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I am so excited to announce my new partnership with NYMF (New York Musical Theatre Festival)! "Call Me Adam" will be providing NYMFerviews (exclusive interviews with some of the cast and creatives from the various productions in this year's NYMF festival).

  

 

Entries in New York Musical Theatre Festival (3)

Monday
Jul202015

Call Answered: NYMFerview: Oliver Houser: Held Momentarily NYMF 2015

I love being introduced to our next generation of musical theatre artists. Oliver Houser is no exception, so needless to say, I was quite excited to talk with Oliver about his show Held Momentarily which is being presented in the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) from July 20-27. Click here for tickets!

Held Momentarily is about six strangers that are stuck on a stalled subway line learn it's not just the train that is stuck.

For more on Oliver be sure to visit www.oliverhouser.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

For more on NYMF be sure to visit http://nymf.org and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. Your show, Held Momentarily, about six strangers are stuck on a stalled subway line learn it's not just the train that is stuck, is being presented in NYMF 2015. What made you want to write this show? I began working on Held Momentarily a few years after graduating from the LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts (the "Fame School"), and wanted to create an ensemble piece in the vein of A Chorus Line or The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to showcase the particular talents of some of my extraordinarily gifted friends, including fellow LaGuardia alum India Carney, who is rejoining the cast this summer after making it as a finalist on NBC’s The Voice. I’m a New York boy through and through, so the subway felt like the right setting. And I think childbirth is a really unfathomable thing, and the most remarkable feat of the human body. So I thought, "I want to write a show where strangers come together to help a woman give birth on the subway." It’s a love letter to New York about living in the moment and the beauty of unexpected connections.

2. You and Hunter Bird co-created Held Momentarily. How did the two of you come to work together? What has been the best part about working with him? Working with Hunter is magic. He co-produced the Festival of New American Musicals’ Show Search competition in LA, for which I was a finalist. When I first met him, I thought what I’ve since learned most people think when they meet him, which is that he is going to take over the world. It’s like how everyone who meets Bill Clinton says he makes you feel like you’re the only person alive. Hunter has something like that. So I said, "ok, I want to work this guy." I invited him to direct a workshop of Held Momentarily in January 2014 and he’s since been integral to the piece’s development. Working (well, playing) with him is intoxicating and overwhelming. We’ll sit down somewhere, I’ll pull out my voice memo app and hit record, and he’ll just become the characters and have conversations with himself (usually very loud, always very entertaining), and that often becomes dialogue that goes into the show verbatim. He is so unbelievably articulate that he will say a phrase that I immediately know has to be a song title. It’s frustrating sometimes because I leave our meetings overflowing with these ideas and kernels he’s dumped into my brain, and it’s hard to keep track. But that’s a good problem to have.

3. What excites you about having Held Momentarily in NYMF? So many things. I’m 22 years old, and this feels like a pretty tremendous step to be taking in my career. I am in love with my cast and creative team, and they bring such humor and depth to my work that I could never begin to imagine was there when I wrote it. It is a total thrill to watch such consummate artists use my words and music as a springboard for their own whimsical artistic invention. Additionally, most of the actors have now lived with these characters for a year and a half and grown with them through the show’s various incarnations (including our acclaimed run last summer at the NY Fringe Festival and Fringe "Encore" series), so they feel really free to play and dig deep into who these people are.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Held Momentarily? First and foremost, I hope they come away having laughed a lot, and with some new little light shed on the universal human experience, which is what I’m striving for in my art right now. More specifically to this piece, I hope people come away with a heightened sense of awareness and mindfulness, even if it just means noticing something they hadn’t before on the subway ride home. That’s what the show’s really about—learning to be in the moment, and finding the beauty in the everyday. So often it’s the funny glance we exchange with a stranger on our morning commute that puts the joy and spice in our lives, but we are increasingly closed off to having those interactions as we become further isolated from one another.

Cast of "Held Momentarily" From left: Oliver Houser (Cal), Yael Rizowy (Sam), Jordan Barrow (Stan), Geena Quintos (Mindy), Elliot Greer (Liam) and James Zebooker (Greg)5. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Held Momentarily, what would that reason be? To laugh, to cry, and to see the next generation of Broadway performers before they are famous.

6. Held Momentarily is a poignant musical comedy about making connections, living in the moment, and moving on in life. When was there a time in your life where you 100% lived in the moment? made a connection that was important to your next move in life, and when did you move on from something you knew you had to? Ironically, this rehearsal process has been the most I have truly lived and been in the moment in a long time. We are all having so much fun and working as such a collaborative unit and listening to each other so closely, that it is virtually impossible to not get lost in what is exactly in front of us. I can go five hours without realizing I haven’t checked my phone, which feels like a sad accomplishment, but it’s a big deal! In terms of making connections important to my next move in life, I actually fall a little bit in love with a lot of people on the subway and fantasize about getting into serious relationships with them. I’ve been too shy to say anything to anyone yet. It’s a fine line between sharing a pleasant moment with a stranger and hitting on a stranger, you know?

Cast of "Held Momentarily", From left: Elliot Greer (Liam), James Zebooker (Greg), Yael Rizowy (Sam), India Carney (Lilith), Jordan Barrow (Stan), and Geena Quintos (Mindy)7. What has been the best advice you've ever received? This is a hard one. I’ve received so much great advice over the years that I call upon daily to help make my decisions. Bill Murray once told me not to "fuck the nurses" before I underwent an endoscopy. (He had given money to the hospital and was taking a tour). In terms of my art, I’ve held very close something David Zippel (lyricist for Mulan, Hercules and City of Angels) shared when he was mentoring me and my collaborator on our short musical, Preschool. He said, "The audience is always right, and the audience is never right." Meaning that you cannot deny an audience’s reaction to your work when they are watching it: if something isn’t getting a laugh, or if the energy in the room isn’t electric, then there is a problem. But when people not involved in the creation of the piece come up to you and offer their two cents on how to fix it, they are very often wrong.

8. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Invisibility. No question. I would do naughty things. No one would know!

9. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? Siracha hot sauce in a glass of Kombucha. The Kombacha. Bam. Delicious, tangy, perfect for the summer.

Oliver HouserMore on Oliver:

Oliver Houser is a writer, composer, actor and recent graduate of the Macaulay Honors Program at Hunter College, NY. His musical, Held Momentarily, ran at the 2014 NY International Fringe Festival, and was one of a small selection of shows to receive an extended run at the Fringe’s Off-Broadway "Encores" series at the SoHo Playhouse. Tony-winning composer Bill Finn has showcased Oliver’s work at Barrington Stage Company and 54 Below. Oliver’s short musical, Preschool, was a finalist at the Festival of New American Musicals’ 2013 Show Search competition. His musical adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull debuted at the On the Verge Theater Festival in Glasgow, Scotland in 2014. Oliver is currently developing new work with the Musical Theatre Factory and is a member of the BMI musical theatre workshop. Acting credits include "Melchior" in Spring Awakening (Virginia Rep, RTCC nomination), TV: What Would You Do? (ABC, featured on unworthy), Phowned (Spike TV), Life on the Line (Oxygen, starring Ally Sheedy), and the lead role in the Ben Folds Five music video "Sky High." Oliver is a graduate of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts and was awarded the Franklin Keller Award in recognition of talent in 2011.

Thursday
Apr022015

Call Answered: NYMFerview: Jon Peter Lewis, Ryan Hayes, Garrett Sherwood Deep Love NYMF 2015 

Jon Peter Lewis, Ryan Hayes, Garrett SherwoodIn my second NYMFerview, "Call Me Adam" chats with American Idol's Jon Peter Lewis, The Voice's Ryan Hayes, and Garrett Sherwood, the creatives behind Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera which will be making it's NYMF debut this July as part of their "Next Link Project" July 17-24! Click here for tickets!

For more on Deep Love be sure to visit http://www.deeploveopera.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

For more on NYMF be sure to visit http://nymf.org and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. This summer, your musical Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera is part of NYMF's Next Link Project series which includes a run of the show during the festival. Out of the hundreds of submissions received, your show was just 1 of 10 to be selected as part of this series. What went through your minds when you found out Deep Love was selected? What does it mean to you to be part of NYMF 2015?

Jon Peter Lewis: I reenacted the entire movie of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…in my mind. It was like I was at the front of the parade, on top of the float, doing my best John Lennon impression of "Twist and Shout" while the marching band was shaking their brass and random pedestrians became back up dancers. This show started in my living room five years ago and has grown so much. We never anticipated this opportunity and it’s an honor to be a part of NYMF 2015 and to perform in the heart of where musicals are made.

Ryan Hayes: I was beyond excited to learn that we had been selected for NYMF, though honestly I wasn't truly aware that we had even submitted our script until Jon called me with the good news. I guess that's what happens when you work with a good team; you get good surprises.

Garrett Sherwood: After doing Deep Love for four years, we had seen it grow and grow. We had big dreams about how far this show could go, but we had yet to have that moment when we could clearly see an opportunity to achieve our ultimate goals. We always knew the show had great potential, so it was always just a matter of getting it in front of the right people. When we found out that we were selected as a Next Link Project for NYMF, it was like the clouds lifted and I finally had that "moment," I could see that this was the big opportunity we had been hoping for.

2. Why did you apply for NYMF's Next Link Project as opposed to trying to get this show into one of the other theatre festivals in NYC?

Jon Peter Lewis: Truthfully, I didn’t know of any other festivals.

Ryan Hayes: On matters of networking and industry I often defer to Jon or Garrett's judgment on the best route to take. If they say it's hot then it's gotta be hot.

Garrett Sherwood: Honestly, I couldn't name any of the other theatre festivals if I tried. At least for the part of Ryan and myself, we don't exactly pay much attention to the goings ons of the theatre world outside our own little realm. Lucky we have Jon though for that exact reason. Last Fall we had just showcased at the Arts Northwest Festival in Eugene, Oregon, and we had a fairly positive experience. The week after Jon let me know that there was such a thing as NYMF, it was kind of a big deal, and the deadline was coming up, and we should really apply. So we did.

"Deep Love"3. What has been the best part about this collaboration between the three of you?

Jon Peter Lewis: Ryan and Garrett are my closest friends. What more could I ask than to work at something I love with good company?

Ryan Hayes: Both Garrett and Jon can attest that collaboration has never been my strong suit. Even so, I have been humbled time and again at the craft that these two bring to the table on their own. I think that because we all respect each other's creative privacy it provides greater contrast within the show, and collectively we appeal to a much wider audience than we would individually.

Garrett Sherwood: We are all very opinionated and stubborn. And while that leads to some arguments on some things, it actually provides an environment that is very conducive to quality creation. The best part about our collaboration is when one of the other members says something like "we really need to try this, trust me," and you think "that's a terrible idea, but what the hell, let's try it," and then it turns out they were right and you were wrong, and the production is better for it. We've had quite of few of those moments where one of us gets proved wrong by one of the other two cohorts, and it's a wonderful thing.

"Deep Love"4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Deep Love?

Jon Peter Lewis: I just hope they enjoy the music and have a good time.

Ryan Hayes: My hope is that the characters and melodies live on in the hearts and minds of our audience. There is a little of each character in all of us, I believe.

Garrett Sherwood: Every time we've performed Deep Love in the past, we have audience members who tell us that they "thought it would be good, but had no idea it would be that good." And that's what I hope for the future as well. I want the audience to leave feeling guilty for underestimating how much fun they were going to have at the theatre that night.

5. All three of you are musicians, so how did you decide that just Ryan and Garrett would write the music/lyrics, while all three of you wrote the book?

Jon Peter Lewis: I came into the project after Garrett and Ryan had written most of the music and lyrics. I helped them put the book together once we realized that we needed to expand the show a bit.

Ryan Hayes: The music and story of Deep Love has always been mine and Garrett's domain because the show is our brainchild. We took Jon aboard when much of the music and story were already scripted. There was a critical moment, however, when I realized that the parts I had been writing for Old Bones were beyond my vocal capacity and that's when Jon came on board (to save the day). As this little show began to build steam we brought Jon aboard to help develop the stage production and direction aspects.

Garrett Sherwood: Ryan and I wrote the music and lyrics back in 2010. We brought Jon on as a performer for the original performance after the show was already written. All of our roles in the production have adapted over the years, and for the last couple years Jon has been our stage director as well. As Deep Love is told completely through song (there is no spoken dialogue), we didn't have a book until Jon volunteered to help put the book together for submission into NYMF. He obviously did a really good job.

"Deep Love," Team Old Bones6. Deep Love is about love, loss, and indecisions when lovers become adversaries. What has been your greatest love so far? What has been your greatest loss? When in your life have you had an indecisive moment?

Jon Peter Lewis: Ooooo, I don’t know if I want to get into my loves and losses. Lets just say that they have been both great and terrible. I experience extreme indecision every time I see a beautiful woman.

Ryan Hayes: My greatest love has been part music, part people. People inspire the music, and each new song changes who I am. My greatest loss has perhaps been the inevitable loss of time and my own youth. If I had a wish I would probably like to live it all over again once I reach the end.

Garrett Sherwood: My greatest love is my wife Brittany. My greatest loss is the countless amount of friends I've made, but whose friendships are reduced to Facebook, because I don't ever see them. As far as indecision, how bout every time I open Netflix and I think "lemme just browse for something to watch."

"Deep Love"7. Who or what inspired you to become performers?

Jon Peter Lewis: The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Rogers & Hammerstein, and my dad.

Ryan Hayes: I think my inability to communicate well verbally has always been a motive to present a thought carefully through song.

Garrett Sherwood: When I was in 9th grade I was signed up for High School Football. I went the first day of practice and immediately realized that my youth was too short to be doing something that required wearing protective gear all over my body. I left practice after 5 minutes and started learning to play the guitar that same day.

8. What's the best advice you've ever received?

Jon Peter Lewis: "It’ll all work out" - everyone

Ryan Hayes: "Don't mess with Mr. In-between"

Garrett Sherwood: Also when I was in the 9th grade (I guess that was a really formative year for me), I was in gym class and we were playing volleyball that day. I was put on a team with a bunch of burnouts. The game started and I began to play as competitively as my uncoordinated 14-year old body would allow. But just then, one of my teammates, a senior with a 2-foot-high green mohawk grabbed my shoulder and said, "Dude. Less is more." That changed my life. True story.

"Deep Love"9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

Jon Peter Lewis: Peter Petrelli from the first season of Heroes had the best super power ever. He could absorb everyone’s super power. I want that. Except, I’d have to be less lame than he was. But, maybe that’s what comes with being all-powerful. I should probably re-think this.

Ryan Hayes: I would like the ability to time travel.

Garrett Sherwood: The introvert in me wants to say invisibility, but truth is I really just want to fly. Don't we all?

10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it?

Jon Peter Lewis: It’s called the "Shawn-T" because it seems like the only exotic thing I drink ever since I did that "Insanity" program last year. Frozen bananas, dates soaked in coconut water, flax seed, vanilla extract, and almond milk.

Ryan Hayes: I call it the "Snake Bite": 1 part cream, 2 parts Coca Cola, 1 part rattlesnake venom. Sure to knock your socks off.

Garrett Sherwood: It would be called the Giblet Wiggler. Basically it would just be normal Mountain Dew, but served in an aluminum cup that has some electricity attached to it (not enough to really hurt you, just enough to make it really tingle).

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11a. For Jon: You were on American Idol and The Voice. What was the best part about being on these competition shows? What did you learn from your time on there? The best part about being on TV was the free stuff. It was weird, people started just giving me things because I was famous. I remember once I took my friend to the dentist and while I was waiting for her in the lobby, the dentist walked by and recognized me. He offered me a free consultation and fillings in exchange for my picture on the wall. How could I say no?

American Idol and The Voice taught me that TV stars have TV shows and music stars have hit songs. Neither will give you that, so it’s best to take what you can and enjoy it while it lasts. Being on TV is fun.

11b. For Ryan: When not working on your music, you are a geologist. How do you feel your geology life has helped your musical life and vice versa? What did you enjoy most about being on The Voice? What did you learn from being on the show? I think it's a blessing to work in the sciences. I am a very right brained person and it truly helps to inspire creative fury having a balance of left-brained activity. I was very excited to work on The Voice primarily because I got to know many of the contestants who have become dear friends. Through the overall experience I have come to understand more plainly that what you see on TV is not always the truth about people or reality.

11c. For Garrett: You are a musician, yoga instructor, author, and poet. How do you feel all these avenues compliment each other? If you had to stop all of these but one, could you choose one you would do exclusively? I would write music. Even though life has gotten so busy lately that I don't seem to write that many songs anymore, it's still the one thing that I always feel ambitious about, always have dreams about, and always feel like there is more to say and more to express.

Jon Peter LewisMore on Jon:

Jon is a celebrated musician who was a finalist on American Idol and competed on The Voice with Ryan Hayes as the folk duo Midas Whale. Jon met Ryan and Garrett in 2009 at an open mic in Rexburg, Idaho and joined in the collaboration of Deep Love. Jon's discography includes 3 solo albums and the folk duo's most recent release, Sugar House. For more on Jon visit www.jonpeterlewis.com.

Ryan HayesMore on Ryan:

As a contestant on Season 4 of The Voice, Ryan Hayes is a true son of the American West. He thrives on the excitement of discovery, which has led him to travel the world and become a student of many disciplines. Whilst he works professionally as a geologist, he is increasingly enchanted by the humanities and works most passionately as a songwriter. As part of the folk duo Midas Whale, Ryan released an album in 2014, titled Sugar House

Garrett SherwoodMore on Garrett:

Garrett Sherwood, a native of Chicago Illinois, is a graduate of Political Science but his passions have led him to a life of diverse ambitions. He is a working musician, certified yoga instructor, as well as a published author and performer of poetry.

Tuesday
Mar312015

Call Answered: NYMFerview: Greg Cooper and Vynnie Meli: Acappella: NYMF 2015

Greg Cooper, Photo Credit: Amelia DesignVynnie MeliIn my first NYMFerview, "Call Me Adam" chats with producer Greg Cooper and playwright Vynnie Meli about their new musical Acappella, about finding your own voice. Acappella will make it's NYMF 2015 debut July 7-14! Click here for tickets!

For more on Acappella be sure to visit http://www.acappellathemusical.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on NYMF be sure to visit http://nymf.org and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. This summer, you will be presenting your musical Acappella in NYMF as one of their invited productions. What does it mean to you to be part of this festival?

Greg Cooper: Acappella is my first production and a dream that has been over 12 years in the making. We are beyond excited to share this work with the world!

Vynnie Meli: Living in Atlanta, being part of this festival here in NY is especially important. I’m a NYMF veteran and I’m so glad I get a chance to do this again. My first NYMF show, Plagued - A Love Story, had a successful, extended run, but there’s a learning curve. I’ll do some things differently before, during, but especially after the festival.

2. Why did you apply to have your show in NYMF as opposed to one of the other theatre festivals in NYC? What do they offer you that another festival does not?

Greg Cooper: NYMF is an incredibly accessible platform to writers and producers of all levels.

Vynnie Meli: Greg Cooper zeroed in on this festival before I was even attached to the project. I’ve attended other workshops and conferences across the country and just sitting with a roomful of musical theater writers and composers is invigorating, but at NYMF we’re hearing from every facet of the team. It’s total immersion. The caliber of talent working on the shows is extraordinary. And humbling.

3. How did all of you come to work together? What has been the best part about this collaboration?

Greg Cooper: If there was ever such a thing as an angel on earth, it would be Vynnie Meli. We met through a mutual friend and from day one, she has nurtured this project as if it were her own child. And to date - we haven't had one fight about the script! Fingers crossed!

Vynnie Meli: An Atlanta director referred me to Greg and he approached me to write the book around the music of the Acappella Company. I’ve never even done an adaptation before, much less a "jukebox" musical, so I didn’t think it was for me. Then I listened to the music. I was immediately hooked. It’s been challenging, and I’ve written several totally different scripts, but working with Greg and this music has been an unexpected gift.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Acappella?

Greg Cooper: Inspiration. Hope. I've seen countless productions and the ones that have left an impression are the ones that elevate my spirit. We committed to making sure that everyone leaves the theatre with a smile in their heart!

Vynnie Meli: As J Lo would say - "gooseys." The show is about the importance of being authentic, but listening to singers belting out this gorgeous music is like swinging on a swing - you can’t help but break out in a grin.

5. Since Acappella is about finding your own voice, how have each of you found your own voice?

Greg Cooper: Music is my voice. Words can lose their meaning over time. Music has the power to change our lives.

Vynnie Meli: Ironically, I found my own voice when I started writing in someone else’s. Throughout a career in advertising as an art director, and in fine art long before that, I was a closet writer. Quirky personal essays mostly. I always wrote - I just never shared. Playwriting freed me. It’s my characters who are slightly off kilter and provocative, not me. 

6. Additionally, Acappella seems to have a secondary theme surrounding family. How have your families supported you with your careers?

Greg Cooper: Everyone in my family is starting a business or working on something cool - I'm trying to not get left out! My family - especially my mom - inspires me to live boldy!

Vynnie Meli: An endless supply of material. And my husband, Gregg Marcus, has always been very supportive.

7. Who or what inspired you to want to work in theatre/music?

Greg Cooper: The music of "The Acappella Company" (Keith and Melissa Lancaster) is the soundtrack of my life. As I listened, I began to see the music in distinct visuals. I wanted everyone in my life to have that same experience. A musical seemed like a natural step.

Vynnie Meli: My Danish mother was a dancer. As a kid she was singing and tap dancing on the radio (picture that). She played castanets and toured Cuba in water shows (picture Esther Williams). They threw great parties and she still dances in the kitchen. 

8. What has been the best advice you've ever received?

Greg Cooper: "Go figure it out." That's my mom. She would never give us the answers to anything. She would make us read and learn on our own. That's paying dividends today. My sister Sandra didn't always buy in. She would say: "She's only saying that because she doesn't know the answer!"

Vynnie Meli: Lift with your legs.

9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

Greg Cooper: Flying! How cool would that be?!!

Vynnie Meli: My daughter, Quinn Marcus, just made a short film about the downside of being a superhero, so I’d have to think twice. 

10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would the ingredients be?

Greg Cooper: I've actually already done that! Whenever I go to a restaurant, I make them mix every flavor they have into my tea - raspberry, peach, mango - it's called a "Cooper!"

Vynnie Meli: I don’t know the ingredients, but I’d definitely call it "A martini in a pretty glass." That’s how my mother always asks the waiter for hers.

Greg Cooper, Photo Credit: Amelia DesignMore on Greg:

Greg is a 27 year veteran of radio and television broadcasting with an extensive background in production, development and management. A graduate of the University of Florida's School of Journalism, Greg has written and produced national television commercials, corporate video and syndicated radio programming. www.gregcooperproductions.com

More on Vynnie:

Vynnie is a playwright, lyricist, and librettist. Her first play, Keats in Curlers, premiered Off-Broadway at The Looking Glass Theatre. Other productions include Chopped Liver in Paradise; September Tenth; and Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings. Plagued, A Love Story was a Next Link selection in the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Working with various composers, Vynnie has won the Judges Award at Atlanta Opera's 24-Hour Opera Project 3 years straight. www.vynniemeli.com