Friday, December 7, 2018

ALZHEIMER'S: The Musical

A heart-wrenching love story: humorous, funny, often serious and sad with inspirational hellos and moving goodbyes, laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, across milestones and millstones, and across lifetimes and generations.

A musical love story that weaves together three tapestries into one masterpiece: A beautiful love story, Living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and Tracing Gay History from the early 1960s through today.

You will get to witness joy, sorrow, love, commitment, growth, change, faith, coping, compassion, belief, family and friends. 

Raw and honest but compassionate and uplifting. Gives hope to a situation which basically is hopeless and progressively more difficult. You will feel, however, uplifted when the curtain goes down!

• • • • •

Well, there you are. And you can giggle if you want to. Whenever I tell people the title of the musical I am working on, there is a brief moment of laughter then a change of expression to make sure they didn't offend! 

The idea of Alzheimer's Disease as a musical is funny, so laughter is appropriate. But why not a musical? If Tony can die in Maria's arms every night and sometimes twice on matinee days (West Side Story,) if a musical can tell a story about a lesbian who is dealing with her father's sudden death as she dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life (Fun Home,) if people can be enthralled with the story of a previously, relatively little known father of our country (Hamilton;) why can it not be time for a beautiful love story between two gay men, one of whom is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and the story of their life as they cover 41 years of living through the process of Gay Liberation?

I think the world is ready for this musical. Two years in the planning, one year in the writing, and just recently completed; the book (script and story with stage, lighting, and character directions etc.) I am so excited at the prospect of the musical becoming a reality on Broadway, I cannot tell you! 

• • • • •

The idea to write this post about the musical started out with the realization of the risk, the hard work, and the fear of it.

As an idea, one can roll it around in one's head with no repercussions. What I foolishly wanted was for someone to hear about the story and be so engaged that they would listen to and read my stories and blog posts and then write a wonderful, successful Broadway musical!

Slowly I realized that I was the only one who could tell the story since the story was mine (and Gregory's) and therefore I was the only one who lived it! It was a painful process, as writing usually is for me. It took close to one year (including many edits) to come into being.

First I began thinking and taking notes about the shape of the musical including the kind of musical scenes, dances, and conversations etc it might include. Next, I took notes on the important parts of Gregory and my meeting, falling in love, and becoming a couple for over 41 years. I carefully looked at the Alzheimer's journey Gregory and I traveled and how to show the ups and downs as the disease progressed. More notes were made on the Gay Liberation milestones we lived experienced over our lifetime together.

Then the writing of the draft began. Any author can tell you that the first thing they write is usually terrible and very painful. It is in the editing, the rewriting, the rethinking and rewriting that over time it becomes something of which the author can be proud. But write one must and only by getting it all out on paper, can the process to success begin. One needs something on paper to play with, to correct, on which to muse and eventually, maybe, arrive at the completion of the work.

I worked on creating descriptions of the characters, the settings, the order of the scenes and acts, the type of "Broadway Musical" schtick to include. I created an outline of the story and then slowly, meticulously, painfully began filling in each part of the outline. Editing of the story itself went on continuously and arranging and re-arranging of the order the events was a constant.

Slowly the changing, drafting, and editing slowed down and concentration on the writing of dialogue or the purpose of the various dances and experiences shared took over. 

When I finally got to the point of feeling "done" I was quite thrilled, but in many ways, the musical still only existed in my mind. The process of getting it printed, bound into a notebook, creating the cover letter to people I wanted to critique my work made the musical more real. And with the reality of it, the anxiety level again increased because the risk of people not liking it, or my not being successful in getting the work onto the stage or even knowing what steps are necessary to do so. The biggest fear, was of FAILURE!

It was no longer just Gregory and my story as told by me, it was now a document that was being shared with at least a dozen people. Some of the people which whom the book was shared included close friends, other acquaintances, some knew the story as Gregory and I had lived it, others have had experience in Broadway musical, some were young and some older, some Gay and some straight. I told everyone to be brutally honest and I believe they will. So more pain and anxiety.

Even while discussing the pain, difficulties, fears, anxieties etc of this process; I also feel very optimistic and positive. I have been going to a lot of musicals recently both in New York City and in Chicago: Hello Dolly, Tootsie, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Gypsy, The Band Visits, Dear Evan Hanson, and others.

As I sit in the ornate beautiful theaters, with the red velvet seats around me and red velvet curtain in front of me, as I feel the energy and expectations of the arriving theatergoers, as I hear the orchestra tuning up, as I experience the lights dimming and the usual preliminary announcements being made, and as the overture begins ... I imagine that I am experiencing MY musical beginning and can visualize what it will look like, sound like, and feel like. I hear the audience's laughter, sighs, and tears and feel the applause, I imagine opening night with so many family and friends in the audience and imagine being part of bows at the end of the evening, I feel the glass of white wine in my hand as I mingle at the opening night party. And I can feel it ALZHEIMER'S: The Musical! And so it will be!

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