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Neal Learner: LIFE: A Comic Opera

Capital Fringe Festival 2017 (Sep 16, 2017)

Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts

By Neal Learner

(2015)

Synopsis:

Life is grand! Not in the sense that it’s always “wonderful,” but rather in that it’s intrinsically dramatic. Life is funny and sad, painful and sensual, anxious and confident, exciting and boring, loud and quiet, hateful and loving, beautiful and ugly, desirous and repulsive and everything else in between. It has three distinct phases: beginning, middle and end. And there’s nothing anyone can do to change that. Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts sets to music this grand topic in the only medium up to the task – opera! The work features a mother and father and their twin children, a boy and a girl, as they experience the flow of life in all of its subtle and not-so-subtle moments.

Setting:

Time period is contemporary, but story covers a roughly 60-year period. For staging purposes, consider starting in the 1960s and finishing in the 2020s. The first act, “Beginning,” takes place in a hospital maternity ward where husband Charles accompanies his wife Joan as she gives birth to the couple’s twin children Sally and Max. The second act, “Middle,” takes place over a roughly 18 year period as the children grow up and leave the home. The third act, “End,” takes place at the end of the mother and father’s life, another 30 years in the future.

Characters:

  • Charles (father): a typical man of his era who still holds traditional views of male-female roles, but ultimately is supportive and loving of his wife and children.
  • Joan (mother): a woman influenced by the feminist movement who is now anxious about how raising children will fit with her ambitious career goals.
  • Sally (daughter): a strong-willed, peace-loving child and woman who becomes a successful doctor. Sally is at complete odds with her brother's love for guns and the military.
  • Max (son): completely different from his twin sister, Max loves guns, god and country and enters the Marines after high school. He only reconnects with Sally at parents' death.


Set/props:

Set is a simple room with a sturdy table (long enough to accommodate a person lying down) and four chairs. These will be arranged differently in each act.

ACT I - BEGINNING

Scene: Joan and Charles are in hospital room as Joan gives birth to twins. Table serves as a birthing bed.

ACT II - MIDDLE

Scene: Joan and Charles, Max and Sally grow over an 18-year period, from chaos of toddlerhood to decisions about the future and bitter-sweet moment of leaving home. Table serves as actual table.

ACT III - END

Scene: Joan and Charles are at the end of their lives. Max and Sally contend with this reality as they witness the their parents' deaths. Table serves as deathbed.

SAMPLE SCORES

SCORE: I Want My Truck

(Act II - "Middle" Family manages with the chaos of toddlerhood)

SCORE: I Am Perfect

(Act II - "Middle" Ten-year-old Sally presents her supreme confidence)

Monumental Theatre Co. Reading of Life - ACT I Excerpts (May 19, 2016)

Monumental Theatre Co reading of LIFE - ACT II excerpts (May 21, 2016)

Monumental Theatre Co. Reading of Life - ACT III Excerpts (May 22, 2016)

Monumental Theatre Co reading of LIFE - Baby Names (May 22, 2016)

Monumental Theatre Co reading of LIFE - I Am Perfect (May 22, 2016)

Monumental Theatre Co reading of LIFE - audience discussion (May 22, 2016)

Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts, ENTIRE ACT I

Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts, ENTIRE ACT II

LIFE: A Comic Opera, ENTIRE ACT III (Dec 13, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera" Act III, Scene 1, "Dementia Waltz" (Sep 13, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act III, Scene 2, "Chocolate Cake" (Sep 13, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, ACT III, Scene 3, "What do You Know of Death" (Sep 13, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, ACT III, Scene 4, "Father Was a Good Man"

Life: Comic Opera, Act III, Scene 5, "Let Them Know They Are Loved," Lyrics, David Stanley; Music NL

LIFE: A Comic Opera, Act III, Scene 6, "What a Sick Joke" (Dec 13, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act III, Scene 7, "That's Life!" (Dec 13, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act II, Scene 1 (Jun 15, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act II, Scene 2 (Jun 15, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act II, Scene 3 (Jun 15, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act II, Scene 4&5 (Jun 15, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera, Act II, Scene 6, "Your Future" (Jun 30, 2015)

Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts, Act II, Scene 7