Notes from the Dramaturge

September, 1, 2011 - Oklahoma! thoughts

Welcome to the brand new website for UH's production of Oklahoma! This has been a work of love, not just for myself, but also for Lurana (our fearless director). We are truly excited to have this site at our disposal because it is our place to put any interesting information that we might find regarding the show.

For the past 4 months or so, I have been delving into the history of Oklahoma! along with Oklahoma's state history. The production history of the show has been the most fascinating to me because I, like a majority of the population, had swept Oklahoma under the rug with phrases like: "It's a Rodgers and Hammerstein show", "Fluffy", "Boring", "old fashioned", etc. After reading a chapter about how R&H came up with the show, I realized that it is not nearly as "fluffy" as I originally Holiday Palace thought.

For the past 60 years, Oklahoma went from an absolutely stunning show to the most cliched show that every high school, except mine apparently, just HAD to do. Frankly, that was always my impression of the show. Oklahoma! is a Rodgers and Hammerstein, which meant that it was corny, sentimental claptrap. It's old fashioned, musicals that the boomer generation.

However, when Oklahoma! opened, it shocked the world. In an era when musical theatre mostly involved tap dancing girls, cheap comedy routines, and a scant plot line, Oklahoma!was completely groundbreaking. Not only did it have a solid plot line, the songs made sense within the story, and in addition, the songs are good and simple.

There is so much more to this musical than we, as a modern audience, see because we live an era where big, golden era musicals are obsolete. We live in an era of theatre that is constantly analyzed. Professors sit in class and analyze plays and musicals with their students in order to understand the playwrights' meaning. Why can't and don't we do the same with R&H musicals? Maybe it's because they are considered old fashioned? Maybe its because they've been analyzed to an inch within their lives, and there isn't much point anymore. As scholars, we tend to gloss over the plays and musicals that are thrust down our throats as children, maybe because we don't want to relive those feelings and probably because we think that because of its exposure, there's no point in analysis.

September 15, 2011 - First Week

We started rehearsals this week! I am truly excited to be a part of this production, and the cast is HUGE! Such a difference from Waiting for Godot where I only worked with 5 people. Wow.

Watching the beginnings of rehearsals, I am amazed at how diverse this cast is. We have people from Theatre, Dance, Math, Asian Studies, etc. Everyone has come together because they love musicals and because they want to be here, even if they work in different areas. I have always felt that the arts could bring people together, and this cast proves me right. There are so many different experiences both in Royal1688 theatre and otherwise, that could really contribute to how fantastic this show will be.

I'm also amazed at how readily I have been accepted into this cast. Usually, I am in the background, which, I'm normally fine with, but I am here to help the cast, the director(s), designers, etc. But I have been accepted so easily and I really appreciate that.

Anyway, that's all I really have for now. I am so excited to be a part of this production. After 3-4 months of pre-production work, I'm eager to see it all come together.

October 3, 2011 - Oklahoma in '76
We're adding a whole new section to the website this week: Oklahoma! in '76. This was the last time this show was produced at UH Manoa and if you were to look at this program and the one that goes along with our show, you would be able to notice that there are people who worked on the '76 production who are still here (Look for Joe Dodd's memory in the cast and crew memories).

I was looking through the pictures over the weekend, there are only about 7 of them, but it is so difficult to choose which ones I want to put up because they are all so interesting to look at. There are some color photos the cast, and other black and white photos of the production itself. I am also happy to say that our production seems to be going in a completely different direction, which for a show like Oklahoma! is a good thing. There are only so many productions of Oklahoma! and any reason to make the show different is great.

I'm also hoping to get in contact with some of the cast members from that '76 production and hopefully, they will be willing to post memories of their own experiences. I'm also hoping that they will come see the show if they're still on island. It would be really fascinating to hear about their reactions and memories. I am also eager for them to meet our cast and maybe get some photos at the same time.

October 16, 2011 - Oklahoma's Place in History

I was at lunch the other day with a friend who was telling me about her great love for Oklahoma! and just how much this show has impacted musical theatre.

I have to admit that while I have been working on this show for the past 3 months and knew that the show really was a turning point in musical theatre, it had never really dawned on me just how important this show actually is. I mean, if it weren't for Oklahoma! we might still be watching vaudeville type shows where the whole point is to show off one specific person's talent. Without Oklahoma! we might not have had the shows that are incredibly popular today. Songs would be supporting the actor, instead of the story, which would not have been one cohesive whole.

Thinking about this later, I realized just how indebted the musical theatre community is to R&H. That is not to say that anything before them wasn't important, because it's all important, but if it weren't for R&H, everything that has been created since would not have had such a strong base to work off of. Without Oklahoma!, there might not have been a Wicked, a Rent, or Into the Woods. Everything that we are taught in musical theatre classes is based off of what R&H have done.

The major problem with anything that R&H is that it's hard to find a new take on their shows. Why? Maybe because we've given them the "happy" label and it's hard to break out of that. But if one were to really dig into their plays, it's easy to see that their body of work is quite dark and modern. Jud is trying to kill Curly to get Laurey. Laurey is becoming a woman, and that is a scary enough situation for any young female adult. Curly is willing to give up everything he loves in order to get the girl of his dreams.

We may take R&H for granted now because we have had so many musicals since that have blown all of us out of the water. But, like everything else, we can't forget our roots and for musical theatre, whether we like R&H or not, can't forget where those amazing musicals have come from.

November 4, 2011

Opening Night! Actors are ready, set is ready, lobby display is all set. All the elements have been put together to create a great show.

I was thinking the other day that the reputation of this show made it so easy to dramaturge. The sheer magnitude that the musical had on musical theatre history really made this play a joy to work on. But, what also made it easy to work on is this cast and crew. They were very welcoming to whatever information I could give them. They asked questions about their characters and the history of the show and Oklahoma. This truly was a great cast to work with.

After my part of a show is over, I always ask myself if I could have done more. The answer is almost invariably yes. But, I'm happy with what was accomplished on this show, especially before production started. This website, especially was a work of love and happiness for me because I knew that I had the opportunity to research something completely new and share that with my cast. That is, by far, my absolute favorite aspect of dramaturgy. I love working with actors and helping them to learn more about their characters and situations.

I just love my job.