Saturday, March 14, 2015

Further libretto research

I was feeling self-conscious about my libretto design, so I wanted to research some further examples.

I ran in to and the first one that struck my eye was the The Pirates of Penzance. This was handy because it seems the majority of musicals the "simply scripts" site links to a Russian site that is now offline.

The Pirates of Penzance libretto is hosted on the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, which might be useful for some, but since it likely uses a similar libretto design for all of them, it is less useful for me.

Of the Pirates of Penance libretto, on the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive page there's a section called "The Words", the first item of which is "Libretto" with three versions, plain-text, Microsoft Word and PDF. These are the versions I will be investigating in this post.

The plain-text version looks like a machine conversion, and has the problems you'd expect with such a conversion. Unicode characters were converted to the "unknown" square box. Line-wrapping is weird at best and hard-to-read at worst. (etc.) It means the plain-text first approach of reStructuredText -- even with the idiosyncrasies it has -- is much easier to read.

This is the first full libretto I've seen (ever). This means the existence of a title page and a "Dramatis Personae" list -- and even the very fact that each act has a distinct location associated with it -- are all new to me. (I had gathered that there should be two acts, and that some plays with one or three acts will eventually be converted in to a two act structure.)

However, my use of "small caps" instead of all caps seems to be backed up, as this is done for the actor names.

The design could be said to use the "Scene" as an actor. The scene setup has the word "Scene" in front of it, styled like any other actor. I like this approach, particularly if some aspect of the scene changes within the act.

There's a use of a period as a separator between the actor and the speech, instead of a colon. I don't understand this. I wonder if this is a vestige of the age of the libretto, as this doesn't make more sense to me than a colon.

One big change between the two designs is the actor's sung parts are formatted differently. Well, specifically, the sung lines are formatted the same, but the location for the singer's name is basically the same as for an actor, while in the design I mentioned in the previous post the singer's name is centered above the sung part.

I think being centered above the sung part is a lot easier to read. I'm glad I saw the other libretto first, because this design would also be harder to deal with from a reStructuredText stand-point.

As an added bit of confusion, the style changes if there are multiple parts sung at once. In this case the singer's names are above the sung parts. If it makes more sense in that context, we add useful consistency if that's the placement all the time.

This libretto actually has standard indented paragraphs with very little space between parts. It makes the spoken parts harder to read. My simple solution with hanging-indented paragraphs is so much nicer than this.

There's explicit mention of the song. It sort of surprised me that appeared absent in the earlier libretto.

There's some spacing weirdness in some of the songs that is basically what you'd expect when folks diddle around with indents and spaces. It adds unnecessary variation.

The first thing I noticed with the "Word" version is the libretto is 9,220 words. That backs up the notion that I had from previous research that 10k may be big for a musical. The second thing I notice with the Word file is that there appears to be zero thought about "styles" in the document. This means there's nothing that can be learned from the Word file that can't be learned from the PDF. It also explains the apparent diddling with indents and spacing -- without styles all formatting is just diddling.

Overall, most of the formatting differences were covered with the article that accompanied the other libretto example. The big things were really just missing pieces... that anyone familiar with a libretto would have remembered.

I'm left kind of wanting to convert the Pirates of Penzance libretto to my format...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Writing a libretto in reStructuredText

I'm adapting my February Album Writing Month (FAWM) album in to a musical. I have no experience writing scripts of any sort, so it should be fun.

I was pointed to as a good example of a libretto. I liked it, it looked good. I can now produce something quite similar, from a completely text-based format (by way of an ODT file, allowing third-parties to easily tweak things).

See, the album it is based off of is an art concept album about copyright in the guise of hymn-filk. It was always planned that it would include full sheet music and be released with the most flexible license. This means that the libretto for the musical will be released with the same flexible license (Creative Commons Attribution) as I actually want people to be able to easily modify it.