E-Mail Brainstorming

depository for messages

on the development of "Metropolis" at Pentacle Theatre

Aug 15 2001 Simon Bennett to Randy Bowser

Dear Mr Bowser,

           My name is Simon Bennett. I am 27 year old artist and designer and live in England. Now the formal stuff is out of the way I just want to say WOW and a big thank you for your plans to stage `Metropolis` at the Pentacle Theatre.

You say on the Pentacle message board that `It´ll be a very special time in the lives of everyone who gets involved` and I am very much hoping that I can be one of those people.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this as it might end up being the next `War And Peace` (perhaps I should send you it in chapters ?).

Seriously though - first I should explain a little about how I ended up feverishly typing away to you at 2.00 a.m and I`ll end (it will end-honestly) with something of a C.V for you to look over.

Okay back to business...

On June 30th of this year I lost my fiance Sulina who passed away after a long battle against leukemia. She was 23 years old. This turned my whole life upside down and has left me with a burning ambition to do something with my life as a tribute to her memory.

Then about an hour ago I found your webpage. Not completely by chance however as I would frequently punch in `Metropolis musical` on some search engine or another and be dumbfounded by the lack of information on this awesome show. My heart nearly stopped when I saw those words `Metropolis at the Pentacle Theatre` infact I still feel giddy - I haven`t been this enthused or excited for a very long time.

I saw my first show (Starlight Express) in 1990 so I am sad to say I missed out on `Metropolis` by just a few short months. However a work experience visit to the design company DeWynters in London enlightened me to the show as it was they who designed the posters and other artwork for what is surely the best of the mega-musicals. I was fortunate enough to have been shown some of the discarded designs for the show one of which was so striking I can see it even now. This inspired me to pick up the soundtrack which is how I first experienced very many musicals as I lived several hundred miles away from London`s Theatre Land. As you know Metropolis was a casualty of a particulary bad slump in West End ticket sales and I missed a couple of other great shows by thinking they would run and run. `Children Of Eden` and `Which Witch` being just two......come to think of it they were all at the Picadilly Theatre !!

Anyway I am starting to ramble so here comes something of a C.V :

As part of my exam work at school I designed a comic book based purely on the soundtrack for `Starlight Express` . I was 15 at the time and finally got to see the show as a 16th birthday present. I also got a great response from Andrew Lloyd Webber`s production company `The Really Useful Group` and became a frequent guest/pest at their offices and was lucky enough to have been given a great deal of support,encouragement and house seats !

Through them I was able to spend some time working backstage at `Starlight Express` in all the various departments and also as previously mentioned at DeWynters who do the design work for the major shows in London and indeed Broadway. I soon picked up a flair for poster design and also portrait painting and after discovering an interest in set and costume design would build replicas of musical stage sets in between projects.

Back in my hometown of Plymouth I did the design work for a season of plays at the Theatre Royal and then became the rehearsal artist on a National tour of `Kiss Me Kate`.

I later designed the sets for a small scale tour of William Shakespeare`s `Twelfth Night` followed by Chekhov`s `Three Sisters`.

Since then I have done a wide variety of work from life size portraits and set painting to animation and comic book work nearly all of which has been based on my love of the theatre.

In recent years I have let some opportunities pass by as felt it more important to spend time with Sulina and I wouldn`t change that for a moment. I have kept up the portrait and poster artwork as a priority but also have the daily grind of a 9-5(more like 8.30 to 6.30 actually !) to contend with.

At the moment I have been asked to do a painting for Michael Bauer who is starring in `Sunset Boulevard` here in Plymouth and have more recently done artwork based on `Jesus Christ Superstar` and `Martin Guerre` (another show that I love !).

I have skimmed over so much in trying to keep this email as short as possible.....well I tried at least. But what I really want to say is I am sure I would be a great asset to your team in some capacity. I am bright, resourceful and super enthusiastic about the return of `Metropolis` at the Pentacle.

I also have a bundle of ideas about how to advertise the show and indeed recruit cast and crew - `The future needs you !`.....all these images are already popping into my head whilst i`m typing away. This show is going to be great. Mr Bowser you have already grabbed the attention of a young man from the UK and work on the show has barely started yet - I have a feeling this is going to be big, very big.

I understand all work undertaken is on a volunteer basis and I hereby volunteer for whatever I can do - hell, i`ll even sing if I have to (LOL).

A short time ago this would have been an impossible dream but I believe Sulina must be looking out for me and this is one dream I am determined to make come true.

Thank you so much for your time,

I hope to hear from you soon.

With best wishes,
                               Simon Bennett

P.S - I have enclosed a jpeg image of a painting I did based on `Metropolis` way back in 1992 ! I hope it came out alright.

NOTE: Another short message immediately followed from Simon with more samples of his paitings. Randy sent a thank you and a promise to write more soon.

Aug 16, 2001 Simon Bennett to Randy Bowser

Dear Mr Bowser,

             Thanks for your reply. I am glad you liked the artwork it was all had to hand in the early hours of the morning.

I should probably also mention that I am able to work in pretty much any medium and style from strict graphic design work to set building, from costume design to comic book.

I very much look foward to hearing from you again.

With best wishes,

Aug 19, 2001 Randy Bowser to Simon Bennett

Hello again, Simon.

Please forgive me, but my schedule just hasn't permitted me the time I have wanted for a more thorough reply to you.

It is so delightful to me that the Metro site was picked up by your search engine. I feel it was even "synchronistic" for you to discover info on our production of the show, since you have already proven yourself to be the most informed and enthusiastic person who is offering assistance on the production, and that makes you exactly the kind of Metro staff person I want onboard.

Collaborating with you appeals to me greatly. You have made yourself very real to me through this electronic mail medium, and I am also extremely impressed with your artwork samples.

With the thought in mind of you contributing to the show's design, for now, here are some thoughts for you:

--If you haven't already done so, thoroughly investigate the Pentacle Metro site I've put together. There are many indications liberally sprinkled throughout it as to what kind of ideas I'm leaning toward for the show's design.

--Look at the information on Russian avant-garde theatre in particular.

--Know that I want this staging of the show to be unique, and that I wouldn't want to attempt a recreation of the original London production, wonderful as it was. A clean slate is always the one to start with when conceptualizing a show.

--Know that The Pentacle is an intimately sized theatre which seats 220. There are size limitations which we must make an asset and not a stumbling block to designing the show.

--Know that after a solid YEAR of trying to track down the rights to the show, I was led to their sole controller--Mr. Joseph Brooks himself. He and I have conferred quite a few times over the phone now, and he is personally invested in our production! He wants to be here for the auditions, and certainly for the opening night.   (He's in Hollywood scoring films by the way.)

--Think in terms of abstraction and simplicity---that's why I have guided you to take a look at the Russian designs.

--Know also that I have been a tremendous fan of the film, Metropolis, since I was a teenager. It, and the novel it's based on, are extremely important resources for design concepts.

Perhaps that will keep you occupied for awhile. I'll be back, anxious to hear whatever thoughts occur to you.

R. Bowser

Aug 21. 2001 Simon Bennett toRandy Bowser

Dear Mr Bowser,

             Thanks for your reply. I am glad you liked the artwork it was all had to hand in the early hours of the morning.

I should probably also mention that I am able to work in pretty much any medium and style from strict graphic design work to set building, from costume design to comic book.

I very much look foward to hearing from you again.

With best wishes,

Aug 21, 2001
Randy Bowser to Simon Bennett

Subject: Re: Tripod member finalfightguy is interested in your Private Community
Request granted!

Hello, Simon--Excellent to hear from you.

I have just returned from Tripod where I added your name to the "Metropolitan" list, so you should now be given access to the libretto.

I received a report just this morning that someone else who previously has been seeing the libretto online, suddenly doesn't have access. So, there may be a temporary problem of some sort at Tripod---but theoretically, you should be able to get into those pages now.

SO glad to hear you excited and challenged by the work ahead.

Here are a few more things to pass on to you: --Taking a look at the "Forum" and "HAiR" sites will give you access to photographs from those productions I directed at The Pentacle, some of which will give you some idea of the great sets those shows had.

--Tony Zandol, our Tech Director, is nothing short of miraculous in what he can do with inexpensive materials and modest budgets. Very artistic choices he makes, and very practical and effective ones in every sense. He will be a tremendous asset to Metropolis.

--Denis Lafferty is signed on as one of the chief painters for the set. He's excellent with an airbrush, and is excited about the metallic effects he can accomplish with his airbrush tool.

--In looking at the Russian designs, I want to point out how I particularly enjoy things like a room being suggested by just four posts.

Abstractions as extreme as that.

--I do have a concept for the stage floor that I want to develop further.---We construct a thrust for our sets, unique to each production. The auditorium is semi-in-the-round--a modified thrust stage. We can come out into the auditorium approxiamately 17 feet.

The thrust I'm seeing for Metro would be huge gears lying on their sides. The teeth of the gears becoming the skirt of the thrust. One or two of the stacked gears, upstage, somewhere close to the proscenium line--could be 3 or 4 foot revolving platforms, so those gears are actually practical and turn during the machine room scenes. The girl who is crushed at the end of "101" could literally fall into the set and be caught in those gears.

Biggest technical challenge is that we cannot do much flying. Only a minimum of that, and with only very light pieces. We need to think more in terms of rolling platforms, and better yet, jig-saw-like set elements which are shifted into new positions in view of the audience. Creating space to show the two contrasting worlds---the grimey machine room, and the airy Art Deco city above ground---that's the single biggest design challenge.

Good--let me know if you indeed can get into the libretto.

Talk again soon.

Aug 23, 2001 Simon Bennett to Randy Bowser

Dear Mr Bowser,

        Hello again ! Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, I have been many days in the wilderness ( aka offline )after a problem with my computer!

Sadly I have not been able to access the `Metropolis` libretto  although this is not inhibiting my ideas or passion for your production in the least. In fact although very sad the lack of information on the previous `Metro` production is in many ways a good thing and can only lead to fresh ideas.

Over the past couple of days I have been sketching down very basic concepts and designs with a view to actually building a model based on those ideas which I can then photograph and email to you. It seems easier that way as visually you will be able to see what I am thinking far better than a painting or drawing would allow. There maybe something there that you can cherry pick or it might spark off an idea with someone else on your creative team. It could even be the complete opposite of what you envisioned and set me on a different path altogether,lol!!

I have now fully explored your `Forum` and `HAiR` websites and enjoyed them immensely. I particulary enjoyed the photos on the `HAiR` site - the lighting and projections were fabulous. Although difficult to tell the stage did look a lot larger than I had originally anticipated and both productions looked great.

I have taken your ideas about the design of `Metropolis` to heart and shall very much enjoy working on them in the next few days. I was also excited to hear that the stage is semi-in-the-round and love the idea of pushing out toward the audience. In all the productions I have seen I have always remembered most those with an open stage when you first enter the auditorium for example - `Phantom Of The Opera` where the stage is in disary and covered in canvas allowing the audience to wonder how the magic will be created. `Cats` with its oversized junkyard or John Napier`s mind boggling design for `Starlight Express` which floored me everytime I saw it. Infact I probably spent as much time watching the set as I did the show ! Incidently Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced this week that `Starlight` is to close in London on January 12th 2002 after 17 years.

Quickly changing the subject - Do you have an opening date yet and if so how long will `Metro` be running for ? I have been spreading the word in Plymouth amongst the touring `Sunset Boulevard` cast so news of your production may well spread across the UK . Michael Bauer (a superb baritone) even expressed an interest in playing John Freeman but I am afraid he will be tied up for some time yet ! Its amazing how many people remember the original show despite its short run. One person in particulary said it was the loudest thing he had ever seen on stage and that he was dazzled when Maria kept changing back and fourth into Futura before his eyes ! I will email you again soon with a progress report and any ideas that maybe of use.

Until then as always my best wishes,

Aug 24, 2001 Simon Bennett to Randy Bowser

Dear Randy,

        Thanks for your email .Please know that if I email you regularly its because I honestly want to rather than feel I have to...although I could kick myself that I haven`t gotten anything more concrete to you as yet - after getting home from the office so to speak I am afraid my brain has pretty much turned to jello ( an American term I believe ) !

Please don`t feel you have to reply to every email though as I do tend to repeat myself .to repeat myself.to repeat myself...

Once again some great direction in your email for me to follow and envision more possibilities for the staging of `Metropolis`.I have previously thought about both the televisions and the large projection screen that was used to such great effect in `HAiR` and have incorporated them into my current design.

Here are a few thoughts that I had whilst thinking of the shows design :

I love the idea of using footage from the original movie...is the projection screen moveable or does it fix firmly in place ? Would it be possible to to project onto another sort of almost see through material placed temporarily over the front of the stage like a curtain. If the stage was darkened slightly you could project a hugh image of Freeman in front of the on stage action ,perhaps even looking out into the audience whilst addressing the actor(s) on stage..Imagine John Freemans head 20ft tall bellowing `GROAT !`...absolutely frightening . Just a thought.

With regard to the idea of a room being suggested by just four posts - I thought it would be pretty cool to use this idea in the machine room area. The posts could also have warning lights attached to the top  to coincide with the sirens or falling machine pressure. Also as Groat enters a scene barking out orders he could attach a chain from one of the front posts to the other as he strides say from the left to the right of the stage and then enters the room himself rounding up the workers like cattle..`Come on to work-to work.Get your self back on those machines...`.(he could even have some sort of `prod` or trunceon. This would not only tell the audience that they are now somewhere completely different and dangerous but along with the lighting and change of mood in the music also change the feel onstage.You could also hang a `Machine room..` or `DANGER` sign on the chain but that maybe too obvious. There would be other things that would change on set to change from say Freeman`s office to the underworld but it will be easier to explain them in jpeg format ! Believe me its alot harder to get these thoughts across in writing than it would be to just tell them. No matter what I write it doesn`t come out quite the same.Perhaps I should just send a sound file next time - hey you could even hear my wonderful singing `ThE MAChinESssss ArrrrRe BeeEAUTifULlllllllllLLLLLLLLLOOOOWW !`

In the past I developed an idea for a Metropolis graphic novel in the style of the old comic strips like `Flash Gordon ` and based on the musical. I have just found a very rough layout I produced for the start of `Look The Sun ,Maria` which features just after `101.11` where Jade has become caught in the machines and lies dying. After the dramatic ending of `101` the scene darkens for a second and then is relight by a single flickering bulb (the household kind) hanging bare from high above. Jade who is delusional believes this bulb to be the sun `Look the sun,Maria. I knew I would see it someday...` and as she dies so does the bulb replaced once more by appropriate lighting to further convay the emotion of the scene as the next song `Hold Back The Night` begins.

On a happier note after watching the film I really liked the idea of the machine that looks somewhat like a three handed clock that Freder replaces Georgy on.

Perhaps this could be used in the set design somehow as an actual clock whilst in the city where upon the `third hand` could easily be concealed behind another and also as a dreaded machine whilst beneath the city.

I adored the movie by the way. I managed to get the 139 minute version second hand on vhs but couldn`t get it new anywhere. I will be ordering the DVD online as it seems to be unavailable in the UK. Do you know if the re-scored version is also available on DVD in the US as I can`t find it on the internet?

Thanks once again for your time.

Thanks once again for your time.

With best wishes

Keep rocking !