Greetings! It’s been awhile since my last blog post, and there is a lot to catch up on.
I am just returning to Brooklyn after a two-week sojourn in beautiful Catskill, NY, where I took part in the Catwalk Institute Art Residency program. Situated on a ninety-acre private estate on the west side of the Hudson river about 2 hours north of New York City, the program provided me with a private cottage in a serene setting in which to live and work on ELIZABETH.
While I was there, I had the pleasure to meet the other artists in residence, all of whom were super cool and working on fascinating projects of their own: books, short stories, films, and cross-media works. It was terrific learning about their projects and telling them about my work on ELIZABETH; I hope to keep up with them and the work they are doing.
I also spent time with the program’s founder and patron, Mrs. Purcell Palmer, with whom I shared many meaningful conversations about my show and the history of the women’s suffrage movement. She also connected me with Mrs. Hannah Hanani of Close Encounters With Music, a chamber music organization that whose 2016-2017 season is celebrating “The Year of the Woman!” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. The three of us had a great conversation over afternoon tea; it was such a thrill to speak to a fellow artist who shares my passion for women’s history! I wish Hannah and Close Encounters with Music huge success with their upcoming season. (By that way, if you’re wondering about the timing of their 100th anniversary season: women’s suffrage was legalized in New York state in 1917, three years before it was legalized nationally via the 19th Amendment) #TheMoreYouKnow
So, what did I actually do there? The short answer: I wrote the first complete draft of the book. I started the residency with only a sense of “this is where the show starts, this is the act break, and this is how it ends,” and only broad bullet points about what happens in between (one bullet point: “The Civil War.” Yeah…) The bulk of my time was spent fleshing out those bullet points into a beat-by-beat narrative. The process of getting from A to B was one of the most challenging puzzles I’ve ever attempted (more on that in a future post…), and revealed many surprises: characters or events that I envisioned being major players got cut completely, while others I didn’t intend to include at all became integral. With the gifts of time and space on my side, I was able to immerse myself in the story and the characters, and they told me what to do. I spent very little time writing dialogue or actual ‘scenes’ as I anticipate ELIZABETH being almost entirely sung through, but the narrative I’ve built is the blueprint from which I can start writing the actual show. Oh, and after years of trying, I got really good at using Final Draft #Goals
All in all, I had an amazingly productive two weeks away and am incredibly grateful to have been given the time. I now return to Brooklyn as motivated as ever to - as Susan B. Anthony would say - “carry on with the work.”
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the lovely fall weather. Until next time…
It's time I confessed something: I have never enjoyed audio production. Creating demos of my music has long been a task that I view as a chore. I have no excuse to not make demos: I've amassed a respectable (if not pretty great) in-home recording studio*, I've become reasonably adept with Logic Pro X, I play the piano and sing, and I know a wealth of terrific actors/performers. Yet somehow in spite of these blessings, I just don't enjoy making demos - evidenced by the (relatively) small library of my music featured on this site.
The reason is simple: making even the most basic demo takes a lot of time, and I'd rather devote that time to writing something new. Between enlisting capable performers, coordinating rehearsal/recording schedules, engineering a recording session, choosing takes, and post-production mixing/mastering, even a basic demo can take days to produce. There are some people who really love this process (oh, how I wish I were one of them...), but my real joy is in writing the song. Songwriting has always been my passion, while audio production leaves me cold.
Apart from the tangible upside of creating a demo, the collaborative nature of this process has been a welcome reminder of how grateful I am: grateful to be surrounded by such a wonderful community of talented people who graciously lend me their time and talent. I have always believed that business is about people first and money second, and the music business is no exception - to say nothing of the truth that, for me at least, making music with people is one of life's greatest joys. With this latest experience soon to be under my belt, I hope to take this newfound positive view of demo making with me into the future.
Though recording Dunstan (...after dealing with some backend tech problems with my recording studio, don't ask...) occupied the lion's share of my creative time in July, I also made some progress on my other projects. I was able to do a little more work on the Act I Finale of First Year, and I'm steadily plugging away at my story outline of Elizabeth (I just hit page 30, with no end in sight. Yeah, draft two will involve some serious tightening).
As for August, my big project - in addition to finishing and releasing Dunstan - is to finish my first outline of Elizabeth and start draft two. Unrelated, I'm super excited to be participating on stage in a two-week reading of Sondheim's Into the Woods with AfterWork Theater (purely for fun!). It's one of my all time favorite shows: I've seen every major production in NYC since I moved here in 2008, and playing Baker was the pinnacle of my high school theater career #GolfClaps. Though this means less time for writing this month, performing brings with it its own joy - to say nothing of the invaluable perspective it affords me in my writing.
That's it for now. Happy August, stay cool!
* My core studio consists of: Kawai MP-7 keyboard, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, SM-7B mic, Behringer BCF-2000 mixing board, Edirol MA-15D stereo monitors, and a slew of MIDI controllers, headphones, pedals, additional mics, and other equipment.
Happy (post) Independence Day! I just returned to Brooklyn after spending the long holiday weekend upstate where I grew up, visiting with family and old friends, drinking too much wine, and taking in some historical sites.
While at Mount Hope I learned that Frederick Douglass is also buried there, only steps from Anthony. I was delighted by this surprise; as a lifelong friend (though at times political adversary) of Stanton and Anthony, he plays a central role in ELIZABETH. Though I haven’t yet researched his life as deeply as I have those of Stanton and Anthony, I nonetheless felt a profound sense of connection when visiting his grave. Unlike Anthony's grave stone, Douglass' resting place is much grander, a reflection of his rightful place in history.
Visiting Anthony’s and Douglass’ final resting places was a profound reminder that these two people were just that: people. History has a tendency to canonize its most accomplished contributors to a point of super humanity, implying that they somehow went through life on a higher plane of thought and existence than the rest of us mere mortals. In visiting their graves, I really felt their presence as people.
This reinforced the importance of one of my biggest goals in writing this project: to uncover - and recreate - the humanity within all of my main characters. It would be all too easy to write two-dimensional characters who are mere foils that plod from historical event to historical event without any underlying motivation. Instead, I believe that I have a responsibility to their legacies, and to my audience, to recreate these people as three-dimensional characters with needs, motivations, tendencies, and flaws that compel them to make the decisions they make.
Before I wrap up this entry, a quick word on why I’m starting a blog at all. My goal is to write monthly updates at the beginning of each month - if for no other reason, the fear of shame that would come from writing “nothing happened this month” will be enough to encourage me to be productive and write something down. That, and I enjoy having a forum in which to express and preserve my thoughts and experiences related to my work, and the process of writing in general.
Toward that end, in addition to my research field trips I’ve also made great progress on my first detailed outline of ELIZABETH in the last few weeks. My goal for the weeks to come is to complete the first full draft and begin work on a second, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive outline with as few narrative kinks as possible from which to write a first draft of the actual script. I hope to get to this place before I attend the Catwalk Writer's Residency in early October (more on that later). In addition to my work on ELIZABETH, Emily Peters and I are also making steady progress on our (rather complicated) Act I Finale of FIRST YEAR; I hope to have something that resembles a first draft by next month’s entry.
That’s it for now. Stay safe and write on.
Welcome to thew new and improved www.deweyfleszar.com! Here you can find the latest news about my goings on, purchase sheet music, and listen to my music both new and old. Building a website - like writing a song - is very much a labor of love that requires time, patience, and attention to detail, and I hope that you are as pleased with the final result as I am.
Spring 2016 has been an artistically fruitful time for me, with steady forward momentum on all of my active projects. After taking a brief hiatus from writing to build this website and spend some time in the sun, I am grateful for the chance to re-focus on writing with a fresh mind after some much-needed time away. There is plenty to do: Emily Peters and I are chipping away at the (highly complex!) Act One Finale of FIRST YEAR, and I'm rounding the corner on a complete second draft of an outline for ELIZABETH. In addition to writing new work, I'm also devoting some time to recording demos of some of my older work to feature here, because as Sondheim (via George) reminds me, "A vision's just a vision if it's in your head / If no one gets to see it, it's as good as dead."
At Ithaca College I was fortunate to study with a guy named Greg Woodward, who in addition to being a world-class composer and pedagog in his own right, also became a mentor and friend to me. He taught me many valuable lessons about composition that have stuck with me over the years, though none quite so tenaciously as the concept of stewing time: the time in a project's compositional lifecycle where you take a step back and focus on other things, allowing your subconscious to connect dots that your conscious mind can't.
I'm a tremendous believer in this approach and the benefits it yields, which is one of the reasons that I relish in side projects - such as building a new website - that temporarily pull my focus from writing. It's also the reason I like to work on multiple projects at the same time: after focusing on one, I'll put it on the back burner to "stew" and shift my focus to another. Weeks later when I go back to the first project, my brain is - somehow! - full of fresh ideas for how to creatively solve problems.
All of which is to say, there is a lot going on right now - and I wouldn't have it any other way :) Check back soon for more updates!