And of course, as our production grows near, I battle my own insecurities. People see me pacing in the back of the room, or just bearing a general look of terror, and say “Don’t be ridiculous! The show is wonderful!” To which I reply, “Hey, I’m the guy who wrote a show about insecurity!”
That said, I’ve been proud of my fear/optimism ratio lately, which has leaned more in the positive direction lately than usual. I think some things people view as opposites-- like ego and insecurity, or crying and laughing-- are often more connected than people realize. This came up in a recent discussion of our Finale, in which Kathleen, our director, had some characteristically wise insights. The scene before the Finale song had lots of sharp and funny quips, whereas the Finale song itself was sweet and sentimental. We are sprinkling some of the funny lines from the scene into the song. It makes more dramatic sense, but also hopefully you’ll laugh at a joke one second and then hear something touching the next. Laughing through your tears is a heavenly feeling. I’d be thrilled if something I wrote induced that in others.
My favorite example of this feeling is in a truly brilliant piece of musical theatre writing: The hospital scene at the end of William Finn’s Falsettos, in which they hold a bar mitzvah in the hospital room of a dying character. Bill is the master of mixing joy with sadness, humor with emotion. That’s a big part of why I treasure his work so much. (If you love musical theatre and don’t own the CD to Finn’s Elegies… my highest recommendation.) Bill has been a huge supporter of Calvin Berger and had a giant impact on its structure. There is a wonderful tradition in musical theatre of established writers mentoring the younger crop. In the case of this show, Bill Finn, Jerry Bock and Stephen Sondheim have all played big roles. It is truly altruistic on their part and something I greatly admire. So, as I battle things like fear and fatigue, the emotion that always dominates is my favorite…. Gratitude.
Alright, time for rehearsal now. Come see Calvin Berger, everyone!