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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

February 17, 2010

Writing/Composing Original Music For Twelfth Night, by Amanda Wansa

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:34 pm

As was the case with this year’s Christmas Carol, my preparation process for this show has been a creatively exciting combination of choosing and editing pre-recorded clips, writing/composing original music (set to Shakespeare’s text), and arranging live piano underscore.  We are setting the show in the Roarin’ 20s, and Julian and I agreed that I would play live piano onstage.  This would allow us to have live musical numbers, sung by Feste (James Lombardino) and Maria (Jan Gilbert) to entertain the “bar patrons” and, hopefully, the audience.  There are song texts written into this show by Shakespeare, so I sat down with those lyrics and composed a few pieces for piano and voice. 

Julian requested that I write a “closing number” and, after some brainstorming and research, I settled on taking a Sonnet (you’ll have to come to the show to hear which one!) and putting it to music.  I then discovered that some of our actors have musical talents, so that led me to composing the piece for various instruments AND voices!  I think our audience is in for a treat!

In order to be historically accurate, my research process for this show was the heaviest yet.  We had to be sure to not select pre-recorded material from the 30s or 40s, which are the actual arrangements that the public is familiar when we think of the “Jazz Age”.  Similarly, “ragtime” was most popular in the decades preceding the 20s.  Another issue was finding tracks that aren’t muddied or muffled due to recording quality.  The research for this show was very fun, not only because I love jazz (personally) and perform it, but I had a wonderful assistant doing an independent study with me—Liz Nelson—who helped me sift through hundreds of recordings to find just the right pieces to underscore this two hours of jazzy Shakespeare fun!

I’ve really enjoyed this process and am excited to join all my actor friends onstage as Flora, the pianist at “Olivia’s”!

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