Last night my friend, Andy, and I had our first reading (and listening) of the rock opera that we have been working on for several months. A group of friends gathered round my dining room table, gobbled pizza and drank beer, and read the parts that were assigned to them for the evening.
It was a lot of fun.
It was the first opportunity for me to hear Andy’s music and my dialogue come together, and even though much of what I had written sounded like nails on a chalkboard, I thought that together, we had the potential for something good.
It needs work. Lots of work. But I think we’re off to a fine start.
The greatest challenge for me throughout this process has been attempting to write a story that someone else has already outlined. The opera began with about a dozen songs and the outline of a story that Andy had conjured up during a fit of boredom. Since then it has grown to eighteen songs, and I have begun to flesh out the characters and plot that Andy had originally imagined through characterization, plot and dialogue. But throughout the writing, I have attempted to remain as loyal as possible to my friend’s original concept, and it hasn’t been easy. The first thing I did was change the protagonist, inventing one that I found more interesting and sympathetic, and necessitating the writing and recording of more music. I’ve added other, minor characters along the way and shifted the plot a bit, but each time, I’ve felt more and more guilty for not staying true to Andy’s original vision.
Last night’s reading, however, was enlightening. Our friends seemed to agree that for the most part, Andy’s music rocked but the underlying story didn’t hold up under scrutiny. There wasn’t enough dialogue to make the characters real and believable. There wasn’t enough back-story. The characters, except for my protagonist, were flat, lifeless and oftentimes irrelevant. In short, my friends sent me the message that I must do more, and in doing so, they gave me permission to be creative.
Andy has already encouraged me to be creative many times throughout the process. He has told me on several occasions that I have the freedom to do as I will, but I think I needed to hear this from someone other than the man who gave birth to the idea. I’ve been so worried about stepping on his toes that I have been afraid to take a single step. Now that the critics have spoken, I am ready to take a leap and put my stamp on this rock opera.
I find myself more excited than ever about it.