15 Years Ago, work began on Lighthouse. A highly successful AEA Showcase was presented at One Dream in Tribeca. It was a memorable, occasionally harrowing, experience, and though this is a completely reimagined and streamlined version, we will always think fondly of those connected with that original production.
A Note from the Writer about the Origins of Lighthouse
It began in a living room in Queens. Lance and I and our loyal stage manager Arlene Schulman had gathered with the creators of what shall be known only as The Irish Musical to finally meet the Mysterious Financier. Because the creators were green (as in inexperienced, not just Gaelic), it had been our job to make all the arrangements for the showcase production, hammering the meandering script into shape, notating the music (which was on a cassette tape), placing casting notices and, most importantly, booking a theatre -- the lovely One Dream in Chelsea which alas is no more. We all eagerly awaited the arrival of the Mysterious Financier who was flying in from London en route from Sierra Leone. The hours passed, no word. We checked the airport -- the plane had arrived. But no word from MF. Our spirits, so high at the beginning of the evening, sagged and drooped as we assumed we had been stood up. Then came the phone call from MF’s wife. MF had been arrested upon arrival at Kennedy (on tax charges) and was sitting in a cell on Varrick Street. His funds were frozen. The Irish Musical was no more.
The creators washed their hands of the project, left us unreimbursed for the months of prep work and, having never met the very classy theatre owner, opted to walk away from the rental contract. We, however, as front persons for the production, felt our reputations were at stake and tried to come up with a salvage plan. Lance and I had been developing an epic musical called Lighthousebut it was by no means ready for production. And there were no funds to produce it. That’s when we learned the meaning of true friendship. Arlene and her husband Dick offered to finance it, not having read the script or heard the music, but just trusting that we would be able to pull it off. The money wouldn’t be immediately available, and the theatre owner (having learned what transpired with MF) said, look, you’re nice guys, but you expect me to trust you again? I called my sainted mother, who was on a fixed income but somehow had squirreled away a little money (her burial fund, which sadly we had to use this year for real). So while Lance and Arlene were sitting in the theatre owner’s office, trying to reassure her, I drove through rush hour traffic with the full rental amount, arriving just in time, cashier’s check in hand. And Lighthouse was born. There were quite a few New York actors who received a rather surprising phone call saying, remember that Irish Musical you submitted for? There’s been a change in plans. Are you still interested? And, being New York actors, every one of them was.
The main inspiration for Lighthouse was Henrik Ibsen’s enigmatic late masterpiece, The Lady from the Sea. But in transplanting it to New England, I’d been getting the feel of the era and locale from the memoir of Celia Thaxter, Among the Isles of Shoals,which gave a fascinating insight into the mind of a woman lighthouse keeper (and poet) and the singular, isolated life she led. It also inspired the name of our company. Ibsen’s story is very different, of course. The Stranger in his play is a disreputable flesh and blood sailor who returns to claim the heroine years after her marriage to a doctor. And yet her husband points out that she did not recognize him when he arrived, and that over the years she had often misidentified other men as the Stranger who had come to rescue her from her stifling life. So there is a mystical element to him even in Ibsen’s play, and that’s the element I’ve emphasized in this reworking of Lighthouse. Not just the semi-real Stranger, but the mysterious Widow who lives at the other end of Lighthouse Island whose story is not dissimilar to Leda’s but has a very different outcome, and the Island itself, where Leda is haunted by shadows of the mother she as a girl discovered hanging in the galley, which drove away her pretend friend and brought into her life the black silent wings that pursue her in times of crisis. Ibsen’s play is not a play of social realism, in which a 19th century husband learns that he needs to give his wife more breathing space. There’s no music in that. The Lady from the Seais a rich, elusive play in which two decent people are trying to make their lives together work in the face of forces neither of them can control. I have not set that playto music, but it was that aspect of it that convinced me there was a musical in that story.
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