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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

The Perfect Theme February 6, 2017

I have the pleasure of currently living with roommates I like. I don’t mean to say that I don’t usually like my roommates or even that liking my roommates is a rarity. What is rare is having roommates who like the same TV shows as you enough to binge watch as a group. Like we’ve done with West World… and Sherlock.

And in this binging I have discovered something. Theme music is everything.

I love Game of Thrones. I love the theme music of Game of Thrones. When I plan to watch the show with friends, I automatically start singing the theme song, and with the musical theatre crowd in which I am so deeply ingrained, you can expect the counterpart and harmonies to be there as well.

We all fell in love with West World after one episode, and when we talked about watching the next one, none of us could hum the theme. We knew there were creepy piano hands and a horse, but not really what the notes were. (more…)

 

The Effing Fife August 20, 2016

I’m having problem writing a blog for you all at the moment. Mostly because I have awesome writerly news that I can’t tell you, and it’s all I can think of.

So, right.

Here’s a good story for you. The Story of the Effing Fife. My husband has an admirable life goal to learn to play as many instruments as possible. He can play the piano, the guitar, the ukulele, the mandolin, and the effing fife.

He never set out to play the fife. Never had a hankering for a fife in his life, but now he can!

We were doing a show near Gettysburg, PA, and there was a big Civil War reenactment going on. My mom was in town, and since we did a bunch of reenactments when I was growing, we decided to go. It was a fairly decent reenactment; there was singing and food, and my husband was fairly entertained for the most part. But when we started looking at the costumes and textiles, he got a little bored.

So my mom, trying to be awesome, bought my husband a fife to keep him occupied while we looked at corsets. He, being him, figured out how to play a few notes in seconds and then found an actual fife player to show him how to play them better. By the end of the day he was walking around the reenactment playing the Harry Potter theme. Yes, it was just as dorky as it sounds.

It was great for an afternoon activity, and I thought that would be the end of it. I was so, so very wrong. (more…)

 

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Crying August 8, 2016

Being a child in theatre is almost worse than being an adult in theatre. I mean, true, for me this job pays for food for me to eat and health insurance that I use liberally, but I still think it’s harder for kids. Rejection on a grand scale is still super new. Stakes opening night feel like a life or death lottery. And aging out is a constant struggle. 

You learn all the words to Mary Lenox’s song in Secret Garden and shoot up two inches so you’re too tall to audition. You really want to be Annie, but it’s not even the singing that knocks you out of the running — you’re too tall.

You can’t be Liesl in Sound of Music because you’re too young, but you can’t be any of the others because you’re too old. 90% of childhood in theatre is your own quickly growing body being too something for you to be cast. And don’t even get me started on the poor boys who get cast in a show and have to drop out cause their voices start to change. It’s a brutal, brutal world. 

When I was little, I was desperate to be in the Sound of Music. I wanted to be a Von Trapp child. Any Von Trapp child — I would have happily played a boy. My mother dutifully took me to the audition where the other little girls were dressed up like Toddlers and Tiaras, and I was dressed in the one dress I hadn’t torn to shreds playing in the yard. They lined us all up, and we had to go on stage one at a time to sing in matching(ish) groups of potential children. The group of pale, gangly brunettes was near the end, so I made my mom take me to the bathroom so I could panic in peace. 

But the bathroom was filled. Girls primping, girls crying, one girl wailing like a freakin’ banshee while her mother pinned her and put lipstick on her. It was terrifying! Why were we there!

I asked my mom to leave, but I had signed in so she made me stick it out. I gathered with my gangly group, we all sang, a few cried, and then we got rejected. It was terrible. 

And it didn’t get any easier. Not for years. Too young for teen chorus, too old for the little kids. It sucked. When the local girl booked Annie on Broadway, it sucked. When I got cast as a tap dancer in the Nutcracker, it sucked. 

But I did it. I stuck it out and became a big kid performer. I feel like I should give some speech about how the trauma was worth it, and for me it is. I mean, this is how I make my dollars. I play pretend for a living. But as far as fun hobbies for a kid, I don’t know… do mathletics or save puppies. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got.

 

Music and Lyrics April 2, 2016

So this crazy thing happened last year. My husband and I wrote a song.

See, the theatre company that we’ve been working for for a while is run by this awesome family. The patriarch decided he wanted to write a musical and asked the husband and me to be in it. We were both super excited. I mean, how often do you get to be in a brand new show with parts written just for you?

The patriarch/playwright said that we could help with the music, and I could play my beloved ukulele in the show. We had this conversation about fourteen minutes before the husband and I left Florida for a long road trip north.

We were listening to Harry Potter book on tape, a practice which has saved our marriage on more than one occasion, and I started daydreaming.

A ukulele song for me. I knew what my character’s story arch was, and I got a little bored hour five into the drive. So I decided to write out some lyrics. Just for fun. When it was time to switch drivers, I made my husband look at the lyrics. He’s the music guy. He can listen to a song and write out what notes he’s hearing, and he’s done orchestrations for shows before. So, he really knows what he’s doing.

I think he got a little bored in the car, because before we had made it north he had written the melody, and after an hour with my uke he had written out the chords.

We sent the song to the playwright. He liked it and asked us to write more. And before you knew it, the husband and I were a song-writing duo. (more…)

 

Leader of the Band November 14, 2015

Hello everyone! Chris here once again. Megan has a full schedule over the next week-and-a-half what with rehearsals for the musical version of It’s a Wonderful Life and performances of Fancy Nancy, and as I just opened the show I was working on last night, I told her that I would love to do a post on her blog and give her some more time to focus on the shows.

The show that I just opened is Plaid Tidings, the holiday followup to the original Forever Plaid, a story of four young men who come back from heaven to perform the show they never got to in life. The show is truly wonderful, and I have the pleasure of getting to play piano for it onstage every night. This is the first show that I’ve ever played without also singing, and it has been a truly stressful yet rewarding challenge getting the show open. All that aside, one of my bassists was introducing me to his girlfriend last night and referred to me as the “band leader.”

I actually freaked out a little. (more…)

 

Music and Lyrics by the O’Russells August 5, 2015

Chris here again. Megan and I are writing a musical! Well, not the book, but we are writing almost all of the original lyrics and music together. So far, we have three original songs (plus the majority of another), I’ve arranged an a cappella version of the classic Christmas Carol “O Holy Night,” and we’re still working on more material. It’s incredibly artistically fulfilling and exhausting. For one thing, I’ve written a fair few songs before, but nothing in this realm of composition. And Megan has never written lyrics before. But it is incredible how well we’ve been working together, creating song after song in a relatively short amount of time.

Maybe all of our music actually sucks, we thought. But we’ve passed the music on to our director and to four of our best and most honest theatre friends, and the response has been unanimously positive. We think we may have a good thing going here. It makes sense. We work together on her novels all the time, and we spend almost all of our time together. So, our thought patterns have sort of synced up. I guess it just goes to show that though we haven’t had to spend much time away from each other, our hearts are just as fond of each other as they ever were. Probably more so. So look out, world. The O’Russells are coming to a theatre near you (if you live in Fort Myers, FL). 🙂 Wish us luck!

 

Songs for Children (Or Creating Little Minions) July 14, 2014

Filed under: Tales of Humanity's Imperfections — meganorussell @ 8:30 pm
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When I was about sixteen, I did a show for BlahBlah Theatre for Children company. The shows were meant to be performed by adults (mostly rich housewives with too much time on their hands or retired school teachers) for children. But since I was homeschooled, I was free during the day, so I became one of the performers. True, I was a good thirty years younger than anyone else, but that isn’t the point of the story. (more…)