The Gifts of Collaboration

Something wonderful happened from August 18th to 19th: A group of singers, actors, writers, lyricists, composers, directors, music directors, choreographers, stage managers, and a lighting designer came together with the goal of creating 4 new 15-20 minute musicals in 24 hours. The tickets were already sold, the expectations were set, and once the introductions were done we would get to work.

That was all most of us knew going into The 24 Hour Musicals at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. We heard about this being done before: The 24 Hour Plays have been going since 1995 and the musicals since 2007, so despite how unbelievable the task seemed we knew it could be done. Nevertheless, it was a daunting idea, but we all volunteered out time and threw ourselves into the project. The writers and composers stayed together overnight to determine their teams, drafted the actors from the list available, chose their costumes and props from those that were contributed by the group, and wrote their musicals based on the material and personnel available to them. The rest of the group gathered the following morning; received their assignments, scripts, and scores; and off to rehearsals we went: learning, rehearsing, memorizing, and setting these new musicals over the next 9-10 hours.

As for the results: AMAZING!!! The musicals ranged from an intimate romance in a coffee shop, to an Arthurian gender-bending quest of self-awareness, then to an absurd politcal commentary, and finally into a look at the challenges of theater understudies. None of these stories existed 24 hours before, and then, like magic, here they were: fully fleshed-out in their brevity, with songs, choreography, lighting, costumes, and even a dance-off between a bear and a salmon (that one was mine!).

Exhausted as we all were after the long day's work, we were ecstatic. Not only had we accomplished the "impossible," but we excelled and even surpassed what we thought we could do. We were pushed past the limits of our belief, and the results were phenomenal. Looking back on it, here's how I think that happened. First, the expectations of what we were trying to accomplish were set out at the start. Second, we were provided a great space to create and work. Third, everyone invited to be a part of this show dedicated themselves fully to the task. Finally, we worked our asses off.

That level of collaboration, and the demand it necessitates, doesn't happen very often in that brief amount of time, but it does show us what we CAN do, particularly when the stakes are high. Whatever the dreams and projects we have in mind, big or small, they are possible if we seek out and surround ourselves with the right collaborators, the people who also dream big AND put those dreams into action. In the Twin Cities I continue to seek out those who are making their own work, who are ready to work, and who follow through on their plans. Together, we can create things that are bigger and better than what's possible on our own. 

So, that said, I'll be on the lookout. Maybe my next collaboration will be with you!