June 11, 2017

It was pointed out, somewhere, that in this year’s Tony nominations, a lot of inexperienced musical theatre writers edged out the veterans who’ve given us solid work in the past. And to this I say: Good. It’s about time.

I admit that I often harbor a suspicion, or skepticism, about novices. Experience is a great teacher, and first efforts frequently are riddled with holes an older and wiser creator would have filled. But I also like to think that the long process of taking a show to Broadway involves something of a quality filter. A lot of people – the multitudinous producers and their large battalions of investors – have to believe the show is good, that it will succeed. Think like an angel: If a show has veterans doing the score, is based on a well-loved book that’s already had two film adaptations, well, that seems like a sure bet, no? Compare that to a show written by nobodies – and I use that term politely – set in a particularly frazzled time in recent history, one that no fun-seeking theatre-goer wants to dwell upon. That seems a less safe wager. Writers with no track record vs. The Names You Know and might have seen on countless movie credits and one of the century’s biggest musical comedy hits.

This year I’ll be cheering for the newcomers. It’s a sign of a healthy industry when new faces prodigiously out-achieve the old. Step aside, those who already have a mantle filled with shiny objects; if a younger generation is a knock-knock-knocking at the door, that’s a good thing. The Tony presentation that comes to mind, for me, is the one in 1960. The Old Guard had a show: Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Lindsay & Crouse had been Broadway’s most successful playwriting pair. They’d won a Pulitzer already, for State of the Union, and their Life With Father is the longest running Broadway play of all time. Rodgers & Hammerstein, I assume you’ve heard of. But what’s this? Here come a pair of songwriters from the Midwest, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Bock’s third Broadway musical and Harnick’s second involves some fairly recent history, and, with no major stars, is an unlikely hit. Who will win in the battle of the Old Guard versus the New Guard?

And it’s… It’s a tie. An equal amount of votes went to the Mary Martin vehicle, The Sound of Music, as to the biography featuring newcomer Tom Bosley, Fiorello. Left in the dust was Gypsy, but more on that later. Martin and Bosley both won awards, but his was in the Featured category. If that sounds odd, consider how few songs in Fiorello involve singing by the future mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. In fact, it’s always a good day to consider Fiorello, as it’s a rather extraordinary show. And I wouldn’t say the same of The Sound of Music.

Now a lot of people, looking back, think all the awards should have gone to Gypsy. And a lot of those people view Broadway through the odd prism of Stephen Sondheim’s career. But what’s important to remember is that that Sondheim had just turned 30, and so the (then just-) lyricist represented youth; in fact, he’d learned much, when he was just a boy, from his best friend’s father, Oscar Hammerstein.

Suppose, back then, you had the mind-set of those today who dislike seeing the Old Guard supplanted. Twenty-twenty hindsight reveals that it was Bock and Harnick who went on to write the best scores of the new decade – Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, and my personal favorite, The Apple Tree. The Old Guard – well, Hammerstein died later that year, but Rodgers went on to write No Strings, Do I Hear a Waltz? and Two By Two. Not nearly as good, right?

So, because I don’t wish to sound cryptic, I suppose I should name the players:

The Old Guard

Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the show that got the worst reviews of any musical to open this season. By far. Shaiman’s scored many a comedy film, and the team also did the songs for Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can and the first season of the television abomination known as Smash.

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are best known for Broadway shows such as Ragtime, the soon-to-be-revived Once On This Island (a particular favorite of mine) and Seussical, the most-produced musical of the century. This year, they adapted their movie musical Anastasia for the stage. If you’ve seen media stories about Russians, it probably isn’t this.

Alan Menken (Aladdin) and Glenn Slater (School of Rock) doubled the number of shows they’ve currently running on Broadway with A Bronx Tale. I predict they’ll soon be back to one each.

Scott Frankel and Michael Korie wrote about actual ladies-of-note in Grey Gardens and now have War Paint about actual ladies-of-note Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. They’ve also done two comparatively major off-Broadway shows, Far From Heaven and Happiness. My wife was particularly underwhelmed by their work here.

The New Guard

Irene Sankoff and David Hein wrote the best-reviewed musical of the season, Come From Away, about a small Canadian town that embraced airline passengers who were forced to land there on 9/11. Their previous work was a Fringe Festival favorite called, I kid you not, My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were both born in 1985. Let that sink in a moment. Now, perhaps its unfair to list them as neophytes, since Dear Evan Hansen is their fourth musical to make something of a splash, and they’ve already picked up an Oscar this year for their lyrics to a long rambling song towards the end of the second hour of La La Land. We know how Hollywood makes people rich and famous; I think their stage work makes them more worthy of fame and acclaim.

Tim Minchin had fame from another sphere – comedy – before he started writing musicals. You may recall his audacious debut with Matilda and this year his sophomore effort is a crowd-pleasing musical comedy called Groundhog’s Day.

Dave Malloy writes songs that don’t quite sound like anybody else’s. He’s worked his way up from avant garde and off-Broadway venues to a reconstituted Great White Way house. Three nominations. That’s a route that’s gratifying to see. The title makes it sound long, but it’s based on only a tiny passage of War and Peace: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.

To go through the BMI workshop and then get a show on Broadway is another path that cheers me, as a BMI vet. In Transit introduced Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth, one of whom already has an Oscar.

Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor are unfamiliar names to me. My wife quite liked their Broadway debut, Bandstand. Not a lot of nominations for these last two (nor the quick-closing Amélie by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen). But I have to celebrate a season so crowded with good new work that good old writers can’t get a nod. Do better next time, venerable ones!





A seeker

July 4, 2016

Some weeks ago a couple of media outlets fired their critics. And didn’t replace them. No more reviews of theatre for them. And some of you may be saying “Good. I hate critics.” But think further: The stage community needs criticism, publicity, and a wide array of views expressed for all to see. Taking away “merely” two of the throng damages us. We can perpetrate dreck, unchecked, and then never find an audience. No theatre practitioner is an island; our art depends on connections.

I suppose some might say I’ve such a positive view of critics because I’ve gotten so many raves in so many papers. What’s not to love? One major paper with a very wide circulation reviewed a work of mine in verse, of all things. The critic was so inspired by my clever rhymes, he felt compelled to join the fray. Another time, in another major paper, a show I worked on received a devastating pan. Everything in it was lambasted with the exception of my songs and the fellow who sang them, “a lark among clods.” Remarkably, everybody took that with bemused grace. Also, there was the time Peter Filichia praised my “production that could move to Broadway right now. Right now. RIGHT NOW” as if to light a fire under producers. (Alas, they proved to be soggy wood.)

But the truth is, I’ve an addiction to input. From any source. Public or private. Positive or negative. My four formative years at the BMI workshop are fondly recalled, mostly, because I could play my new songs and hear what Lehman Engel and others thought. The reaction of others is of paramount importance to me. Look, we’re endeavoring to communicate with an audience, right? So, any chance to hear what that hearer is thinking is a golden opportunity.

I haven’t scanned mine so here’s one to someone else

Just a few days ago was Richard Rodgers’ birthday (114) and I was reminded of the party I threw him in absentia. When he heard about it, he sent a nice letter of appreciation – the sort of thing he did rather rarely. So, in a frame, I’ve this valuable thing, a letter from the most important of musical theatre composers. In another frame, I keep a letter from Stephen Sondheim, who writes back to writers rather more commonly. His letter I cherish because he offers a few thoughts – not particularly complimentary, by the way – about one of my shows, which he saw. Great to hear an experienced and esteemed musical theatre writer’s opinion. But a couple years later, I got a longer letter from someone you’ve never heard of and I value that even more.

The author was someone who’d worked for many years developing new musicals with an off-Broadway company that seems to specialize in that. He’d attended a staged reading of a show I’d been working on. During the many years and many drafts I’d devoted to it, I’d lost multiple collaborators. A director moved to California. A writer-director moved to Florida. A writer and I had such conflicting visions, we decided to part company, and she came up with her own show stemming from our initial idea. But, at this point, I’d been working alone for a long time.

And that meant that everything I wrote existed in a vacuum. No stranger was looking at the thing. I might think something was good, something was working, but I desperately needed the reality check of knowing whether somebody else thought it was good, working. At the staged reading, through a formal feedback chat with the audience, people were invited to speak up. But they kept saying positive things. Nobody named an element that was ineffective. This left me depressed. How was this piece going to improve? What did I need to do next?

Some days later, a five-page letter arrived from that stranger with development experience. He detailed areas that worked and areas where the show seemed unclear, ineffective. The people who mounted the reading, and delivered the letter to me, asked how I felt about this critique. I said “There’s the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and this document.”

Might be the wrong time of year to put anything on an equal plane with Jefferson’s great screed. But I find myself thinking of the broader implications of there being fewer critics. It would seem to be an indication that media powers-that-be don’t think there are enough people reading reviews, and I take them at their word. Today, more than, say, fifty years ago, there are people coming to New York, interested in catching some theatre, but they’re not considering what critical reaction has been. Let’s imagine there are three realities. One is whether a show is actually good: Forget how we define that, for the moment; just acknowledge that this reality exists. A second reality is that certain shows are widely praised by critics. A third reality is that there are productions that sound good to potential ticket-buyers. Let’s say there’s a TV personality, who is frequently funny on TV but has no playwriting experience, and he writes a play that he stars in. That’s your third reality, right there. This sort of thing sounds good to theatre-goers. Critics see this thing, and they all say the show is terrible, a waste of time and money, insufferable. Fifty years ago, universal pans would close a show on opening night. Now, of course, such a play would play to packed houses as long as the TV star wanted to do it. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel (lights on or off).

Say someone who isn’t famous writes a great show and the critics all agree it’s pretty great. But if too few people are reading reviews, and the show isn’t the third reality, too few tickets will sell, dooming the production.

I read reviews all the time. Not just of my shows. Learning what a critic thinks of anything is an education. These scribes see hundreds of stage-pieces a year, and I think that counts for something. Walter Kerr, for whom a Broadway theatre is named, used to pen think-pieces from the perspective of a professor imparting information that is specifically valuable for us creators. As a kid, I practically memorized a book he wrote: How Not To Write a Play. Yep: I want to know that.


The day that you return

June 30, 2014

A few days after seeing Tick, Tick…Boom I happened to be driving south of 14th Street and it occurred to me that I kept passing places that were important to Jonathan Larson’s life. But this same journey also hit places that were important to my early life, and on came a rush of memories. Now, I’m certainly not maintaining he and I lived parallel lives – I mean, how could I possibly know what it was like to turn 30 in 1990? – but I’ve long loved giving tours of lesser-seen parts of my home town. And so, a travelogue.

Sixth Avenue between Canal and Houston

Driving up this weirdly wide thoroughfare, I thought: Where have I just seen this place? Of course, I was thinking of Tick, Tick…Boom, a show presented without any scenery. But something in the writing created the image in my mind of Larson, running from his keyboard to the roof, catching a glimpse of the Hudson, smoking a jay. Now, I don’t know exactly where he lived (“on the edge of Soho”) but I thought, maybe Here. By which I meant the little arts complex known as Here, where my first two Second City adventures had played. Under the sure-handed stewardship of Kevin Scott, a bunch of funny actors assembled with the idea of creating a funny revue in ten weeks or so. Now, I’ve written some of my shows in less time, so I know it can be done, assuming everybody can think of plenty of stuff to laugh about. But the first meeting took place right after September 11, 2001, so how daunting was that quest to create zany insouciance?

Much has been written about the emotions experienced by the original cast of Rent, who, immediately after hearing of the death of Jonathan Larson, had to go out there and present his work to a downtown audience. Rent, at least, is a moving piece, imbued with the tears that come from sickness and early death. Sometime around Thanksgiving, 2001, the cast of We Built This City On Rent Control ran onto Here’s stage and got people to laugh, and to feel it was finally O.K. to laugh. All I did was two songs, and one had a tune I’d used before, but man I’m proud to have been a part of that.

While I was looking to the right, on Sixth, for Larson’s place of work, a lowly-regarded greasy spoon, Joy was looking to the left for the place we got married. The Soho Playhouse is still standing, and if you’re saying “Wait, you got married in a theatre?” have I got a story for you. And an original cast CD, which you can still buy for $20 bucks (e-mail me). I’ve written about Our Wedding here and there. And here and there. And so has The New York Times, Peter Filichia, and Jeffrey Sweet.

East Fourth between Cooper Square and Second

What caught my eye was a sign for Upright Citizens Brigade, New York’s foremost comedy factory. I was among UCB’s first ten students in New York, long before Amy Poehler was famous, but would have been thinking about my life in improv on this block anyway thanks to some mad times I’d spent performing at the Kraine and some Fringe venue on the La Mama side of the street with The Chainsaw Boys. Now that I think of it, The Red Room, a few stories above the Kraine, was where I’d actually performed with the original UCB – as an actor. The Chainsaw Boys used me as musical director and composer, where I’m a little more comfortable. And paid.

So many tiny venues on one thin block. The place seemed mine alone until Joy pointed out that one of those venues was New York Theatre Workshop, where Rent premiered. So, at the time of his death, it probably seemed like Larson’s block. But anyone with a sense of the larger history of the block would say the city should name it for Ellen Stewart.

Tompkins Square Park

This was our destination that day. I knew it contains a playground Adelaide’s enjoyed in the past, and she did again. But over a quarter century ago, the place was associated with a riotous protest involving the poor squatters in the surrounding buildings and the gentrifying yuppies trying to force them out. Gee, sound like any musical you know? For me, as a New Yorker, the plot of Rent seemed rather dated, not because of the La bohème parallels, but the fact that it was revisiting some East Village events and issues from eight years before. I know few people in the world are the least bit bothered by this, but take it as a warning: it’s hard to write a musical about current events because, chances are, it will take so long to make it to the stage, they won’t be current anymore.

111 Second Avenue

Last week I made reference to the devastating experience of being one of the babies thrown out with the bathwater when the BMI Workshop cleaned house following the death of Lehman Engel. I didn’t take my dismissal lying down, but enlisted the support of one of BMI’s most famous composers. He signed a letter that I wrote telling them they’d be foolish to give up on the 22-year-old me. This did nothing. But there was nothing for me to do but get on with my life and my projects. Around that time I met Blaise (not his real name), a preternaturally talented young playwright and fascinating intellectual. He had all sorts of theatre projects going, each needing a limited amount of music. Working on those helped me put the workshop behind me. I was now out-in-the-world, doing it. Eventually, we conjured up an entire musical. It played at 111 Second, with young actors that would grow up to join the original casts of the Tony-winning musicals Jersey Boys and Spring Awakening. After rehearsals, they might have popped over to Life Café to discuss Pablo Neruda and Susan Sontag. Here they talked of revolution, lit the flame, sang about tomorrow, and – wait, those were other students. Sorry. La vie bohème!


Thieves’ carnival

November 5, 2013

Here’s the trouble: I want to write something about two composers who were born 200 years ago and had a great deal of influence on the writing of musicals, Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner.  Trouble is, I’m not an opera fan, don’t attend very often. I saw Rigoletto some years ago; I give a lecture on the history of musical theatre. But there’s something ridiculous about a guy-who’s-not-into-opera telling musical theatre fans about the two titans of opera-writing born in 1813.

A number of Broadway composers love opera, but what runs through my mind are show tunes, often obscure ones. Right now it’s Cole Porter’s It Ain’t Etiquette, since it references Rigoletto:

When invited to hear from an opera box
Rigoletto’s divine quartet
Don’t bother your neighbors by throwing rocks
It ain’t etiquette.

Name drop alert! Speaking of musical comedy composers who love opera, I’ve been thinking a lot about John Kander recently. Some years ago we were rehearsing a couple of his numbers, and I asked whether he’d attend the performance. “When is it? Oh, there’s no way: I’ve tickets to Il travatore that night.” John just had a new musical open off-Broadway, at the age of 86, which leads to the question, “When’s the last time a fellow that old composed a show?” I don’t know the answer, but I do know that Verdi’s Falstaff premiered the year he turned 80. That’s seen as a remarkable achievement. (I recently chided Stephen Sondheim here for his plummeting productivity over the past 25 years. His last new musical opened when he was 78: Road Show – you remember Road Show?)

(A Kander number influenced by opera)

It’s surprising to me that musical comedy writers didn’t think of adapting Shakespeare until Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys From Syracuse in 1938. They surely knew Verdi had adapted the Bard’s plays brilliantly, and successfully. Here and there, he mixes the light and dark, which is something good musicals do. In Macbeth, King Duncan enters a castle where, we know, his hosts plan to have him killed. Things have been dark and forboding, but the entrance is accompanied by a sunny pesante little march: a ditty played against the mood, to creepy effect. You’ll find similar juxtapositions in many a musical, including the first act finale of my Such Good Friends, in which a celebratory number is interrupted by devastating news. A more familiar example is Gee Officer Krupke, which cuts into the tension of West Side Story’s killings and betrayals. Or I Made a Fist, a blithe comedy song amidst all sorts of very heavy goings-on towards the end of The Most Happy Fella.

You know I’m far more comfortable talking about The Most Happy Fella, by my favorite songwriter, Frank Loesser, than I am about Verdi and Wagner. It’s a safe bet he had the old masters on his mind in writing music, lyrics and book for …Fella, the most effective romantic musical of them all. The score makes use of leitmotifs, those little bits of theme that get associated with a character, feeling, action or place. Those employing them are following the lead of Richard Wagner, who used a huge quantity in his Ring of the Nibelung (the original “one ring to rule them all”). And this is not an example of my blowing a dog whistle that can only be heard by a music nerd. They tend to work on our emotions subliminally, fully understood by the heart, if not the head, of the least knowledgeable listener.

In Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George, leitmotifs are flowing frequently in the accompaniment.  There’s a few at the beginning of Finishing the Hat.

The jazzy bit in the bass has been associated with people enjoying the weekend on an island. Then it goes into the thick chords on long notes that come up at poignant points in the Georges-Dot relationship. Georges goes from thinking about the people he’s drawn to his main model and lover; we’re clued in to this by the shift of motifs. When he sings “I had thought she understood” we hear, on woodwinds, a legato version of the jumping eighth-note theme that has played whenever Georges is applying paint. Then, heading in to the refrain on “if anybody could” we hear the thirds on eighth notes theme that has to do with moving on. Nobody who hears Finishing the Hat thinks it’s merely a song about painting because the subtext, the thoughts about separating from Dot, resound as accompaniment throughout the chorus.

Seems a bit strange to be discussing a Wagnerian device in a score so strongly influenced by seven Frenchmen, Maurice Ravel and Les Six (who came later). But composers all regurgitate stuff that enters their mind. I’m quite partial to Ravel and Les Six myself, yet, when I was 19 and in Lehman Engel’s workshop in BMI, I presented a song called It’s a Mystery To Me and got criticized for Wagnerian chord sequences. Had no idea what those were.  It was a mystery to me. But I guess I’d listened to enough classical music for that influence to seep in.

I guess I’m recommending you listen to some Wagner and Verdi (that’s an alliteration, folks) before this bicentennial year’s out. If we’re all reconstituting things we hear, might as well put something good in your ear.

Why did Stella pick a Polack?

July 8, 2011

My last post mocked the Play-Doh moulding school of musical writing training and, for all I know, those coloured-clay moulders will make fun of this one.

Thought I’d describe, to the best of my recollection, the writing exercises assigned by Lehman Engel in his musical theatre writing workshop at BMI.  The more you look into this field, the more you’ll hear widely divergent opinions about the BMI workshop and Lehman Engel himself.  To me, they’re one and the same: Lehman was that workshop; he started it, and decided what it should be.  But it’s now decades since his death, and I can’t comment on what the workshop has become, post mortem.

The first thing the old southern gentleman had us do was write a ballad for Blanche DuBois.  Don’t get the wrong idea, here: Lehman didn’t think A Streetcar Named Desire would make a good musical.  But the play is filled with strong emotional situations, sometimes rendered in poetic language.  The challenge of getting Blanche to sing was exactly the sort of thing we fledgling creators would face throughout our careers.

I was, by a stretch, the youngest member of the workshop back then, and I’d been given the key to a relative’s apartment with a piano.  In that odd and uncomfortable environment, I tried to echo Tennessee Williams’ language.  “Shall I drift away with the sea?” is the only line I remember.  At some point, I abandoned this draft: it was, like so much college poetry, meaningless, and without a title to regularly return to, I was adrift in formlessness.  I read the play again, this time looking for appealing prosaic moments.  I found an exchange in which Blanche complains that her sister married a Polish person.  In her attempt at respectability, she points to her French ancestry as somehow superior.  This gave me an idea.

And I ran a little wild with it.  In my song Why Did Stella Pick a Polack? Blanche piles on the epithets and bigoted characterizations.  It’s a bright Charleston, bearing a little more than a passing resemblance to John Kander’s If You Could See Her.  Others in the workshop laughed at every joke, but Lehman was pained.  I’d failed to follow the assignment: this wasn’t a ballad, it was a comedy song.  And I suspected he suspected I wasn’t taking the assignment seriously.  (Someone handed me a note: “Can I include your song in my show, ‘The Most Happy Stella‘?”)

The second assignment was to write a charm song for Frankie Addams from The Member of the Wedding.  Lehman had coined the term: A charm song is a small number in the first act of a musical that doesn’t pull a lot of narrative weight but tells the audience a good deal about a character.  A classic example is A Cock-Eyed Optimist.

I must have been thinking of Rodgers and Hammerstein, because my attempt at a song for Frankie steals four notes from their Shall We Dance? (the word “dance” plus those three low notes “bump bump bump” that follow).  It wasn’t great, but nobody could think I was subverting the assignment: it’s certainly a charm song, as had been defined.  (Some wags quip “A charm song is a comedy song that doesn’t get any laughs.”  They’re wrong.)

I don’t remember what sort of song we were asked to write for Lola of Come Back Little Sheba, but this was the assignment that flummoxed me the most.  At the ripe old age of 19, I misread William Inge’s play, and completely misunderstood certain subtexts, motivations, and pre-curtain actions that weren’t explicitly spelled out.  The members of the workshop, struggling with the same assignment, all knew Lola far better than I did, and the jokes I had coming out of her mouth made no sense to anyone.  Now that I think of it, it’s possible the assignment was to write a comedy song.  But nobody laughed at mine: They just felt bad for a callow youth in over his ears.

Lehman Engel

A musical scene is one in which a lot is going on: dialogue, perhaps; characters coming in and out; multiple melodies, etc.  The fourth assignment was to create one involving Willy Loman, somewhere around Death of a Salemsan’s climax.  For some reason – probably because I knew I’d be performing the song for the workshop by myself – I had Willy do all the singing.  Again, my efforts were hampered by insufficient comprehension of the play.  But I wasn’t so off that people couldn’t understand it.  Lehman, at this point, had taken something of a shine to me, and was gentle in criticizing me for the song’s ultimately unsupported premise.  A successful song has characters saying and doing things that are, well, in character.

In a sense, I was 0 for 4.  Lehman was displeased, generally, with the whole group’s efforts.  I felt I was learning, but there was little evidence of that, and a real risk I wouldn’t be asked back for a second year.  His final assignment, though, didn’t involve a character from a mid-century stage drama.  He just told us to write a comedy song based on something in the newspaper.

This I could do, I felt.  Finally, an assignment where I wouldn’t be hampered by my basic misunderstanding of plays I read.  And the newspaper offered a world of possibilities.  Which to choose?

One morning in March, the headline in the Times told of a terrible tragedy in an obscure part of Pennsylvania.  And I knew immediately this would be a terrific subject for a comedy song.  (I was not just a callow youth, I was a callous one: didn’t give a thought to how people were suffering; I had a comedy song to write!)  I started listing various possible jokes about what it might be like to romance a woman who been through this disaster.  This time, I quoted another song (Brecht & Weill’s Alabama Song) for a specific reason.  My tune was original enough: the best thing about it is that it provided space between the jokes, giving listeners a chance to laugh out loud without worrying they’ll miss the next punch-line.  Many of my fellow workshoppers struggled with the assignment, finding it difficult to write jokes that are unrelated to character.  But boy did they laugh at mine.  If I’d gone 0 for 4, my fifth at bat was a homer, good enough to keep me on the team another year.  Lehman positively beamed.

My Baby-click to hear

Slots in the workshop are limited; it’s very difficult to get accepted in.  But nothing’s stopping anyone from working on Lehman’s assignments.  Whatever one thinks of the BMI experience, it’s clear these exercises have value.  Perhaps even more than Play-Doh sculpting.