I know I’ve been somewhat quiet these past few months (absolutely silent), but every time I undertake the beginnings of a new project, I’m loath to share details with anyone since, due to the nature of the creative process, lots of things are sure to change before the thing is done. I therefore tend to wait until the last possible moment to disclose any part of it.

Well, I can longer pretend that time is on my side. The sudden arrival of Fall upon New York has sent a shiver up my spine. Not from the cold, however, but from the realization that December is fast approaching, and so too are my upcoming deadlines.

Iowa Central Community College has commissioned me (in a manner of speaking) to write a new show. The Madrigal Dinner of last year was such a tremendous success that all parties involved were excited to do it over again. Chef Michael Hirst had originally envisioned an “Episode II” version of the show, and that was what I set out to create. Early in the preliminary stages, though, I decided against it. I had a few new ideas, but I felt that the show was so quintessential – so right on the mark – that any attempt to mimic it would surely fall flat (especially by comparison).

After a brief period of internal disquiet, I hatched an enticing scheme: I would write a completely different kind of show, one nothing like The Madrigal Dinner. And what better genre to choose than that of the famous Murder Mystery? – perhaps the most definitive type of dinner theatre there is.

As an artist, I often like to challenge myself with the goal of producing a work that is just like another, classic form – yet better. And outfitted with my own personal twists and modifications. I want audiences to feel an intense familiarity with what they’re seeing, but to be wholly unable to place where that sense is coming from, since they’re also being bombarded with something that is concurrently new and cutting edge. As the old saying goes, “the same – but different.”

(For further reading [and for English Major bonus points], Wikipedia “the uncanny.”)

And so I decided: I would write the single greatest Murder Mystery dinner theatre show the world has yet seen.

Somewhere around May 2011 I started forming the plot. I watched a lot of old movies. I took notes. I reworked the plot. I added several characters. I added a lot of detail. I deleted several characters. I consolidated the detail. I reworked the plot again. And again. And so on.

I finished the first draft of the script just a few weeks ago, and have since sent it off to be edited by a friend and fellow comedy writer. In the meantime, I’ve been finishing up the music.

There’s several songs in this show – all of which are original. They began as musical sketches, mostly chord progressions I came to respect from much tinkering on the keyboard. Those progressions evolved bass parts and melodies and – lastly and most painfully – lyrics. For some reason, though I find nothing easier than writing, and little else more fun that writing music, I have a terrible time writing words for music. It’s a completely different skill, only vaguely related to the others, and surely the one where I’m most in want of practice. Either way, they’ve been taking shape quite nicely, though I still have an ungodly amount of work still left to do. Music writing (and arranging) takes up a ridiculous amount of time.

Just today I finished up this draft of one of the songs, a duet of two female characters. Even though it’s still a little bare-bones, I thought I’d include it as a taste of what’s to come.

The world premiere performance of Deadpan with take place at Willow Ridge Restaurant and Golf Course on Thursday, January 26th, with performances to follow on Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th. An additional week’s run will occur the first week of February – the 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

We’re still in the process of applying for grants, but with any luck we’ll have the funds necessary to ship a handful of New Yorkers over to act in the thing – hopefully led by last year’s leading man, Sean Coughlin.

Stay tuned! More updates are sure to follow….