Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Well, it's New Year's Eve. My local production of Beauty and the Beast has wrapped, and now there's nothing to do but look forward to the new year and set some writing and acting goals for myself.

2007 was an excellent year. I got my first paid writing assignment (for Pet Gazette magazine), and landed my first leading role in a musical. I was lucky; I sort of fell into those opportunities. But I plan to step up my game in 2008.

So without further ado, here are MusicalWriter's 2008 New Year's Resolutions:

1. Blog at least five times a week. That should work out to once every weekday, but since I do work full-time, I know there will be days when I just won't have time. If that happens, I plan to catch up on the weekends. So please stick around, because there will be plenty of new content on this site in January.

2. Spend at least an hour a day researching markets, sending out queries, and applying for freelance gigs.

3. Watch less TV---which shouldn't be too difficult now that my favorite shows are gone due to the WGA strike---and use my newfound free time to write. (Although as much as I'm enjoying the free time, I'm starting to go through severe Pushing Daisies withdrawal. Sigh.)

4. Overcome my crippling audition fear by trying out for more community theatre productions. If I don't get cast, I don't get cast...but I have more confidence in my abilities now, and the more I audition, the easier it should get. Theoretically.

5. See at least four professional shows this year (I've been averaging three a year, and I'd like to add one), and as many amateur or school productions as possible. Nothing makes me appreciate my favorite art form more than watching other actors do their thing.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here's to a fantastic 2008. What are your resolutions?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Gifts for the Musically Obsessed

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday. I know I did.

Santa was awfully good to me this year. I got almost everything I asked for, which means I'm in a great mood as we head toward 2008. Among other things, I got:
  • The Anti 9-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube by Michelle Goodman. I've already read it cover-to-cover, and I highly recommend it to every freelancer or entrepreneurial type out there. Inspiring, motivational, practical, and funny, it's an excellent read that's packed with good advice for getting off your kiester and doing whatever it is that you always wanted to do.

  • Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. I can't believe I've gone as long as I have without this book in my library. A writer and editor can never have too many style guides, and this is one of the very best there is. It's now sitting proudly beside my AP Stylebook in my cubicle at work, waiting to be studied whenever I have downtime.

  • Sweeney Todd movie soundtrack. Did I see the movie the second it came out? Yep. Did I love it? Yep. Do I have some minor nitpicks? Of course. Will this all be covered in its own blog post sometime in the next week or two? You bet.

  • Company revival cast recording. It's been a Sondheim-heavy Christmas, but you'll never hear me complain. I'm still bummed that I missed out on this John Doyle-directed revival, especially after seeing his adaptation of Sweeney twice last year, but at least now I have the music to get me through my day. It's a lovely CD. The orchestrations are breathtakingly gorgeous, and Raul Esparza's voice is just thrilling to listen to.

  • South Pacific in Concert CD. I've had the concert itself on DVD for a while. It's a lot of ways, South Pacific is my least favorite of the "big" Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. I generally find the plot boring and dated. But, done right, it contains some of the most gorgeous melodies the duo ever wrote together. And this concert is done right. With the unique country "twang" of Reba McEntire, the velvety baritone of Brian Stokes Mitchell, the spot-on comedy of Alec Baldwin, and the rich tones of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by the incomparable Paul Gemignani, it's an absolute joy to listen to.

What did you get this year that was particularly fun or interesting?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Favorite Holiday Musicals

With just five days left till Christmas, the signs of the holiday season are all around us. Christmas has always been my absolute favorite time of year—moreso this year because I feel like I have so many more blessings than usual. I have a wonderful husband, a good job, and great friends.

And for the first time since 1996, I’m involved in a holiday musical production.

I know most people probably don’t think of Beauty and the Beast as a “holiday” show, and usually, it’s not. But the Wilmington Drama League, where the show is being mounted, is advertising it as its yearly holiday musical extravaganza. And with just a few little touches here and there, it really has become a Christmas show.

As I was thinking about this today, I realized that there are a bunch of musicals that I associate with the holiday season, even though they may not technically be “Christmas” shows. For whatever reason, they remind me of Christmas. I’ve listed them below.

Beauty and the Beast. I’ll start with the show I’m involved with this year. Since it’s being billed as a Christmas production, the production team went out of their way to make the show look as festive as possible.

The biggest example of this is in our finale. After the climactic fight scene and the subsequent transformation of the Beast, all the stage lights come up and illuminate the entire castle set. As the former enchanted objects celebrate their newfound humanity, several young cast members set up a Christmas tree and begin decorating the set.

The finishing touch is a lovely holly garland that stretches the length of the stage and is lowered into place as Belle and the Prince return to the stage in their finale costumes. It’s an absolutely stunning effect that just adds a gorgeous holiday layer to an already magical finale.

Beyond that, there’s just a feeling of magic that a show like this brings to the cast, crew, and audience members. It feels absolutely electric onstage, and based on the comments I’ve received after the show, the audience feels it, too.

Because of this, Beauty and the Beast will always remind me of Christmas.

Rent/The Producers/Sweeney Todd. I’m lumping these three together because they’re all on the list for the same reason: The movie versions of these shows (which just so happen to be three of my favorites) were all released around the holidays.

It’s a tradition in my husband’s family to see a movie on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, after dinner. We love movie musicals, so if there’s one playing, chances are it’s the movie we’ll all want to see.

This year will be no exception...even though I'm seeing Sweeney Todd as soon as it opens, I have a feeling I'll want to see it again on Christmas Day.

I still remember going to see Rent in theatres in 2005. My husband and I caught the last show of the night, so it was after midnight before the film wrapped up. It had started to snow lightly while we were enjoying the movie, so when we exited the theatre, we were treated to a breathtaking nighttime view of our town lightly dusted with snow. It was the first snow of that season. I’ll never forget it.

The Sound of Music. The movie, not the stage show. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that “My Favorite Things” has somehow become a Christmas song, or whether there’s always a broadcast of the film on TV at this time of year, but I absolutely love watching this movie around the holidays.

It’s funny, because it’s not a holiday movie in the slightest, but it manages to evoke the same feelings of warmth and happiness that Christmas cookies and eggnog bring—which makes it the perfect complement to the holiday season.

Scrooge/A Christmas Carol. Okay, so unlike the others, this actually is a traditional holiday show. But it’s still one of my favorites. Who doesn’t love Charles Dickens’ classic story of redemption? For my money, it’s a great story that just gets better when it’s set to music.

Scrooge is probably the most well-known version of the show, but if you look around, you can probably find another musical version running in your area. I even saw a school production one time that just interspersed Christmas carols wherever they would fit into the story. For example, the chorus sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” just before the Ghost of Christmas Past arrived, and the partygoers at Fezziwig’s sang the traditional English carol “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” It was simple, yet effective.

Happy holidays to my fellow theatre-savvy readers! What musicals remind you of the holidays?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Common Grammatical Mistakes

After reading this post on one of my favorite blogs, I felt inspired to list some of my biggest grammatical pet peeves.

I’m a full-time copy editor at TV Guide. That basically means that I get paid to be a Grammar Nazi. As a result, I know a lot of nitpicky rules about grammar that the average person probably doesn’t know (like the difference between “convince” and “persuade,” for example). However, it makes me absolutely insane when people mess up on the easy things.

Thankfully, the writers I work with are wonderful and don’t make a whole lot of really common mistakes in their copy. However, there are things I see and hear in everyday life—often from people I know and love—that just make my teeth hurt.

Some examples:

1. The inexplicable use of apostrophes to indicate plurals. I don’t know when this became the accepted use, but with the holiday season upon us, I am constantly seeing advertisements for “CD’s” or “DVD’s. I can almost excuse that, since people don’t ever seem to know how to pluralize acronyms. (It’s easy, by the way…just add an “s” and make it “CDs” and “DVDs.” If you throw in an apostrophe, you make it possessive.) But what I can’t excuse is the way some people use apostrophes in basic plurals all the time. My local SaladWorks proudly advertises that they sell “panini’s.” A hair salon downtown offers “haircut’s.” No, people, no. Please stop.

2. People who mix up “Leave me alone” and “Let me be” and instead come up with “Leave me be” and “Let me alone.” The first two make grammatical sense. But the new constructions are utter gibberish. As Bill Walsh, copy editor for The New York Post, once said, “’Let me alone’ makes about as much sense as ‘Allow me to purple.”

3. It’s/its and you’re/your. Can we please get this straight? “It’s” is a contraction, short for “it is.” “Its” is a possessive. Same for you’re vs. your. “You’re” is a contraction that’s short for “you are.” “Your” is a possessive.

4. This drives me nuts: “$10 dollars.” No. No, no, no. It’s either $10 or 10 dollars. To use the dollar sign and then spell out “dollars” is redundant. Same for “6:00 o’clock” or “5 am in the morning.”

5. People saying “loose” when they mean “lose.” I’m not sure why this is even an issue. They’re two completely different words—they mean different things, they’re spelled differently and they’re PRONOUNCED differently. So why is this such a common mistake?

6. “A lot” is not spelled “alot,” and “all right” is not spelled “alright.”

I’ve got hundreds more, but those are the ones that make my spine tingle when I see or hear them. What are some common mistakes that irritate you the most?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tech Week

Since September, I’ve been rehearsing the role of “Mrs. Potts” for a local community theatre production of Beauty and the Beast. It’s been an exhilarating and eye-opening journey. I’d done shows before this, but only as a chorus member. This was my first experience creating a character, memorizing dialogue, or having to sing on my own. It was a terrifying prospect at first, but as I got more comfortable with the role and with my fellow cast mates, it got a lot easier.

Our show opened last Friday, after a grueling tech week. Time is strange when you’re rehearsing and performing a show. We had three months of rehearsal. The first two months went by so slowly, it felt like we would never reach our performance dates. Then, suddenly, we only had a month left. Our set went up, our costumes came in, and time started to fly. It felt like we would never get everything done in time for opening night.

Then tech week came. This week, which is not-so-affectionately known by theatre people as “hell week,” is always long and involves a lot of work as the finer points of the show—lighting, sound, scenery, props—come together. But in a show like Beauty and the Beast, with its enormous set pieces, special effects, pyrotechnics, and mountains of fog, it’s truly hellish. A 10-hour Sunday rehearsal—where we only managed to get all the way through the show once—was followed by three nights of dress rehearsals, a preview, and then three opening-weekend performances.

Tech week dragged. I work full-time as an editor in an office that takes about an hour to get to with rush-hour traffic, so I spent the week getting up two hours earlier than usual in order to leave work at 5:00 pm, drive straight to the theater, and rehearse until 11, 11:30, midnight. And then I’d have to get up early the next morning and do it all over again. By the time opening night arrived, I was utterly exhausted and felt like I’d run a marathon.

We had a performance Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. And would you believe it—they flew by. I still can’t believe we’ve already performed this thing three times. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. Just like that, our opening weekend is behind us and we’re three performances closer to the end of our run.

And then, would you believe it—this week is going by even more slowly than last week seemed to. This week—an easy week, where we have no rehearsals and nothing theatre-related until Friday night’s show—is seemingly endless. The thing is, throughout all of the grueling tech rehearsals and subsequent performances, the cast really bonded and became something of a family. So to not be surrounded by all those wonderful people this week is actually pretty tough.

It’s proof that this is, by far, the most amazing and magical production I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so happy to have seven performances (plus an additional “school” performance) left.

What’s your favorite hell week story?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Hi, and welcome to my blog. My name's Angela, and I'm an East Coast freelance writer and editor.

I'm not 100% sure what I hope to accomplish with this blog. I imagine I'll talk about writing and editing quite a bit, as well as my other main hobby: nonprofessional community theatre. So if you're a fellow writer, or you're interested in any of these things, I hope you'll stick around.

Because I hate introductory posts with a passion, that's all I'm going to say for now as far as who I am. You'll get to know me, and I'll hopefully get to know you, more as this blog grows. So instead of giving a whole bunch of uninteresting factoids about myself, I'd like to ask a question for my new readers.

Who is your greatest inspiration? If you’re a writer, who or what inspired you to write? If you’re not a writer, who is your hero? Who makes you aspire to be a better person?

For me, my inspiration has always been Jim Henson. I was a child of the 80s, so I watched “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show” when they were in their heyday. I’d watched every Muppet movie and had tons of Muppet records, toys, games, you name it. As an adult, I’m still a fan. Jim Henson’s work inspires me daily, both as an artist and in my everyday life.

I’m not a children’s writer. I don’t have kids of my own. Yet the messages spoken by these little felt puppets still affect me on a deep, personal level, even as an adult. And I think it’s because the overarching theme of “The Muppet Show” and old-school “Sesame Street” was that everyone is special, deserves happiness and love, and shouldn’t be afraid to pursue their dreams.

“It’s not easy being green…[but] it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.”—Kermit the Frog

“Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear—just sing, sing a song.”—Sesame Street

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending.”—Kermit, “The Muppet Movie”

As a writer, I’m always struck by the simplicity of Muppet dialogue and lyrics. Henson never felt like he had to keep kids’ attention by throwing lots of bright, flashy things at them. And he never talked down to them. And it worked. It’s been over 20 years since I was first introduced to Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Fozzie Bear, and Kermit the Frog. But they’ve stayed with me. I can’t even tell you how many brighter, flashier things have faded from my memory completely.

Jim Henson has absolutely affected my writing style. I strive to keep things simple and honest, and to stay as true to myself as possible while simultaneously pursuing my dream to be a full-time writer…a dream I’ve had since I was eight years old.

And now I'm dying to know...who’s your greatest inspiration?