For those of you not aware, A Slenderman Musical is out now. Give it a listen. If you like it, buy it! Support the artists who have worked hard on this.
Okay, a few notes on the Zoe & Timothy banter, which is actually my favorite part of the piece.
For this project i did something i haven’t done before, i made a detailed, written outline of everything up until the end of the 2nd act before i started on any music. I did not do the 3rd act because, and here’s a dirty little secret, except for the Atompunk Opera i have never known what was going to happen in the final act in ANY of these operas, and do not figure it out until i am well over half way through composing the piece. I don’t mean to do this, it’s just how it works out.
There is a great degree of things that happen while working on a piece that you cannot plan for, that happen spontaneously during the course of creation and that you should respond to as it happens. Let this new unforeseen thing live. Let it change the piece even. The Zoe & Timothy banter is one such thing.
In the outline, Timothy died at the end of Act 1. That was it for him. Spend an Act building him up then kill him. It’s a horror trope thing. Zoe takes over and that’s all there is. I had three volunteer listeners this time around (plus Kevin Hulburt, who i always sucker in), and when i sent them the outline, Christopher Webster in particular made a very impassioned case for keeping Timothy around. Later, when i sent the first act demo out (but before starting on Act 2), Kevin Hulburt too made an impassioned plea for keeping Timothy in the game.
When i ask for feedback, the truth is, i’m going to ignore 90% of what you say. I’m looking for that 1 out of 10 comment i didn’t consider which makes a bell go off. This was different. But… two impassioned pleas for Timothy… hmm. I considered what to do with him.
I did have a problem with Zoe that needed work. Act 2 has 3 character arcs: Jordan, Samuel and Zoe. Jordan and Samuel’s acrs are clear, but all Zoe really does is find her way to the Librarians. Not much arc. She could see the Abbey along the way and allow me to paint it a bit… all right… it’s not a character arc but maybe i’ll forgo an arc and just do this.
When i considered what kind of back and forth i would need to have at the end of Welcome To The Decadent Abbey it occurred to me that Zoe hasn’t had a body in a long time, and wouldn’t you… want to flirt? Have sex? Get a drink? If you had been without a body for several years wouldn’t you be desperate for sushi, beer and a little… you know. She can’t have sushi, no time between getting inside Timothy and the Slenderman taking her out of our World. I don’t even think she would actually have sex with Jordan. I think her heart if too focused on her Reina and her goal. (Yeah, for the record, she wouldn’t actually go through with it.) But she would flirt, Zoe would totally flirt. Which led to Timothy having something to say about it, which brings him back in the game. (The conversation is mostly Zoe trolling him as she wouldn’t actually bed Jordan under the circumstances and enjoying the banter as a way of taking her mind off of the weird shit.)
This is where the important thing happened.
I liked the Zoe & Timothy 1 banter. It wasn’t the first of many back and forths, it was just the one. But i liked it. And i went away for a weekend to some mountain and sat out drinking a beer on a balcony by myself at night thinking about the piece, and that’s when i came to understand something very important: Not only was the Zoe and Timothy discussion really good and i should do it more, but it’s the most important part of the entire piece. The piece is missing a heart. The back and forth, the friendship that grows between Zoe and Timothy through their banter, which i should put EVERYWHERE I CAN, is the heart of the entire piece.
The musical is really about alienation and connection. Alienation is the killer. It drives Timothy to despair, almost to the end of his road. It destroys Jordan. It takes Samuel down, all in their ways. By forming a honest connection, Zoe and Timothy are able to make it through. It is their connection that makes this possible. Alienation causes all the troubles in the musical, even Mother suffers from it and sends her tall, thin son to solve it for her. Connection saves everything in the piece, including stopping the Slenderman attacks, and it is Zoe and Timothy’s bond that is the seed from which all other connections in the show are made.
Furthermore, i’m going to build that connection to a point where i am going to make a love song between a straight guy and a lesbian with absolutely no sexual tension whatsoever, no romantic anything at all between them, just an honest bond forged from mutual respect in dire circumstances.
And with that, my understanding of what i was doing writing this musical truly came alive.
The banter is designed to seem to fill the cracks between plot holes, which is misdirection, because as far as i’m concerned, it is the most crucial aspect of the show, without which those plot points lack a heart and soul to bring them together.
So there you go, my thoughts on the Zoe and Timothy banter.
Oh yeah, if you haven’t listened to the musical a few times through, uhm, spoilers.