Exactly a year ago today, Window Full of Moths, the musical I wrote for my senior project, opened in the Crescent Underground Theatre. [For those who only began following me recently: I wrote a musical! It's got lady scientists, same-sex love songs, and many other delightful things besides! And impartial reviewers found it deeply moving! You can watch the whole thing on my YouTube channel! The full show is about 80 minutes long, but if you don't have time for that, the title song and the voicemail apology number are both highlights that will give you a taste of it. Everyone who worked on it poured their hearts into it, and it would mean a lot if you checked it out.] I chronicled some of the key stages of the writing and production process on this very blog, and today I'm going to mark the anniversary by going behind the scenes once again and showing you the only scene that wound up being cut entirely in the revision process.
This was the original opening scene for Act II. In this early version, the same-sex couple (I'm not calling them a gay couple because Seth is bi, not gay) didn't have a fight at the end of Act I, and so spent the night together as planned. In that version, the post-intermission curtain comes up on this:
[Morning, in DARRYN's room. Grey morning light is beginning to filter in thru the window, but it is not yet truly bright outside. SETH and DARRYN are in bed together under the covers, asleep. A wake-up alarm goes off.]
[SETH groans at the awakening and reaches out a hand to blindly fumble and quiet the noise. He lets out a breath as silence descends. Beat. Then, groaning, he sits upright. DARRYN groans and wraps himself more tightly under the covers before uncurling slightly, resigned to be awake.]
SETH: [stretching] Morning.
SETH: Unfortunately, yes.
[He gets out of bed and pulls a change of clothes out of his bag by the desk. As he begins to put them on, DARRYN rolls over onto the space he was recently occupying, now staring up at the ceiling.]
SETH: Because some of us actually have these things called classes on Friday.
DAR: Classes? Nope, never heard of them.
SETH: Sure you have. You know: A bunch of random twenty-somethings trapped in a room together with an older person for a couple of hours theoretically for the purpose of "learning"? Attendance mandatory, and if you miss to many, they decide you're not smart enough and kick you out?
DAR: That sounds like a terrible idea. We should get rid of them.
SETH: Yeah, well I'll take it up with the Registrar.
DAR: [Makes a noise of dissatisfaction]
SETH: Hey, it's only one class, right? After that, I'm yours all day. And after I turn in the Wordsworth paper, I don't have anything due for a while, so this weekend's pretty chill too. [Fully dressed now, he goes over to the US side of the bed to kiss DARRYN gently on the forehead.] Plus, it'll be fall break soon, and then we won't have any classes at all.
DAR: They'll be back, tho.
SETH: Yeah, right up to exams.
DAR: Which are hardly an improvement.
SETH: Still, you have to admit that classes do technically go away at that point.
DAR: Until the spring.
SETH: Yeah. Until the spring. [He goes back to the desk to put his shoes on. Beat]
DAR: Do you think we'll still be together afterwards?
DAR: I mean, when this is all over, when we've graduated. Do you think we'll still be together?
SETH: I dunno, man. That's a really long time from now. I guess we managed the long-distance thing pretty well last summer?
DAR: Yeah, I guess. But we knew we'd both be back here in the fall.
SETH: Sure . . . but we'll know what we're doing after we graduate once we're closer to that, won't we?
DAR: Sure, I guess.
SETH: What's brought this on, anyway? Can't we cross this bridge when we get to it? It's so far in the future.
DAR: No, I know. It's just . . . [segue into song, essentially saying that their relationship doesn't have to last until death for it to be healthy and valid and a good thing in the moment]
The song that I had drafted for this spot had substantial similarities in terms of overall message and feel to their duet in the finale of the final version, but it had its own distinct music — it was actually the second or third song that I came up with, and the vamp for it is what convinced me to add a cello, which ultimately led to the full complement of strings, allowing me do do the instrument-character associations that defined so much of the orchestration of the final product. So even tho there isn't a single note of this song in the score that audiences heard, it still shaped the show in very profound ways.
I was sad to see this scene go. Beyond my unabashed glee at Darryn's response to being dragged into consciousness, this is one of the very few scenes in which Seth and Darryn are alone together in the same place; it was one of the few scenes that allowed a glimpse into their relationship without the influence of someone else in the room. It's not the most profound or emotional scene, but it is still doing important characterization work.
Darryn frets. He's constantly thinking things over, looking ahead, and trying to anticipate how things might go wrong so he can preempt them or at least minimize the damage. He definitely has a Plan in place for his life, and probably several backup plans in case that one doesn't work out exactly as he expects. He's not satisfied with vague platitudes; he needs to explicitly discuss things to make sure that he's on exactly the same page as the people around him. This fretfulness and insecurity show up in other areas of his life as well, but in Window, it's in his relationship with Seth that they cause the most problems.
Seth, on the other hand, is much more confident in his ability to work things out on the fly. His confidence doesn't come from having a Really Good Plan, but from an unshakeable belief that nothing truly bad is likely to happen, and it'll all pan out somehow for the best. He's much more focussed on the short-term — while Darryn is fretting about what classes he's going to take next year, Seth has pretty much figured out where he's going to have lunch. This isn't always better. Darryn may already be stressing about term papers due in a month or two, but he also already has books out from the library and half a dozen outlines on his computer while Seth is only vaguely aware of which of his classes even assign papers as opposed to (or in addition to) final exams. He makes light of it and doesn't invest too much of his self-worth in his academic performance, but Seth would probably do better work if he weren't being constantly blindsided, and he knows this, even if he doesn't really like to acknowledge or talk about it.
This difference shows up in their physicality as well. As we see here, Seth is totally comfortable traipsing around in the buff (or whatever minimal thing he sleeps in post-sex); if you asked him about it, he'd probably be more than happy to deliver an enthusiastic spiel about how the blanket sexualization and stigmatization of the naked human body are nonsensical and unproductive and should be done away with and so on and so forth and gosh he needs to pause for breath. We don't really see it in this scene, but in the original Act I finale, Darryn has to get out of bed when he's already settled in for the night, and is sure to firmly wrap a sheet around himself in the process, even tho he's only going to accost his boyfriend halfway across the room. He would likely agree with Seth intellectually on his points about nudity, but he hasn't internalized them, and is still generally uncomfortable with his physical form. Darryn spends so much time rigorously intellectualizing about everything that he finds his physical desires — being as fundamentally outside of deliberate, conscious control as they are* — somewhat unnerving as a result. He needs more physical intimacy than Seth, but he isn't really comfortable with this need.
None of these things are baldly stated on the surface, but they are all things that were going on in my head as I was writing. It's a pretty fluffy scene, but even fluffy scenes involve real characters and can do important work in subtly fleshing them out. I found other ways to work these characterizations into the fabric of the show, and the revisions that resulted in deleting this scene unquestionably made the final product much stronger, but I was still very sad to see it go.
*Darryn definitely had several crushes on straight boys in high school and was definitely irritated by the fact that knowing they were straight did nothing to make his feelings for them go away.