Giselle Woo

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The Project & Lessons Learned

Mark Maher and I produced a joint project, utilizing cyber-media to convince musical theater producers that adaptations are less financially risky than they would expect and are more profitable in the long-run. Working with one of my peers proved both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of the experience. Given both of our backgrounds in musical theater, as well as our past experience working together on creative projects, I felt the experience would be easy, collaborative and prolific – while prolific, and ultimately collaborative, it was far from easy. I acted as producer and Mark functioned as writer – assigning these two completely separable elements made use of our individual strengths. I compiled an outline for the video, attempting to address our main points and to structure the video in a way that first engaged the viewer and identified her concerns, then spoke to her as though the video was made specifically for her and only her. Mark took this outline and wrote text to fill out each section, to which I ultimately assigned photos, music choices and production elements.

Working separately and then combining our work allowed me to understand the interconnectivity of the two elements and the need for cohesion. The most difficult part of the project was working with a peer and coming to a consensus about how to best get our empathic message across. Originally Mark sought to convince producers to invest in adaptations by arguing that adaptations added creative elements and that nuanced layers heightened the emotional development of the work. I felt, however, that although the emotional nuance is an added benefit for the long-term musical theater canon, producers make decisions based on financial risk – we had to address those elements first and foremost. Ultimately, we identified three factors that needed to be addressed to successfully empathize with musical theater producers: financial risk in the potential for success on Broadway, the potential for long-term financial rewards and the ability to re-coop production costs through rights, and the re-energizing of Broadway as both a brand and an experience, creating a lasting culture with opportunities for future productions.

In creating our video, the speaker’s credibility was of the utmost importance – this process taught me that a message is only as good as its packaging. Leading up to the video’s creation, I spent several days identifying and designing the image and personality we wanted to convey. The choice of music set the stage for our argument – as the first thing the viewer takes in, the music had to persuade the viewer that they want to listen to what we have to say, that we come from the same background, have the same desires and concerns, and ultimately that we want the same things. To choose the music I approached friends in the musical theater community – both producers and performers – and played our music selections to evoke their reaction.

Viewers had an immediate and detailed reaction to each song we suggested; it became immediately clear which songs we could and could not use. For instance, the overture to Les Miserables showed a love for big-Broadway, but a tendency toward large group conflicts and high-priced productions. The Fantasticks overture expressed a focus on small-theater, low-budget productions. The West Side Story prelude conveyed a tendency toward classical theater infused with ingenuity, and the Chicago entr’acte conveyed big-Broadway combined with intimate, emotional elements. Since most producers seek large-scale productions, but know that new theatrical techniques and intimate emotional interaction ultimately lead to success, these last two pieces of music were chosen.

Having identified our arguments and music, I found that each element, in more detailed and specific ways than I could have imagined, drastically altered the empathic message we attempted to convey. Upon receiving Mark’s final script, the changes he made to the order and descriptions of certain categories invoked different emotions than the original and told a new story. Once we settled on a structure and embarked upon the editing process, we spent eight hours organizing and editing our clips to create the perfect product. Each photograph fade needed to correspond to the emotion invoked by the dialogue over those 2 seconds. The changes in the brightness and feel of the photograph had to match with the swell and key of the music. In our original incantation, a dissonant chord played while the speaker discussed the benefits of adaptations – however, watching the film, this combination suggested dishonesty on the part of the speaker, and a disconnect between the words, images and the sound. However, when the images, words and sounds did connect, the product of the seamless fusion of the elements was spectacular. Take this (fairly meta) example: The image shows a Spiegelman illustration of a woman partying, referencing the speaker’s last statement about hedonistic culture. The speaker then shifts to discuss the effect of adding layers to the original material, each a new dramatic element. As this shift occurs in the dialogue, the image slowly pans out, immediately revealing a more energetic, crowded and imposing vision of the illustration tiled across the page. The notion of cyber-media as a veritable palimpsest is discussed; concurrently the confluence of creative elements bolsters this very argument – the addition of layers alters the emotion, engendering a fresh and different idea. This is a perfect example of a successful multi-sensory vehicle to convey a message – if each facet does not correctly capture the focus of the message, the effect is lost.

The Course & Lessons Learned

This class provided a creative outlet well beyond what I ever expected from a law school class. Working on a creative project in the law school environment demonstrated the greater focus paid to minutia in creative projects than in law school work. While conveying a message in a paper can be done in myriad ways, in this video, the need for exact and thought-out language seemed paramount. Syntax and diction conveyed the background of the rhetorical “speaker,” the level and originality of grammar choices seemed to choose the audience by reference to their level of education, the first two measures of music pigeonholed us in a distinct musical theater community. I put more research time into this project than most papers I have written in my time in law school, and I enjoyed the work more than most.

The nature of the course allowed for a surprising amount of personal development. The class changed from interactive give-and-take, to lectures, to intimate discussion, to online interactive space, to a workshop of peers. The ability to test out these environments allowed me to better understand my learning style and find a means to participate and benefit from each distinct classroom space. I am not one to participate in class discussions – in the past I attributed this to a fear of the low-quality of my ideas. However, over the course of CyberOne, I realized this trait stemmed from concern about judgment and confrontation with my peers, a fear of being identified by my peers as certain type of student when I have yet to truly understand and define my own ideologies and opinions. The interactive question tool allowed me, for the first time, to have all of my questions answered, or at least aired. The class for me became a collaborative environment – not only did I actively participate in the question tool, but I found myself engaging in debate and developing ideas with students outside of class, even on the weekends! While the structure may have seemed disjointed or confusing at the outset, in retrospect the diversity of interactive spaces and the openness associated with such a collaborative environment helped me to find myself as student.