Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Dave Malloy
October 4, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Composer, Librettist, Musical Director, Orchestrations, Performer.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I completely stumbled into it. In 2000 I was playing keyboard in an electrojazz trio and working at a record store in San Francisco when a fellow employee asked me to play piano for a show at The Exit Theater (home of the San Francisco Fringe). The people I met in that show asked me to do other shows, and soon I was writing music for experimental theater. I loved the integration of music and drama - the extra delicateness and sophistication you could instill into music in a theatrical setting.
Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I like the thrill of live performance, the constantly shifting experience one gets watching a show grow over extended periods of time, and the community one creates with the cast, designers and crew, and with the audience.
How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
Many of them are old friends, whom I got to know primarily as musicians; Brittain Ashford is a singer/songwriter who will break your heart with her autoharp, and Gelsey Bell does amazing things with her voice both as a singer/songwriter and as an experimental musician and improviser. Rachel and I met through mutual theater friends and first worked together in 2009 on a show up at Vassar; this is our 3rd show together. Artistically, there's no one I trust more.
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
Harpo...except for the muteness thing. (Does anyone ever say Zeppo?)
Who are your heroes?
Musicians that defy easy categorization and bring great theatricality to their music, both in their songwriting and in performance: Prince, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Björk, Miles Davis, George Crumb, Harry Partch, Moondog, and The Dirty Projectors. I just saw Einstein on the Beach and was blown away by the sheer audacity of the vision, the uncompromising commitment to an aesthetic that defies musical or dramaturgical justification.