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Student Center: DEAR JOURNAL Blog #2: The Next Steps

DEAR JOURNAL is an original musical centering around four teenagers' lives as they enter Middle School. The show tackles youth-centric issues such as popularity, peer pressure, betrayals, and coming into one's own identity. Conceived, directed, and produced entirely by two seventh-graders, Eric Gelb and Ryan Hurley, DEAR JOURNAL's path to the stage is an inspiring one.
Without the aid of adults, and facing limited budget and resources, Eric and Ryan were the sole creative forces behind the production - from scouting rehearsal locations and performance spaces, to the coordination of all technical elements of the production, casting, and dealing with fundraising and administrative duties.

To kick-off this year's Student Center, BroadwayWorld approached DEAR JOURNAL's co-creator Eric Gelb to blog about the team's challenges, rewards and lessons in putting together the production.

Below is Eric's second blog entry. If you missed last week's, catch up here! And check back soon for another instalment!

THE ROAD TO: 'Dear Journal: The Musical'
BLOG #2: The Next Steps

"At this point, the script was about 1/2 and still no music had been written. Auditions were weeks away, and Ryan and I were at a loss. We intended to hand pick people to come to auditions instead of holding an open call. We figured that would be more efficient. Ryan and I decided that they should prepare a short monologue and a song. Things with casting seemed pretty smooth until we realized that we didn't have enough boys. We planned on casting everyone that auditioned because we all knew them personally but the levels of importance of their role wasn't determined until we saw them audition. After calling some friends we still had some gaps for male roles at our audition, so we left them empty and decided we'd deal with them later in production and that Ryan would assume the lead role of "Max" and I would take on an ensemble track and understudy all 3 male principals. It was going to be tough, but we figured it would work.
The audition process, surprisingly, wasn't too difficult. I held auditions at my place (you can't get more personal than that) and posted the list immediately after. Rehearsals were to start in early May - the problem was we didn't have music to work with or a "frozen" script. Ryan was still involved in Michigan Opera TheatreChildren's Chorus so he missed about half of the rehearsals, which was a problem because I wasn't able to sculpt the show from his vision. I also didn't have a complete script to work with, and characters seemed a little stereotypical once I saw them come I life.

Ryan and I hadn't raised any funding for the show- my parents put $175 towards set materials and I put all of my money towards the show, so we were able to purchase some stuff for the show. It was easy to see from the start that a fast-paced show like this would require lots of quick changes and lots of costumes. Working with (at that time) over 40 costumes, I gathered a fantastic costume and makeup team.

I began purchasing some costume pieces for the show and trying them on the performers - my vision was coming to life. I was happy - for the moment. We made the move for our rehearsals at the Library, and it worked well. The teens were starting to get the hang of it, and Ryan's availability was getting better. He was able to make more the rehearsals now, and we had a song down.

However, our streak of good fortune quickly ended. By the middle of the summer, we were down four leads due to the inability to keep a commitment. We basically lost a huge chunk of our cast, and our show was scheduled to open on November 10th. Ryan and I were about ready to give up. Money was a problem. The set didn't seem like it was going to fit - that was $75 down the drain for one set piece. We were frustrated, confused and upset. Was producing an original musical REALLY worth it?"

DEAR JOURNAL began touring across the Michigan area in 2011-2012 with more venues planned for 2013.

To learn more about DEAR JOURNAL, visit their Facebook page here.
Photo of Eric Gelb



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