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Vocal Range of Characters:
Written By: Joe Iconis & John Simpkins
A FEW WORDS FROM JOE (who wrote the thing) AND JOHN (who directed the thing)
Hey there! Welcome to the world of Things To Ruin. We’ve been living in this world for quite some time and are excited to have some company. Before you dive in, we wanted to explain some stuff, offer some suggestions, and give some advice. Feel free to take every word to heart or ignore every damn thing we say.
WHAT IS THIS THING?
Things To Ruin is its own beast. Some of the songs were written specifically for the show, some of the songs found their way into the show. The themes and ideas and characters are intentionally vague and we very purposefully did not connect things in an obvious or explicit way. This is a show that operates in feelings, gut emotions, and collective power. The hope is that the audience leaves the performance venue feeling as if they’ve seen a piece of musical theater, but are not entirely able to describe what they’ve seen. If you have to give it a label, call it a Theatrical Rock Concert. Or something better. Just don’t call it a song cycle. Cuz who the hell wants to see a song cycle?
WHO IS IN THIS THING?
The assignments of the songs (Dude 1-4 and Lady 1-4) allow for each performer to have a sense of arc and character. To us, there was a reason why each actor did the songs that they did in the original production. It was based largely on the people we were working with – and the information we learned about them as humans and artists. Feel free to change the song assignments as you learn about your cast, but know that the map we’ve laid out tends to work real well. We’re sure that there are many variations of this – and are excited to see what you come up with. A word about the song “The Guide to Success” – Joe sang that song from the piano in the only moment that the cast spent offstage in the entire evening. That made perfect sense for us. Maybe you have someone in your band for which this would be a nice feature. We liked that there was a moment midway through the show that was specifically about our onstage band (after all, they are part of the cast, right?) Especially if it’s the only song that they’re singing solo – its exciting, inclusive, and kind of mysterious. If you can’t make something like that work, just have a cast member sing it. (Same goes for the bit of “Bar Song” that Joe sang in the original production.)
WHAT DOES THIS THING LOOK LIKE?
In terms of the physical production, the original show was actually a series of performances at different NYC venues – all different sizes, shapes and feels. Some were traditional proscenium theatres, others were rock clubs or concert venues or cabaret rooms. What we found worked in all of those places was a sense of the environment being as rough around the edges as possible. Like a show that a bunch of people had a hand in creating. Our cast was in each venue with us coming up with ideas of how the space could be used, helping to set it up, finding things in each space that would make it unique to that experience on that night. Because Joe was sitting at the piano and the music was literally emanating from the composer, we chose to center the piano in whatever space we had and have the action move around and on top of the piano. A well constructed but simple platform that extended over the piano allowed for the cast to feel like they were really “on top” of the music. It also allowed this shared feeling of frustration that the show has at its core to escalate – literally attempt to climb out of the space. Some other simple stools, cubes, chairs, mic stands, etc. can make the show feel like it is constantly changing locations – but all originating in the same world. We dressed the space with items that helped create a safe environment for the characters (carpet squares, bottles of booze, etc.) and some images from the “real world” that were opinions on politics, pop culture, and more (clippings of magazines and newspapers that covered the cubes, platforms, and walls.) The overall vibe is rock and roll, dangerous, warm, fun, and ramshackle.
WHAT DOES THIS THING FEEL LIKE?
These were our guidelines for ourselves as we were finding the tone of the piece:
*The spirit of the show is not slick or sexy. It is about regular people. Small people with huge problems, or problems that Feel huge to them. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need rehearsal – in fact, quite the opposite. But the finished product should never look finished. It should look and feel at every moment like the characters have no script, staging, or choreography.
*Nothing should be “comfortable” in the singing or staging of the show. The people in this show are on the verge of something huge and are chomping at the bit to make the leap. They have a lot to prove and not enough time to prove it. They are restless and fired up and will forge their place in the world, regardless of consequences. None of that leads to polite singing or staging.
* The cast should be involved in the process as much as possible. Ask them questions about their feelings, dreams, and fears – and how these particular songs intersect with their lives. This was the most surprising and powerful part of our process – learning that the songs had so many different interpretations and applications from actor to actor. It is what makes the show exciting to an audience—so take great pains to make sure that your opinion isn’t always the only one allowed into the room.
*The actors should, where possible, all stay onstage the entire evening and “support” each other – even when not in the actual location with them. That leads to the community and group feeling of these songs and this group of people.
*There shouldn’t be costumes, just clothes. Regular clothes that humans wear. They can absolutely relate to the people who are performing the show – but resist the urge to have the nerd wear glasses and a pocket protector. And don’t have the War Song dude wear military fatigues.
If you could, have a song list in the program and refer to it as a “Set List” as opposed to “Musical Numbers” or anything else.
If you could, use the real names of your actors instead of Dude 1 and Lady 1.
If you could, don’t change the lyrics. We like them how they are.
ONE LAST THING
As we said earlier, please use these guidelines and suggestions as much as they’re helpful to you. Use them as bible or throw them out. This is your rodeo.
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- THINGS TO RUIN - Orchestration Package (4 Books/4 Players)
- 1 – Piano Conductor Score
- 1 – Guitar
- 1 – Drums
- 1 – Bass
- THINGS TO RUIN - Pre Production Pack
- 1 – Libretto-Vocal Book
- 1 – Piano Conductor Score
- THINGS TO RUIN - Libretto-Vocal 10 Pack
- 10 – Libretto-Vocal Book
* In the original off-Broadway production, author Joe Iconis played piano on stage and performed songs listed for Band Leader. The songs for the Band Leader may be performed by someone else to suit the needs of your production.