GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 16, 2013

Fishtown Local:

Fishtown Local
Gordon Baird

---- — And now, for something completely different.

The offspring of three new Gloucester Institutions has announced its birthing party. The new baby’s name: “Crazy Moon.” Let me explain.

The Gloucester Writers Center commissioned a play-writing class last year as one of its many innovative programs. Lynda Robinson expertly guided her students into writing and producing eight 10-minute plays, which were performed at the new Rocky Neck Cultural Center on Wonson Street. (One of the plays, Keno, even moved on to a spot in a Boston playwriting festival.)

The RNCC evening was a great event, and influenced me into reviving my former West End Theater effort — which ran for years in the Blackburn Building — to bring live theater to this wonderful space on Rocky Neck.

More than theater, in fact, a musical. And more than a musical, in fact, I have written an adventure musical, “Crazy Moon,” befitting of the culmination and intermixing of these exciting Fishtown influences.

“What the heck is an adventure musical?”, you may well ask. Aha! Is it a story that drags its hero through a series of trials and challenges, packed with songs, underscoring and some very scary, unexpected and exciting imagery?

Is he prone to self doubt and the trickery of others? Is his voice clear and smooth and achingly lonely, wistful and determined to make it home? Yes, yes and more yes.

And does this burden of bearing the mantle of literature and art from its local influences cause it to innovate a scene never before accomplished on a live stage, anywhere?

To accomplish this feat, the infamous Gloucester Chicken Shack of local TV lore was rearranged, shuffled and restocked into an exact replica of the Rocky Neck Cultural Center stage, lights and all. One thing you learn working at North Shore Music Theatre is to only rehearse on an exact duplicate stage. An actor’s muscle memory is all important, and if any dimension is different, a planted foot near a stage edge can end up in disaster. Musicians and techies need to recreate their space as well, so exactitude is key.

The creation of “Crazy Moon” took on a life of its own. At first, the songs drove the plot, but then the plot took over everything and even ended up causing some songs to change because they were a better fit. This was especially true of the title tune, “Crazy Moon,” which even displaced the show’s original title, “Mystery of the Moonlight.”

Jazz titan and pianist John Hyde was instrumental in the arrangements of four original songs out of the show’s 10 and his own reinterpretations of six others. Kathleen Brown basically invented her own very funny characters and I wrote the scene just for her special talents. Her scenes took weeks of special tech rehearsals.

But “Crazy Moon” is also heavily influenced from another Gloucester source, Greenheads. The shocking imagery of Sam Holdsworth’s wonderful book of paintings, Greenheads became as much of an influence of the text as Odysseus, Frodo and even the best kids’ book ever written, “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” Its indigo mood pervades the entire journey, even through the hero’s many travails.

So the mantle is high and heavy to live up to the standards of the Gloucester Writers’ Center and the exceptionally displayed art shows of the RNCC.

“Crazy Moon” runs eight shows, Sept. 19-22 and Sept. 26-29. (T-F-S at 8 and Sun at 5). There is a benefit for the Writer’s Center on Thursday, Sept 26 at 8 p.m., when 100 percent of the ticket sales go to the Writers’ Center.

Tickets for all shows are $10 and kids at $5. It runs only an hour and 15 minutes, so it’s Dad-friendly too.

Hope you’ll join us under your own “Crazy Moon.” I know I will.

Gordon Baird is a local actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine, and producer of “the Chicken Shack” community access television show.