The Music of Geek (by Me)

Last time I updated you on the production of Geek! HS Edition by Crystal Skillman I was working on, I only had a scratch demo of the anime theme essential to the play. Now, with our first performance already behind us, I can share the finished mixes of a few choice tracks.

"Dante's Theme" is the imagined anime series Dante's Fire at the center of the play. It pops up again and again as the two teenage fans, Danya and Honey, cosplay their way through a massive fan convention dedicated to the series (manga, anime, games, and all) and its creator, Joto Samagashi. I was going for a Madoka Magica/modern magical girl/pop-style theme.

The second piece I'm sharing here is a variation of "Dante's Theme." In Act II, Danya is brought on a magical journey around the world and the world of Dante's Fire while having a panic attack in an elevator. She winds up in an epic fantasy battle against her Internet love interest and anime series ally/rival U-Leeo.

The third piece is something very different. I'll be recycling this for Halloween in the future. One character, Spring, has a psychic vision about what Danya needs to do to meet Samagashi before the convention ends. It's an otherworldly sequence, similar to the Goddess Styx granting immortality to anyone she chooses worthy. Believe it or not, this recording was done entirely on a grand piano. I intended to recreate the drone and trills with a theremin, but a little processing in Audacity created just the right tone for the most Brechtian of scenes in the play.

There are many more cues in the show, all derived from or inspired by my original concept for "Dante's Theme." That level of consistency was important to me in this show. It's a great play with a flexible ensemble cast concept perfect for high schools. It's also a stageplay about anime with no name recognition (yet, I expect it to grow an audience over time). You have to balance the needs of the play--pure otaku-desu fantasy--with the needs of the audience.

Stranger elements are made more accessible with good design choices, and a lot of those design choices come from the 70 sound cues I programmed for the show. There are 90 light cues, too, and they play with recurring color palettes to connect the episodic structure of the show. I struggle a lot, for example, to get a 10 year old intelligent (moving, color changing, gobo-accessible) light to fit the needs of the show. I wound up using one of the quirks of the light--a very slow and color shifting fade up to the default position--as a visual reminder of the tragic circumstances surrounding one character's death before the plot of the show begins.

If nothing else, working on Geek! has taught me to be more flexible than ever when designing for a high school. You want the audience to support what the students are doing. You want the students to have help performing the show to the best of their abilities. That elevator fantasy sequence, for example, was reprogrammed a few days before the show to visually guide the audience and the actors alike to the key transformation elements--from the broken elevator to a Japanese village to  football stadium to an intergalactic battle to a fantasy forest with furry Ewok-like creatures to another area of the convention and back to the elevator. The actors fixed their staging by following the lights around the stage, and the audience had a better understanding of the action with the clear visual shifts and panned audio patterns.

I'm very proud of the work my students have done on this production. I pushed myself to give them the best light, sound, score, and specialty costumes I could to make the show work onstage. The audience loved it last night. Mission accomplished. Three more performances and with shift focus to the spring musical.

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