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Friday, January 11, 2013

Gnomes of New Hope, Production Approach Summary

NOTE: 1/13 The Official Updated PAS is being published in hard copy as 
a production tool intended for investors and other business partners.
That edition contains more comprehensive information
including creative material not available on the web.
This will be made available via IMS Producing Partners in the near future.

6/10 Production Approach Summary  
for the production & management of;
The Gnomes of New Hope
Image of the Mind Studios
theatrical/cinematic project
created & written by
Arthur Greisiger
  music composed & arranged by
Arthur Greisiger & Shawn Rose

Musical Performances

Recent Activity and Archive postings;
Current Status  / Archive 

NOTE;  1/13 - The information in these pages is for the most part accurate, although outdated and is provided only as a means of introduction to the way in which the process has proceeded.  I am updating this a bit because I have moved it back to the top of the posts.

"The Gnomes of New Hope" originated from the simple fact that the name sounded good. Back in 1981, I had been working for a troupe called Middle Earth Marionettes on a project titled "Journey to Middle Earth" and had Hobbits in my mind when I began thinking about mythical creatures.

In 1990, I had just returned from California and, having resigned myself to remain in Pennsylvania, I determined that I would work out of New Hope. I became employed by The New Hope Arts Commission as their Tech Director. One day, while thinking about developing a new project, the title "The Gnomes of New Hope" came to me because the name rhymed. I imagined hiring little people to roam around the streets of New Hope, disappearing and reappearing, to promote the project. I had no idea what the project was going to be at that point. It was not long before I determined that "The Gnomes of New Hope" would be a classic marionette show in the form of a street fair. This idea blended well with the roaming little people. I can say with certainty that I was influenced by the marionette show in "The Sound of Music" and by my friend Leon Rhodes being the director of the television series "Diver Dan" (of which I own 27 episodes of out-takes).

A Marionette Show
I began sketching out the storyline and characters. At this point, I had spent many years writing a number of film & theatre scripts, so I was well versed in the process. I determined that, since I did not want to get too involved in another "Magnum Opus", I concluded that the story should be limited to the marionette show and designed for a street fair. I thought this would be good publicity for Image of the Mind Studios working out of New Hope at the time.

The New Hope Arts Commission was interested in the play, but I was too busy being their Tech Director for other shows. Thus, The Gnomes was on the back burner. So I continued to refine the characters and expand the story when I could find time to write.

Around this time, I located a company in Germany that makes superb marionettes. I was very interested in having them construct the "actors"(at @$750). However, having worked with Middle Earth Marionettes, I paid them a visit to discuss their construction of the marionettes. They have an excellent shop, in Stony Run PA, and Carl Odhner is open to building the marionettes. So with that supplier in mind, I moved forward to discuss making the character prototypes with a number of sculptors.

I determined that I would produce the marionette show at The Gerenser Theatre in New Hope, so I laid out the Production Approach Summary, Budget and negotiated for the theatre. After preparing numerous aspects of the production, close analysis of the up-front outlay, operating expenses, the risk & income potential, I concluded that further advancement on the marionette show was inadvisable under the circumstances. The margin was too narrow and the risk too high. So I did not proceed with the marionette show.

NOTE: I am certain that the full marionette show can succeed given the right circumstances. Part of that involves amortization of the set-up costs with the Ancillary Markets (those directly related to the marionette aspect of the project) and shared publicity. Integration of the marionettes into the film and television aspects of the project will allow the live show to proceed and defer a significant portion of the set-up costs. The marionette show could justifiably be viewed as publicity for the film/DVD.

Children's Theatre
In 2004, I continued to associate with the Arts Commission and I began to work with The Make Believe Players & Arthur Gerald on his original musicals for children's theatre which he and his wife had created. This got me thinking that I should add music to The Gnomes, possibly modify the script for childrens theatre and use live actors (little people?). I began to expand the script, write lyrics and record some sample music tracks with my flute.

I began to consider producing a version of the show that would serve two theatrical environments- an enclosed venue and a street fair. It was at this time that Arthur Gerald & I had partnered to set-up a scene shop on a ten acre farm in Solebury. It occurred to me that constructing a mobile stage to serve both presentation environments would be a good idea. So, I set about designing the technical aspects for this version of the show.

Claymation Film
Earlier in this process, I spent some time with Selma Burke in her sculpting studio (she told me I was officially an apprentice) and I believe that sparked my interest in Claymation. I had spoken to another sculptor, Marge Rose, about this project a few times and I met with her again to discuss building the heads & hands for the marionettes, but it was about this time that work on the music became a priority. I decided to spend some time experimenting with sculpting on my own with good results.

NOTE: We have since sculpted one of our primary characters and are proceeding with creating the molds for that as one of our Garden Gnome products. We are also advancing with the mechanics of the puppetry and the animatronics.

I was cast as Paravanchinni in "The Mousetrap" at Phillip's Mill in Solebury and found myself imagining a production the marionette show there. As often happens with creative types, we all got talking, and being a filmmaker, I began to think in terms of a Claymation film. The director of the show was also in the injection molding business and offered to help make the articulating dolls I would need for a film. So I proceeded to construct the frame that would be needed for the dolls with injection molding in mind.

With the advancements that were occurring, I was inspired to spend a good deal more time writing and the show expanded beyond a marionette show.

A Television Show
As a result of this, I began to think about producing the show as either a television series or a special. I was working on a few other shows during this time and made a number of contacts which stirred my thinking in this regard. I began conceptualizing the animation, and entered into discussions with an artist specializing in computer animation. He was studying at NYU and was going to construct the first scene in the script in Computer Generated Animation. He got a job elsewhere before that happened, but it got me thinking about what kind of animation I would really like to see done.

Being concerned about how someone else might design the look of the Gnomes, I started to look for an illustrator and began to think in terms of illustrating the script as a childrens book.

NOTE: We now have an extensive portfolio and the Illustrated Storybook is well along toward completion.

A Feature Film
My primary interest has always been to make a show of quality that has the potential to become a classic.

  1. Therefore, if a CG Animation were to be done, it would need to be done by an organization capable of the highest quality. I prefer the three dimensional and crafted feeling that is achieved with Claymation or Marionettes. But one does not preclude the other. We have programs to advance this cause (of CG), but I feel inclined to partner with another organization more advanced than we are in this regard.
  2. To do a the real marionette show on film has an appeal to it that I would like to pursue, but I also feel very inclined to present the animation in clay... both of which are difficult and complex. Ray Harryhausen... classic stuff!   But The Gnomes are perfect for that... and since I have sufficient equipment to do something of this nature, that is one of our goals.

Toy Figurenes
As mentioned, my conversations with the director, and his willingness to help me get the prototypes built, led me to construct an articulating skeleton for the prototype Claymation Gnome (the Gnomation film?). This process of building prototypes, also encouraged thinking along the lines of constructing dolls for resale as toys.

NOTE: At this time we are involved in the construction of prototype materials for Gnome dolls, figurines, a play-set of Gnomeville and a number of other products are on-the-boards.

New Hope/Solebury Production Activity
Having worked for the New Hope/Solebury School District (running their stage) and at Solebury School with the Arts Commission for a number of years, it was suggested that we should conduct a workshop in association with the library & the elementary school in Lambertville , to show kids how to build and operate marionettes. It was also suggested that this workshop might make a good program for PBS. All those suggestions are very good and remain possibilities.

Around this time, consideration of illustrating the script as a picture book came about. I think this was prompted by the fact that I was involved with a number of children's musical theatre groups including The Make Believe Players, and worked with kids in more than one school system.

I came to believe that it would be advisable to convert the marionette script into a full staged live performance, after having seen how kids reacted to the show.

In 2004 I tentatively booked the August block at The Steven Buck Theatre for the 2005 Performing Arts Festival. By the time January 2005 rolled around I was moving ahead very well with the script revisions, but I was still not thinking in terms of a full musical. I was thinking of musical interludes added to a drama.

Where's The Muse?
By March of 2005 I ran into a wall, non-theatre issues had begun to interfere with my writing and I lost my muse. By spring it was clear that the show would not be ready to go up in August and I had other producers offering me work for the season, which would not allow me to work on my own show. So I postponed the effort.

By the fall of 2005 I had begun making some notes on the script again and over the winter I made some real strides forward. The script started to take on a new dimension and I began to think of it in terms of a full musical production.

A Revitalized Inspiration...
I started to write lyrics and sing them as I went along. I started to gather samples of what I thought the music might sound like, by recording ideaswith my flute.

By the spring of 2006, I began discussing the project with Shawn Rose, a composer/musician friend. A year before, we started to collaborate on the music for another show called "I am Alpha & Omega" (which went into stasis because of my distress over the muse and because I lived in Upper Bucks County, too far away from Shawn).

With the advancements of The Gnomes of New Hope I suggested we work on that show instead of Alpha & Omega. I figured that the viability of The Gnomes warranted focusing on that project, since the other one is more...difficult. He agreed. So we set about establishing a working relationship with the objective of fully setting The Gnomes of New Hope to music.

Creating the Music
It took us quite some time to get accustomed to each others sensitivities and to develop a good working relationship & schedule, but now we're both totally committed to the process and into a very productive groove.

I set myself on a path to build the studio's audio capabilities and to upgrade the equipment. As improvements were being made to the studio, our knowledge and abilities have greatly improved as well. Shawn has joined the effort to the upgrade the resources available to us, so that now we have a very extensive array of tools available to us for music production. Our advancement with creating the music has developed a solid commitment to completely orchestrate the show. We are currently meeting regularly with very positive results.

Words & Music by Arthur Greisiger & Shawn Rose
People understand the relationship between writing partners as a Lyricist and a Composer, where one person writes the words and the other writes the music. Although that may exist in many circumstances, that is not how we work.

To clarify our methodology, it is thus: I have written the story, developed the characters, write the lyrics, sketch out the designs, and direct the action. When it comes to writing the music, I give Shawn an idea of what I think the music might be like, either from singing or playing the flute, from that: we collectively extract something of a sketch and build it piece by piece in total agreement of every note, beat, instrument, and inflection. On some pieces, Shawn has an idea of what he hears in his head and lays that down, sometimes I lay down some tracks and they all get blended and adjusted to service the script. At any given time either one of us may improvise movements on different instruments, depending on how we feel at the moment or how the direction of the piece is going.

If any part of the script, lyrics, designs, or direction needs enhancement or alterations, we discuss it and if Shawn has a contribution, that we both agree on, it is integrated into the script. In this way the Words and Music are by both of us, because we are both vested completely in the success of this project.

If you are reading this it is because Shawn agrees with what I have written.

The Synopsis of the Story-line will not be provided over the internet until the show is out of pre-production.
More later...

The future of Cinema Under the Stars

Visit: Cinema Under the Stars for discussion about this program. All activities in the Meadow Amphitheatre are on hiatus. This and other programs will center around a new portable stage which we are building and will be presented at various locations.

The Meadow Amphitheatre

The Meadow Amphitheatre has been dismantled due (in large part) to vandalism.

We expect to rebuild a portable version of the stage, which will be available on a rental basis. Look for further information to appear on the web pages linked below or send an email to

A tour of The Meadow Amphitheatre has been moved to it's own site and there is a page on Facebook titled "The Shakespeareans of Tamanend Park".

Please refer to The Shakespearean Journal for the commentary & discussion regarding efforts to rebuild the stage."

Any information or photographs regarding this stage activity may be found at these three locations and postings will depend somewhat on the interest shown by other people.

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