Dreamcatcher - An Original Musical
One sunny afternoon Gary and I were sat in the break room at work. We were going through a list of stories that Gary had written and we were trying to decide which one would be a possibility for the stage. At this time Gary wasn't thinking "stage" and was writing these stories set in all kinds of places with loads of characters, far more than WE could ever hope to cast in a play. Nothing seemed possible, dare I even talk about "Brother Ambrose". A story about A priest who kills an older priest in a fit of rage. All I could think about was "Ambrosia Devon Custard" and I couldn't stop laughing. I don't even think Gary knows to this day why I could never take this story seriously. Brother Ambrosia Custard!
We sat back and started chatting. He mentioned that his young daughter had been having nightmares recently and he had made this story up to calm her down. I asked him to tell me the story.
It was about a girl who had bad dreams. But, in these dreams a Dreamcatcher personified in woman form would come and rescue the girl from her bad dreams so she could sleep at peace.
Immediately my mind went into overdrive. A musical! Yes! We should do a musical! Rational thinking was out the window and a West End Style musical about Native Americans set in the land of sand and stone was in. It was a great idea, or so we thought at the time. In truth the concept was solid but the story had no development, no conflict, no soul. We set to work creating about 14 characters, and started to create conflict. Good vs. bad. The Dreamcatcher was clearly good, but was it the nightmares that were bad? I started thinking Dementors from Harry Potter. What if the Nightmares were personified by three witch like spirits. Worked for Shakespeare, let's give that a try. Gary started forging a script which saw inner mind conflict, confusion, feelings of betrayal, heroism, strong female roles, strong male roles and a nice family gathering at the end.
So, to be clear, this was going to be the second jump into the void. Any sane person would not have seen a glint of hope in this enterprise. Any producer would have stormed out and left the door open. Luckily I am not sane and the adventure, challenge and ludicrousy of doing a musical was too much for me to turn away from. Crazy, challenging and fun. I'm In. Gary was in too. That's where it kind of stopped. We were worried that the idea was so out there that it would be impossible to cast. Who would want to stake their reputation on a Dream.
"I see you are doing an original musical over two weekends not one...how are you going to make money? Yeh, I don't think that it will work, but I'll be watching and use it as a business model!" - wishes to remain anonymous.
We marched on unafraid. Bollocks, we were totally scared. But we had a vision. A vision that didn't revolve around money or numbers. Our vision was and still is to this day to put on an interesting show. Yeh, sure Dreamcatcher was going to be tough. A full scale musical with a live band/fake orchestra of 8 people, a cast of 14, another 15 extras, 15 crew was what we needed to find to pull this off.
I started mailing and talking to people that I thought would be good for the roles. To my surprise they were generally interested in the idea. There had never been a show in the foreign community here in Nagoya quite like Dreamcatcher. We started to get a cast and crew together consisting of well known Nagoya community members Michael Kruse, Jeffrey Clapp, Matt Lott, Joe Sichi, Elijah Ben, Adam Demby. Micahel Walker gave a little nudge to Aya Kawakami and Mari Miyamoto and they came on board. Then there was translator extraordinaire Rie Ando. These members also recommended others, Sami Jensen, Bobby Luckhardt, Josh Smith, Aaron Deadman, Adel Ali (Dance choreographer). I called a guy I new who played classical guitar, he seemed interested and that was the day that Matt Smith joined KPB. The rest of the band was sounded by utilizing "Duckface" our rock band at the time, consisting of Yuhei Harada, Naoki Takahashi, Adam and myself. Man, I don't want to blow the trumpet, but that band worked hard and the results were excellent. To dig deeper we asked people almost at random if they were interested to be in a musical. This technique had worked as we bar hopped and asked people previously in The Composer and The Elevator. We actually also cast the lead in "Kono" a short film by asking a lady in Mr. Donuts. So we went around and asked people. With this came Noe Misaka (a student of mine who was doing kabuki), Alison Koga, Danielle Lott, Dani Koto, Tom Bauerle, Denise Hewitt and Ian Roth, who would go on to choreagraph the most ambitious battle scene yet. It's funny to think back on this now because we had some pretty funny moments in all of this. At the risk of boring you, here are a few.
I was at a party, I believe it was in Lea Lea Hale -
Steve : Hello, You look great! Can you sing?
Denise : Hi, Thank you, I like to sing..
Steve : Would you like to be in a musical?
Denise : Sure, why not.
Then there was Red Rock karaoke night which I was frequenting to try and cast some singing talent. A girl was with a group of friends and after she sang I approached her.
Steve : I really enjoyed your song. You have an amazing voice.
Alison : (insert Alison shrug and smile) Thanks.
Steve : Are you interested in being in a musical?
Another guy in the group : Don't do it, he only wants to shag you.
Well, Alison is a strong one and she came to rehearsal nervous at first and did an amazing job. She was in!
We were nearly fully cast and the read through was a huge success. The buzz was awe inspiring as we read through the script and listened to some of the demo songs. But two characters didn't seem to sit well. In fact one of the braves ended up leaving mid production and was replaced by Bobby Luckhardt. I'm so glad that Bobby came in but at the time loosing a member was a tough challenge to deal with. Cast drop outs still haunt us to this day. The "Braves" were so full of raw energy. Still now Dreamcatcher is the only play from the foreign community scene that has put the front line actors through such a rigorous work out schedule. The Braves and the female leads all took on a year of physical training to get "ripped" for their roles. Alongside that they studied Capoeira for a year to give the twirling motion to the battle scene. Watching this group build themselves up for their roles was amazing. The proof was definitely in the pudding (which I had to eat because they were only eating salads and chicken for a year)
Ouch...One of the "Shadow" characters dropped out at an early stage but was replaced quite quickly. Those Shadows really created their own family and were a formidable trio. Both Rie and Aya pushed the shadows so hard there were breaking moments. Sometimes too much for the director to handle. Nevertheless the proof was to be in the pudding. They were outstanding.
The other character which caused us grief was a lead female role "Koko" This one role was never found in the original casting. As we searched for an actress we thought would fill the role there was much worry. It was a huge problem at the time. yep, it was tough. Until one day, we were rehearsing at the Red Rock and the door opened. A girl walked in and started to watch us. I went over and introduced the group and asked what she was doing. It turned out that she was looking for a part time job at the Red Rock. There were no staff in for another couple of hours I explained and asked if she would like to wait. She said she would as long as we didn't mind her watching. I asked her if she could sing and she was shy, but she said she enjoyed singing. Next thing you know she was in the rehearsal reading for Koko and having a great time in the scenes. After an hour I asked her if she was interested in being in a musical and she said "oh, this is a musical?" ha... and that was how we met Dani Koto. Needless to say she joined the group and sang the Land of Stone which is one of my favorite numbers from the show. You can here it here.
Then there were the children. The fantastic children, shepherded by Nami. We had made a deal with a local English school and had acquired ourselves 15 children. So brave and so full of energy. You can hear them in the "Dreamcatcher heals Wakanda" song. I still miss these kids even now. I wonder if one day a person will approach me and say "Do you remember me?"
To be continued in
KPB Theatre - The family behind the curtain - Part 3
Dreamcatcher Part 2