of the MM, to make us all reexamine the status quo.

This is reflected in his choreography, all free and light and arms and legs and entrechats, while his Toast Heads are starched flat and the Gang marches in order.

Finally we tried to put it all together. It may be too much, but we’ll see next week.

Jonathan Hickman was there, shooting video for a small documentary/trailer for the May 3 thing. This is good.

In other news, I met with Don Nixon at the Centre, and he’s on board for the 2008 premiere. There’s some exciting stuff going on out there, folks.

Also, Ginny got the invitations printed, folded, and stuffed. Excelsior!

Workshop (4/17/07)

[cross-posted from Dale’s blog]

Another workshop night, again an intensive rehearsal kind of thing. Dale, Marc, Carol Lee, Melissa, and Denise in attendance, with Mary Frances joining us later.

Carol Lee had finished the sunflowers, so we were able to work on getting the sunflower waltz shaped up.

Dance is funny to write about, because we followed the same process of successive approximation we’ve always followed, but it’s all movement instead of drawings and discussion. I mean, I can say that we backed up the Big Bang and replicated it above the Two Sunflowers with the Field of Flowers, but is any of that going to make sense?

Or that we cut the second run across from the inverted V and went straight into the Field of Flowers? Or that we didn’t have time for the weave-through heading into the Tableau, so we just did the Big Bang, one waltz turn, and then ran into a pas de chat and spiked the Tableau?

See what I mean?

Eventually, we snagged Molly Honea and two dancer friends, so we had five dancers and ten sunflowers. We laid our choreography on them and lo, it worked! Super cool!

I had to come home and write it all down before I forgot.

Problems with the invitation: we just can’t get the screened sunflower right, and now we have 500 invitations that cannot be read. ::sigh::

Workshop (4/11/07)

[cross-posted from Dale’s blog]

At noon I went to meet with the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission to offer the proposal for William Blake’s Inn. Everyone was supportive and excited. They decided to sponsor the May 3 performance and to begin looking at finding funding for the entire project, so that’s exciting. (You can download a PDF version of the prospectus.)

We had workshop tonight again. Tonight we worked with Denise Johnson on Two Sunflowers. Melissa is stepping in for Ginny, who will be out of pocket in the days before the performance. (Grayson has to come home from college or something.) We played with the four sunflowers Carol Lee provided and got the Two Sunflowers’ part all blocked out.

We went back over Man in the Marmalade Hat and plugged Denise into that. Then after she left we played more with the Sunflower Waltz. We got the beginning blocked out, but it has become very clear that the big, big parts of the waltz can’t be worked out through focus on the movements of individual sunflowers. We will have to use the masses of sunflowers and their movements to make sense of the music. Somebody should have thought of that before they let me write all that huge ballet music.

We’re moving into a new phase, less brainstorming and more implementation. It’s harder work.

In other news, Marc has been playing with ArtRage and has produced the following images:

Striking, a beautiful use of the program.

Workshop (4/10/07)

[cross-posted from Dale’s blog]

Back to work at the workshop! Dale, Marc, Laura, Carol Lee, and Melissa in attendance.

Dale and Carol Lee shared their autographed copies of A Visit to William Blake’s Inn, plus other fun stuff from New York. Dale talked about the meeting of the Cultural Arts Commission tomorrow and some of the ins and outs of getting ready for the backers auditions.

Our schedule called for us to work with members of the octet on their role for the May 3 performance. None showed up. Ginny did, but she was still dressed for work, and since Denise will be dropping by tomorrow night, we sent her home.

We decided instead to choreograph Man in the Marmalade Hat from start to finish. We worked on movement for the ToastHeads, and choreographed their movement onto the stage. We coordinated that with the ice sprites and left space for the MMH. (Galen will be in tomorrow night.)

We then switched to the Gang and their role in the piece, their close order drill. We had choreographed it before, but basically we had to reconstruct it.

Now it’s all written down, on our wall-size chart of the lyrics of the piece.

Before we left, Dale read through the prospectus he’s prepared for the Arts Commission. We discussed some kind of ideas for budget. We are having some phenomenal ideas, and it would be a shame to see them fall short because of a lack of funding. But all the indicators are that forces are lining up that will make it all possible.