The Zeringue Gang (yes, it does rhyme)

November 4, 2015

How many Zeringues does it take to compose music for a new musical play? Apparently three, but only two of them have to actually be related. When I started writing my play, High and Mighty, I never intended for it to be a musical. I never intend to write a play at all. The truth is that in my job as an arts presenter, I was suddenly in the position of covering duties of those employees who were casualties of massive layoffs at the state university for whom I worked. It was an uncomfortable position to be in, for I had earned my education in theatre so that I could create art, discuss art, ponder art. Up to that point, my career in theatre had taken me onto the stage, behind the stage, and in front of the stage. It had been blissful.

Suddenly, however, I found myself having to be on site for all sorts of evening facility rental events, many of which had nothing to do with art of any kind, much less theatre. Corporate events, social events, political gatherings, etc. had invaded my world, and I found myself in the mundane position of having to unlock doors, periodically breeze through the crowd to make sure they were happy, wait until the crowd departed, then lock the doors. In between the big events (unlocking and locking), I often had two, three or four hours of time on my hands. It was dead air time, for there is only so much paperwork one can complete until there is nothing left. So what’s a girl to do? I decided to write a play…for fun, and so it began. I would leave my characters in my office, sleeping, during the day. But on nights of rental events, they were set free from their hiding places and invited right back into my head and onto my computer screen.

Before I knew it, I was enjoying the rentals so much that one night, one of the characters began to sing! It was then that I knew I needed help for, although I read music and am happy to sing and play it, I do not compose it. Since this was my first real rodeo, I had no idea where to begin. After much stumbling around in the world of composers, I decided that perhaps I should seek a novice, like myself. So I did. I invited my friend Bridget Zeringue out for coffee and presented the idea, along with a copy of the script, to her. A few days later, she contacted me to accept the challenge, but with one condition. She wanted her husband Drew Zeringue to be a part of this effort for, you see, he is quite the guitarist. Yeah, yeah. I knew that already. So off we went on this journey of making a musical. I would hand off lyrics to Bridget and Drew, along with bad cell phone recordings of me singing melodies I envisioned for the songs, and they would return a few weeks later with notes on pages. Over home made chili (thank you, Bridget) and wine, we would polish them, together. Sometimes we would meet at my house over crawfish etoufee. I think the food really helped. Something about breaking bread together pulls humans toward each other.

Once the tunes and the words were all happily married, Bridget announced that we now needed an arranger. That is the person who arranges all those notes for different instruments and voices. No problem though, because she had someone in mind. His name was Shane Zeringue. No relation. (Really? In Louisiana? Want to bet?) So we ushered Shane into our fold and cut him loose with the songs. He brought them to new heights, adding ebbs and flows to the tempos and the swells. He tailored the songs for instruments and voices so that they became one big happy family. Truly, Shane brought all of our efforts together and tied them up in a bow.

Together, the four of us are an odd match. At least I am to them. You see, we are of different generations, them and me. Technically, they could be my children. For many collaborative teams, this could be a problem, but for us it all seemed to work out just fine. I bring to the table years of living and stepping over things along the way. They bring a freshness, a youthfulness to the whole process and product. All four of us bring a love for the project. I am grateful for the Zeringue Gang, for they have enriched my story and walked beside me as we all learned how to collaborate. They are the best. And did I mention that two of the three of them are not even related…as far as we know?

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