Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Spotlight On...Stephen Feigenbaum

Name: Stephen Feigenbaum

Hometown: Winchester, MA

Education: BA, Yale College, MM candidate, Yale School of Music

Favorite Credits: Not much to say here as I'm pretty new to this art form! Had a lot of fun playing Pianosaurus in a reading of Triassic Parq this past winter though.

Why theater?: As a composer I think musicals are perhaps the one art form that really allows music to be a driving and integral force in storytelling. Movies come close at times but there's nothing like a musical, with its song-driven narrative style to really test your ability to reach people with music. I love the way shows are structured and most of all I just love the feeling you get when a climactic dramatic moment and beautiful music are in sync. There's nothing like it.

Tell us about Independents: INDEPENDENTS chronicles nine friends living and working on The Lady Grey, a Revolutionary War-era tall ship, in 2012. Using historical reenactment as a cover, the eclectic crew of twentysomethings has made a living smuggling marijuana from Nova Scotia to Gloucester. But when their captain disappears, financial pressures force the incompetent group of burnouts to attempt reenactment for real. INDEPENDENTS is a new folk rock musical about friendship, late night sing-alongs, growing up, and whatever those three-cornered hats are called.

What inspired you to create Independents?: Marina was really the driving force behind the story and the characters. I can't really speak for her but I think in part she wanted to explore a static lifestyle and challenge the audience by seducing them into loving the characters and the lifestyle while slowly making it harder and harder to sympathize with it. That's what we've been trying to focus on as we revise it and move the show forward. The musical world of it was inspired in part by some friends we had at school who in organized and unorganized contexts play and sing a lot of guitar-based folk music for fun, even at parties sometimes. We wanted to create a world around that kind of lifestyle and use it to generate the musical world of the show as well.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
I love dramatic musicals. Shows like Sweeney Todd which live almost entirely in a musicalized world have been a big inspiration for me. I've also been getting more excited about shows like Hair and A Chorus Line which live more in a world of revue or song cycle, which don't appear to focus on plot but which slowly advance a story nevertheless. Outside of strict musical theater I've also been really excited about shows like Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group which don't have a story at all but which still use storytelling elements to similar effect.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Obviously I would be excited and honored to be hired on a project with collaborators who are much more experienced or successful or famous or whatever than I, but I think that the collaborators I already work with who are peers of mine are great, and there's something about growing up and learning the craft together that makes our collaborations much richer than if I were suddenly working with people way out of my league.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I find it kind of hard not to watch shows from a writer's perspective. Lately I've been talking a lot with some of writer friends about structure, especially in big commercial musicals. Like I've actually been studying Wicked a lot recently. I wanted to figure out what about that show makes it work so clearly and so consistently for all of the millions of people who've seen it. That's not to say it's my favorite show or anything, just that it's really well-constructed in some respects and that's something that fascinates me.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Arnold Schwarzenegger and it would be called “The Composinator”.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Probably the fact that when I'm "studying" a show like Wicked, I'm also just really enjoying seeing Wicked.

What’s up next?: We'll see where this show goes but we're all really excited about it right now. I've also been working on a show called Caius Martius based loosely on Coriolanus with my friend Matthew George, so we want to do another round of rewrites on that and see what we can do with it. Also Charlie (our director) and I are working on a show which is sort of like a live version of "Fantasia" but updated and hip and loud. That also has aspects of, like, Stomp and Fuerza Bruta and Cirque, but more music driven, so it's been a real exercise of our creative imaginations. We're doing that this Spring in New Haven and then hopefully moving it to NYC at some point soon after!

For more on Independents, visit http://independentsmusical.com/