BWW Interviews: Counting Crows Adam Duritz on His New Musical BLACK SUN

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Recently, Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz took time out from his successful music career to collaborate with playwright Stephen Belber on a new, original musical BLACK SUN. A reading of the project took place in August of last year as part of the annual Ojai Playwrights Conference and included the all-star cast of Evan Rachel Wood ('Across the Universe'), Rob Morrow ('Numb3rs'), James Carpinello (ROCK OF AGES), Gina Loring and Liam Springthorpe.

BLACK SUN centers around eight New Yorkers - some new, some old, some just returning after having given up - who confront perplexing questions and surprising answers in the wake of a world where the sun has disappeared. At first the Black Sun lasts only 23 seconds, creating havoc and moments of solace. But this upside down world eventually becomes permanent. Everything turns into something totally strange and revelatory.

Duritz chatted with BWW while promoting the Counting Crows upcoming Outlaw Roadshow tour and spoke about his first-time experience composing for musical theater and whether he sees a Broadway staging of BLACK SUN in the near future. 

Thanks for speaking with us today Adam. Are there currently plans underway to move forward with future productions of BLACK SUN?

Yeah, I think we'd all like to do that. Unfortunately, people are doing other things right now. Carmel Dean's been putting together some other stuff on her own, she was musical directing with me, and Stephen Belber is always writing something else. I've been busy with stuff for my band since then. I did the show right in the middle of working on the new record. 

What was it like staging the show at the Ojai Playwrights Conference?

It was really cool, I really enjoyed it. We had a great cast, we had Evan Rachel Wood and Gina Loring, it was really kind of great. And it was interesting because I wasn't sure how it would go because I had never written any songs for anybody else. I wasn't even sure if my songs were good if I wasn't singing them. I mean because I can kind of sing the phone book. So I was wondering if I'd been carrying my songs or if they were okay without me singing them. I really didn't know because I've never seen anybody else play them. I've also never taught anyone to sing one of my songs -that's always been something I did myself, so I wasn't sure how that was going to be. I'd never written for women's voices and I did that on this one too. And I had never written for a musical, or for a voice that wasn't my own. And doing all these things, I wasn't really sure how any of it was going to go.

We were at Ojai with a lot of great playwrights. The playwright conference at Ojai is pretty high level playwriting. We were the only musical there and we were very unformed, but I found that I really loved it. I really love doing it. There was something so great about writing and not singing. I mean, I've never seen a Counting Crows concert, not really. I've seen them on film, but I don't know what it's like to be at one the same way everyone else is at one, without being in the middle of emoting my ass off. But in Ojai it was great. I was very nervous the day it went up but I also just had the best time watching it. And everyone wants to come back and do it more, it's just a matter of getting me some time and getting free to do it. And the plan for everybody is to finish it.

What surprised you most about the collaboration process?

The thing I really learned is that writing a play and the collaboration that goes on - it's really hard! There's a reason not a lot of great plays get written like that because the people who write them are very, very talented and putting it together, collaborating with book writers and making scripts and songs and making it all go together and figuring out what it is that makes people start to sing in the middle of a conversation, cause that doesn't occur in the rest of our lives. All those things are really complicated and it's a big endeavor.

Do you envision BLACK SUN making it to Broadway in the future?

I would love to say it will be there for sure but I think that would be disrespectful to the process because I think the reason these things take time is because they are really hard to do. I have a lot of respect for that now after the work we put in. We put a lot of work in and we put on about half a play and we really loved it and the audience kind of went crazy - it got quite a response. It's a long way from being done. Would I love to see it as a Broadway show? I mean, yes, but I'd love to go to the moon too! I'd be happy just seeing it Off-Broadway really, that would be just thrilling. And if it got to Broadway, that would be really cool.


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Caryn Robbins Caryn Robbins is a Senior Editor and daily contributor to BroadwayWorld, and manages the TV, Film and Music spin-off sites. Her original musical comedy DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT (follow @DearStudent) has been staged in two NYC theater festivals and was performed as an Equity Staged Reading in New York City in 2015. This June, DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT won 'Best Ensemble Show' in Chicago's Premier Premieres Festival. Follow Caryn on Twitter @CarynRobbins
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