nytheatre.com q&a preview by Philip Rothman
September 5, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Composer and sound designer.
Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. I was fortunate to have excellent music teachers that were visionary in their use of technology and in promoting composition as a key component of a well-rounded musical education. It was there that I first realized that any piece of music, just like any play, first begins as a tiny bit of inspiration in somebody's head, and that it was possible for me to be that "somebody"! After leaving Buffalo for college, I attended Rice University for my bachelor's degree, and then attended Juilliard for my master's, which is how I ended up in New York City.
Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
Well, the truly honest answer is that my wife, Jake, is an actor and the artistic director of her theater company! But I must say that doing music and sound design for a play is a unique experience, because you're creating a sound world for a production that can help transport the audience. There are similarities to working in film and TV, but in theater you have the live element, and you also are limited by the physical practicalities of the stage, so the music and sound can really play a transformative role. That said, I also work regularly on film and TV projects, as well as music for the concert stage, so it's not an "either-or" for me -- working on different types of projects is exciting, and the experience of each project informs the next one.
In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
"Our Town" is a classic in the truest sense. While some of its colloquialisms and references evoke a certain time, its themes of family, community, and the most basic topics of life and death are timeless. To use an inexact music analogy, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" used musical techniques that were rooted in the early 19th century, but its appeal and impact today, almost 200 years later, is as immediate as ever. In designing the music and sound for "Our Town," I followed this approach by creating melodies and harmonies that hopefully sound fresh to the audience, yet evoke the timelessness of the play. I think audiences will reflect on their own lives after seeing "Our Town," and will surely see parallels between life today and the life depicted in Grover's Corners.
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
Uh...Kramer? Not a Marx Brothers aficionado, but I do have hundreds of Seinfeld quotes ready for any occasion, giddyup.
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Without question, yes. By telling stories, theater inspires us to contemplate our roles in society, to challenge the status quo and perhaps to portray an alternative way of thinking about our lives that can lead to change. Being a musician, I am of course predisposed to music, and I would expand "theater" in your question to include any art form. Art expresses emotions and ideas in ways that ordinary communication cannot. Or, as Aldous Huxley said, "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."