Friday, May 01, 2015

The Creation Of “Buzz Band”

photo by Roy Moore

"It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n roll." — AC/DC

Four and a half years ago, when I first started improvising with Karen Jane DeWitt as part of Local Genius Society, one of the first things we bonded over was music.  So often one of us would mention a band – The Raveonettes, Cults, Best Coast, Father John Misty, No Doubt – and the other would say, “Hey, I love that band!”

Much of my pre-Austin life was spent immersed in music – covering shows, reviewing albums, interviewing musicians.  I’d experienced the musical world as a journalist and a fan.  But in Austin more of my time was being spent on stage, improvising stories and characters.

Looking for a new artistic project, Karen and I thought about a way to combine our shared passion for music with our love of improvised stories, and we pitched the Institution Theater on an idea for a narrative show about the lives of musicians reaching for stardom.  We wanted to explore stories about what goes on behind the scenes, after the concert, on the tour bus, in between albums – we wanted to create real characters that are living in the moment and laying it all on the line chasing a big dream.

And we wanted rock and roll.

Looking to Patti Smith’s “Just Kids,” Anthony Kiedis’s “Scar Tissue,” Chuck Klosterman’s “Fargo Rock City,” Keith Richards’s “Life,” and other rock texts as guides, we made it our aim to focus on stories with high personal stakes, moments of tenderness or triumph, and real emotion.

On top of this, we also wanted a specific kind of live music.  We weren’t looking to create a stage musical, with characters singing their feelings to one another, but rather a story, with spontaneous, improvised rock and roll.  (I love a good musical as much as the next person, but a rock concert is a different beast.)  We wanted to hear the band’s sound and see them in concert, or in the studio, or working on writing songs.  We wanted drums, percussion, electric guitar!  

We were incredibly fortunate that the Institution team saw promise in our idea and let us run with it.  And we were even luckier to be graced with the talents of a cast who can really do it all.  Not only are they generous and funny improvisers, they’re fearless musicians and genuinely kind people.    

Behind-the-scenes:  Luis Salinas and Dave Ronn

Karen and I wanted to allow for a really collaborative rehearsal process, and the cast has been imaginative, playful, and unafraid.  They’ve embodied the open-minded Yes-And attitude of improv, which, as first-time directors has been a great gift.

Behind-the-scenes: Megan Simon, Dave Ronn, and Jordan T. Maxwell

Special thanks to everyone who gave us advice, suggestions, and guidance as we’ve shaped this show – particularly Kareem Badr, Jon Bolden, John Ratliff, Asaf Ronen, Tom Booker, Sarah Marie Curry, Aden Kirschner, and our improvised storytelling idols PGraph.

Working on “Buzz Band” has been a great new adventure, and I couldn’t have asked for a more inspired and giving creative partner than Karen Jane DeWitt.  She’s got killer instincts and vital exuberance, and she’s deeply caring.  The best, man.

We are so excited to debut “Buzz Band” and unveil some improv rock stars.
It’s all happening.

“Buzz Band” at the Institution Theater
 3807 Woodbury Drive (near S. Congress and Ben White)
Fridays and Saturdays May 8 & 9, 15 & 16, 22 & 23 at 8PM

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