LOOK: Photos and Reaction to JOE SCHMOE

Earlier this month, Indiana University presented four workshop performances of Joe Schmoe Saves the World. The piece was provocative, empowering, and very well-received by a diverse audience of different ages and backgrounds.

Here’s some press response from the show:

Jennifer Pacenza, writing for “Bravo, Bloomington!” wrote

Sometimes a piece of art enters your life at the exact right moment. The experience brings your life and your place in the world into focus. Brett Ryback’s musical Joe Schmoe Saves the World is just such a piece. The mirror it holds up to modern American culture reflects back an all too real image that is at once critical and hopeful. With relatable characters, hard-hitting imagery, and a soundtrack I’ve been listening to on repeat for almost a week now, Joe Schmoe Saves the World transforms and inspires. 

George Walker, reporting for Indiana Public Radio, described it as

It’s a roughly polished workshop production with imaginative direction and a talented and committed cast…Music is central to the play’s plot and “Listen to the Music” comes in two parts. The first champions the space, the respite that music — lyrical moments, dance club beats, word rap and pop-rock — can offer. It returns with new fervor mixed with the chant of “no more silence” as an energizing and rallying cry for all, a call to say something.

In the Indiana Daily Student, writer Clark Gudas said of the music:

The live music and rap-rock vocals are fluid and natural. In some instances, the songs have a feeling similar to spoken verse and can even take on a conversational air.

Additionally, in the middle of our very short run, the head of The Center for the Study of the Middle East at IU came to the show and asked if they could buy a late sponsorship to be mentioned in the curtain speech the next two performances. It was a priceless endorsement of the show, and we were grateful to have brought extra funding to the program.

Photo credit: Amy Osajima

WATCH: New Song from Passing Through

Last Monday I hosted Musi-CAL, a bimonthly concert celebrating new works of Musical Theatre in Los Angeles. I premiered a new song from my musical-in-development Passing Through. It turned out to be perfect timing, as it was announced last week in the New York Times that my book writer Eric Ulloa and I were accepted to the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat to continue working on the piece this summer.

The song is sung by a 73-year-old ranch hand, Dennis, in New Mexico. Our main character, Andrew, is taken in by him for the night and begins to open up with Dennis about his conflict with his dad. In a very fatherly way, the old ranch hand shares his experience with Andrew, offering him a little perspective.

Ryback and Ulloa Accepted to Rhinebeck

Ryback and Ulloa’s new show PASSING THROUGH was one of 9 new musical selected for development at this summer’s Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.

Wanna watch a song from the show? Go here.

For nine consecutive weeks beginning July 2, each writing team will have a weeklong residency in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City, to write their new musical.

Writers pay nothing to participate in Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, which takes no percentage of future royalties, and donors cover all the writers’ costs. Each writing team lives in a private home and is provided transportation, food, and a $500 stipend.

The 9 musicals were selected from 113 applications by a panel of new musical experts: Continue reading Ryback and Ulloa Accepted to Rhinebeck

The Anatomy of a Best Song

What is it that makes the “Best Original Song” for a motion picture?

This year is a particularly fascinating year for Best Song.

There appears to be a clear front runner in La La Land, nominated for the maximum two songs – “Audition” and “City of Stars.” Being a “movie musical” (yes, in quotations) the songs function in a very clear and direct way, allowing their effectiveness and RTDW to be more objectively quantifiable. With two nominations, however, it runs the risk of cancelling itself out.

Furthermore, historically the academy has chosen songs by famous pop artists, which gives an edge to Justin Timberlake and Sting. Although THIS year, with the massive pop appeal of Hamilton, the prize could go to Lin-Manuel Miranda. So it’s really up in the air.

There is always going to be a large amount of subjectivity when evaluating a creative endeavor. Ideally, the law of averages works it out so that the opinions of an educated sample reflect the opinions of the educated majority.

Remember, though, that while the nominations are made by Academy members who are songwriters and composers, the winners are decided by the membership as a whole. (So beware Lin Manuel Miranda – the deciding vote may come down to a tone-deaf cinematographer.)

I’ve always thought that songs in motion pictures are a difficult thing to judge, and precisely because of that they are almost always a difficult award to predict. Add to that the bizarre and ever-changing rules which govern the nominations of songs, which results in years where only two songs (???) are even nominated.

I thought it might be interesting to go through the nominations and see how to evaluate them on the principles of the Academy. According to the voting rules of the Academy: Continue reading The Anatomy of a Best Song

What Will Your Oscar’s Speech Be?

As I watch the various entertainment awards ceremonies that populate the first few months of the year, I am always struck by the depth of intention artists find in work that can sometimes feel like pure entertainment. I’m reminded that in everything we as actors do, we must find the greater purpose. Make it about something bigger than ourselves because that’s where the possibility for greatness lies.

Last night, during the SAG awards, many of the actors rose to the occasion of our times, understanding that the work they do does not exist in a vaccuum, but is rather reflected through the prism of the culture, giving their award an importance beyond simple recognition of talent or hard work. Continue reading What Will Your Oscar’s Speech Be?

Ryback scored short film “30 Nights” an Official Selection Broad Humor Film Fest, 2015

This Saturday, September 26th @ 5pm, come to Venice, CA to see this hilarious short film I scored. It’s an official selection of the Broad Humor Film Festival – celebrating funny films by funny women.

The festival is held at the Electric Lodge Performing Arts Center at 1416 Electric Ave, Venice CA, 90291.

Get ticket and schedule information here.

The Drugstoppers – a new DARE-ody

DAREleadRemember the DARE program from the 90’s? Remember how it stopped y’all from drinking and smoking pot?

Probably not.

The DARE program was part of a wildly ineffective craze in the 80’s and 90’s to get kids to “just say no” to drugs, which included over-the-top PSA’s including this turkey from 1993:

Well, now there is a brand new stage parody celebrating the nostalgic anti-drug hysteria of our childhood, and you can help us produce it in New York City!

Introducing The Drugstoppers – a new DARE-ody.

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The Drugstoppers is a new comedy, written by Gili Malinsky, wherein the audience plays the role of classroom, and the play itself is an over-the-top anti-drug program (complete with our own hilarious PSA’s.) Continue reading The Drugstoppers – a new DARE-ody

Make Art for a Change

Art and activism have a long history together. As art is a representation of the truth of the world around us, it can often force us to see things that we typically choose to ignore.

Sometimes – often times – this type of truth telling can cause trouble for the artist. Especially in countries where freedom of speech is not valued as it is in the west.

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In Iran, a 29-year-old painter named Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12+ years in prison earlier this summer, for depicting members of the Iranian parliament as monkeys and cows. She created the artwork as a response to their vote to restrict contraception and ban certain birth-control methods. Even while in prison – where she suffered abuses and more injustices – she would draw on paper cups until they were no longer given to her. Continue reading Make Art for a Change

See what the Tonys Inspire

6a012876c6c7fb970c01bb08264d7a970d-300wiThe Tony Awards always leave me inspired. I didn’t get to watch this years broadcast, but even just seeing the names of nominees and winners that are close to my heart fuels me to keep pushing ahead in this crazy business of show.

I’m especially inspired by the win of FUN HOME – a story we’ve never seen before on the musical stage – as it further widens the breadth of what stories a musical can tell. As it has for centuries, the theatre continues to have the power to give voice to all sorts of populations whose stories deserve to be told.

That’s why I’m so excited to premiere some brand new songs from JOE SHMOE SAVES THE WORLD as part of The Festival of New American Musical’s Musi-CAL series, celebrating new musicals written by SoCal writers.

The show is hosted by Rockwell Table & Stages in Los Feliz. It begins at 8pm and tickets start at only $15.

Come have a bite to eat and support new musical theatre performed by my incredible cast featuring Jonah Hill (American Idiot, Hair at the Hollywood Bowl), Alex Wyse (Masters of Sex, Broadway’s Lysistrata Jones), Ashley Argota (The Fosters), and Nicole Farnoush, as well as Kat Hennessey, Chris Meissner, Lyle Mackston, and Holly Howell.

Grab your tickets ahead of time – and I’ll see you there!