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NanKnighton.com


September 22, 2003

I would have written sooner to update everyone on "Camille at Goodspeed," but I've just returned from a much-needed 2-week vacation. Now, being fully rested, I am feeling totally inarticulate (or peaceful?) but I will try to give you all an account of what was a joyous experience.

As I think you know, we began rehearsals on July 21st. We rehearsed in a wonderful small building with a waterfall on one side and a brook and covered bridge on the other. In fact, whenever I had to do quick rewrites, I would go sit on the bridge to work and look down at the fish and the brook - an idyllic setting if ever there was one. I loved everything about East Haddam and Chester and the entire Goodspeed operation. The feeling is so relaxed and warm up there. At one and the same time it is completely conducive to hard work but also to great parties at night. We all lived in little houses along the same road as the rehearsal hall, and at night we would grill food and drink wine, play games and laugh. By day, the rehearsals were as effective and exciting as any I've experienced. Gabriel Barre has got to be one of the best directors around today. He was able to pull this whole show together in three and a half weeks, which is no small trick since it involves not only the scene and song work, but also extensive work with the choreography, movement and staging of all the actors who become living statues. Gabe (with the help of his fantastic A.D., Tim Bennett) has the magic touch of being able to work so economically that not one second is wasted - all three rooms at the rehearsal hall were constantly in use. By the time we went into tech, we were really way ahead of the game. I truly believe we accomplished six weeks work in three weeks time. I wrote three new songs during this period and did major script revisions just about every day. Mark Dendy was my "seatmate" during rehearsals and grew to be such a good friend. He is funny, outrageous and his choreography and staging are sheer brilliance. The music department was amazing. The combination of Frank, Constantine, Jeremy and Jonathan Tunick was unbeatable. I loved the whole ensemble, and the people with whom we worked at Goodspeed were incredibly involved and supportive, and also just the sort of people one loves to hang out with. We only had two days of tech, which no one can believe, but again, Gabe is just so efficient that he was able to pull it all together. And that brings us to opening night.

Opening Night: August 14 - the day the East Coast lost power. We were just finishing a dress rehearsal when a sound went off in the theater which made us all sink to our knees in sheer fright. The immediate assumption was that every speaker in the house had just blown. Nevertheless, we soldiered on for another few minutes until a second explosive noise and loss of lights brought us once again to our knees. (It was literally: Have the terrorists hit Chester, CT?) Someone announced that power had been lost in Chester and East Haddam, which was quickly followed by the news that in fact, power had been lost from Michigan down to Washington D.C. (which was later amended to "down to New York"). Everyone went rushing outside to call someone or other on their cell phones, and I have photos of this melee, as, ironically, it was the one day so far I had remembered to bring my camera. Some of these photos, plus many others, will be posted here shortly on the website. I think all the pictures will communicate what fun we had throughout, even on this crazy day. The big question at that point on August 14th was: WILL THE SHOW GO ON? Naturally, with the indomitable and wonderful Michael Price at the helm, the answer was: OF COURSE. So, we opened that night with our first audience, playing the entire first act with no sound, no air conditioning, few costumes and only two small work lights operating on a generator. Considering those conditions, I felt really proud of everybody. Luckily, power was restored, everyone was miked during intermission, and the second act went on under normal conditions.

For the next two weeks, we continued to work like maniacs, making fixes, deleting and adding songs, hearing feedback from audiences and always trying to make the show as good as it could possibly be in this short time period. For the last week, we essentially froze the show, which was, I think, a gift to both the actors and the audience, as the show just kept getting tighter and smoother with each performance. The audience response was consistently positive, which made us all very happy indeed.

I have to say a few words about Linda Eder and Michael Nouri. They are a dynamite combo. Linda's acting is astounding - people walk out with tears in their eyes. Everyone knows about her voice, but I think people will be blown away to see her performance as Camille. Michael is so powerful as Rodin that one really feels like the sculptor himself has come back to life. His passion and force are complemented by his intelligence and subtlety as an actor. Needless to say, all the men in the audience fell in love with Linda, and the women with Michael. Matt Bogart was universally praised for his strong portrayal of Paul Claudel, and Milo O'Shea and Rita Gardner were the perfect parents. Milo's relationship with Linda is so touching. I realize that I am slightly biased (Okay - really biased) toward praising the cast and the show itself, but I do believe in it and found myself falling in love with the show from almost the first week of rehearsal.

And what now? All signs look good. We are obviously hoping for a Broadway production, sooner than later, and I feel we're very close to achieving this dream. As soon as I know anything definite, I will immediately report it on this site. So, keep your fingers crossed for us. I will be spending most of this fall making further changes on the show, but I am also going to try and find time to redraft Man with Two Hearts Found On Moon, and to have a first informal reading of my mystery play, Bad Dreams. I love hearing from all of you, so please keep your questions and letters coming, and, as I said, there will soon be many Camille pictures added to the scrapbook section here on my website. It's been a great summer, and one I will never forget.


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