A few months ago, I applied for a performing slot at Arts Midwest. Similar to the APAP Conference, the objective of Arts Midwest is to introduce many performing groups to various presenters and promoters. This facilitates the ‘sale’ of the show for a performance in any given city or venue. Weeks later, I was thrilled to find out that we had been accepted to the conference and would be heading to Milwaukee in September. However, unlike the APAP Conference, we were not given a slot that allows us to do the full 85-minute version of our show. In fact, our slot at Arts Midwest is a whopping 15 MINUTES!!! That’s 70 fewer minutes to communicate the show, make people laugh and feel that they have had an enriching night of theater.
The word that immediately came to mind: UGH!!!
The task of turning the 85-minute version of Broadway’s Next Hit Musical into a 15-minute version was a deceptively tricky one. There was a lot of back and forth as to what the essential elements of the show are and what can be let go.
First Act Songs
We HAD to do several first act songs based on suggestions by the attendees so that they understood the basic premise of the show: THEY give us the titles and WE make up the songs.
Did we have to set up the show with an emcee like we generally do?
On one hand, the emcee provides customized comedy about the town we are visiting at any given time. On the other hand…15-minutes!!!!
Did we have to do the vote to see which of the first act songs became eligible for a full production in the 2nd half of the show? One one hand, it shows the further nature of the audience involvement in the show as THEY are the ones who vote. On the other hand, there will NOT be a 2nd half of the show at this particular performance. Decisions, decisions!!
While daunting, this task was also educational. When you have to strip a showdown to its basic elements, you find out a bit more about what makes your show tick. It’s the tweet version of our show. We must convey a message, several actually, in a compressed form. While challenging, this was also an exciting exercise that helped us to know our show on a deeper level.
In the end, we found a structure that seems to capture all or most of the necessary elements of the show and without sacrificing the most important elements: energy, fun and flow. We had to create a situation where the actors feel they can play and not feel rushed.
Will we do it?
If you are in the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee at 8:15pm on Wednesday, 9/14 let us know what you saw and what you liked! Tweet us @BwaysNHM