Almost four years ago, my good friend and colleague Cliff Aerie and I embarked on a project to create an original musical loosely based on the ancient book of Tobit, yet relevant to a contemporary audience. Our intent was to use the technique of ensemble improvisation—something Cliff and I had used more than 40 years ago (Good God—40 years!)–in bringing three productions to audiences across the region and ending in showcase runs off-Broadway. This time, our timing was notoriously bad. Just as we were to host our first brainstorming session, Covid struck and the country shut down.

Dismayed but not deterred, we continued our work virtually. Along the way, more than 30 people were involved. A dedicated group of eight, whom we dubbed the Tobit Collective joined us on-line every other week for three years to share ideas about character development, the story’s flow, and its relationship to our current reality. Two hundred zoom calls, countless sessions to work on the music (Cliff wrote the music, I worked the lyrics), two Table Reads using working NYC actors, and innumerable feedback sessions and we now have the final stages of a finished product. A workshopped version of the show, Happily After Ever, will be performed four times in October—twice in Montclair, NJ and twice in Palisades, NY.

Because I am in the final throes of this effort, I have decided to suspend my weekly posts until early November. I am doing this reluctantly since there are so many pressing issues that will evolve over the weeks to come (not to mention, unexpected surprises around the globe that seem to happen all-too-often): The Presidential primary season will have begun in earnest; the heat will have abated (please, God!) and we’ll see how these extraordinary temperatures impact the climate crisis; Donald Trump’s legal battles will continue; the debate over the teaching of history and restrictions on library books and curricula will undoubtedly continue; and unless there is a major breakthrough, the war in Ukraine will tragically grind on.

Readers who regularly frequent these posts will note that my focus on Happily After Ever caused me to miss last week’s deadline. But, I want to be clear. I am not ending these reflections. In a sense, I am taking a sabbatical so that I can concentrate on the final steps in getting Happily After Ever ready for a hoped-for sustained New York City run in 2024. In this space, I will periodically share updates about the play—performance dates, profiles on members of the company, and how you can support it.

Thank you for your dedicated readership these past six years. I promise more is to come beginning in November. See you then!   

7 thoughts on “A Sabbatical

  1. Good for you, Bob ! Greetings to Cliff ! What a wonderful collaboration. Montclair had one of the two top coffeehouses in NJ (at time I lived there). Outpost in the ‘Burbs is still active at 1st Congregational on 40 South Fullerton. The Olivia Dukakis Theater was just around the corner.

  2. This is AWESOME! I hope you’ll let us know the particulars of where and when the show runs!

  3. I was so proud to be a part of that effort 40 years ago. A life-changing experience for me. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out!

  4. Enjoy your summer and sabbatical and please keep me in the loop re Happily After Ever.. I look forward to hearing from you.

  5. Happy Birthing, Good Friends. Having seen/experienced some of the early attempts, I look forward to what has now emerged. All good wishes to you both.

    Bob Witham

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