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Thoughts On The Show Closing…

Post by Gregory Nabours, company member and creator of The Trouble With Words.

Thoughts on the show closing…

Where do I begin?  To sum up this experience in a few paragraphs seems impossible… and yet, when pressed, I’m finding it difficult to form even a few sentences.  I guess that’s just… (wait for it)… The Trouble With Words?  This whole experience has been something of a blur… and yet, I feel that it is the most significant accomplishment in my life to date.

To start with… when I agreed to do the show, it should be noted that there was, in fact, no show.  What I had was a few songs, and the desire to turn them into something more.  I knew that I wanted to do a song cycle, I knew that I wanted it to be called “The Trouble With Words,” and that was about it.  When Jeremy Lelliott (our Artistic Director) approached me and asked me if we could do the show, I blurted out “yes” before giving it too much thought.  Usually if I allow myself too much thought, I think myself out of things, and I didn’t want that to happen this time… so I said “yes” as quickly as I could.  I cannot express how many nights I lied awake wondering if that had been a mistake.  I knew that this would be my first real introduction to the public as a songwriter, and I knew how important first impressions were… after all, we only get to make them once, right?  At the time I agreed to do the show, only 8 of the 19 songs that would eventually make it into the musical existed… which left me, roughly, with about 3 months to put together 12 new songs.  Basically, I needed to write a song a week.  Seems fair enough if this is what I want to do for a living, right?

Here’s the thing about writing music (or writing anything, I imagine): Inspiration is difficult to control.  When a person has a profound thought, or is emotionally charged by an event (or sound, or image, or smell) then everything comes out very naturally… but how does one control that?  The inspiration for one of my favorite songs (The Ballerina’s Lament) came from listening to a roommate bitch about their life one day… a scenario that normally drove me crazy.  What was mundane every other day had suddenly became profound… and 2 hours later, I had a song because of it.  It seems that creativity ebbs and flows… and the trick is to catch is when it’s close at hand, because it isn’t going to stay very long.  Can one influence it?  I’m still not sure, but I certainly tried.  I put myself through a series of awkward rituals (ex: writing while cross-faded, or staying awake past the point of exhaustion to access more of one’s subconscious) but found that results were never consistent.  Sometimes it worked, but most of the time it just left me feeling uncomfortable the next day.

Well, the weeks went by, and (one way or another) songs came out… not surprisingly, my 1-song-per-week concept turned out to be naive.  Not every song that I wrote actually made it into the show.  Some fell flat of the bar that the others had created.  At one point, I realized that I had too many male solos, and not enough female solos… so another song gets cut, and 2 more get added to the “to-be-written” list.  As the show became more of a cohesive entity, certain songs simply didn’t fit into the grand scheme of things anymore.  I didn’t write the closing number (No Words) until a week before we opened.  In fact, the song is actually about my fears of writing an appropriate closing number (“No more words… ’cause the pressure keeps on building, and I don’t know what to say anymore.”)

Throw in lighting, costumes, set, sound, choreography, 6 cast members, 4 swings, and a 6-piece band (also being orchestrated right up until the show opened) and a group of songs slowly but surely became a show.  I wish I could say that opening night was a proud breath of fresh air, but in truth, I didn’t settle into the run of the show until recently.  Every performance offered new challenges that kept me distracted from enjoying the bigger picture, and now that I actually look forward to the weekends… it’s time to close.  I suppose that’s just the nature of the beast.  It would be a lie to say that I’m not saddened… but I think that’s always how it feels when you close a good show.  It’s like going off to college and saying goodbye to your friends and family… you know that you’re moving on to bigger and better things, but that doesn’t make it any easier to actually say goodbye to the thing that you’ve grown to love.

This show has succeeded at everything I had hoped for… audiences love it, the cast loves it, and it’s opened up doors in my professional life that I wasn’t sure I’d reach.  So the big question is – what’s next?  Many of the reviews that have come out say things like “hopefully Nabours is hard at work on a big book musical”… and I’m just thinking, “Hey, I just finished writing this show a few weeks ago! Can I have a moment to reflect!?”  But I guess it’s a good sign that people want to see more from me.  I have offers from film directors, producers, theaters, and writers… and those are some big decisions to make when all you want to do is play your show another weekend.  I have faith that this show will live again, bigger and better than ever… but what do I do until then?  I’ll let you know when I do.

Greg at the piano

Greg at the piano

I need to thank some people.  First and foremost, I need to thank Ryan Wagner and Jeremy Lelliott. Without your support and your belief in me, this show never would have existed. Your vision and your dedication never faltered, even when I had my doubts, and I am so very grateful for that. Patrick Pearson, thank you for plucking these silly ideas out of my head and putting them onto the stage. Aside from turning a collection of songs into a theatrical work, you were also an integral part of the creation process. Michelle Stann (lighting) and Ric Perez-Selsky (sound), you are the only two people aside from myself (and Aimee) who can actually say that you were at every single performance.  You were at the theater before I arrived and after I left almost every night, making sure everything went along without a hitch.  Your dedication astounds me.  Erik McEwen (hair, costumes, makeup), you made my show shine in a way that only you could. Nobody knows style like you do, and 3 months of upkeep make you as valuable a part of this production as any.  Rebecca Eisenberg (front of house), you know how important first impressions can be to an audience member, and nobody sets a tone like you.  Your professionalism shows in everything that you do. Tiffany Cole (choreography), you made my show move, and you made it move well. Jeremy Lewis, always present, and always offering aide to anyone who needed it.  Nicki Monet, nobody writes a check (sometimes multiple times) like you do. ;) Brian Morales (orchestrations), you are just so immensely talented that it can be frustrating at times.  You are my right hand, and I know that our relationship will grow and prosper for years to come. Nobody can do what you do, and I hope you know that. To my band! You guys are just so good. I could play with you every night and die a happy man.  I know that I’ll have the joy of making music with all of you again in the future, but just know that you have made this experience truly unique and beautiful.  And, of course, I need to thank all of Coeurage Theatre Company, as you’ve all had a hand in the success of this project.  You are a family to me.

To my cast (swings included!)… ugh… you guys just can’t know how much I love you all.  I don’t think I’ve ever worked with such talented people.  It truly is an honor and a privilege to watch artists such as yourselves take these songs and craft them above and beyond anything that I could have imagined.  It is every writer’s dream to be able to watch their work come to life in such profound ways, and to watch the journey that you have all taken with this show has been the opportunity of a lifetime.  You reinvent the wheel every night and always leave me wanting more.  You guys are the reason I look forward to the weekends.  I know this isn’t the end of the line for this show… but even taking an extended break will make my heart a little heavier, and my weeks a little longer.  I’ve suppose it would not be inaccurate to say that I’ve grown accustomed to your faces.  :)

When the lights go down on Saturday night after curtain call… it will mark the end of a chapter in my life.  I take immense gratitude in knowing that I will be surrounded by the people that I love and respect.  So many have put their lives on hold to make this dream come true, and it just leaves me speechless… but I promise that it won’t be wasted.  We’ve got two more shows… let’s make the best of them.

~Gregory Nabours

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