Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Spotlight On...Charles Bloom
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA.
Education: Academically. NYU - Music Composition and Psychology. In life, alongside my formal music education, I found my semi-brief career as an actor on TV had a direct, invaluable effect on my ability to write for performers...to think as they do while on stage. I think all theatre writers should take an acting class, particularly when they're starting out.
Favorite Credits: My store credit at Bergdorf's. As an actor on TV, it was guest-starring on an episode of "Mork and Mindy. Robin Williams was almost seen as "the new Chaplin" at that time, so I knew being able to work alongside such a rare, comedic mentality would be important so I haven't forgotten a thing from that experience. As a composer/lyricist, I'm ashamed to admit, I don't really have any. My work isn't exactly over-exposed and has rarely been produced. Better to have asked me what my favorite song of mine is...but I'm glad you didn't.
Why theater?: I love the theatre for the same reason my favorite instrument to which to listen is solo acoustic guitar (classical or jazz). It's beautiful and yet imperfect. You can hear the squeaking of fingers sliding up and down the frets. The theatre, similarly, is filled with beauty in countless definitions but by its very design, to fully connect there must be something to see and hear that is slightly raw and of course, unpredictable. When an art form is alive when delivered, there must be some suspense somewhere. The theatre feels eternally unfinished and I find that to be, as Lerner wrote in My Fair Lady, "a towering feeling".
Tell us about Insomnia: When composing a score for something not based on pre-existing material (the hardest, most dangerous kind of show to write), before a note is written, I first look for any built-in structural elements which are universally familiar. In Insomnia, that comfort connection was not a dominating character or a searing plot-point...it was a period of time: Midnight to Dawn. These wee, small hours come to all of us night-after-night but we experience them in millions of different ways. Thus, the idea of "similar and different" at the same time made me feel that no matter where the story led, the audience would have a natural, internal connection to the main characters' journey because to some degree, they have all taken a variation of it. This is WHY it appealed to me. To know the rest, you'll have to come see it.
What inspired you to compose Insomnia?: Lots of reasons. Being the son of a commercially successful screenwriter, I thought (and think) it has great potential to be widely produced. Next, the challenge of writing in a conceptual form, rather than the conventional unveiling of a story, interested me. Third, as I wrote in the previous question, like the general audience, there were elements of its content with which I, too, could personally identify which brings with it the literary equivalent of a "gravitational pull". 4th, this show caused me to intersect with Theo Wolf. I saw a play he wrote last year at a local festival and heard a maturity of language and a sense for story structure which extended far beyond his youthful years. I enjoyed how he writes, alternately, both for story and character which is hard to do seamlessly. We haven't known one another that along but share an affinity for the same kind of theatre which makes for a kinship which supersedes time. I hope Theo and I stick together. 5th, my dear friend and colleague Ovi Vargas: a passionate, uncompromising theatre man with whom I love working. Finally, as a pure matter of music, Insomnia allows me to write in a myriad of different styles without being "various for the sake of being various". It's an ensemble piece made of many pieces and the chance to put them all together was great fun, indeed.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The kind that forces me to listen. The kind that slaps me down in a seat, buckles me in, takes me by the collar and says. "You must look at me". I may be a pro in some capacities but when an audience member, I'm strictly an amateur. I love to be made to cry...even more than to laugh. As soon as I know the authors are in control, I willingly go where they take me. I never impose my personal views or values on an artistic expression created by someone else. When watching anything, musical or otherwise, I am the business of believing. The "what" stems from the opposition to the idea that "everything has been done" and even if it has, the WAYS in which to do them will never be exhausted. I think an artists' nature should be immersed in a feeling of limitlessness, innocence and most importantly of all, doubt. In art, it is better to suspect than it is to "know". The bloated idealist in me is, however, in NO doubt about the fact that if the arts were emphasized in all public schools twice as much as they are now...not as an elective, but as a normal offering to development of human nature, the world would be a better, if still imperfect place. The "who" has always been the people in ALL art forms who have devoted their lives to it...to the creation of a body of work. We know the famous people who have succeeded but that is the result. The differing mediums and the success, itself, are incidental. It's the commitment that counts and the artist must trust in the idea that all good work is good because it has made something more than money. It has made an echo over time.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Douglas Carter Beane, Terrence McNally and James Lapine are the first 3 who come to mind. These men (and there are others, but why walk you through my foolish dreams?) while not technically composers, create work so rich in "music", while hearing their plays, I feel like am at Carnegie Hall. The constant rhythm of their ideas and by turns, simplicity and counterpoint in their concepts makes me feel as if I know them and if we worked together, we'd have a "humming-start".
What show have you recommended to your friends?: In the past, I've recommended:
OTHER DESERT CITIES - FROST/NIXON - LOMBARDI - SOUVENIER (The story of Florence Foster Jenkins)
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: The movie would star Neil Patrick Harris and be called "HUMMABLE BEGINNINGS" - Until things get better professionally, I'm titling my memoirs, "THE IMPOVERISHED PHILANTHROPIST"
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Play: OUR AMERICAN COUSIN on the night Lincoln was assassinated. - Musical: The opening night of CAROUSEL. Song: I would like to hear Cole Porter play "Night and Day" the moment it was finished.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I love to watch old movies while eating hot, heavily buttered popcorn and drinking very cold V-8 Juice. Sounds crazy, no? It is...but it brings more pleasure than guilt. Please don't be afraid of me now.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A teacher...and on the few times I've been in such a privileged position, it was a truly rewarding experience. (Colleges doing revues of my stuff, etc...) Since I have to-date not been in many classrooms, I'm happy to say that my work is. Archives of my songs are in many musical theatre-emphasized colleges in the US and abroad. It has been a source of much gratification that international educators find my work as a good way to instruct students in learning new songs which are classically structured. I'm a pretty low-tech person so, next to writing, sharing ideas with musical theatre students would be a good "other life".
What’s up next?: Who knows? I don't even know my next chord change. I'd like to see Insomnia begin its journey to a larger audience. I'd like my other works to follow suit. Another of my shows will likely be up at this (or another festival) next summer. In general, I'd like to be busier because I do my best work under pressure but, as you've read here, a life in the arts is more questionnaires than answers.