Christmas is over and that can only mean one thing: back to the grind of production! Casting is still ongoing, so until that announcement we thought it might be nice to give you all a view behind the scenes of DramSoc (of sorts), and stick up our proposal for Birdland that went before the committee at this term’s play proposals a few weeks ago.
We really pushed Birdland on the grounds of training up the newer members of the society into taking lead roles on productions (this is Elena’s first time producing, believe it or not, as a fairly major example), so as part of that it seemed sensible to give a breakdown of how our proposal came about, and how the process works. DramSoc is always looking for more excuses to do plays, so the more people who propose, the more we can do.
Birdland has actually been proposed three times – as you can probably guess, the first two times it didn’t get picked. This time was easily the most prepared the proposal had ever been, with a director (Jack), a producer (Elena) and a ‘whatever job title I feel like choosing today’ (yours truly) all attached. We’d even been in touch with Casarotto Ramsay, who hold the amateur performance rights, and got a tentative ‘yes’ from them if Birdland were to be selected. All very exciting.
With that all in place, we pieced together a proposal document (mostly consisting of the text of my previous two attempts), and dug up an extract that we felt showed off Birdland’s strengths as a script. If you’re wondering what the extract was, we chose the first scene of Birdland on account of it a) being the first scene, and therefore easy to find in the book and b) it fairly accurately showing the rapid-fire wit of the script. It’s all typed up here if you want to read it. As for the proposal document itself, it’s all laid out below (if you’re not interested, skip to the bit that says ‘THANK GOD THAT’S OVER’ in large-ish letters):
The last week of a massive international tour and rock star Paul is at the height of his fame. Everybody knows his name. Whatever he wants, he can have. He can screw anybody he wants to. He can buy anything he desires. He can eat anything. Drink anything. Smoke anything. Go anywhere.
As the inevitability of the end of the road looms closer, and a return home becomes a reality, for Paul, the music is starting to jar.
A piercing new(ish) play looking at empathy, money and fame.
Running time: 2hrs (Royal Court production, ran straight-through)
1 lead (m): Paul
~18 other roles, some bigger than others, with the capacity to double up. The Royal Court team managed to do it with 6, including Paul. Just for the record.
Design Notes (inc. tech):
- Birdland is open to some incredibly barmy tech – the original production featured a stage on top of a water tank, which it slowly sank into over the course of the production. The set was based around six plastic chairs and a large stone archway, which moved throughout the show to allow for some extremely rapid scene changes.
- The current plan revolves around turning the UCH into a gig venue – full-blown gig rig (lights & sound) on stage, crash barriers, very, very visible control, possibly even a bar if we feel like it? – with a black-box-esque stage space in the centre, and the audience on three sides (the fourth being the stage & barriers)
- Dealing as it does with the life of a rock star, we are looking at introducing a live music element, so that’s exciting.
- Not only is a great script that (in classic Stephens fashion) walks the line between uproariously funny lines and deadly serious issues, with plenty of great roles for actors, but with the current technical ideas we feel this show is so DramSoc it hurts.
I’ve already been in touch with the rights holders (having spoken to them about this before, natch), and after a short wait they came back with this:
“I am now pleased to inform you that your enquiry about amateur performing rights for BIRDLAND at Imperial College Union in February 2016 has been approved in principle.”
Hooray! If the proposal is successful, I have a form to send off to them to acquire a formal quote.
Script extract(s) are here.
THANK GOD THAT’S OVER. (See, told you I’d put it at the end.)
Right. That all happened. In terms of important stuff that it’s probably worth highlighting, let’s see:
That synopsis is somewhat blatantly ripped straight off the Royal Court’s original marketing. We’ve since managed to find the time to write our own, but still. I think theirs still holds up.
There was a lot of discussion over the cast breakdown. DramSoc are really keen to make sure that the casts are (if not large) then at least well-balanced, with good roles for all genders, and as many opportunities to steal the show as you can think of. Birdland has a fairly even split (if not leaning slightly towards females), but given that one of the author’s notes explicitly points out that casting according to gender, race, or anything becomes less and less important as the play goes on, we weren’t too concerned about that.
Yes, that rudimentary stage design is still very much the plan. It’s currently being tweaked to allow it to play host to actual gigs, so watch this space for more…
Live music is real, live music is happening, we are impossibly excited. Stay tuned for more on that.
That’s about it, really. This is definitely one of the shorter proposal documents I’ve written, but that’s mainly because there was the opportunity to go on for hours about all the sweet technical ideas we had. Fortunately for everyone else, I was told to shut up fairly early on in proceedings.
So, that’s the proposal for Birdland. Hopefully it was interesting/useful for you if you’re considering proposing in the future, and if it wasn’t, well. You’ll just have to come back for the next post and see if it’s any better, won’t you?