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BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USA

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Joe believes the children are the future ... of theater and espionage.

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USA

Nobody has ever accused Joe Kinosian of being lazy. The creator of the musical play MURDER FOR TWO is constantly at work, writing, performing, directing - it's in his nature. So when faced with the question of what to do during the last six months, he did not lack for activity - Mr. Kinosian has kept creative and kept in motion. One of those creations, a musical titled LIVE AND LET SPY, has gone live on Youtube this very day, September 1, 2020, and; Kinosian acted as co-author, alongside Marcus Stevens, and then directed the very special performers acting in the online iteration of the new musical. As the days leading up to this debut date approached, Broadway World Cabaret reached out to Mr. Kinosian to get all the dirt on life in lockdown, the Joe's Pub hit THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS and being commissioned to write a play for Theatreworks USA.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced here in its entirety.

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USAJoe Kinosian! Welcome to Broadway World Cabaret and thank you for chatting with us today.

My pleasure! Always enjoy talking with you, Stephen.

Earlier this summer there was an online screening of the Joe's Pub cabaret show of THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS that streamed for a few days as a benefit. Did this provide your out of town friends and family a good chance to see you gentlemen (and lady) in action?

Yes, for sure! My family's in Wisconsin, so being able to share the evening with them, along with friends who missed seeing it in person, was a joy. These things are such a blur when you're putting them up as well, so it was also fun to sit back and enjoy all those fantastic performances as an audience member.

The show was one of the best to be seen in the last year, how did you enjoy putting it together?

I felt like I'd been given a gift, and I'm so grateful to Life Jacket Theatre's artistic director Travis Russ for entrusting me with the material. I have a deep and abiding love of music from the 1920s and '30s, and so the challenge of doing justice to that era of music without alienating contemporary ears was thrilling. Some of the songs Travis and I wanted to include existed only as recordings on scratchy old 78's, and I was honored to be the conduit, transcribing them and putting them back in front of live audiences.

You spend much of your work life in the musical theater world, do you find the process of creating a club act very different from making a musical play?

Wildly different, even if the cumulative effect has crossovers. New musicals are so hard to get right, as anyone who's done would tell you. Not only do the songs have to sound good, but they have to further the story, fit into the world of the show, be distributed evenly throughout the book, wind up in the most optimal order, and provide variety but not too Much variety or the score lacks cohesion. For club acts, the songs must fit the theme, but the focus is really just on the fun part: sounding good. It's a relief!

Since all of the performing arts venues have been closed down, what kind of creative outlets have you been making use of?

In the early days of quarantine, I did something I haven't done since I was a teenager: I brought out my old books of classical music, ragtime, and show tunes, and played piano just for fun. Amidst the tragedy, I had moments of reconnecting with my musical past, which brought me solace.

You have recently been working on a new musical that has an online film featuring some special actors - tell me a little about LIVE AND LET SPY.

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USA

I'd love to! It started when the fabulous Barbara Pasternack at TheaterWorksUSA commissioned several writers to create new, short musicals that could
be performed by theater groups who were unable to meet in person. Marcus
Stevens (Forbidden Broadway)and I wrote a 20-minute musical called LIVE & LET SPY - a take on James Bond-style spy thrillers - that's intended to be filmed and, ideally, edited into a digital musical. It features 5 original songs (inspired by jaunty-cool mid-60's tunes like Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova" and Cy Coleman's "Rich Man's Frug" from SweetCharity). I directed the first production with a group of 8 brilliant young actors (aged 10-16) attending the Molloy Summer Theatre Intensive, an experience that brought me an unspeakable amount of joy - the cast was not only talented but dedicated, hard-working, and kind.

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USA

How did you become involved with the Molloy Summer Theatre Intensive at the Madison Theatre?

Broadway's David Hibbard (Something Rotten, Spamalot), who's been a friend for many years, brought me in a few years back - we share a mutual love of teaching. David and program co-director Angelo Fraboni couldn't have been more accommodating in helping me get this project together, though of course the young actors, who did all their own prop-building, filming, sound recording, etc. etc., are the superstars.

Live and Let Spy is being made available through TheaterWorksUSA - since it has been filmed with young performers acting in it, would you say it is a show that schools and theater camps could make use of for their own young performers?

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USAAbsolutely! It's a great choice for any school or theater program that's physically distanced. Marcus and I used the medium of Zoom call-type conversations as a baseline for the real-time conversation of the show, which we figured would be more doable than trying to recreate a traditional theatrical experience online. The version I directed was edited with a stunning amount of skill, humor, and just plain wizardry by filmmaker Daniel Schloss, but theater programs shouldn't feel intimated by that; your version can be tailored exactly to your needs and abilities.

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USA

What was your learning curve like, directing a show via remote for online viewing during the global health crisis?

BWW Interview: Joe Kinosian of LIVE AND LET SPY From TheatreWorks USAIn a word, fast. I rehearsed each actor a half-hour every day, then sent them off with a list of shots to film before the next day. In that whirlwind, I frequently had to adjust my game plan, but I drew strength and calm from the cast: Ioanna, Jack, Brody, Mikayla, Sofia, CJ, Amaia, and Alex. They're of a generation that has innate skill with technology, so once we got started, I stopped worrying about their ability to pull this off and just enjoyed seeing their results.

Since there is no real answer yet about when the live entertainment communities will be able to go back to work, do you have any ideas on what your next act of creativity might be?

I can happily tell you that Kellen Blair's and my new musical, It Came From Outer Space, based on the 1953 Universal sci-fi film, is going to be a part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's next season. Life Jacket Theater also has every intention of turning The Gorgeous Nothings into a full show, which I certainly hope to be a part of. I've tried to keep writing amidst all the uncertainty, and of course, some days are easier than others. The most we folks in the arts can do is try to find our inner fortitude, maintain our sense of humor, and support one another.

Editor's note: read about It Came From Outer Space in the Chicago Tribune HERE

and on Broadway World HERE

What have been the quarantine essentials for you these last five months?

A steady stream of political podcasts, like Pod Save America and The Daily. During Pride month I watched films by queer auteur Cheryl Dunye, and during the reckoning following George Floyd's murder, I revisited the incredible, pioneering work of Oscar Micheaux (Dunye's and Micheaux's films are available to watch on The Criterion Channel's streaming platform, incidentally). Other favorite viewing has been the brilliant Watchmen on HBO, the euphorically funny Derry Girls on Netflix, and lest you think I'm too elitist, Love Island (I know, I know...).

Joe, where can interested parties get a look at the current film of Live and Let Spy?

It's up on TheaterWorksUSA's YouTube page! The link is HERE (Or just look under this sentence) for any theater fan out there who might be reading this and craving a new musical, I truly hope you enjoy it.

Joe, thanks for chatting with us today and sharing this wonderful project with everyone!

All photos provided by Joe Kinosian

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