Project Blog: February 16, 2010

30 Years in 17 Minutes

In September of 2002, a unique and knowing play premiered at The Bank Street Theatre. Structured in three acts, it followed the lives of two boys who meet in New York City on the night of the Stonewall riots and chronicled the men they become over the next three decades. Starting in 1969, Chuck Blasius' script follows Douglas and Jean over the course of a 30-year relationship from the beginnings of the gay rights movement, through the age of AIDS, to the Matthew Shepard Vigil in 1999.

My job was to compose nothing, but instead transport the audience in time using 7 audio collages, carefully edited to a final total of about 17 minutes. Created from clips of period vocal recordings (mostly pop, rock, folk and R&B), these scene transitions would establish the passing of five-year intervals. Some segments had to be tailored in length for wig and costume changes as well. All that seemed easy enough until, encouraged by the director, I began to manipulate a narrative thread in this audio gallery that would evolve and comment on itself as well as the play.

The cast list of We Were There consists of two actors. But in fact there were eight performers. After sorting through lists of singers and hundreds of recordings, I soon settled on five artists to follow over a 30-year journey, tracking their changing sounds and tastes. They were Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Nicks. And for good measure, an onstage radio, when on, was tuned permanently to a Dionne Warwick-only frequency.

I'm not a fan of the use of established dramatic material, music or otherwise, in original plays and musicals. Richard Rodger's "nothing old in something new" advice usually holds true for me. But in this landscape, especially without visuals, it seemed critical. These fragments of now out-of-time but still-in-touch recordings were like the bracelet that holds the charms.

We Were There was and is an important work, designed with passion and dedicated to heart-breaking memory. Nightly, audience members who had lived through those years would stay in their seats for some time after, lost in the spell of Stevie Nicks' I Miss You, not wanting to leave the theatre.

A rare and grand experience, if you were there.

1969 

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
Share Your Love With
Come Rain or Come Shine
Before The Parade Passes By
Gimme Shelter
Amber (demo)

1974 

On A Night Like This
Until You Come Back to Me
Time Waits for No One
Since I Fell For You
Crystal

1979 

Miss You
Enough is Enough
The Feeling
When You Gonna Wake Up
Sara

1984

Too Much Blood
Enchanted
Get It Right
Clear Sailing
Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight
Too Much Blood

1989

On My Way to You
Rock and a Hard Place
Rooms on Fire
Through the Storm
Has Anybody Seen My Love

1994

A Deeper Love
Just Like A Woman
As If We Never Said Goodbye
Moon Is Up
Delia
A Deeper Love

1999

Crystal
Anybody Seen My Baby
A Rose is Still a Rose
If You Ever Leave Me
One Headlight
Crystal

Listen to tracks
1969 | 1974 | 1979 | 1984 | 1989 | 1994 | 1999