Jack Murphy's 'Autumn' Asks About The After
We all know we're going to die someday… just not today. So, why are we here and is there more to our journey? Those questions were the inspiration behind Tony Award-nominated writer Jack Murphy's new play Gods of Autumn, which makes its world premiere at Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy on Wednesday August 20, 2008; starring Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Jarrod Emick (Damn Yankees) and Jessica Phillips (Next to Normal). Murphy also directs.
In collaboration with Frank Wildhorn, Jack Murphy wrote the lyrics for The Civil War, which garnered him a Tony nomination for Best Score; and was soon back on Broadway again with two songs penned for the hit show, Swing!. His other latest projects include a musicalized version of Dumas' enduring story, The Count of Monte Cristo.
In-between fast-paced rehearsals (and surviving the summer heat), creator and director Jack Murphy took a few moments to chat with BroadwayWorld contributor, Eugene Lovendusky, about the genesis of this new play and how he hopes it will challenge Raleigh audiences…
Eugene Lovendusky: To what does the play's title allude? Should the audience expect a spiritual experience?
Jack Murphy: The plays title alludes to the personal end of things ... our relatively stingy allotment of days on the big, blue marble. Because of the nature of the material, I guess it could be viewed as a spiritual exploration. I hope rather that it will allow people to ask the same questions I've been asking for as long as I can remember: Why are we here? Is there someplace after this ... do we somehow go on? Those sorts of open-ended questions. I think the play is not so much about answers as it is about questions.
Eugene: Gods of Autumn juggles themes of death, life and weaving of human stories… What more can you share about the play's storyline and what inspired you to tell this tale?
Jack: This story was prompted by my interest in how 3 people from dramatically different walks of life - people who never would have met under normal circumstances - would interact with one another; kind of like people from Mars and Pluto and Earth, like that kind of different. This led to me asking where could such a thing occur ... a lifeboat? An elevator stuck between floors? I finally settled on the waiting room of the Radiation Treatment center in a NY hospital. There is also a fourth character whose existence came about as I was writing. I call him "The Other Part" and he's exactly that: the other part of us and of the other 3 characters; the voice inside their head with whom they hold discussions.
Eugene: How did Gods of Autumn come to world premiere with Hot Nights at the Kennedy?
Jack: I met Michael Kennedy and K.D. Kennedy, the producers of the theater, when I was down in Raleigh with my musical theater writing partner, composer Frank Wildhorn, to meet with them about another project which used to be titled Waiting For The Moon and, after an extensive rewrite, has subsequently been re-titled Zelda. Michael and K.D. and I had dinner and I told Michael about my idea for a play - a chamber piece really - and he seemed to think it would work in their small space called Hot Summer Nights At The Kennedy Theater.
Eugene: This is not the first time you've collaborated with actor Jarrod Emick, having worked with him in your musical Waiting For The Moon. Tell me a little more about your work/performance relationship, and what you've enjoyed this go-round… and the pleasures of working with new actors like Jessica Philips.