February 13, 2009
Student writes Selinsgrove musical
That's what junior Billie Tadros has spent her time doing since last spring. As if this creative writing and music double-major didn't have enough work to do, she decided to take on the ambitious task of creating her first musical.
"Fresh Ground" is set to be performed April 18 and 19 in Isaac's Auditorium located in Seibert Hall.
"The basic plot is three lesbians open a coffee shop in Selinsgrove, which I thought had the potential to be funny -- a little political and social commentary," Tadros said.
"There are elements of seriousness and I guess among other things, discussing tolerance is cliché about it. It seeks to normalize something that has been natural since the beginning," Tadros said about the storyline.
Tadros takes composition lessons with Patrick Long, associate professor of music, and she said she was bored with what she was doing, so she decided to write a musical.
Long became an unofficial advisor for the project, Tadros added.
"Before this project started, we'd meet weekly [for lessons] and I would try to compose something and he gave me feedback, sort of like a mini-workshop kind of thing," Tadros said.
"He really encouraged me to go ahead and go for it, because the project seemed daunting from the beginning," she said.
Long said Tadros would show him the music she was working on and he would make observations on the pieces.
"When a composer has a piece performed, most people who hear it will react with either undue kindness or undue negativity. Or perhaps they will react with an over or under abundance of aesthetic confidence. It's the task of the composition teacher to avoid these traps and to offer observations that are supportive yet honest, informed yet intuitive" Long said.
Juniors Sarah Thompson and Kristen deBlasi, both friends of Tadros, witnessed the creation of the musical from just an idea to a full show.
Thompson said that one night, they were all sitting around and Tadros said she wanted to write a musical. "We were just kind of throwing around ideas, not thinking it would turn into something serious," Thompson said.
According to deBlasi, watching Tadros write the musical was like a rollercoaster.
"There were definitely moments where it was fun to watch her because she would be really inspired and she'd be having a lot of fun with it, and you could tell it was going to be great," deBlasi said.
"But then there were moments where she was afraid she wouldn't be able to pull it off, and those were not so fun," deBlasi added.
The process of writing "Fresh Ground" started with an idea, Tadros said. She said she had written a song about a coffee shop, and to a certain extent, the show came out of that because with the idea, she had written her first song for the show.
Long said: "From the very first song that she wrote for this musical, I thought that she was creating something very special. The tunes are well-crafted and colorfully orchestrated."
After coming up with the idea and a song, she said she was "just trying to conceptualize these characters, these relationships, and eventually the storyline.
"The storyline came about halfway through, honestly. I only had a rough conception of what it was going to end up being. Largely, I guess it was a very intuitive process," Tadros said.
Long said: "The story and lyrics are compelling. There is a very serious layer to the story, but it is overlaid with humor. The jokes are funny. Everything works together very well."
Tadros said the writing of the script and the music was simultaneous. The script for the musical wasn't written until Tadros had written the first five songs.
"If I had one entirely before the other, I don't think I could make them work," she added.
Long said one needs to be gifted in five areas in order to in a project like this.
"You need musical chops, writing chops, expressivity, a willingness to work like crazy for months and months on end and most of all, bravery," he said.
"It's terrifying to bare your soul in both words and music. There are lots of people who have two out of five, a few who have three out of five, etc. Billie seems to have five out of five," Long added.
The task of doing something independent like creating a musical on campus is difficult, Tadros said, but she wanted to prove that it can be done and one can succeed at doing it.
Thompson said, "Just the fact that she's taking the initiative pretty much on her own to do this whole process and make it actually happen and make it a reality is more than I would ever do."
When the musical is performed, Tadros said: "Even if just three people sit down and watch it and say, 'You know what, I never thought about it that way. Same sex relations are just as normal as heterosexual relationships,' that would be a success. Just to have people enjoy themselves would make it a success. The latter would give it added meaning, I think."
Tadros said she wouldn't be opposed to the show playing outside of Selinsgrove one day, but she doesn't know what potential it has beyond Selinsgrove since the show is localized.
"It doesn't have to be localized here, but I think that's what's going to have a big impact here for people on this campus. I guess if I find the opportunity to take it elsewhere, that would be awesome but we'll see what happens," she said.
Thompson said: "I think it's incredible. Honestly. It's really all of her. She's a writing major and music major, so she just has crazy amounts of talent and it's really shown in the musical by compiling different things, aspects of her life."
"I think if people come see it, they're going to be very happy with it. It's very impressive and I think that if I hadn't known her and I had just heard about the musical, I would be surprised to hear that it was from a college student," deBlasi said.
Currently, "Fresh Ground" is in the casting process. Tadros said there are about 20 roles. "It's open auditions and I expect that most of the cast is going to come from outside of the department," she said.
Auditions will be held in the Cunningham Center on Feb. 16 and 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information about auditions and the musical, visit freshground.xbuild.com.
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