BWW Exclusive: New Musicals at 54 Series - Jennifer Ashley Tepper Interviews Nick Blaemire & Kyle Jarrow About FALLOUT
New Musicals at 54 is a series presented by Feinstein's/ 54 Below Programming Director Jennifer Ashley Tepper. Some of the 10 new and diverse musicals by a selection of today's most talented writers have had out-of-town productions, some have had workshops... now's your chance to be first to see them in NYC! Join us at New Musicals at 54 for one-night-only concerts celebrating each new show with songs, behind-the-scenes stories, and all-star casts!Click here to learn more about the New Musicals at 54 series. Use code NEW20 when purchasing tickets to three or more shows in the series in a single order and receive 20% off tickets in the Main Dining Room or Bar Rail
Tickets and more information: 54below.com
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: Fallout is a new musical by Nick Blaemire and Kyle Jarrow, that we'll be presenting in concert this February. The show is the story of two neighboring families in suburban Westchester during the thirteen days of 1962's Cuban Missile Crisis. As the world teeters on the edge of nuclear war, they struggle with the fact that life as they know it might come to an end. The result is a fantastical, surrealist exploration of America at a pivotal moment in history-a lush rock-based tale about fears, hopes and heroes.
When did you two start writing Fallout and what was the initial inspiration for it? What stirs you about telling this particular story on stage?
Nick Blaemire 3.jpg" align="left" width="150" />NICK BLAEMIRE: When we were talking about working together, we started tossing around ideas, and Kyle brought in a treatment for this story, which I think had originally been devised as a movie? The minute I read it, I thought - "Okay, the Cuban Missile Crisis. A) fascinating as hell. B) essentially marks the end of the 50s. That's a shift in culture and in music. And we could chart that shift through the show." I pitched him that idea, and we started working right away.
KYLE JARROW: The only thing I'd add is that I'm a sucker for double meanings in titles. So, for me, the title was one of the most important early kernels of the piece. The idea of nuclear fallout, which was one of the biggest fears at this time of history (ie. "duck and cover") as well as the emotional fallout in the lives of people dealing with this fear.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: What excites you most about writing for the theatre today? And on the flip side, what are the most significant challenges you feel that writers for the theatre face in 2015?
KYLE JARROW: We live in an era where each of us has a massive catalog of film and television available through the internet at the swipe of a finger. To get folks out of their homes for a piece of art or entertainment, I think you need to offer something they can't get on Netflix or Amazon. The liveness of theater, and the excitement of experiencing it alongside an audience, is something you can't get at home. That makes the theater more vital than ever. It's definitely expensive, but I have faith that the market will keep recognizing the live experience as a valuable and important one.
NICK BLAEMIRE: Agreed. And in terms of theater itself, no story is too strange or method of telling it too impossible these days. In many ways, musical theater has caught up with straight theater in that it's allowed more surreality and breaking of form, and that's really exciting to me - the challenge is getting people to produce those shows. To consider them "commercial." Because there will always be a finite number of seats, and for a musical, a hefty budget to contend with. I think it's very important to keep pushing the form, but then again, I'm not signing the checks.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: Kyle's projects include the musical Noir (with Duncan Sheik) and the upcoming Broadway-bound Spongebob The Musical. He won an OBIE Award for his Off-Broadway hit play A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant and plays frequently with his band Sky-Pony. According to The New Yorker, "Mr. Jarrow is the kind of writer who likes to provoke people."
Nick is the author of the musicals A Little More Alive (Kansas City Rep, Barrington Stage), Soon (Signature Theatre), and Glory Days (Broadway). As an actor, his credits include Godspell and Cry-Baby on Broadway, as well as Found The Musical, Dogfight, and The Black Suits Off-Broadway.
How did you two get started in the theater? What were your beginnings in it?
NICK BLAEMIRE: My parents took me to shows starting when I was a very little kid. I remember seeing Henry IV at the Shakespeare Theatre in DC and our neighbor, who was playing Banquo, winked at me during the curtain call. I remember thinking "he can SEE ME?!" I was hooked from then. I wanted to be part of the place where you can escape the world, and also wink at it.
KYLE JARROW: When I was seven, my mom took me to an audition for a production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons at the local theater. I've actually never asked her what inspired her to do this- All My Sons is a pretty intense tragedy!-but I'm glad she did. I got the part, and although I'm sure I was pretty terrible in it, it was my introduction to the theater. I caught the bug for good.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER:
This is one of my favorite Nick Blaemire performance videos. Here he is singing "I Chose Right" from Baby:
Here's Kyle Jarrow and his amazing band Sky-Pony performing the epic "Beautiful Monster":
Okay, YouTube Spiral pause!
Fallout could be called a "doomsday" musical - it is a show about the possible end of the world, in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. How do you think this story of impending nuclear war may speak to audiences today? How have today's current events come into your conversation about the plot of the musical?
KYLE JARROW: Every day I wake up, there's a little part of my brain that's thinking I might die in a terrorist attack today. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that-I'm fully aware it's ridiculous and unhealthy, but I think most New Yorkers deal with it. In the early 60s, people felt a very similar thing about the possibility of nuclear war. The questions this raises, about how to live life to the fullest and how to not let fear dominate you, are at the heart of Fallout.
NICK BLAEMIRE: Absolutely. Things are as scary now as they were then, in many ways. The feeling of "How do we just keep going about our lives, when temperatures are rising and everyone is killing each other?" Change in the ideas of nuclear holocaust, and it's the same feeling. We have to persevere, but it creates a very strange definition of what's "normal." And in the early 60s, when normalcy was proving to be even more synthetic than it is now, that collision of themes has been very fun to write.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: In a recent Billboard interview, Stephen Sondheim shared that he's working on a "doomsday musical" of sorts as well. He spoke about this project, a collaboration with David Ives to adapt two surrealist Luis Bunuel movies of the 1930s into a musical, and then concluded: "It's really about the end of the world." Yet it's amazing-with how much this idea plays into society today, we don't have many doomsday musicals! Perhaps Little Shop of Horrors could be considered one. But Fallout is one of the very first.
Kyle, you are currently working with a variety of different collaborators: in addition to working on Fallout with Nick, you work frequently with your band Sky-Pony (including on the upcoming musical The Wildness which will be at Ars Nova), you are working on the musical Noir with Duncan Sheik, you are working on the SpongeBob musical with a large diversity of writers... and I'm sure there's more. What appeals do you about working on different projects with different collaborators? How does this affect your writing process?
KYLE JARROW: I feel lucky to get to work with so many amazing people! Theater and music are both collaborative media, and I think they're best when they combine different people's visions and aesthetics. I take a lot of inspiration from the people I work with, and having many collaborators keeps me challenged and inspired. As for Nick: this guy is just the awesomest.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: Nick, as a writer you have frequently explored the world through the eyes of the millennial generation... and in particular the way that generation interacts with death. What draws you to those themes? What makes you want to use musical theatre to explore them?
NICK BLAEMIRE: I love writing stories about regular people dealing with life's biggest questions. Why am I here? How long will I be here? What should I do with the time I'm given? Those are things I'm constantly wondering about, and the bigness of those questions are ripe for songs, at least to me.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: What musicals, plays, music, film, television, or other art do you consider most formative to your writing sensibility-both in your work in general and on Fallout? What artists do you find inspiring?
NICK BLAEMIRE: Specifically for Fallout, I've loved watching documentaries about the period. The series AMERICA IN PRIMETIME deconstructs 50s and 60s TV character tropes in a way that was super helpful, and the movie FAIL/SAFE is a great example of what we're trying to do in terms of creating tension. There's also a little bit of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND in there, in that we're really trying to bend the rules of realism, where anything could happen at any time.
KYLE JARROW: There's so much great stuff out there. The artists who've been most formative to me are the ones I've had the privilege to work with over the years, so I'll take this opportunity to shout out just some of those massively talented folks: Duncan Sheik, Clay McLeod Chapman, Tina Landau, Sam Buntrock, Habib Azar, Desiree Burch, Nathan Leigh, Josh Schmidt, Perry Silver, The Debate Society, Lauren Worsham (who I also have the privilege of being married to).
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: You have presented songs from Fallout publicly before, but this is the first time that the musical will be presented as an evening in NYC- in an abridged concert version, of course. What do you hope to get out of this step in Fallout's process? What are your feelings about sharing this sneak peek of the show with its first audience?
NICK BLAEMIRE: It's the first time we'll be trying the whole score out with a band, which will be immensely cool, and also immensely scary - since Kyle and I split the songwriting duties (we're both writing book/music/lyrics), it's about creating a cohesive sound that both feels like one show, and does what we hope it can do, which is bridge the gap from 50s to 60s musical styles, while still sounding like us.
KYLE JARROW: It's also a great chance to showcase the piece and get audience reactions. We're excited to have an amazing cast onboard-plus Wiley DeWeese as our musical supervisor, Andrea Grody as musical director and Chloe Treat as director of the concert. We're psyched to have them interpreting our work.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: Another unique thing about Fallout- how many other musicals can you name where two artists are collaborating on all three aspects of a show: book, music and lyrics!
What else are you working on right now? What are you most looking forward to working on in 2016?
KYLE JARROW: You mentioned The SpongeBob Musical and The Wildness (Ars Nova, Feb-March 2016)-those are two of the biggies I'm excited about. My band Sky-Pony also just released its debut LP Beautiful Monster on Knitting Factory Records, so we've been promoting that. In addition, I'm working on a couple of TV scripts too. Trying to keep as many balls in the air as I can!
NICK BLAEMIRE: I've been spending a lot of time writing TV scripts, learning that world, and starting development processes with production companies in LA. I've also been involved in a few development processes as an actor, so I'm trying to figure out how this year is gonna look in terms of balancing acting and writing, which I love doing equally.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: What is the best advice you've received or lesson you've learned as a writer? What do you wish you could tell younger writers and/or the younger version of yourself?
NICK BLAEMIRE: To get up every day and work. To trust that inspiration is one thing, but daily hard work is where the improvement comes from. That the real skill of being a writer is being able to take your inspired moments, and make them work as a whole, through the unromantic, daily hard work. I wish I'd learned that a long time ago.
KYLE JARROW: Nick just put that so beautifully. Only thing I'd add is that some writing days are good and productive, some writing days are bad and frustrating, but they're all important parts of the process. It's an incredible privilege to be able to sit in front of a computer and spend a few hours just thinking and writing. Never forget that, and never forget to enjoy it.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: What are you excited for audiences to see at Feinstein's/54 Below? What can they expect in the Fallout concert presentation?
NICK BLAEMIRE: Well, first of all, this cast is just kickass. We'll have some great, very unique voices up there, and hopefully the whole evening just rocks some socks. Plus, maybe you'll learn a little about a really fascinating period in history, and maybe feel a few feelings too.
KYLE JARROW: Socks will be rocked and feelings will be felt. We guarantee.
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER: The cast includes Nick Christopher, Grace McLean, Adam Chanler-Berat, Sara Kapner, Theo Stockman, Libby Winters, John Raviv, Elizabeth Judd, and Patrick Page, the director is Chloe Treat, the music supervisor is Wiley DeWeese, music director is Andrea Grody, and the band includes Mike Rosengarten, Eric Day, and Jeremy Yaddaw. I mean, come on!
What is your ideal future for Fallout?
NICK BLAEMIRE: To get it produced!
KYLE JARROW: And have it be awesome!
Come see the show! 54below.com