August 2006. I invited Warren Cowell, director of our rock opera Room to Breathe at the Mendel Art Gallery, to take a look at my rock opera diary and toss in his two bits. Unlike me, Warren chose to accentuate the positive. Here’s what he had to say…
“Room to Breathe” recollections
by Warren Cowell, Director
The cast and crew were energetic and excited about the play right from day one. Our producer Troy, who had never seen a lighting board, hit the ground running. Tracy worked hard on and off camera as Stage Manager and performer. Jason, arriving late to the project, busted out wicked licks. Diarmid the Singing Cowboy inventing Frenchie the bastard bartender is classic, and I don’t think Mark wore any makeup but he always looked sick and tired. Lia sang beautifully and taught us yoga while Joseph brought his own original songs to the project. We couldn’t have asked for better.
First, we have to thank Tracy’s father for helping with the construction of a fantastic stage, otherwise Aaron (the drummer) might have fallen on through. And the backdrop stapled to the wall was brilliant (I think Joseph and Lia designed that with material they bought from Value Village). The filming at Fort San was a highlight of the production. We had to stay up all night shooting Troy “the Spaceman” (who brought his own Halloween costume) from the roof of the sanitarium. And none of the video elements would have been possible without Next-Illusion who took great care filming and editing. They rigged up a clever design for Mark to control the video feed from a button under the bed and created an entire rocket crashing sequence for the big screen.
We had a few hiccups of course. I remember flying the “jiffy pop” balloon into the back of some poor unsuspecting audience member’s head. And then there was the time the computer froze during the show and Lia and Mark had to scramble. They told me after that they were terrified they would have to improvise the rest of the play, but the computer “thawed” and they pulled it off professionally. And let’s not talk about the smoke machine (I had to buy 4 dozen donuts to appease security after setting off the fire alarm…twice).
By the third show we had a smooth running machine that truly was a multimedia event, including a projection television splashed on the back wall, actors conversing with a prerecorded character on TV, musical numbers, a live band, a goodyear mini-blimp, wireless microphones, 10,000 light changes and 20,000 sound cues. One comment I got was, “I felt like turning around and applauding the light and sound operators, they had a tough job.” Troy and Tracy never missed a beat in a very technically demanding project.
All in all, the time in the “Room” was awesome. The complexity of the show technically made for a great challenge and everyone that stepped into the project worked hard to help meet that challenge. I truly believe the final product satisfied even the toughest of critics…although the writer did feel the script was misinterpreted and chose to remount. That’s fair enough and I admire his willingness to step out on a limb.
My sincere gratitude to everyone that helped with the show. You truly made it one to remember.
All the best,
Room to Breathe
Mendel Art Gallery