I saw a couple new plays over the last few weeks, and it got me thinking about structure.
There seems to be a trend with young playwrights that rejects the “restraints” of traditional structure. With nothing worthwhile to replace it, however, rejecting traditional structure feels like a rejection of any structure at all. The resulting play feels like a meditation on a theme at best and a plot with no climax or catharsis at worst.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the greater purpose of musical theatre. It’s been said that if you want to make a billion dollars you simply help a billion people. Now, who doesn’t want to make a billion dollars (especially if you’re an artist)? But the question then becomes how do you help a billion people?
There’s a certain pessimism that allows you to be blasé about not receiving the grants/awards you apply for as a writer. It’s the pessimism that says, “Chances are I won’t win this, but I’ll try anyway.” Then when you aren’t selected you can say to yourself, “See, I thought so.” Or if you are, you can be pleasantly and genuinely surprised/honored.
Often I find I can learn a lot from people who receive grants/awards for which I also applied. It introduces me to a new type of work or a new way of thinking. It gives me inspiration to see other peers finally receive due attention. It forces me to pay attention to what people are responding to and strive for greatness in my own work.
The term isn’t mine, but the problem is one that lots of writers fall into. The Donut Problem describes what happens when your main character is nowhere near as interesting or as active as all the characters that surround her.
I had originally heard of Michael when I saw a song from his largely autobiographical musical A Strange Loop performed as part of William Finn’sRidiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Should cabaret at 54 Below. (Well – truth be told I think I originally originally heard of him when the pop-star Michael Jackson died, and he was forced to distinguish himself on Facebook as Michael “Living” Jackson, but that’s neither here nor there.)
I then got to meet him as we were both participants of the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at the Goodspeed Musical Theatre this past January. There I got to see more of his work on the show come to life.
The 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.
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.
Mixing classic musical comedy with a dash of Agatha Christie, everyone is a suspect in this house of eccentric characters unfazed by the dead body on the floor. But this whodunit comes with a killer twist: one actor investigates the crime, the other plays all thirteen suspects, and they both play the piano! This madcap mystery will tickle the ivories and your funny bone.
I will be playing the young investigator, and musical theatre/Broadway mainstay Jeff Blumenkrantz will play…everyone else.
If you don’t know, Jeff is an established songwriter as well as a Broadway actor. One of his most famous pieces is “I Won’t Mind”, recorded by Audra McDonald. Which begs the question…between Jeff, Joe, Kellen, and myself – how many songwriters does it take to mount a two-person show in New York City? (Also – whoever at broadwayworld.com put Jeff and I shoulder-to-shoulder in that picture is a freaking genius. Can anyone say Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen solving a murder on the UWS?)
The production will be directed by Scott Schwartz(which adds another songwriter to the mix if you count his father Stephen) and is scheduled to run from July 10 – August 10th. So DO NOT miss this NYC. I mean YOU.
Great news from Burbank! Falling for Make Believeis a critical and audience success and so the show is extending by popular demand!
“[Playwright Mark] Saltzman illuminates the self-loathing Hart (Ben D. Goldberg, marvelously invested, if too handsome by half), pulling vintage items from his output with Rodgers (ever-stalwart Brett Ryback) into commentary.” – LA Times
“What Brett Ryback as Rodgers and Ben D. Goldberg as Hart lack in comparable vocal power they make up for in melodic, resonant stylings. And Ryback is so convincing at the onstage piano, that it’s nearly impossible to tell if he’s faking it.” – Burbank Leader
“The singing all by itself is worth the price of admission…It falls to the cast, as brilliant in their character portrayals as they are in their singing, to show us what the party line has withheld.” – My Burbank
The play is set to continue to run through the end of June…however, I will only be in it through June 9th! So before I step out of Richard Rodgers’s shoes, come see Falling for Make Believe at the Colony Theatre!
For tickets call 818-558-7000 ext.15 or visit www.colonytheatre.org. But Hurry – they are seriously going fast!