In 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!
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.
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.
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 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