BWW Interviews: A Chat With Playwrights Karl Hinze and Becky Goldberg

It is my pleasure to speak to Long Island playwrights Karl Hinze and Becky Goldberg. They have a wonderful new show reading at The New York Musical Theatre Festival and were kind enough to take time to speak with me today!

Thank you for joining me! Please tell me about yourselves...

KH: Thanks for having us! I'm Karl Hinze, I wrote the music and lyrics for 210 Amlent Avenue. I'm a composer by background, and I met Becky when I was working on my masters in music composition at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

BG: I'm Becky Goldberg, I wrote the book for 210 Amlent Avenue. I'm a dramaturg by trade, and have been writing plays for about seven years. I teach college theatre and writing courses, at Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University, respectively.

What inspired this story?

BG: I'm really fascinated by the honesty that happens on stage when characters are faced with grief. I've found, as I'm sure many have before me, that weddings and funerals tend to bring out the best and the worst in people, and that the way that we, as humans, deal with emotional extremes is one of the truest representations of our imperfect personalities. I personally love stories in which you don't know who to be drawn to because each character is as flawed as the next. Ibsen and Chekov were the masters of this: they gave us characters that did unthinkable things, but were still championed as the heroes of their plays. In the same way, playwrights like Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee, and Tracy Letts do this just as well. They write characters that remind us of ourselves, that expose the darkest places in our minds, and forge the frightening understanding that we can be just as horrible as those we perceive as antagonistic. I'm totally inspired and enamored by this, and try to keep it in mind with every character I write.

KH: I agree with everything Becky says (of course!). It is absolutely a story about grief, family, and people coming to terms with the darker parts of themselves. In a concrete sense, the show was inspired by this image of a big house in the Hamptons, and dreaming up the people who might meet there and all the ways their lives might intersect. One additional inspiration I could name would be the great Agatha Christie. She is the queen of "a mixed and wacky cast of characters meet up at a big house for the weekend"-and though our play isn't a murder mystery, it does pay homage to her in that way.

Tell me about the journey so far for your show?

BG: Our journey started about three years ago, when a short play that I wrote, entitled "51 Hours," had a showcase production as part of a new play competition. Karl saw that performance, liked the way that I handled a sensitive topic aesthetically (the play was about physician assisted suicide), and got in touch with me about an idea that had been swimming around in his head for a few years.

Our first pitch meeting was in this stuffy practice room in the Staller Center at Stony Brook University. Karl had a few songs written and a short outline crafted, and with this, we developed the idea of this regal house in the Hamptons, and decided to explore what it could mean for all the people who were drawn to it in one way or another.

We have since then developed the piece through a number of unstaged readings, mostly self-produced, where actors read and sang through the show for an audience. At each of these we solicited feedback, which we then incorporated into each successive rewrite:

  • March 2012: Reading - Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook (Act One Only)
  • September 2012: Reading - Tabler Arts Center, Stony Brook (Complete Show)
  • November 2012: Developmental Reading - The Cry Havoc Company, NYC
  • April 2013: Rogue Readings (by invitation) - Stony Brook

We then decided to take the project further, applied for NYMF, and were thrilled to be offered a spot in the Developmental Reading Series. We've worked tirelessly for months on both rewriting and self-producing this reading, and had the great gift of an amazing cast and production team (including our dramaturg Mary Kate Burke and director Samantha Saltzman) in our corner. It's been an amazing journey thus far, and we cannot wait to see where it takes us next.

What is next for this show after the New York Musical Theatre Festival?

KH: Who knows? We are hoping to see the show in a full production somewhere, though we don't know where yet. We are exploring several different options; follow us on Facebook, as well as Twitter and Instagram (@210musical). Also check out to keep up with all the news as we continue developing the show!

What is next for each of you whether it be individually or as a team?

KH: As a team, I think we are both ready to catch up on some ZZZs and then we'll start considering how to incorporate the feedback we've gotten from our NYMF audiences, as well as what we've seen ourselves at the performances. I'm also in the early stages of starting a new musical adaptation in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, plus continuing to work on a few concert pieces as part of my PhD at Stony Brook.

BG: Sleep. Days and days of sleep. And marathoning Game of Thrones. Karl and I are very good at pacing ourselves in terms of writing, and so I think we will both want time to "incubate" before we jump to the next thing. I've been tossing around the idea of an adaption for my next project, although I don't know of what.

KH: Ooh, yes, Game of Thrones. You have so much catching up to do, Becky.

BG: We just watched the Red Wedding... Talk about weddings and funerals...

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From This Author Melissa Giordano