Singing About Monsters at Peirce International

Posted by Gavin on December 12, 2018

Education School Shows

Barrel of Monkeys company members rehearsing

Sometimes, the stories that our students write lend themselves to singing and dancing, and thanks to the incredible musicians in the BOM company, we’re able to make that happen! That’s the case with one of the stories - “The Monster” by Sebi M. - in our Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies show this Friday.

So how do we take a students’ words and turn them into a musical number? Here’s a peek into the process:

1. Composing

BOM musicians often get inspired to turn a story into a song when reading it aloud with their fellow cast members. Maybe its language is extremely poetic, or its plot invokes a certain musical style. Company member Elisa noticed this with “The Monster,” whose original text is as follows:

Once o upon a time there was a Monster that was named nothing! The Monster was scary as a dementor but as sad as are rock. Since the monstor was so scary he had no friends! But on day the Monstor went on a walk and all of sudden he heard “crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch!” So the Monster turned around to run back to his cave but when he turned around he saw a Ghol so scary it did not have any friends too! Because the Ghol was as scary as a zombie! So the Monster asked the ghol if they wanted to be friends and the ghol said yes. So they played Ghol/Monster/Tag togher! And they were friends forver!

So she took the story home and composed a song outside of rehearsal.

2. Listening

Barrel of Monkeys company members in the rehearsal room in Buena Park, looking at sheets of paper and learning a new song.

Song lyrics for everyone!

Once she’d written the song, Elisa brought it back to rehearsal room, where the whole cast listened to her play through the song. That way, everyone could get a feel for its style before delving into its more technical aspects. It also gave Elisa an opportunity to mention helpful details for learning and adapting the story - for example, she wrote the song with a 1940s-style trio in mind, so we added sparkly clothing to our costume list!

3. Learning

Barrel of Monkeys company members sitting around a pinao and learning a new song during a rehearsal in Buena Park

Gather ‘round the piano!

Once we’d heard the song a few times, we delegated parts among the cast based on each performers’ particular skills. Two of our singers, Diana and Robbin, decided to step up to sing the main part of the song, and other members of the cast filled in for the ensemble parts. Elisa then went over the music with them, teaching both the main melodies and pointing out moments with room to improvise.

4. Staging

Barrel of Monkeys company members rehearsing at the company's rehearsal space in Buena Park

A dramatic transition - complete with jazz hands!

Of course, learning to sing the music in a musical number is important - but the movement and acting choices that accompany the song make the story truly come to life.

For the most part, Oly (playing the monster) and Jen (playing the ghoul) created their own choreography with Artistic Director Brandon ensuring everything looked cohesive. Our musicians played the song while Oly and Jen devised movements for their characters - and the ensemble added other moments to help the story come to life even more.

5. Perfecting

Three Barrel of Monkeys company members rehearsing

And they were friends forever!

Practice makes perfect, so we ran the song and staging a few more times. This isn’t just to make sure everyone knows their notes and movements, though - it’s also about trying new jokes, adding new movements, and cutting anything that isn’t needed.

We also looked back at the students’ original writing to make sure the piece still accurately reflected the story, and to add in any details that might have become muddled while adapting. And we’ll also take another look at the song during other rehearsals so we can revisit our work with fresh eyes and ears!

Keep an eye on our Instagram story this Friday morning to hear the final version of the song - as well as more of the amazing stories written by Peirce students!

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