by Wendy Bichel
If you think coming of age stories are only about adolescents, think again. We have them throughout our lives; they just look cuter on thirteen year olds. This one, a roller coaster tale, is the result of my commitment to a romantic musical comedy I wrote well over a decade ago, Bikers in Camelot. Three years ago, my husband, Ken Bichel and I decided to produce the show here in San Miguel. We brought in the director and one of the actresses and began rehearsals. I can only say that it was not my vision of a perfect creative community of love and harmony. Then, weeks before we were scheduled to open, the director became quite ill and we were forced to pull the plug. “When theater goes bad, it goes very, very bad,” observes Dorothy Lyman, who has produced several of her plays in San Miguel, as well as having been a head writer for The Nanny.
Two factors made my commitment to Bikers unshakable. One was having heard the music sung in rehearsals. It was beautiful. It really held up, which is not always the case when you hear something over and over. There was gold in them thar’ notes. The other cause for optimism was that the subject matter, fantasy in relationships, seemed to touch everyone. Friends from 30-70 wanted to talk about it. One actor called the show brave. What mattered to me was that people were laughing from recognition. So I knew to my core that the failed production was just a glitch in the process that would ultimately lead to a better show. As much as I like to think I am in control, things happen in their own time. It hadn't been the right time . . . but it would be soon. My job was to do what I had to do to be ready.
In spite of my faith, the aborted production had taken a toll. I was a wreck. So after I took to my bed for a month, after the crying, after I discovered the value of sugar, lots of sugar, after feeling sorry for myself and playing the blame game, after all the things one does after a bad break-up, one day, I knew it was time to go back to work. Possessed by the goddess Kali, the Destroyer, I began the intense process of writing and re-writing the script, slashing and burning and re-creating.
I set up a table reading – actors sitting around a table reading the script aloud. To this I invited, among others, the director, Ken Albanese. I had just seen his hysterically funny production of The 39 Steps, a farce based on Hitchcock’s 1939 film, and had found his direction brilliant. His pacing was faster than a locomotive, something I prize. After the reading, Ken A. sent me 3 pages of really astute notes, and I knew I’d finally found a dramaturge, or script advisor. Having written the show – book, music and lyrics – without collaboration, I needed another pair of eyes and ears I could trust. That Ken A. happens to be the kind of director who can see a show inside his head in great detail, is a gift beyond compare.
So began two years of re-writes and table readings, followed by more re-writes and table readings. I wrote several new songs, including a new opening duet inspired by seeing Hamilton…in the sixth row! twice! Finally, came the moment when Ken B. (the one who’s my husband) and I booked the San Miguel Playhouse. This time it was going to happen. It is happening, February 20th through March 3rd. We’re already in music rehearsals with Ken B., the musical director. Ken A., who is (hallelujah) the director, arrives in three days and the entire cast will begin rehearsals December 28th.
This is one of those moments that’s changing my life, which is why this is a coming of age story, just as I promised you. This is installment number one. There's more to come, very soon, when I'll explore the sometimes dubious joys of being a producer. Thanks to Dr. Dave for inviting me to share this tale with you as a regular blog that will run through the show. I'll keep you updated.
To learn more about the show and watch a teaser with a few snippets of the songs, please go to our -Indiegogo campaign.
Wendy Bichel (producer, book, music and lyrics for Bikers in Camelot) graduated from Stanford in creative writing. After a successful stint in Europe singing jazz, she returned to New York City during the “golden age of cabaret,” and performed a series of original one-woman shows, including the successful, Wendy Wonder and the Permanent Wave. She received a full fellowship from the highly acclaimed Masters Program in Music Theatre Writing at NYU. She was commissioned by Gail Merrifield Papp of the Public Theater to write a ten-minute musical, then a full-length musical, Love, Sex and Rock and Roll. A European PR firm commissioned her to write a musical/pageant, The Millennium Medicine Show for Tina Turner. Among her other works are a two-actor vampire musical, Are You Dying to Live with Me; an opera, The Garden of Katan; Emir, a children’s musical; and Bikers in Camelot, which has had workshops and staged readings in New York City and further development in San Miguel de Allende, where it opens February 20, 2019.
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