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Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times

MSD Productions will premiere URINETOWN THE MUSICAL for free on YouTube August 1, 2021

Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times

MSD Productions will premiere URINETOWN THE MUSICAL for free on YouTube August 1, 2021. Marcus S. Daniel produces and directs a diverse cast from across the entire country; including Kennen Butler, Kevin Carranza, Ethan Daniel Corbett, Lisa Dyson, Grant Hodges, Erech Holder-Hetmeyer, Katie McConaughy, Kelly Lester, Loren Lester, Nathan Mohebbi, Ashley Arlene Nelson, Monika Pena, Greg Ramsey, Garrett Russell, Ashley Marie Samudio, and Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan.

Had the chance to chat with Marcus on his MSD Productions' productions.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Marcus!

What factors led you to pick URINETOWN as your next completely virtual musical?

Well, for starters it's a comedy! SPRING AWAKENING was a beautiful and cathartic experience, but it's really time for us all to laugh. We need, actually we DESERVE, to laugh. I've always wanted to work on this show, but knowing that this specific production is one of a kind and will probably never be done like this again is very exciting.

You're not charging to view URINETOWN on YouTube. You also didn't charge to view your completely virtual musical SPRING AWAKENING last winter. Was there any budget for costumes or props? Did you use a GoFundMe to raise production costs?

I very specifically did not want to charge people to see our production at all. The pandemic has affected our entire community so greatly over the last 18 months that I just couldn't see charging $10-$25 bucks for a show. I wanted to give anyone who was able to see these productions a night of FREE theatre in hopes that, for at least a couple hours, they would be able to escape back into the world of musical theatre we all love so much.

Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times I have fully funded these productions myself from start to finish, but it also wouldn't ever be possible without incredible participation and team playing from my creative staff and cast. The cast specifically helps to make props, provide costume pieces for themselves (specialty items I had rented from a local theatre company), and in both shows went above and beyond in helping to make sure the quality of these productions are the highest possible. We have cast and crew scattered across the entire country so you can imagine the insanity of organizing all those details.

The production is supported by the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, where the entirety of all funds raised go directly to the cast and crew. For SPRING AWAKENING, we were stunned to raise $8,000 which allowed for a really nice paycheck for all involved. The amount of people that donated was actually overwhelming and truly inspiring. I can never thank them enough. The same is being done for URINETOWN.

So the $8,000 raised in funds for the SPRING AWAKENING cast and crew resulted from donations, not ticket sales. How very cool is that!

It was just incredible to see the outpouring of support for this production and all these artists. No one is required to donate a thing and we had nearly 200 donations for SPRING AWAKENING.

Your preproduction of URINETOWN must have been smoother than that of SPRING AWAKENING. What hurdles did you overcame in producing SPRING AWAKENING that you avoided in putting on URINETOWN?

Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times Would you believe me if I said that URINETOWN has actually been about five times the amount of work as SPRING AWAKENING was? I have to truly give a ton of credit to my creative team. Romel De Silva, our very funny and very clever Assistant Director; Heather Edwards, our unbelievably dedicated Musical Director; Pieter Orlandini, our mind blowingly talented Sound Editor; and Shara Abvabi, our Video Editor who continually elevates these projects in ways I could never dream of. When it came to SPRING AWAKENING, it was our first virtual musical; so it was a lot of figuring it out as we went (although there was still about a month of prep work before we started). We learned a lot about breaking scenes down in ways to make it easier for the actors to film faster. The same goes with the music. During SPRING AWAKENING, they would have to record entire songs, and we all know how difficult it is to get it just perfect - we're all perfectionists.

For URINETOWN everything was put together in smaller chunks. It made for what looked like a lot more work for all involved, but ended up being a lot easier because you weren't sitting there trying to get a 9-minute scene perfect (and heaven forbid a car drive by in the middle of a take and you have to start over!) So, yes, URINETOWN went a lot smoother because we really knew what we were doing and had our system together. However, this might be the most ambitious virtual musical you could imagine. Just wait till you see it. People thought I was crazy. Hell, I did too.

Will viewers of SPRING AWAKENING see familiar faces in URINETOWN?

Yes! Our entire creative staff is exactly the same, so I hope that those who saw SPRING AWAKENING will know how high the quality of the product is going to be. For casting, Ashley Arlene Nelson (who is simply luminescent) plays Hope Cladwell. Audiences will recognize her as our Thea from SPRING AWAKENING (we also did the stage production together as well. So there is a long and lovely history of working together, which I am very grateful for).

Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times Can you take us step-by-step in how MSD Productions put URINETOWN on? Auditions? Rehearsals? Recordings? Anything in person, rather than Zoom?

Every single aspect of this show has been done virtually from everyone's own home or space. My AD and I worked for about a month storyboarding every single frame of the musical. Seriously, every single frame! You have to treat it like it's a film, because it is a film. It also allows our cast to have the resources of understanding what is happening at every single moment so that nothing is left to chance. It's theatre acting with all the technical qualities of a film.

From there, I worked with my casting director Lindsay Brooks. Between SPRING AWAKENING and URINETOWN, we had nearly 2000 auditions, so she really had her hands full. If you need a CD she is definitely the one to call. She's also how I ended up meeting our sound editor as well, we all worked together on a project in NYC.

Rehearsals all took place on Zoom. Starting with music rehearsals, move on to camera blocking rehearsals, then acting rehearsals, slowing putting it altogether until you had a complete section to get a final recording of. Those are the recordings they would use in their ear to hear all the other actors within the scene so that when you're watching the show, they are all interacting in real time.

Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times For our creative team, it's been four months of work, and for the cast, they joined us at the end April and were wrapped first week of July. Now the last month has been spent approving proxies from our sound and video editor as we work together to make the final product. It's been a real thrill to see URINETOWN come together. SPRING AWAKENING was so emotional and done in the peak of the pandemic. URINETOWN is coming where we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and it provides a boatload of laughs.

You've performed as part of your SPRING AWAKENING ensemble, and I've seen you performing onstage at the Celebration's west coast premiere of THE BOY FROM OZ. What made you decide not to perform in URINETOWN?

I'm so glad you saw OZ! That show really changed my life. There are more OZians in URINETOWN as well. Nathan Mohebbi plays Bobby Strong and Kelly Lester plays Pennywise (and did all our promotional material). It's been an absolute blessing getting to work with people I love so dearly again.

For SPRING AWAKENING, I had previously played Melchior on stage before so the emotional groundwork and experience was already there. For URINETOWN, I had contemplated being in the show (we have to make our own path and opportunities), but I wanted to make sure I was able to truly devote myself to the directorial demands on this show. Taking URINETOWN and placing it in a virtual setting was an immense challenge, and it was a show I had never done before.

Interview: Marcus S. Daniel On Presenting URINETOWN As A Needed Salve for Pandemic Times You've directed both SPRING AWAKENING and URINETOWN. What gives you more gratification - hearing the audience responding offstage for your directing? Or receiving the curtain applause onstage for your acting prowess?

That really is a difficult question. To make an audience laugh or cry is an indescribable feeling. Performing on stage makes me feel like a complete and whole human. When it comes to directing though I just feel like it's what I was put on this earth to do. To be able to help other artists in their craft, to create something from nothing, and to put your own indelible mark on a project is like nothing else in the world. I get really emotional when I think about it because I'm so grateful I found this path.

What else is the near future for Marcus S. Daniel?

Well, please make sure to watch URINETOWN August 1! There are so many surprises in store, and I cannot wait to hear people's reactions to this project. Outside of that, this fall I will be appearing in a one-of-a-kind immersive theatre event called DELUSION (get your tickets now - seriously). I haven't told anyone yet, but I guess the cats out of the bag now!

Thank you again, Marcus! I look forward to viewing your URINETOWN!

To view URINETOWN THE MUSICAL August 1, 2021, 5:30pm PST, log onto @ Marcus S. Daniel to see it at no charge. Donations graciously accepted.

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