One of the things I enjoy most about working with creative people is watching them take ideas and give them new life.
This process is a combination of art, magic, and hard work, but the result is worth it.
One of the best examples of this in recent memory has been watching my old friend Caroline Wigmore take an idea and bring it to life in multiple formats.
Caroline and I once worked together in the trenches, engaged in such pedestrian duties as covering city council meetings and Easter egg hunts.
Since then, she has married a young man she met in her travels, moved to London, started a family, and taken an idea and developed it into a musical.
She started with the tale of Rip Van Winkle, the familiar old short story by Washington Irving about a guy who took a really long nap.
Although today Caroline are separated by an ocean, instead of working a couple desks apart, I have had the privilege of following her progress.
I am reasonably familiar with the writing process, but I know nothing at all about writing music, so I am doubly impressed by what Caroline has been able to accomplish.
After a few years of development, including collaboration with the talented Jennifer Green who did the musical arrangements, “Van Winkle A Folk Musical” was finished.
Caroline secured funding to produce an album of the music from “Van Winkle,” using singers and musicians in Britain and the US.
The logistics of such an undertaking must have been daunting, but Caroline has embraced technology, and seems to be able to juggle projects on two continents successfully.
I remember being blown away the first time I listened to the CD. I was astonished at how far it had come since the first time Caroline casually mentioned she was working on a musical based on “Rip Van Winkle.” Some of the story was familiar, but what she had done with it was delightfully different.
Caroline’s original music for the project uses traditional instruments and the style of American folk music to capture the setting of the piece, and converts them to something fresh.
The album is only one part of the process.
Recently, Caroline and Jen visited the US, and we had the opportunity to attend a workshop reading of “Van Winkle A Folk Musical” in a small theater in Minneapolis. The music was the same, but the workshop reading was a completely different experience than listening to the music alone.
Caroline and Jen assembled a group of extremely talented singers and musicians for both the album and the workshop production.
Watching these performers read the script took the experience to a new level, and my appreciation for what Caroline has accomplished deepened.
The characters became real people, and shifting the story back between two time periods was a brilliant and successful plot twist.
The purpose of the workshop readings is to get the material in front of more people, and, with any luck, find a partner to help bring the full production to the stage.
I am confident Caroline will find such a partner, and her project be produced someday. The material is that good, and the number of awards it has earned are evidence that a lot of people other than former co-workers think so.
Watching the evolution of a project like Caroline’s musical makes me look at other productions differently.
Instead of just seeing the finished product, I can see the writer, alone in a lonely room armed with nothing but a pencil or a keyboard and an idea.
As impressive as the final glossy production may be, to me, the real excitement comes from watching the transformation from the original idea to the finished product, a process that is rather like watching a creature go through a complex metamorphosis, develop wings, and begin to fly.