“Lots of moving parts involved in the development of any play, but more so a musical, more so a musical-satirical play, more so a never-before-produced-Greg Kotis-original-musical-satirical play. All Your Questions Answered is all of this. Maybe there is some reprieve from the challenges involved because the play is a series of shorts – I don’t know if the effort to construct the work as one fully connected play would be too much – a bridge too far. Then again, the effort to master one segment, with all the music, content, blocking, nuance, etc. firing correctly, and then to realize there are another twenty-plus more segments that need the feat replicated is daunting on multiple levels.
But it’s happening and it’s fascinating to watch the construction happen. The cast is contributing their acting skills, music abilities, and even changing the set pieces and providing background sound effects for the pieces. I continue to admire everything they’re bringing to the show, and I feel they will be well-equipped for any theatrical challenges the future holds for them.
There is an evident mutual respect between Sean and the cast and it’s a main component in allowing a good deal of progress to occur in a short time. Sean thinks aloud with the cast as they work through pieces, but he is a clear communicator and finds effective ways of getting what he needs from his actors. On Thursday as they practiced a challenging musical segment about the American Dream gone awry, Sean was getting the correct movements and words but not the spirit that he was looking for. After a couple of various attempts to find what he wanted, he took all the music away and had the actors just speak through it – not an easy thing in itself I thought after they had been singing it and had the rhythms and cadences so fresh in their minds and on their lips. Nevertheless, they did the piece without the music and I thought it was a great technique that allowed Sean to pinpoint what he wanted. It allowed the actors to capture the spirit he wanted without the layering of the music interfering with the process. I thought the piece was so good without the music that I kind of feared its return, but when it was reapplied, everything worked, and what Sean had been searching for, I believe, was found.
Sean later played some other songs that he had collaborated on with Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman to illustrate musical and thematic points, and also – I was thrilled to hear – a taped message he had from Monty Python legend Michael Palin had left for Sean. Sean used all of these effectively to give his cast extra tangible (or audible) examples of how to perhaps capture the constantly moving target of Kotis’s writing.
The pieces themselves show Kotis’s brilliant wry humor. A segment about Granpa’s cologne ‘strong like a man should be’ is hilarious, and the cast’s music ability (the piece has a musical signature like a 1940s or 1950s advertisement done by Radio City Hall singers) is showcased here and in many other segments.
I spoke with Sean about the challenges of doing a never produced play and he described it as being freeing since it is the original production, but how it is also like “pushing against cobwebs” with nothing to gauge choices against. I thought this was an apt description and a good example of how Sean’s ability to give an abstract idea something that can be grasped by others.
Two weeks in and cast and director have made great progress. Going to go see a run through of the show this afternoon and will see how the whole thing is coming together! Ciao for now!” – Paul Root