Playwriting

The Power of Character and Melody

Craig is foraying into his other life this week, performing in a mini tour of the musical Jasper Station (book/lyrics by Norm Foster, music/lyrics by Steve Thomas). It’s a joyous romp with great characters, zingy one liners and wonderfully melodic music. Craig was in the original production seven years ago and has visited his character (Sterling Mimms, isn’t that a name?) a few times. We figured out today that over the years I’ve seen the show NINE times. It’s by far the most times I’ve ever seen any play or musical, or movie or anything. Now, granted I’ve got a vested interest. I love seeing Craig perform and the character he plays is amazing. He’s great! But wow. NINE times.

It’s been extremely interesting to reminisce through past productions. I have vivid memories of all the actors I’ve seen in the various roles (and there have been many!) I love some, wonder at others. Think I’ve seen the definitive performance, and the next breaks the mold. Every one of them had a different take a different spin on the material.

Which is a perfect moment to talk about characters. My playwriting mantra is that well written characters are the backbone of any good play. Any memorable play. Any play that stands the test of time.

A well written character will allow a actor to flex and create. A good actor will not look to change the material or reject the material (I despise actors who say ‘my character wouldn’t do that’) they will strive to breathe life into what’s on the page. There’s a lot of creative leeway in breathing…..

So last night I’m sitting in the audience watching the opening night performance, thinking about how I’ve now seen this show NINE times and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. And the main reason for this is because of the characters. This time around I saw an actress I’ve never seen perform one of the roles, an actor I’ve seen many times, an actor I haven’t seen in their role since the original. And it doesn’t matter. The material supports whoever is playing the part. The tone may change, the costumes choices, the line inflections, but all that means is that the way the character is written allows for a lot of breathing room. A lot of play. And isn’t that what all actors want? To play.

I know that Jasper Station was on my mind when I started my journey with Shout. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the changes in the modern musical. I find them unmelodic and less than subtle. The music in Jasper Station is a horn o’ plenty of melody! The music is also extremely character driven. That’s the key. The songs come from somewhere and they show the characters in action. I knew this is something I wanted to achieve.

Jasper Station isn’t my favourite musical. (that’s what happens when you see something NINE times….) but it’ll always have a strong place in my heart. And as I sit here I’m humming the songs, thinking about Craig who’s on stage RIGHT NOW!!! Break a leg, Craig!

About the author

Lindsay Price