Hitting the ground runningBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
So … we have completed our first official week of rehearsals for “Allegiance.” Already, we have learned all the music for the show, and staged the first five minutes. For a new musical where so much is, and will continue to be, in flux until opening night, that is a huge deal. This kind of progress is possible only with a cast that is as talented, disciplined and committed as this one is. Not to mention that everyone likes one another very much.
I didn’t get much sleep the night before, as I was very excited to begin working. I drove in extra early to allow myself ample time to find parking. With my map as guide, and parking lots highlighted by the good folks at the Old Globe, I found a space that is but a short walk to where I needed to go. Since we would only be learning music today, I decided to dress like a human being, jewelry and all. My sweatpants and ripped-up T-shirts would have to wait a few more days.
The day began with us seated at tables arranged in a square. Every member of the cast received brand-new scripts and scores, plus other information that we needed in order to function well in this new space. We also got ID cards, wallet cards with pertinent stage management information, contact sheets, and rules to follow for calling in sick, how to prevent injury at work, and what to do when one is incurred. All members of Actors Equity then needed to meet for union-related business before we could actually get down to work.
As for the cast, it was great to see a lot of familiar faces, those from previous readings and the recent New York workshop, as well as meet brand-new members of our ever-growing family. To them I say, welcome to the craziness!
The end of our morning session was a meet-and-greet with members of the Old Globe, the cast, creative team, production staff, interns and friends. It was very exciting.
Oh yeah, we did get to learn music, too. And boy, we went through a lot.
My whole body is sore.
Yes, there is still music to learn every single day (and with changes and edits, we’re having to unlearn every day, too), and for sure that will be a constant thing during our rehearsal period. The cool thing about doing a musical set in the 1940s is … dancing! And I do get to dance, too. I got a good share of it at the last workshop, much to my delight. Now, I have been told, there will be more. Wheeee! Sure, I’ll be sore, and I’ll complain every now and again, but in truth, I’m only too happy that I get to swing and sway. And be lifted, and spun.
One afternoon, we had a design presentation with set designer Donyale Werle (Tony Awardee for “Peter and the Starcatcher”), and costume designer Alejo Vietti. Donyale works with natural materials (those who have seen the Broadway production of “Starcatcher” will know what I mean) and the look of her designs reflects that. “Allegiance” is no exception. Lots of wood, chicken wire, silk, paper, metal. Nothing artificial, nothing in neon. Just earthy stuff with which to create the world that the actors will inhabit.
Alejo’s costume designs reflect the 1940s aesthetic, but on a 2012 body. Since the human body has evolved even over the last few decades, Alejo said that something directly from the period that looked amazing back then will not sit the same way on a contemporary body. The sketches were beautiful, and we can’t wait to put on the finished costumes. Every fitting we’ve had so far has been fun and exciting!
Last Thursday afternoon, we had our first sing and read-through of the entire show. It gave our writers (Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione) and creative team (director Stafford Arima, choreographer Andrew Palermo, music supervisor Lynne Shankel) the chance to hear everything in context. Once that was over, we headed to a “welcome to San Diego” party at the home of one of our producers, Wendy Gillespie. The next day, we got news that rewrites would be coming in. And once they did, a lot of pages landed in the recycle box.
Over the last couple of days, we were able to stage the first 10 minutes or so of the show. Opening numbers can be tricky to figure out, and I think we’ve got a good one here. I can’t reveal much more except to say that we all sing out, sing loud and sing proud. I’m also thrilled that, in this new American musical, our romantic leading men are Asian. By golly, it is absolutely possible.
Putting a new musical together takes patience and care, not to mention love. Indeed, this is a labor of love for many of us involved in the project. “Allegiance” is a story of war, loss, and rising from the ashes. But although set in a great world war, it’s the story of family, and how the actions of a few can tear the family apart. It’s also personal for me, as I married a man of Japanese descent. I dedicate this to him, and to my daughter, that she may learn of her ancestry and be proud of all that she is.
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