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NEW BLOG - "Badass Babes Savin' the Day" -- CHIX 6, the "ROXPERIENCE!"

BWW is excited to present a new blog, which will follow the Early Stages of CHIX 6, a new multi-genre rock musical written and composed by Lourds Lane (lead singer and multi-instrumentalist from the national touring band, LOURDS) and directed by DJ Salisbury which is now being workshopped...

My name is Lourds Lane.  I’m a touring indie rocker.  As lead singer and electric violin shredder of my original band, LOURDS (http://lourdslane.com),   I spent many a fist-pumping, crowd surfing night on the road entertaining a few hundred to a few thousand people in rock clubs across the country.   The crispy clean fahhnciness of the Great White Way is a “Freebird” solo away from the sticky, sweaty sweetness of the dimly lit rock dives that I’ve called home.  But 2 ½ years ago, I had a vision.  At the Medusa Festival (http://medusafestival.com), my annual rock fest celebrating the most electrifying female musicians in NYC, the fan fever for the woman-fronted bands inspired me to create an empowering theatrical experience to feature an all-star cast of badass rockers chicks.

The initial cast was a select few hand-picked rockerbabes who had larger-than-life superhero stage personas, but who were down to earth enough to keep masks, capes, and utility belts on the stage.  I knew a story about an all-female rock and roll Justice League would have people would leaping tall buildings in a single bound to see it.  I had a few characters in my head… the butch punk rocker, the full figured diva, the burlesque seductress, the sassy career gal… oh, and of course, the misfit nerd.  I would play the nerd.  Yep, despite my spikes and leather style now, I spent much of my youth as the flat-chested-violin-toting-braces-and-glasses-chess champ dork.

The show is called CHIX 6 (http://www.chix6.com.)  I started writing songs for my Medusa Fest friends who would play the superheroes.  Then one day, I ran into Kacie Sheik (original “Jeanie” in “Hair,” Broadway and West End) while I was recording.  I shared a bill with her when she’d played with her band so I only knew her as a pop/rock singer.  I had no idea she had experience with musical theatre. It suddenly occurred to me that Kacie would be a perfect fit for the lead character, “Katie”--- a mild-mannered comic book artist-girl-next-door who learns how to love herself with a little help from her super heroine creations.  With Kacie in the role, Katie would sing all the pretty pop anthems that wouldn’t make sense for the other wonder women.  I asked Kacie to sing on a couple of tracks.  She said yes.  Score!

 I recorded six of the tunes and got immediate interest from fans and patrons.  They wanted to see a reading of the complete piece. Exciting,  but I knew nothing about staging a reading.  Even though I usually wear a variety of hats … writer, composer, arranger, fundraiser, performer,  I needed help!  My only theatre connection, Ms. Kacie Sheik,  sent me names and numbers. One was for a director she’d worked with that she thought might be a match.  What a match!  On a coffee date, our chemistry was instant, and the rest is history.  DJ Salisbury got my vision, reached deep into the guts of my piece, and got his hands dirty right away with ideas.  His heart, commitment, and genius shined and we immediately began preparing for the first reading of the piece on February 1, 2008 at the Zipper Theatre.

The Zipper reading was an off-the-hook surprise… mind-blowing performances, enthusiastic audience participation, an over-capacity theatre, and multiple standing ovations. FOR A BOOK IN HAND READING!  In one night, I raised the front money to produce a professionally recorded 21 song CD.  The ultimate vision was pulling us forward-- an empowering, sexy, all-female stadium rock show set in a surreal Cirque du Soleil style comic book world. CHIX 6 was going to be the ultimate “Roxperience!” 

Flash forward to today.  The CHIX 6 team has expanded with still more genius theater minds.  A recent feature article in the Daily News is another indication that “something big is happening.”  Awesome casting directors Gayle Seay and Scott Wojcik helped us collect a high-powered cast for a four week Equity workshop with a newly massaged script, new songs, and fierce dance numbers to be choreographed by Ron De Jesus. Music director extraordinaire, Wendy Bobbitt Cavett  (conductor/MD of Mamma Mia),  is working miracles with every musical element. The no-ego creative synergy of the core team (DJ, Wendy, Ron De Jesus, and me) is truly magical. 

   

AND my dream sound designer, Brian Ronin (American Idiot, Next To Normal, Spring Awakening) has come onboard! His work on  “American Idiot,” where the drummer is not enclosed in plexi and yet doesn’t overwhelm the vocals is AMAZING!  He understands rock and roll sound.  And now he’s on the CHIX 6 team!  Sahhhhweet!

And off we go… 

Friday, August 6. DAY ONE!
Last night, I got the “Daily Call” sheet from our stage manager, Gail Luna, via email, and I almost fell off my chair.  The first rehearsal was perfectly plotted with clear delineations of the who’s, what’s, where’s, and when’s.  How cool is that?  I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.

  

This morning, I arrived at Chelsea Studios dancing… literally. During the closed Equity meetings, I waited outside with choreographer, Ron De Jesus, who was making up secret CHIX 6 hand gestures with keyboard player/conductor, Jana Zielonka. They cracked me up.  I was so sleep deprived that I couldn’t really form full sentences. Ron gave me an out by saying, “You sure are pretty.”  Hysterics again.  We decided that would be our wiseass retort whenever anyone’s brain would freeze during rehearsals.

At  11 AM, everybody made their introductions.  I got a special kick out of meeting the assistant stage manager, Elliot Meyers because… well…  the stage manager has an assistant!  CHIX 6 is bigger than me!  It’s a SYSTEM! For a rocker chick, the organization is like a miracle.  After the introductions, I said a few words about our magical creative team and  about how we chose a cast for the unique magic we know they’ll bring.  I think ended it with, “So let’s crack out each of our wands and have fun co-creating timeless art!!”…  Or maybe I said, “WOOOHOOO!  I looooove you guys!  I’m so excited I can hardly breathe!!”  Not sure…  but I said something…   and then jumped around gleefully hugging everybody.

Then it was off to music teaching.  Wendy had scored the show for the last reading, and last week we wrote out the new songs.  She is just amazing!  There’s nothing that makes me happier than holding the big fat book she created of CHIX 6 sheet music!  I swear I would sleep with it if I could.  OK, I did… but only that one time… 

Excluding Danielle Lee Greaves and Queen V, the cast is all newbies.  I myself wasn’t in the cast becasue this time around I’m focusing on writing needs.  Everyone had to learn the music from scratch and I wasn’t sure how it would sound… or how I would feel since I’d written certain songs for certain rockers who were not able to participate in the workshop.  But these girls were pros and of course, Wendy is the consummate teacher and director.  The harmonies were sung with precision in no time-- even when we changed the keys, parts, and arrangements.  And I gotta say, I love working out the music with Wendy without having to think about singing my own harmony. And… wow… Carrie Manolakos can SANG! 

 

DAY 2
Saturday, August 7
It’s 10 AM and when I show up to Chelsea studios… instasmile!  I will never get sick of seeing “CHIX 6 ALL DAY” outside the door.!
It’s music teaching day #2.  Wendy zips through the songs with the cast.  Even now, they sound like happiness… even the sad songs.  These CHIX RAAAAAAAAAWK!
I clearly am new to this theatre process because I STILL can’t help but smile every time I look at SM Gail and ASM Elliot diligently taking detailed notes at their table.  Gail is just ridiculously organized… one step ahead all the time.  Whenever he sees me shuffling to find a page in my book, he immediately tells me the page I need to turn to.  Those times I’m busy collaborating with Wendy about vocal parts, Gail would make sure that my book on the floor is flipped to the right page.  Halfway through the day, Gail handed me an Excel document listing all the songs with their corresponding page numbers, as well as detailed breakdown of absolutely everything that was done musically thus far.  I love Gail!  Gail, if you’re reading this, please stage manage my life.  I need you! 
And ready for more joy? In a heartfelt speech, Elliot says how he’s so happy he’s finally involved with a project that he’s truly excited about.  Carrie, who plays the leading role of “Katie,”  came over to me and said the exact same thing.  Gail and Danielle taught me the saying, “The fish rocks from the head down.”  They said that since I rock, the team will rock.   Since I’m a loving mushball, those qualities will come out in the team as well.  How sweet is that!  Wendy called CHIX 6 rehearsal – “THE ELMO ROOM”… because it’s a colorful, giggly place where arms are always outstretched like Elmo’s, ready to love on everyone.
Life is awesome.

DAY 3
Sunday, August 8
Today is music day #3 and time for our leading man Eric William Morris ( Sky in Mamma Mia), to join the party.  Eric just rocks.  He sang his big song with heartthrob sincerity… and he’s just so cute.  It totally makes sense why “Katie” would find him irresistible.  Queen V’s roots in Algiers came in handy when she helped coach Molly Tynes on her French accent.  Funny to watch the “rocker” in the cast teaching the “sex kitten” proper French!
By 6 PM, all the music in the show had been touched upon and was in great shape! 
Before I left, Gail handed me the character/scene breakdowns and the prop requirements… just so that I have them.  3 days in, and I STILL get a kick out of the CHIX 6 machine!
Later that evening, I bonded with Gail over margaritas and a burger.  Ron was late because he was confused about the location.  When Ron got there, Gail and I said in unison, “You sure are pretty!”

DAY 4
Monday, August 9 
First table read! 
First thing I noticed was Ruthie Ann Mile’s binder.  She is playing the misfit nerd (the role I’ll play later on)… and she’s… how shall I say this?… perfect.   She created an elaborate comic book layout on her binder, ripped from the CHIX 6 site (http://chix6.com), that took a good amount of focused nerd time.  It was a colorful collage of images of her character, RISE,  various images of CHIX 6, and her name “Ruthie” in funky block letters strewn across the top.  The “e” in her name was backwards for effect.   Adorkable! I totally relate!  Looooove Ruthie!

Then, I heard the script and music down for the first time.  We definitely have some work to do… but everybody in the room knew we were onto something!  The read-through hit some deep emotional buttons with our cast and a few of the girls had tearful moments. People spoke of chills and the hair on the back of their neck standing up.  Eric pulled me aside to say he loved being in the room and is just blown away by this project.  When “Katie” (Carrie) sang, “To My angels,” and “What are You doing right now?”, random sniffles were heard at the table.  And of course there were a bunch of uproarious laughter moments… like every time

Danielle opened her mouth.  That girl just cracks me up!

After the read through, I engaged everyone in a big group hug and then danced around like a fool!  We ended with our team chant, hands on top of each other in the center of the circle… “CHIX 6 ROCKS… OCKS… OCKS… OCKS… OCKS!!!!”  It occurred to me afterwords that I never showed the new cast members this chant… Hmmmm… maybe they saw it on youtube… 
Hehehehe!  These girls did their research! 
After lunch, DJ jumped right into scene work with Carrie and Eric.  Eric and Carrie are such great actors and their chemistry is already palpable.  We worked out Eric’s ad lib guitar moments in the first scene.  Rocker boyfriend “Jay” uses his musicianship as a secret sauce to keep “Katie” addicted to him.  Eric was creative and he played amazingly!  What a promising first read of their scenes!
 Then, it was onto more scene work with Molly and Ruthie.  Some people just get comic timing and these girls just instinctively do. 
Whew! Week one done...happy ...elated...exhausted and smiling!

 


Wendy Teaches


Staging of Punk Rock Song


Ruthie


Ron and Molly


Queen V Wrapped Up


Molly


Lourds, Carrie, Danielle, Ruthie, DJ, Mary, Queen V, Molly


Elmo Room - Wendy and Lourds


Carrie and Eric


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