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Create music for a (very) short play

May 18, 2021
Christopher R. Teeple

Project 2 suggestions
Hi everybody, here are four suggestions for your second project (in case you haven’t already done it)
If you are an avid reader / book worm
A) Create a script outline for a Musical/Opera (up to 3 pages, or 1,800 words)
The purpose of this project is to explore ways in which a novel, a long poem, or a short story could be transformed into a musical play–a Broadway musical, opera, operetta, vaudeville, hip hop theatre, etc. If you love books and stories, this will be a great way to exercise your dramatic skills.

– Write one paragraph summarizing the plot (select one book, novel, short story, etc.)
– Provide a list of characters (from two to six, with or without chorus/dancers), with their names, how they fit in the story, and their voice range [e.g.: Mary: the Mayor’s daughter and school teacher, soprano; Cowboy John: the outsider, tenor; Chorus of Townspeople, etc.]
– Identify one or two major turn-of-events in the story and use them as markers to divide the whole play/novel/story into two or three sections/acts

– Identify up to 10 secondary events (scenes) in the story: where they take place, who takes part in them, what’s the musical form/genre, and group them within each act, about three for each act. (e.g.: Scene 1, a room in the Mayor’s mansion: Mary, monologue and song/aria, etc; Scene 3, the town square, everybody, square dance).
– Keep in mind that you may use music and speech-like dialogues/monologues, which can be sung recitative (in opera) and/or spoken (in operettas, comic operas, and musicals).

– Give special thought to the end of the first act, where the plot may get complicated and will need resolution in the next act, as well as the final scene, where the story will be resolved. The original story may give you some clues, but for dramatic purposes, you don’t necessarily need to end at the precise point that the story ends.
– This is not a libretto/script, but an outline for it, where you will decide which parts of the original story you will use. Also keep in mind that you will need to greatly simplify the story, so don’t worry about it and stick to the essential.
When thinking about characterization, there are many websites with resources for screenplay writing, from which you can get some ideas, like this one:

There are also books and sites that go deeper into the process of adaptation, but you won’t be required to do any adaptation, only to suggest ways it can be done:
Page to Stage: Adapting a Book into a Play (Part 1)
It will all depend on the conventions of the genre you are choosing, and, of course, you may want to do an opera/musical that breaks these conventions.

If you are a fashionista, designer, bricoleur, or do-it-yourselfer
B) Create an outline and set design for a Musical/Opera
In this variation of suggestion A, you will keep the verbal outline to a minimum (just a brief description of each act) and will also provide sketches for stage design and costumes.
The following websites are just starting points!

Read, render, realize

Critical Steps in Producing a Play or Musical: Set Design

https://www.geneseo.edu/~blood/CostumeDesign1.html (see also page 2)
https://www.geneseo.edu/~blood/SetDesign1.html (see also page 2)
If you are a composer / songwriter

C) Create music for a (very) short play
Select an existing short story, play, novel, or even a narrative poem (like Poe’s “The Raven”), and create 3-4 musical numbers for it. One of them may be purely instrumental. You may use techniques that we have studied, like crafting themes/leitmotifs for the main characters, or using musical painting (but not too much!).
Depending on the text you choose, you may even write a protest/political song, or a religious/sacred one, etc.

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