BWW Review: IN THE WORKS Pays Off at The Duplex
All artists need a place to grow, somewhere that they can stretch their wings, exercise their muscles, and learn what's working for them and what needs revision. It is imperative that that place of growth be someplace that they feel safe, a space free of judgment and scrutiny, and filled with positivity. In New York, actors have The Shakespeare Forum, singers have Salon, and songwriters have In The Works.
In its' fourth year, IN THE WORKS is a monthly series at The Duplex, created by Thomas Honeck and Lisa Moss, where composers present new work, works in progress, any material they are interested in sharing with an audience in a safe, supportive environment. The series is so successful that at last night's performance there was nary an available seat in sight, which is of great benefit to an artist seeking to test the waters with their creations. These monthly installments are presented at 9:30 on the third Sunday of every month and feature three composers who are given 20 minutes each to talk about their process and the songs which a series of artists will perform for the crowd, including a brief q&a with host, Thomas Honeck. It is an effectively and efficiently run show and last night's was a particularly enjoyable and eye-opening one for this writer being exposed to the series for the first time.
Honeck, a passionate supporter of live music and the creation thereof, is an intelligent and nurturing host who takes a genuine interest in the process of each writer, investing time to discuss their craft, their resume, and their future projects. His respect for composers Alex Goldie Golden, Lauren Gundrum (not present) & Brandon Lambert, and Jason Weisinger was on full display last night as he opened The Duplex stage to each of them and their mutual casts of performers. With a total absence of nervousness, every soul who graced the stage shared with one another and the audience an ease that made the evening a simultaneously relaxing and exciting one. There were no notes from which people read, only a flow of conversation, either between each other or between themselves and their audience, that put everyone in the room on the same page. Laughter ensued as Ms. Golden's quirkiness, Mr. Weisinger's earnestness and Mr. Lambert's friendliness showed off their humanity, their vulnerability, and their likability. Indeed, these qualities filled the air throughout, as the evening felt more and more like a party at an artists' commune, with Honeck and Moss talking back and forth from stage and light booth (Moss sounding wonderfully omnipotent, her disembodied voice booming back through her mic) and adoring singers beaming with pride over a successful set of their composer's work. It was fun and informative, especially for those members of the audience who actively seek to learn the names of new composers whose work should be followed.
And Weisinger, Golden, and Gundrum/Lambert appear to be names to jot down in a notepad or the memory because the songs they presented last night were all winners, filled with rich melodies and lyrics worthy of the attention required to follow the story being told, something not always easy for an audience tasked with an hour of brand new material. The personalities of the presenters were absolutely a pleasure to behold, as they described the musicals from which their opuses were brought, and beautifully so by a team of lovely and gifted singers. It must be a great blessing for a songwriter to have their work fully realized by singing actors in this way because IN THE WORKS may be an evening about works in process, but the actors who came to perform last night came with their homework having been done. Though provided with music stands and lyric sheets, almost nobody used the tools in front of them, preferring to immerse themselves in the story being told by the characters they were playing. One suspects they made the choice to invest of themselves because they are professional storytelling musical artists, but also because the composers will learn more about where their song is, through the observation of a complete performance of the musical number. It's a great and generous service these singers provided for their composers and for their audience, and their commitment to the craft did not go unnoticed - neither did their spectacular singing voices, each of them pretty, well trained, and expressive.
IN THE WORKS is an authentically fun night of theater, not just because it provides an opportunity to enjoy live music, but because it offers a look into the lives of the artists, bringing about a camaraderie and community for all to enjoy (and the affordable ten-dollar ticket price is nothing to ignore, either) and where art is concerned, community is everything. That's what makes safe places like In The Works so important and entertaining. This writer is most grateful to have had this series brought to his attention. There are definite return trips in store.
Alex Goldie Golden's singers for the evening: Trevor Berger, Will Conard, Mukta Phatak, and Ethan Hack-Chabot on Guitar
Alex Goldie Golden and Will Conard
Alex Goldie Golden
Alex Goldie Golden and Thomas Honeck
Gundrum & Lambert's singers for the evening were Garrett Storm, Katie Oxman, and Justine Magnusson (below with Lambert on the piano).
Brandon Lambert & co.
Brandon Lambert and Thomas Honeck
Jason Weisinger's singers for the evening were Daniel Sefik, Nicolas Del Prince, Melissa Weisbach, and Emily Gardner Xu Hall (below with Weisinger on the piano).
Jason Weisinger and Emily Gardner Xu Hall
Photos by Stephen Mosher