Tag Archives: theater

Listen To The Opening Song of Miss Helen’s Weird West Cabaret

Here it is folks. There’s a second video coming that features Lauren actually singing her take.

Featuring Lauren Osborn.

Artwork by Sarah de Buck.

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Posted by on July 3, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Slenderman Musical! (Notes on the Zoe & Timothy banter)

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.

A Slenderman Musical by Paul Shapera

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.


Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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A Slenderman Musical Release Date: Tues. Oct 20th!

A Slenderman Musical by Paul Shapera

Barring any insane circumstances, A Slenderman Musical will be released on Bandcamp on Tues. Oct 20th. Itunes and Amazon will follow on about the 25th. Mark your calenders. Just in time for Halloween. (which was always the plan)

We’re down to our last vocalist, the wonderful Tiffany Williams recording her parts this weekend. I forgot to have Lauren do one 4 second spoken bit, so she’ll also do that this Monday (maybe one other 5 second bit too). Oliver Marsh, who plays Samuel is done. Jeff Simms, the harmonizer for the Redneck Chorus (we’ll talk about that tomorrow. It’s the version of the Greek chorus i use for this piece) is done. Rachel Hughes is done. Matthew Broyles has his guitar parts all finished… i’m really just cleaning up the tracks now. (Although i cannot tell you how long THAT takes. I can write an entire track in 3 days but spend the next 3 months cleaning it up).

It’s long. The running time is 2 hours. I try to make these things 90 minutes, but ever since Dolls that keeps growing and growing. I couldn’t make this shorter. I recommend listening to it in Acts.

There are 3 Acts.

Anyway, get the word out, any and all help spreading awareness across the internet is GREATLY appreciated. Like, hugely.

All my love to you, my sweets. Soon. Soon we shall be together again… in strange and inappropriate ways.

Until then…


Posted by on October 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The 10 Most Awesome And Best Narrators

I love to play with Narrators. I’ve always loved to play with Narrators. When i was a teenager and ran across the Bob Fosse holy trinity of Narrators (Cabaret/Pippin/All That Jazz) i was utterly fascinated, inspired and immediately set about playing with them in my own work. I really have a thing for when Narrators become a meta elements, more than just a voice doing a job.

This is a list of my top Narrators. This mean SPECIFIC roles, not just people who narrate. Yes, Morgan Freeman would win hands down for best person to get to narrate something, but i mean specifically an interesting narrator role. I also insist that the narrator has to be their own character. They can’t be the main character doing aside voice overs. They CAN dip into and be part of the cast in a limited regard. But they exists fundamentally as themselves, as Narrators and/or Masters Of Ceremony

10. The Criminologist from Rocky Horror Picture Show

It’s not that the guy has a big part, but it’s just so… memorable and fun and awesome.

9. Into The Woods

This is classic example of the kind of playing with the Narrator i love. He starts off as a straight Narrator, but dips into the play every so often as the long lost father figure. The two roles can strangely coincide at moments but THEN, in one of my favorite moments in musical theater, the cast, who’s getting absolutely buggered in Act 2, decide they don’t like how he’s telling the story AND KILL HIM. OMFG i LOVE this idea. On the other hand, i am seething with anger because they thought of it first and now i can’t do it without ripping them off.

8. Kurt Vonnegut- Breakfast Of Champions:

Bringing a book into this is a bad idea. Literature opens up a whole nother universe of Narrator possiblities and examples i can’t afford to get sidetracked on right now. But i must. I really must. The reason why is there are quite a few examples of the Narrator actually being the author and actually inserting themselves into the work itself in order to converse with the protagonist. Cerebus, Animal Man, The Dark Tower series, the list goes on. It’s a rarely used trope, but it’s out there and here’s the thing: Vonnegut did it first (i believe) and went so batshit with it, no one has come close to touching the jaw dropping existential awesomeness in which he did it. I can’t talk about playing with Narrators without bringing up Breakfast of Champions, i just can’t.

7. The Man From Another Place – Twin Peaks

This one isn’t actually a Narrator. At all. Hell, you can’t ever really understand him. And yet conceptually… conceptually he IS like a Master Of Ceremonies existing on another layer of reality, a sub-level to ours. He is the go between between that level and this one and the entities who exist on both. He’s… he offers the most heavy conceptual ideas of how to play with MCs and the most creative and wild speculations. He is a huge influence in ways that cannot be put into words.

6. The Big Lebowski:

What is not to love about the Narrator? Every line he delivers is gold to be quoted and requoted. He belongs in an over the top John Wayne movie but is instead describing The Dude and helps to strangely sell the idea that this lazy, washed up hippy reject does in fact, against all first rational impressions really have his thumb on a higher spiritual way of Being. Also, i reiterate, every time he shows up on screen i want to memorize every word he says and say it about people i know while walking along beside them.

5. Winnie The Pooh:

Oh you don’t think Winnie The Pooh is worth a serious discussion? You too grown up for The Pooh? I pity you and the fruits of your loin. For many of us, this was the very first exposure to breaking the 4th wall. 5 years old, watching a cartoon special on TV (especially back in the day when a cartoon on a. not on saturday and b. on prime time! was an enormously big deal. You’d wait for WEEKS for this shit.) And boom, breaking the 4th wall, going meta on your 5 year old mind. It was awesome. i never looked back and from then on, i was prepared at any moment to break the 4th wall of reality. (This is actually true. In elementary school i used to suddenly turn and address the audience of godlike beings who was watching us from the outside reality much like we watched TV people living their lives. I would make asides to them all the time.)

4. The Central Scrutinizer from Joe’s Garage:

What can i say? I know every word to this triple album. I have for years. Back in the youngin’ days you’d snigger over the songs on album 1 and all the sex jokes (of which there are a lot), but as you grow older, the insane musical shit that happens later and the sheer unapologetic darkness of Zappa’s uncompromising message stay with you and never gets old. The Cental Scrutinizer is  classic play on the Narrator trope. He sometimes dips into the actual story, he ACTS all knowing, he THINKS he’s all knowing, but clearly he is unreliable and to be ultimately fought against and disdained. Although at the end even he fades away and unmasks himself as Zappa after the message has been delivered. (Watermelon In Easter Hay. Holy shit.)

3. The Stage Manager from Our Town:

This SHOULD be number one. It really should and i apologize for that. The others had a  more personal impact on me so they’re getting the higher rating, but if this list were objective, this would be number one. You cannot hold a discussion, a real discussion, about playing with a Narrator and various Narrator tropes without using discussing the Stage Manager. I’ll even go so far as to say  the Stage Manager is the archetype to which all else is compared. I… i can’t even begin to discuss The Stage Manager because you can’t start talking about how the playwrite (Thornton Wilder) plays with the Narrator and stop in less than a half hour. The Stage Manager is EVERYthing… guide to the audience, dipping into the action, key to our understanding of the world we’re witnessing, an omnipotent catalyst (for Emily’s Day)… the town itself evolves a consciousness and that consciousness has a certain amount of godlike attributes and THAT is the Narrator.

2. Pippin:

Everything i did with Lloyd the Narrator in the Dieselpunk Opera ultimately traces back to seeing Pippin when i was 15 years old. I loved the songs, i liked the whole artist finding himself thing,. but HOLY SHITBALLS the ending BLEW MY LITTLE 15 YEAR OLD MIND. Seriously, it was the end of Pippin that did this thing to me that changed everything and set me upon a certain course and set of ideas that not only guided a whole shitload of my artistic explorations but culminated years and years later in The Dieselpunk Opera.

1. Cabaret:

This Narrator is not 4th wall breaking, not meta or mystical or omnipresent or any of the fancy things all these others are. He is just simply a Master of Ceremonies. But no other single Narrator inspired me to the degree the MC from Cabaret did. He’s dark. He’s decadent. He IS in control of the show and he is strangely… otherworldly. But not in the usual fantastical ways i often enjoy. It’s just a great character built so well by the original Joel Grey. He’s a blueprint for an archetype which i imagine has also inspired reams of other artists creating and playing with Narrators.

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Posted by on November 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Welcome To Act 1 Of An Atompunk Opera

It is wisest to promote the new release of the 1st Act of An Atompunk Opera another day, so i am doing so, but after the link we’ll talk a hair.

If you haven’t heard, the 1st Act of An Atompunk Opera, The New Albion Guide To Analogue Consciousness is here! Listen to it! Buy it! Keep me and the singers alive! Every Tuesday another act will be released.

Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, i hope you are enjoying the first act.  There are a few things i was very specifically attempting to do with it.

First of all, since this is the final piece of a trilogy, the 1st act is designed as a play on numerous parallels and inversions of parallels to A Steampunk Opera. Should you be noticing any of them (and there’s a list of parallels and inversions) i assure you, they’re all quite intentional. I do not do this with the other acts, only this one, but i really wanted to begin the Trilogy closing by riffing and inverting the Trilogy opener.

This opera differs from the first two in that the entire opera carries a much, much greater emphasis on an unfolding plot. I’m not saying there’s no plot unfolding in the other two, i’m just saying that was really a major, prime even, consideration in the AO from the get go. Thus the 1st Act only goes so far and likes to dangle a lot of threads. Oh, it’ll pay off, don’t you worry.

So welcome to the ride. We’ve got a LONG way to go and the next installment is lots of high energy, so thanks for trying out my ride, i promise, i spent a year making my entire life’s mission that by the time this opera is all over, you will have said “Holy fuck” a number of times. Well, the holy fucking is coming, so stay tuned and thank you all for caring and supporting this trilogy. I love you all. We will discuss the future a little later, but rest assured, it’s on its way.

The New Albion Guide To Analogue Consciousness, An Atompunk Opera Paul Shapera


Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Act 1 Of An Atompunk Opera Is Out Now!

Okay kids, here it is. Act 1 of An Atompunk Opera!

The remaining Acts (4 in total) will be released each Tues from here on in.

A few things:

1. Please bear with it. Think of this as a weekely series and this first episode is of course where we set up the pieces. A single act is only 20 something minutes and you may hate me when it suddenly ends. But i’m very curious to try out this format and curious what you think of it in the long run.

2. Don’t forget, your purchase will go straight to paying the singers, those delicious voices you hear who make the opera sound awesome and not like crap. They are literally what brings this thing to life. The poor dears need fed, BY ALL THAT’S HOLY PLEASE FEED THEM.

3. Posting links and tweets and talking about this online is how we have gotten here. It is THE reason there is now 3 of these instead of just 1. Thank you all for that. Please keep it up.

4. I love you all. I hope you enjoy.

The New Albion Guide To Analogue Consciousness, An Atompunk Opera Paul Shapera


Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Victorian Puppet Opera: Master Peter’s Puppet Show

A Puppet Opera. How could i pass this post opportunity up?

You think such a thing would be by some daring new theater company, at the very least a contemporary work, since the, say, 90s, but no. Mater Peter’s Puppet Show is from 1923, written by the Spanish composer Manueal de Falla.

The opera is a mini-one, running only 27 minutes. It is taken from Don Quixote. In the book, Don Quixote and Sancho witness a puppet show by Master Peter the puppeteer. The opera is that puppet show.

This particular performance is done by Madcap Puppets.

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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Dr. Dee The Opera

You have GOT to check this out.

Musician Damon Albarn, who you might know from the band Gorillaz, wrote an opera about the infamous 16th century mathematician and occultist John Dee which was directed by Rufus Norris.

As you might imagine, all aspects of this make me basically explode in giddy fits of fanboy hysterics. Followers of this blog know John Dee is obviously a source of fascination, and the guy from Gorillaz writing an opera (small amounts of Elizabethan music and mostly modern balladeer type songs) has me ready to either change my pants or simply put on adult diapers in reaction.

And right i am to do so. Because LOOK at it! Yeah you gotta sit through the obligatory audience reaction “Wow that was really (positive expletive). I was (positive past tense verb)!” but it’s worth it because… LOOK at it:

Ooooooooohhhhhhh. I want to put caramel syrup on that and EAT it looks so awesome.

And thus songs are lovely. To wit:

AND it was inspired by Alan Moore. Alan ‘Watchmen/Marvelman/I’m A Wizard Now Harry’ Moore. What does that do to my geek meter? I’ll tell you:

The performance premiered in summer 2011 and just had another run at the English National Opera. If you want to know more about the piece in general i suggest watching this video.

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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Puppets On Stage

Before we get underway let me give updates as they’re happening.

After careful consideration there WILL be a KIckstarter/Indiegogo campaign. We want and need this to be the best possible production we can manage. We want and need the people involved to be paid.  I myself will not make a dime off of this and indeed, at the end of the day this performance cannot, even by miracle, turn a profit. This is long term investment so to speak. My payday will come down the road. But the space must be paid for (as always) whatever is on stage must be procured and the personnel must be paid. We’re working on a grant and filling the seats for the performances will actually not be a problem at all. But still we will need more money to ensure everyone involved is paid and all expenses met, so when the time to begin the campaign draws close you will hear about it. We’ll talk then.

Oh, and you bet your sweet behind after the performance happens we’ll be posting extensive videos of it.

But for today, let’s look at stage puppetry! The Director Mark Swetz has a number of interesting ideas, a few of which can only be pulled off down the road but one of the cooler ones we can and will do this performance is use puppets to be the Dolls, especially Jasper THE Doll character.

Stage puppetry has been going strong for awhile now. The following videos illustrate different examples. How WE go about it will depend on the puppeteer we find to design and implement the Doll concept. These videos are not intended to show what OUR Doll will look like, just some cool examples of puppetry on stage.

And of course the extremely successful West End Show, War Horse:

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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Holy Musical B@tman!

THIS my friends, is how you do a superhero musical. Spiderman Turn Off The Dark got a lot of flack for… well, everything. But everything the Spiderman musical did wrong, Batman does right.

It’s made for almost no budget. So, you know, you save 80 million dollars there. It’s funny. Really funny. Because let’s be honest, name two completely ridiculous things. Off the top of your head. Here, i’ll help you. Let’s see… uhm… superheroes and…. musicals. I speak as a fan of both, but let’s be honest, they’re both ridiculous. Put them together and you’ve upped the ridiculous quotient into an overload that cannot sustain that much ridiculousness. So why not just be tongue in cheek and have some laughs and a blast?

And that is why Holy Musical B@tman is kind of awesome. Look, a little theater company in Chicago put together a fun and funny Batman musical (music and lyrics by Nick Gage and Scott Lamps, book by Matt Lang and Nick Lang), performed it and then put the entire thing up on YouTube. Granted it seems far more fun live, but that’s theater. Theater’s always better live.

So here you go, kids. Holy Musical B@tman: (note, i’ll put up the first few vids, but the musical is long and there’s a lot of vids. You can follow it on YouTube if you wanna watch the whole thing or skip about)

(Oh! And i almost forgot, they swear up a storm, so, just be warned)

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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