Our Story: A Work in Progress
In the winter of 2019/2020, FUSE was busy creating a beautiful production of Disney 'The Lion King Jr.' With a phenomenal young cast ranging in age from 5-17 and hailing from all over the state of CT, we were so excited to kick off our new company with a blockbuster youth show in front of a sold-out audience.
We were expecting to open at our then-venue Performance Plus/RVP Studios in West Haven on March 20th, 2020. Long story short, that did not happen. We don't need to explain why. You all know. *insert dramatic sigh here*
Devastated and disoriented, we held out hope for a deus ex machina-style intervention that would allow us to reschedule. Alas, the pandemic had other ideas and our venue was forced to close its doors. We gathered up our props, costumes and Pride Rock and took some time to soul search about what to do next.
What was clear was that our young performers were deeply disappointed about the loss of their show, so we continued to meet for Zoom rehearsals to see how that would work for us (yikes), and we contacted MTI for permission to create a video production for our cast, to give them closure. From April to July, we rehearsed on Zoom, filmed scenes virtually and songs in person outdoors. We managed to piece together a "tapestry" of our show utilizing the new footage and mixing in rehearsal footage from B.C. (Before Covid).
Our company watched the show "together apart" on August 15th, 2020, and the results of our effort were surprisingly satisfying. Would we have preferred to slay in front of five adoring sold-out audiences? Of course. But we felt good about what we made and folks reported back that they truly enjoyed the show and were moved by it.
Perhaps you, dear reader, can get a sense of what the show was like by watching this preview:
Thank you for watching! Doesn't this preview make you want to watch the whole thing to see more of our incredibly beautiful and gifted young cast tell this beloved story their way? Well, too bad because it is against intellectual property and copyright laws to show it to you. #sadface
A question you may have: "What do you mean it is not legal to show me your beautiful virtual production of 'The Lion King Jr.'?"
We get this question a lot. Many people do not know that plays, musicals (and the songs from musicals for cabarets and other live out of context performances) cannot be presented for an audience without the company first applying and being approved for licensing rights through professional companies like Music Theatre International (MTI), Concord Theatricals, Dramatists Play Service, etc. These companies represent the interests of the writers and other creators who have a stake in each title's origination. Everyone involved gets royalties for every production of their show, regardless of who does it. A Kindergarten production of 'Les Mis' still has to pay for the production rights and the use of associated materials (such as scripts and orchestrations for the pit musicians).
Side note: Now we really want to see a Kindergarten production of 'Les Mis.' It gives a whole new meaning to "Look down!"
For fledgling companies like ours, the problem with filmed licensed shows like 'The Lion King Jr.' is that you can't share them publicly or charge money for them (at least not at that time), so we were limited as to how, when and where we could share our work on that show.
By the end of summer 2020 it became universally clear that the Covid Monster had every intention of overstaying its welcome, but we felt strongly about jumping right in to a second show to keep our spirits up and our new company's pulse alive. If people were to know who we are and what we are about, we needed to choose a second project that we could share however we wished to whomever we wished for as long as we wished. Licensing restrictions had been our problem with the last production, so clearly we needed to pick a show that would not have these sorts of conflicts.
Enter the beautiful thing that is known as "PUBLIC DOMAIN."
The public domain consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable.
As examples, the works of William Shakespeare, Ludwig van Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci and Georges Méliès are in the public domain either by virtue of their having been created before copyright existed, or by their copyright term having expired.
Many artists have taken works in the public domain and created something new with them. For instance, the 20th century love song guru Barry Manilow used Chopin's lush 'Prelude in C Minor' as the foundation of 'Could It Be Magic' and we are pretty sure that the ensuing musical magic resulted in many a first dance and, you know, a whole generation of progeny.
Spirit move us, indeed.... Whooo, lawds. #fanilow
How do you pull off a "Manilow" and take an existing, very famous creative work and make it feel brand new? Well, music is the way. At least for us. So our Artistic Director Lara Morton casually asked our Music Director Lydia Arachne (composer, multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, teacher, activist, future legend) if she would be interested in writing a score for a Shakespeare comedy.
Lydia: "I'm interested... but I need more information first."
Lara: "And I'd love to give that to you, but the entire project is contingent upon you saying 'yes,' so... Are you saying 'yes'?"
She said yes.
And then we brought on Elizabeth Santaus as Executive Producer, Noah Golden as Production Designer/Editor, April Chateauneuf as Scenic Artist, Jake Egan O'Hara and Nightwing Whitehead as Costume Designers, and set down to the task of stone-souping our way to a total transformation of a classic theatrical work by the greatest playwright of all time into a sublime chocolate and peanut butter blend of Shakespeare and Musical Theatre (essentially, Lara's idea of Heaven). Yes, that was one sentence.
For the next nine months, our team of creatives manilowed hard and our collective progeny, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream- The Rewired Musical was born.' You can read all about here, and watch it here for free, forever, until the end of time and/or the internet.
'A Midsummer Night's Dream- The Rewired Musical' is our love letter to the unique period of time where the world of theatre found a new way to tell stories (to varying degrees of success and watchability).
Rather than ask our audiences to suspend belief that a Zoom-box forest isn't a Zoom-box forest, we decided to embrace the virtual medium and set our characters in July 2020, a time when all of us were at the mercy of our devices to stay connected with the outside world. Our lovers are teenagers dealing with social distancing, societal constructs designed to keep them apart, and parents who just don't understand. Our fairies live inside the internet and enjoy "harmlessly" messing with our love lives through catfishing and other forms of electronic meddling. Our Mechanicals are a passionate community theatre troupe comprised of essential workers who just want to put their Zoom play on as the entertainment for Theseus' virtual wedding reception. It's not only a lot of fun, but our Covid concept effectively answered the question, 'Why this play now?'