In a brilliant collaborative project, the SCF Theatre students have chosen monologues to act out while the SCF Music student composers have written original compositions to accompany the readings.
Listen to composition instructor Rex Willis and theatre assistant professor Amanda Schlachter explain how this project came about, the learning process and experience for the students, and the rewarding end product that will be presented on Friday, April 16 at 11:00 a.m. in the Neel Performing Arts Center.
SCF students, faculty, and staff can attend in person. All others may watch the performance on the SCF Music Facebook page.
Come along and join the club!
• SCF Music Program Facebook Page Link to watch the concert live
• SCF Foundation Donate2Music Link to donate to the SCF Music Program
• Text Code to donate to the SCF Music Program: Text "SCFMUSIC" to 41444
Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)
Robyn Bell: This school year, the State College of Florida administration combined the SCF Music Program and the SCF Theater Program into its own department called the Department of Performing Arts. And it's been amazing to me to see just how something that simple has had such a significant change in the way that the SCF Music and Theater faculty. And students have been able to come together to work on performances and projects. Last November, we had two theater students serve as narrators for the Symphonic Bands, Veteran's Day concert. But this semester, my colleagues, Rex Willis, instructor of guitar and composition, and Amanda Schlachter her assistant professor of theater have hatched this incredible project for our music, composition, students and theater performers. To collaborate on it's called Music and Monologues and their inaugural performance is Friday, April 16th at 11:00 AM during our Recital Seminar class. So Rex and Amanda, welcome to the club.
Rex Willis: This is great. We're so happy to be here.
Amanda Schlachter: We're excited. Thank you.
Robyn Bell: both sort of experts at the clubbing thing. So Amanda, you've done a lot of interviews, Rex. We've had you on several times and you did your own podcast where the guitar ensemble thing. So. You're not new to the club.
Rex Willis: No, we are not new club members. We are now veterans of the club. Right.
Amanda Schlachter: I don't know if I've ever fully been interviewed. I was part of the fireside chat. So this is a new experience for me.
Robyn Bell: True. Don't get your hopes up. There's no merge. There's nothing really exciting about being in the club. You just get to talk to me, just not very exciting at all.
Rex Willis: Well, that's always a wonderful thing.
Robyn Bell: Rex. I heard a rumor that this project was your brain child. Is that correct?
Rex Willis: I am proud to say it was my brain child. the way this happened is the faculty meeting at the beginning of the semester. we had theater, right? And music. And we were in a big circle in Neel Performing Arts Hall. And some point somebody mentioned, that the theater department and the music department could do more collaborations so. The wheels were turning and I actually woke up one morning it was like 4:30, and. I was experiencing somebody doing a monologue. I don't know what it was. I couldn't tell you. They were speaking on stage and I heard music playing. And as I came to reality, I thought, Oh my gosh, we should write music for monologues. I have , the student composers that are writing wonderful music. I've heard the theater department, students doing beautiful work in their plays. Why not find a way to put it together? so I talked to Amanda and you were like, Hey, we should see what could happen. Cause at that point I really didn't know structurally how this was going to happen. Amanda's been great because she's like, well, let's try this, let's try this. And that helped me get some ideas. I talked to some composers, I've got several composers that are writing great music. And I said, have you ever thought about writing music for a film or a story or something like that? And they all just went crazy with the idea. And from there, Amanda, I can't remember what happened next.
Amanda Schlachter: You asked me about it and I said well, let's just see. And then you actually had put together a proposal that you had sent me. That was really just the seed of the idea that I was then able to go to my script analysis class and my acting class and was able to present it. And then I really took the students. That a have the time and the desire and the passion for this project, because it was something extra. So it was sort of in addition to their coursework and the Mythos project that we're doing. So ultimately we had six really strong candidates that wanted to be involved in this, and it's been terrific.
Robyn Bell: Well, that's one of my questions for you, Amanda, because as you said, that Theater Program already has this huge collaborative program going with the Film Department, the Mythos project. So when Rex came to you with this idea, how did you manage to fit it in and negotiate the time commitment from the theater students?
Amanda Schlachter: Well, one of the things that worked out really well. Well when Rex brought it to me was in Acting II. We actually do monologues. So that's one of the things that we focus on because we're preparing our students to either audition for their next level of education or to go out and audition for theaters. So they're preparing monologues. So that was a nice fit already that some of them would be working on monologues. And then we really just looked over the semester, we're able to do it, , this Friday. So we had some time and then I I set out a rehearsal schedule that was manageable, that I could work with the actors individually, get the pieces blocked talk about the themes of the pieces, the objectives of the pieces, and then what we've done the last couple of weeks as we've come back together with the composers and we've been able to put it all together. So we were really able to meet about one day a week and it wasn't overwhelming. But , I really echo to them do not commit unless you can reserve this time. And I gave them a clear schedule. , I'm a big fan of the schedule.
Robyn Bell: It keeps the students it's really focused on a timeframe, really important. Same with composing students. You've got to have deadlines. I need to. Themed by this. I need a form by this, but when I heard about this and it was being explained to me, Music and Monologues, and I heard it was the composition students. I knew that these were going to be original music compositions, but where I was confused and I was set straight is I thought they were also original monologues, but no, that's not the case. Right.
Amanda Schlachter: That's not the case. And they actually, , that was , a thought that we had discussed and what we decided that because it was only in one school. Semester for time purposes, let them find something that was already published and scripted. And we have monologues that range from everything, from a piece that's from a video game to a classic monologues. So we have a nice range and that was done. Specifically for time. I think if we ever did this again and wanted to do it over the course of a year, we could dive into some writing first because I know Rex also writes musical. So that might be a nice future possibly,
Rex Willis: And something that ties into that with the composers is sometimes my composition students want to write. Songs and they want to write the lyrics too. And , writing on the original monologue, writing original lyrics and songs, that's a whole nother discipline. So it's the same thing, a time constraint.
Robyn Bell: So where did the theater students, how did they choose their monologues?
Amanda Schlachter: Well, actually what I asked them to do is I asked them to go. Search different pieces. One of the students is doing the same monologue that he is doing in the class, but then other students decided they would take this as an opportunity to develop a second piece. it was up to them and I said, either is fine. And so I normally support them to go to publish plays specifically for theater auditions. But what was fun with this was I said, anything you guys want to play with because this is a different experience. It's a different process. And so that's where we got. Just a wide range and they brought them in, they read them for me. We talked through them. One of our students, CJ, he had three options. And so we sort of narrowed it down to the one that we thought would be best.
Robyn Bell: Open the possibilities for a lot of different monologues for them. Now Rex, I know as a, musician. One of the things about a composition is length. Right? Cause it takes a lot of time to write a five minute piece versus a one minute piece. And so did the two of you Rex and Amanda, talk about the length of the monologue and what our music students would be able to
Rex Willis: handle. I actually did talk about that. do want to say first that the composers were like, what's a monologue. I mean, the three composers have never been in theater productions, whether it's musicals or plays. And so I said, we were going to write music to monologues in there. Well, What is that? So, , once I started getting into that, telling them, well, it's going to be like telling a story is going to be like a little mini movie they're acting. So you're going to have to set music to match the mood, to match the story. And then as far as the time is concerned, I was actually relating it to our student recitals that most pieces are between three to five minutes long. And I think we came up with that number.
Amanda Schlachter: Well, and with monologues that are audition monologues, they're always going to be about one to two minutes and interesting enough monologues in terms of from plays. They're actually dialogues. But of course they're just long segments in which a character is speaking always to someone else. But with this project, because it is performative, they've gotten to experience the difference between doing an audition monologue, which has a very specific set of guidelines and rules. And then when you're doing it for a performance in the way that we're doing it with mics and with live musicians and recorded music, they get to be much more theatrical. I've directed them more than I would. Say in an acting class when it's up to them to come up with their objective and their beginning, middle and end . So it's been different for him
Robyn Bell: And Rex, the composition students really? I would imagine couldn't start writing the music until the. Text the monologue was chosen.
Rex Willis: Absolutely. Which came first, the chicken or the egg. Well, , we know, so as soon as they got their monologue possibilities, I said, well look at each one of these. And it was interesting because I said why don't you pick your number one, two or three choice, and then I'll compare them. I don't know how this happened, but so-and-so his first couple of choices were different than somebody else's. I didn't really have to go into much of a, , which one are you going to do? Kind of things.
Robyn Bell: Just fell into place,
Rex Willis: Fell into place.
Robyn Bell: Cool.
Rex Willis: What's been fascinating from a composition standpoint is how different, their approaches have been from very minimalistic, like holding two or three notes out for a couple of measures with almost nothing, very stark, to very full orchestrations. It's been fascinating, the different approaches and , sometimes writing sad music you use minor chords and dissonances, and then sometimes you putting an opposite, spin on it and make it a little more sweeter sounding or nicer or vice versa to that. So they've had to toy with what gets to the emotions in a certain way. And it's been very interesting. And until we got into our first rehearsal I, not sure that we even knew the full effect because getting on stage, seeing the actors acted out made the music work in some cases, even better than they even thought it was going to work.
Robyn Bell: You gave me the list earlier today of the monologues and are six different actors, but there's. Three different musicians. So each of the musicians had to write two pieces of music
Rex Willis: That is correct really the composers typically need a full year of theory before they even take composition. They need that theory background and. Even at this young age, to be able to write a significant amount of music, even just a few minutes in different styles, it takes a long time to develop those skills. These composers have exceeded expectations. And I think part of the reason why is the inspiration of knowing they're writing music for actors in a different department, it inspired them. It made them work harder. One of the things that I tell the composers. Is don't just rely on the theory, write what feels right to you? And then after you write the music, if it sounds right to you, we'll analyze it, figure out what you did, and then utilize that material, that information to even go further away.
Robyn Bell: But there's this whole other level of organization from the musician standpoint in that. You have to know when you're starting a composition, what musicians are going to be able to perform at the performance? What they're the skill level is. So for instance Seminar . By Theresa Rebeck. The actor for the Theater Program is Dan Wolf, Aaron D'Zurilla, a violinist in the Bradenton Symphony Orchestra. And a fourth semester student is the composer, but he wrote the music for a trombone and a cellist. So. Did he have to kind of organize those musicians and say, I want to write this piece for trombone and cello. Can you two perform and can you rehearse this and right. There's a whole level of organization the students have had to take on.
Rex Willis: This is a great question because one of the very first things I said to them was we have to have the musicians and in fact that was one of the first things I said, we can't do full symphony orchestra, unless it's going to be file an MP3. If you want to live performance, who's available and there's so many other things to consider you want quality players that really know what they're doing that are willing to spend extra rehearsals. A lot of things had to be answered. Who's available. Who's really good. Who is dedicated. Who's not gonna wig out on you for rehearsals. My composers always have to consider who's going to do this. So then once you do that, you start getting an idea of of the instruments that get certain sounds. You really have to make those decisions first. And it's kind of a sad reality with composers. A lot of times, until you get to a point to where you can say, okay, I can now. Choose who's going to do my music.
Robyn Bell: Sure. And Aaron did a second piece of music to the monologue, 101 Breakups by Jason Pizzarello. And that actor is Madison Swanson. And so in that second orchestration that Aaron did is for a violin, Viola and a cello. So string trio, then we have The Seagull by Anton Chekhov and the actor there is James Napier and the music composer is Nathan Reid. Who's a tuba player and trombone player here at the college. And what instrumentation is that?
Rex Willis: So Nathan and Jacob Wicks decided to go with their computers to orchestrate them. They have programs that make them sound. Amanda, I think maybe you would agree. They sound like real instruments are in their own playing.
Amanda Schlachter: Absolutely.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Those midisounds are amazing.
Amanda Schlachter: It's incredible.
Rex Willis: Yeah. Is phenomenal. You would think that we recorded it live in a studio with actual instruments. They wanted the freedom to do whatever they felt like. They needed to do. I want to violin playing here. I want strings, I want an oboe. I want timpani. And so I said, go for it. That's what you want to do. They have great programs on the other hand, Aaron his is so raw and so basic. You know, he's an orchestra player and an excellent player. So I think he was like, you know what? I'm going to figure out a way to do this live. I do not want anything but live musicians on stage, which really, I love the fact that he decided to do that. It's a little more risky and those were the things that took more time in the rehearsal.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Cause you have that added human element of tempo, changes, intonation mistakes, things that the computer will not make.
Rex Willis: Right. And I do believe the second actress hers is a fairly complicated, the 101 Breakups. There's a lot of give and take a lot of emotion going back and forth. And the timing with the instruments. If in the rehearsal, the actor goes a little faster, a little slower really that's their prerogative. They're the one that are leading the charge with how the emotion goes. So the performers are having to really listen carefully. I should hold this a little longer. I should cut this off a little shorter, and it's very, very collaborative.
Robyn Bell: But with Jacob Wicks and Nathan Reids compositions being performed through the computer. The actor really has to be exact every time.
Amanda Schlachter: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things that I've witnessed and, and Rex has talked a lot about this, that it really is a partnership between the monologue and the music coming together. And so for our actors, I think what's been very different challenging, and I think they are rising to the occasion is that there is a timing that the way that the composition has been constructed, sometimes there's music and there might be quiet and that's where a line comes in. And I know like even in the fall with Easton and Garrett, they really had to learn timing and it was an exciting challenge for them. What I love for our actors is that these are the kinds of jobs they could be getting when they leave here and they have to know how to adjust. According to what the medium is. So that's been interesting. Plus it also inspires them in a different way and teaches them things about the monologue that they may not have discovered without the music. The music also feeds them emotionally. So it is this back and forth just as if they were doing a monologue or a dialogue on stage.
Robyn Bell: Amanda, you and I I've shared this experience where we're going to make a commercial for the podcast and we have the text. And we just read it, but then we picked some music and we play the music and when the music's playing in your head, you read the texts completely differently, right?
Amanda Schlachter: Absolutely.
Robyn Bell: This is what your performers are discovering.
Amanda Schlachter: Absolutely. Yeah, and the other thing that I've, loved, and I've seen this with this project and with. The project with the film department. I love watching the students when they're taking ownership, because they are the ones ultimately creating this. We are guides. There is something in them teaching one another and all of the sudden the skills and the tools that we've been offering them. Now we really see them come alive. So the other day, when we had rehearsal Rex was in working with a group because I will say for myself, You all are superheroes. I don't read music. I always find anybody who sings, who plays. I'm like, there's, a superhero but anyway, the other students, they all went into another rehearsal hall and they worked for the full hour so they could get the timing and then came back really thrilled. Like we got it. Yeah, we made it, we found it.
Robyn Bell: I want to interject my own personal experience from that first rehearsal because I was here in my office and my door's open. And so going between the two, I saw the students going between the two rehearsal to Howard and the rehearsal room. And then here comes Amanda with a I'm what I know to be a violin case. She goes, what is this? Someone left this case, what is this case? I know oh, that was so funny.
Amanda Schlachter: I was like, what's happening? And then of course Robyn's like they would never leave their cases. Of course, I did not know that everybody continued to rehearse for an hour because
Robyn Bell: They would never leave their case anywhere. Okay. So we have three other compositions here. There's a monologue on Our Town by Thornton Wilder by SeJ Echevarria with that music also composed by Nathan Reid. And then we have Vampyr by Stephanie Beauverger, that actor is Caleb Waylon. And that music is composed by Jacob Wicks, Rex guitar, student of yours. And then our six one is Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon. And that actor is Jacob Jones. And that music also composed by Jacob Wicks. So Seminar, 101 Breakups, The Seagull, Our Town, Vampyr, Biloxi Blues. I have a feeling we're going to hear and see six completely different styles
Rex Willis: Very, very different. One of the things that we have in our subtitle, that this is a duet between actor and music. And that's been one of the cool things about this. No matter what style and they're all so very, very different. These have become duets, the music, the actor, it kind of like the German leader? Schubert Schuman, where the piano is an equal partner with the singer. They are equal partners. The music has become an actor. The actors have become a part of the music. It's really amazing how that's happened and in fact, the way we have it programmed, by the time we get to the end, it's so powerful. That way it just leads from one to the next to the next. The emotions are from funny to absurd to sad to. Odd and weird to beautiful, funny as every emotion.
Robyn Bell: So six monologues, six pieces of music explore almost the whole realm of human emotions.
Amanda Schlachter: Absolutely. some are much more realistic. Like Seminar comes from a much more realistic perspective, whereas you have Vampyr, which is probably our most theatrical piece. And as it should be, the music matches that.
Rex Willis: Yeah. And Biloxi Blues very, very powerful, very raw. And I don't know how to describe Biloxi Blues, but it's just raw and Jacob, once he read the words I really thought he was going to come up with something there. This has been fun for me as a composition teacher to see these students surprise me. Jacob came up with the most minimalistic simple, basic, almost background repetitive.
Robyn Bell: Is it not a blues progression?
Rex Willis: I don't even know how to describe it.
Robyn Bell: Okay. So for Biloxi Blues, Jacob looks to not use a blues progression. Cause that would have been my first. Thought.
Rex Willis: So he really didn't go with blues. What he went with was not. The obvious he went with the power this guy is really going through something awful and he made it more awful by not making the music awful.
Amanda Schlachter: Right.
Rex Willis: I don't know how else to describe
Amanda Schlachter: yeah.
Robyn Bell: My other real takeaway from this being in the music program. And some people listening to this may already know this, but the Florida State College Activities Association every year hosts a competition for music students it's a solo competition, and it's called a Student Artist Competition. And if they win. In their category, they get a $2,000 scholarship when they transfer to their four year university. It's a big deal. And we have three composers here. Aaron D'Zurilla last year won the string category. He's a Student Artist Winner. This year, Nathan Reid won the scholarship for the brass. And also this year, Jacob Wicks won the classical guitar competition. And this is really, yeah. As soon as I saw these names, I thought, had you not thought about that?
Rex Willis: Even thought,
Robyn Bell: yeah,
Rex Willis: That's incredible.
Robyn Bell: These students are outstanding musicians on their own instruments, winning the state awards and here they are getting this. Other skillset, really experiential learning, writing for film or situational things. It's just fantastic. Well, before we go, Any big, takeaway for you?
Amanda Schlachter: Big takeaway for me, I've really been just about continued possibility of things that we can do, and ways that we can engage our students and use all of the talent and the resources that we have here. I think that this project took a minimal amount of time and yet it has given a tremendous amount back. So it really fit within our semester. And I'd love just to continue to find projects that do that.
Rex Willis: The learning aspect. I don't know how many times Amanda, my composition students have said what I have learned about this. I never, ever expected. I knew I would learn, but I didn't know it was going to be so many different angles with so many different ways. And I want to say for the record too. I've learned things myself through the process, watching the students, the actors and the composers, and in rehearsal the other day Amanda said something to the actors and to everyone. And I said, say that term again. Oh, I just learned something new. So I think Amanda and I are also picking up things from the students and from each other too.
Amanda Schlachter: Absolutely.
Robyn Bell: . I have heard the composition students buzzing about this project all semester, Rex and Amanda. So I know that you're thrilled. And for me, the biggest picture here is this incredible collaboration with our students in the Music and Theater Programs that really allow us. To present a united front as a Department of Performing Arts. So thank you both for facilitating this with our students and coming on the podcast today, to explain the project to all of us, the performance of Music and Monologue will be Friday, April 16th at 11:00 AM. In the Neel Performing Arts Center. SCF students, faculty and staff can attend in person while the rest of the planet can watch it on the SCF Music Facebook page while we were live stream it. If you want to see something super cool with these theater students acting their monologues and our SCF Music, composition students, having their music performed. And I think the three of us would highly encourage you to stop what you're doing at 11 on Friday. Take a little lunch break, and listen and watch.
Amanda Schlachter: Absolutely.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Amanda Schlachter: Yes. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Well, thank you both for joining us today. Very excited about this project. Congratulations to both of you and your students for the wonderful job they've done on it.
Rex Willis: Thank you.
Amanda Schlachter: Thank you. Thanks for having us on the club.