DISGRACED, Willy Loman, and the American Dream

In describing Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced we’ve said Amir and Emily are confronted in the play with the compromises they’ve made to stake out a piece of the American dream. But what exactly is the American dream? Would it surprise you to know then that the phrase ‘American dream’ did not appear until 1931?

Author James Truslow Adams coined the term in his book The American Epic. According to his definition the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Adams was impressed with the unique resiliency of the American people in the midst of the Great Depression. Despite overwhelming challenges, Americans in general seemed to him to hold out hope that their circumstances would eventually change for the better. His explanation for this phenomenon – the American dream.

America has always been a country of ideas; one of the driving ones being that life can always be improved for everyone. You could look to the founding documents of America (The Declaration of Independence or The Constitution) or to the waves of immigrants who have come here to track the origins of this hope. Either way, Adams argues, the American people had, by the time he wrote his book, become so conditioned to this determined pursuit of improvements that it had manifested as part of the basic American spirit.

Since his creation of the term, the American dream has been a concept envied, pursued, defended, and argued about. Go and google the phrase right now. You’ll get a list of musings on whether the American dream still exists, or is even possible today. It’s a hot button topic as the country looks at the long-term effects of the recession. Alarm was raised in December 2014 when The New York Times reported that only 64 percent of the population still believed in the American dream. However, in that survey the dream was defined as the idea that “hard work could result in riches.” This consumption based definition of the American dream is very familiar and dominates our current discourse, but some argue, being a product of the mid-20th century, it’s losing relevancy today. When he created the term in 1931, Adams specified he believed the American dream was not about goods or purchasing power, but a certain level of personal happiness. In the post-World War II boom this image changed to one characterized by consumerism, external accolades, and monetary gain.

In another Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and arguably the most iconic of American plays, Death of a Salesman, playwright Arthur Miller uses his everyman Willy Loman to explore what it personally means to believe in and base the success of one’s life on this mid-20th century definition of the American dream. Like Disgraced, Death of a Salesman also examines a darker side of the dream. Willy Loman and Amir are vastly different characters separated by decades, but they both pursue a similar image of the American dream. In the late 1940s Willy believes by having worked hard as a traveling salesman for years he’ll be rewarded with a desk job at his company’s headquarters. In order to achieve it he has sacrificed his relationships with his wife and sons. In the 2010s Amir believes by hiding and denying his Muslim identity and working long hours he’ll eventually make partner at a prestigious New York law firm. Both of these characters maintain a staunch pursuit at all costs of success based on this idea of the American dream, and they both end up bringing harm to themselves and their families because of it.

The dominant opinion of what the American dream is has gradually been evolving since the term was invented. In her autobiography Eleanor Roosevelt said, “the American dream can no more remain static than can the American nation.” The world we live in today is very different than the world of 60 years ago so it makes sense that we might be reevaluating by what standard we measure our successes and confused as to what the American dream looks like now. However, plays like Disgraced and Death of a Salesman remind us that, in spite of its evolution, following the popular opinion of what this dream looks like is not always the right prescription for everyone. When looking to figure out what the American dream really is, the best place to look may be inward and the better question to ask may be: ‘How do YOU define the American dream?’

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Ask the Actors: 23 Answers from Nicole Lowrance

1. Name:   Nicole Lowrance

2. Any nicknames:   Red

3. Describe your character in one sentence:   SEEKING.

4. Where are you from:   Austin, TX. Hook ‘em!

5. What did you want to be growing up:   I have never known anything else other than wanting to be an actor.

6. If you weren’t an actor, what would you be instead:   Sportscaster, like Verne Lundquist’s career.

7. First play/ musical you ever saw:   I don’t remember what it was, but it was when I was in 4th grade. It was a musical at the local high school, and I just remember the overwhelming feeling of wanting to get up on that stage.

 8. Do you remember you’re first time on stage:   It was in 1st grade and we did a short children’s play called One-Eyed, Two-Eyed, and Three-eyed.  I was cast as One-Eyed and I really wanted to play Two-Eyed – the lead. I spent most of the play upstaging like crazy. I have learned since then to be more professional…

9. Favorite play/ musical:   I don’t have a favorite play – I have favorite performances. Most recently – Steven Boyer in Hand to God. What he is doing is unbelievably amazing.

10. Favorite role ever played:   Hands down – Emma in Curse of the Starving Class at A.C.T. in San Francisco.

11. Dream role:   It hasn’t been written yet…

12. Performers (living or dead) you most admire:   I have gravitated towards Shirley Maclaine,  Mandy Patinkin, Micheal Shannon, Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton, Steven Boyer, Tracey Letts, Paxton Whitehead, and John Douglas Thompson.

13. Most unforgettable show you’ve ever been in or seen:   I have to say The Flick was pretty extraordinary. Wallace Acton as Hamlet was stellar. Watching Patti LuPone is electric. I have a deep admiration for anything Steppenwolf.

14. Favorite costume you’ve ever worn:   My cowboy shirt, Wrangler jeans, leather chaps, and Justin boots in Curse of the Starving Class gave me my best strut.

15.   Most unique prop you’ve ever encountered:   Protective Butt Pads for all the spanking that was required in Robert Askin’s Permission at M.C.C.

16. Something you’re REALLY bad at:   I can’t sing to save my life! I so wish I could!

17. Any superstitions or rituals as a performer:   I have to kiss the stage before every performance.

18. Favorite pre- or post-show meal:   I get too nervous before a show to eat anything interesting, but I always want to tear into a burger after a show!

19.What book is currently on your nightstand:   Euphoria by Lily King.

20. Most played song on your phone/ iPod right now:   Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine.

21. TV show you have to keep up with:   Most recently, I loved the acting in Bloodline on Netflix. So, so good.

22. Have you been to LWT or New Haven before:   No – its my debut to both!

23. Why do you think our readers should see Disgraced: It will make you talk about it long, long after you leave the theater. What a gift to be provoked into to such stimulating topics as Disgraced asks us to explore.

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LWT Library Partnership Hailed as Strengthening the New Haven Community

library resize bigArtistic Director Gordon Edelstein described the partnership between the New Haven Free Public  Library and Long Wharf Theatre as an important one. “The history of civilization is kept on these shelves. The library preserves our history and the soul of humanity. We try to do the same thing in the theatre,” Edelstein said to a group of about 50 people at the Ives Main Library Friday evening.

LWT and the NHFPL will offer a myriad of opportunities during the 2015-16 season for education, reflection, and discourse through a series of talks, films, performances, engagements with the people of New Haven about the subjects important to us all. The season partnership will focus around the productions of Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, and Having Our Say, by Emily Mann.

Perhaps the most important moment during the celebration of the New Haven Free Public Library-Long Wharf Theatre partnership happened just in passing. If you blinked you might have missed it. It was the announcement of a new initiative between the library and the theatre – a monthly theatre workshop for teens called Theatre Haven, held at the Ives Main Library, located at 133 Elm Street. This new class, which start October 14, will be held the second Wednesday each month from 3 – 5 pm. It’s an opportunity for teens to learn about Shakespeare, improvisation, clowning, spoken word, and other types of performance, all offered for free by Long Wharf Theatre’s education department. It is yet one more way in which the New Haven Free Public Library helps to educate the public and allows people opportunities to experience ideas in unique ways.

The previous year’s partnership reached across the city, affording residents who might not ordinarily have contact with Long Wharf Theatre an opportunity to use their library to access content inspired by the work on stage. For example, over 1,500 people were able to check out a pass from the library entitling them to free tickets to a Long Wharf Theatre production. The pass is available at every New Haven Free Public Library branch. This Fall librarians and LWT staff members have worked together to create a series of events dealing with Islam, issues of identity, and the pursuit of nonviolence in conjunction with the theatre’s production of Disgraced. “One of the library’s great strengths … is our reach out into New Haven’s neighborhoods and this program allows our branch libraries to shine.  Long Wharf’s plays serve as a catalyst for illuminating and provocative conversations across the city in our library branches, giving voice to different perspectives as we wrestle with fundamental social and political issues of the day.  And through the community Ambassador program and complementary theater passes available in our branch libraries, we bring new audience members to the Long Wharf, enriching the experience for theatre-goers and widening the circle of participants,” said Martha Brogan, city librarian and director.

The people attending Friday evening’s festivities were treated to a reading from the cast of Long Wharf Theatre’s upcoming production of Disgraced and a spoken word performance from New Haven poet Aaron Jafferis. Mayor Toni Harp pointed to the partnership as just one of many across the city that make New Haven a vibrant place to live and work. “We are a rich city indeed and it is because of what you do,” she said.

Perhaps the most poignant words of the evening came from Sharon Brooks, a Community Ambassador. Brooks spoke of the partnership as not just as a way to introduce people to the theatre through the library, but of a place where friendships are made and deep philosophical questions explored. She described her fellow Ambassadors as people from all walks of life – former nuns, cops, blue collar workers, children’s advocates, attorneys, long distance runners, and everyone in between. “We’ve learned a lot about other folks and ourselves … We reached across superficial dividing lines. We discarded preconceptions,” she said.

And isn’t that what a library and a theatre is supposed to do.

For more information about Long Wharf Theatre’s community efforts, visit www.longwharf.org/community.
For more information about the New Haven Free Public Library www.nhfpl.org.

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Ayad Akhtar Examines Identity with DISGRACED

Ayad Akhtar, author of DisgracedThe theatre has the power to do a lot to an audience: make us laugh, make us cry, make us think. It’s the thinking that playwright Ayad Akhtar’s work seems to invoke. If you’ve heard anything about our upcoming production of his Pulitzer Prize winning play Disgraced then you might assume he’s interested in prompting us to think about topics such as Islam in today’s world, or religious conflict. Those are certainly subjects in the play, but Akhtar uses them as a vehicle for the exploration of something far more universal: identity. “For a lot of people to see or hear the word ‘Muslim’ is not too dissimilar to hearing the word ‘Cancer,” Akhtar explained to CBS News earlier this year before Disgraced closed on Broadway. His solution to this problem as a playwright: “keep telling really great stories and hopefully enough people catch on, and they’re like, ‘You know what? It’s not about that. It’s about something else, like being human.’”

The playwright explained on the PBS Newshour last October that he didn’t recognize this overarching topic in his work at first either. “I came to understand what the play was really trying to get at was the way in which we secretly continue to hold on to our tribal identities, our identities of birth, despite getting more enlightened.” In a ‘melting pot’ such as America this is a daunting thought. Is it possible that despite our best efforts, our belief in rags to riches stories and the positive power of education and diversity, that we can never really leave the influence of our origins behind? Akhtar says that it’s his job as a playwright to prompt these types of questions, not answer them. “I get away with trying to see what the various perspectives yield in terms of human lives and the solutions that individuals come up with to these questions [of identity].”

In a fast moving world in which we barely have time to digest most information coming at us from the outside, like this blog for example, we rarely, if ever, have the chance to look at our inside world and the more hidden parts of our identities. Akhtar hopes Disgraced gives the audience that opportunity in a way only theatre can. “I think that at its best what the theatre does is that it gathers us together. We – social herding, animals – arrive together into a room and we behold something that actually happens before us, not something mediated to us by a screen…. a kind of communion happens in the audience between audience and performers that allows us, reaches in to us where we can experience things more deeply than we can individually.” By sitting together, watching live, right in front of our eyes, the main character of Amir run head on into the aspects of his identity he has pushed aside and refused to deal with, the playwright believes we are more viscerally provoked to ask questions about identity than we would be through other mediums. It’s the difference between watching a car crash on TV and seeing it happen while sitting at a red light. The questions of identity he raises through the play are provocative – what does it really mean to be my nationality, my gender, my race, my religion, what does it mean to be me? “Those sound like some pretty good questions for our time,” says Akhtar.

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First Rehearsal: DISGRACED

IMG_0606There are few things that Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein likes more than encouraging a bit of theatrical controversy. He loves the free exchange of ideas that happen in a  theatre, and if there is a bit of argument in the lobby after a thought provoking and well made show, well, he’s ok with that too. He believes that LWT’s production of Disgraced, the Pulitzer Prize-winner by Ayad Akhtar, has the capacity to do just that.

“This play is in a great tradition for Long Wharf of works that provoke. We have a long and noble history of doing that,” Edelstein said at the first rehearsal of the play, which took place on Tuesday.

He points to previous productions of Sixteen Wounded, a personal story of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and A New War, which dealt with the relentless cable news cycle, as pieces in that tradition. “We like to do plays that generate controversy and conversation,” he said.


Disgraced deals with the relationship of a Muslim American to his culture – it’s the “juice” of the play, Edelstein says. But the themes of Disgraced also reflect a quintessentially American experience. He believes that with very little change, that the play could represent the experiences of any group that came to this country and went through the often messy and difficult process of becoming an American. “This play is about the price of assimilation and the price of running away from who you are,” he said.

These are important questions to consider, and Disgraced does so with intensity and intelligence. It’s an exciting play, Edelstein said, a piece that resonates with audiences. It’s the kind of play that goes “like a house on fire,” according to Edelstein, and he’s excited to produce it as the opener to the 2015-16 season. “The play is ripped from the headlines, but the themes are timeless,” he said.


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Inside the Shops: Building the DISGRACED Set to Last

Assistant Technical Director Dylan Callery with the first completed flat for DISGRACED

Assistant Technical Director Dylan Callery with the first completed flat for DISGRACED

Summer’s winding down which means we’re winding up at LWT. The first show of our season, Disgraced, doesn’t start performances until October 14th, but our scene shop has already completed building the first flats of the season for the show. They’re particularly excited about the set for this show because they’re trying out a new building material called finger jointed pine that they’re hopeful will solve a couple of problems they face each season.

Usually they use 1×4 pieces of lumber to construct the walls of our sets (or the flats). However, our Assistant Technical Director Dylan Callery explained to us that lumber today is commonly harvested from young trees and the younger the tree the less straight the lumber it produces ends up being. So the carpenters in our shop have been spending increasing amounts of time forcibly straightening pieces of lumber to make them work, or, for the boards that end up completely unusable, the shop loses money having to throw them out.

Even when regular lumber works out fine to build the sets, our shop still faces an environmental challenge many other theatres don’t necessarily have. Dylan told us with LWT so close to the waters of Long Island Sound the air here remains damp and humid most of the time. The moisture in the air can wreck havoc on our mostly wooden sets over a period of time. Flats often begin to bow throughout the run of a show or do something referred to as ‘potato chipping’, damaging around the corners. Our scene shop crew then has to battle to keep the sets in good enough condition throughout the run of a show so they will structurally and aesthetically last until closing.

The sets for most of our shows have to only last for the length of one production. So the set pieces built in August and September for Disgraced would under normal circumstances only have to make it to closing on November 8th. However, since Disgraced is a co-production with The Huntington Theatre Company this show’s set has to survive through not just LWT’s shows, but also a deconstruction, a move to Boston, a reconstruction, and another month long run at The Huntington. In terms of time, the set pieces built this month have to hold up until February 7th of next year when The Huntington finishes it’s performances.

Hence our scene shop crew is hoping that taking a chance on this new building material will pay off and it will resist the onslaught of LWT’s damp air. It’s already helped cut down on time and labor in the building process, but that’s not really the shop’s main concern. Our crew takes a lot of pride in the work that comes out of their shop. So in the spirit of Hallmark cards, they care enough to send the very best. When Disgraced moves on to Boston they want that city’s audience to learn what our audiences already know: only the highest quality art and craftsmanship make it onstage in an LWT production.

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Long Wharf Theatre and New Haven Free Public Library to Hold Partnership Celebration September 25th

IMG_0315_resizeLong Wharf Theatre and the New Haven Free Public Library will host an evening celebrating partnership and community, marking the beginning of the organizations’ 2015-16 partnership.

The celebration will take place on Friday, September 25 from 6 to 8 pm at the Ives Main Branch, located at 133 Elm Street in downtown New Haven. Please use the Temple Street entrance. There will be a presentation of the partnership’s 2015-16 season offerings, along with a scene from LWT’s upcoming production of Disgraced, spoken word performance, and free refreshments.

LWT and the NHFPL will offer a myriad of opportunities during the 2015-16 season for education, reflection, and discourse through a series of talks, films, performances, engaging with the people of New Haven about the subjects important to us all.

The season partnership will focus around the productions of Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, and Having Our Say, by Emily Mann. Both plays deal in some way with the notion of the American Dream – the Pakistani lawyer at the center of Disgraced has to sacrifice his heritage in pursuit of his goals, while the 101 and 103 year old African-American Delany Sisters in Having Our Say navigated the twists and turns of the 20th century in America with grace but not without their own challenges. These vast political and social issues will fuel the library/LWT conversation about how it relates to our lives here in New Haven for each show.

“Our collaboration with the Library has become the cornerstone of our community engagement with New Haven. It allows all New Haven residents who are intellectually curious to experience both of our organizations’ offerings, with the elimination of nearly all barriers to participation. We are delighted to provide so many free programs, and we honored by this partnership’s national recognition” said Joshua Borenstein, Managing Director of Long Wharf Theatre

“The Library’s collaboration with Long Wharf Theatre enables the two organizations to create a lively forum for civic engagement,” said Martha Brogan, City Librarian. “With performances and programming at Long Wharf and across all five library branches, literature and the performing arts become tools for community conversations open to all New Haven citizens.”

The partnership between the library and the theatre began in April 2012 thanks to a grant facilitated by the ‘Co-Creating Effective and Inclusive Organizations’ Project, a two-year pilot funded by Bill Graustein. The partnership was also recognized as a “best practices” case study in Theatre Communications Group’s Audience Revolution Initiative.

The relationship has been continually evolving. The foundation has been several simple, yet impactful ideas. Long Wharf Theatre offers a pass for check out at the NHFPL for a pair of tickets to any performance. This pass has allowed over 1,600 New Haven residents to attend Long Wharf Theatre productions free of charge. In addition, the theatre has become home to a library microbranch stocked with books about the subjects and themes presented in the play currently on stage.

The organizations have also partnered to hold programming at every library branch over the past several seasons. The conversations fostered have been wide reaching, ranging from the effects of gentrification on the New Haven community, to religious matters, to the role the media plays in urban violence. There have been moments of intense personal reflection and spontaneous performance – the kind of emotional expressions possible when the profound impact of literature and theatre is married to two committed community organizations intent on giving people the opportunity for expression. The conversation hasn’t just been an outward one. Over the course of the partnership between the organizations, library and theatre administrators have been discussing issues of inclusivity and social justice within their own organizations and the city at large, as well as how engagement in literature and theatre can help address these issues. For more information about the organizations, visit www.longwharf.org or www.nhfpl.org.


Speakers and programming to be announced.

Fair Haven Branch – September 26, 2 pm

Mitchell Branch – October 5, 6 pm

Ives Main Library – October 10, 2 pm

Wilson Branch – October 17, 2 pm

Stetson Branch – October 24, 2 pm

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For Joe Kinosian Protocol Says: No Cell Phones

Joe Kinosian no cell phonesIf you’re a theatre lover and a user of social media you’ve probably found yourself recently clicking a link to read about a certain incident involving Patti Lupone and a cell phone, or maybe it was about that small confusion over the usability of an outlet on the set of Hand to God. Either way this summer in theatre circles seems to have been consumed with that pesky question of how our increasingly digitally dependent habits should be dealt with in the theatre. Do we get tougher on such crimes and start kicking all offenders out, do we try to educate more about theatre etiquette, or do we embrace the times with options like tweet seats so those who can’t unplug can type away their experiences during a show? There may not be a wholly right answer for every theatre except to say that cell phones and other devices aren’t likely to go away.

Murder for Two writer Joe Kinosian, though, found a way to work possible digital interruptions into the actual performance when he was playing the role of The Suspects during the show’s initial run and tour. Last year he explained to In New York Magazine how the show’s ‘wink, wink’ relationship with the audience allows it to play with unexpected live occurrences during any performance. “It’s different from other plays, I guess, in that if someone’s phone goes off in the audience, you can directly turn to them and start screaming at them, ‘You can’t do that in The Coast of Utopia.’…There’s some free rein to make up lines depending on the kind of audience you have that night.”
He recounted one night when he had to get particularly creative about the use of a cell phone during the show. “We were doing our final performance in San Francisco, Halloween 2010, and a woman answers her phone. She’s sitting way in the back of the theater, and it’s a big theater, like a 400-seat theater. She comes way to the front of the stage, where there’s an exit and where, I guess, she got better reception… It was one of the few moments of silence in the play, and she’s down there, hanging out by the exit door, talking and talking. She was one of the donors to the theater, so I guess she thought she owned the place. We [actors] couldn’t go on [with the show] because it was too distracting. So, I hopped down from the stage [in character] as the widow Dahlia and grabbed the phone out of her hand and said, “She’s going to have to call you back. There’s been a horrible murder,” and showed the woman on her way. Afterward, I found her in the lobby. We had it out a little bit and discussed proper theater protocol. I hope she learned her lesson. I’d just like to say to all the other [Editor’s note: name withheld to protect the not so innocent] out there, “Don’t you dare answer your phone [when I’m onstage].”

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Non-Equity Auditions for LWT’s 2015-16 Season

NEW HAVEN – Local Non-Equity actors, ages 18+, with access to local housing are invited to audition for the 2015/2016 Season at the Tony Award-winning Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT.

Actors will be seen at the theatre on Thursday, August 27 from 10 am to 6 pm. Actors should prepare a brief modern or contemporary monologue not to exceed three minutes in length. All actors should bring a current resume and headshot. While walk-ins will be accommodated, appointments are strongly recommended and may be made beginning today by calling the Long Wharf Theatre box office (203-787-4282) between 10:00am and 5:00pm.
For more information: www.longwharf.org.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Because Long Wharf holds auditions in NYC for each production, we are especially seeking actors with access to local housing at this call.

2. Actors will be seen by Drew Gray, Associate Producer.

3. Long Wharf will be casting for all available roles for the 2015/2016 season at these auditions (see attached list).

4. Directions:
a. Train: Metro North to Union Station, New Haven, CT, and take a cab to the theatre.
b. Car: Take Exit 46 off I-95 and follow the signs.

Long Wharf Theatre is casting the following roles for our 2015-2016 Season:
Written by: Ayad Akhtar
Director: Gordon Edelstein

**Co-production with Huntington Theatre Company
First Rehearsal: September 15th, 2015
Runs October 21st, 2015 – November 8th, 2015


EMILY: early 30s, white, lithe and lovely.
AMIR: 40, of South-Asian origin, speaks with a perfect American accent.
ABE: 22, of South-Asian origin. About as American as American gets. Vibrant and
ISAAC: 40, white, smart, attractive. A curator at the Whitney.
JORY: mid to late 30s, African-American, is commanding, forthright, intelligent. Almost masculine.


Written by Emily Mann
Directed by Jade King Carroll

**Co-production with Hartford Stage

First Rehearsal: January 19th, 2016
Runs February 17th, 2016 – March 20th, 2016


MISS SADIE DELANY- a 103 year old African American female
DR. BESSIE DELANY- a 101 year old African American female


Written by Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Eric Ting

First Rehearsal: March 11th, 2016
Runs April 6th, 2016 – May 1st, 2016


MARNIE- early to mid twenties, female.
ALICE- early to mid seventies, female.
CONNOR- fifties, male.

Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Gordon Edelstein

First Rehearsal: April 5th, 2016
Runs May 4th, 2016 – May 29st, 2016


IAN – forties, male
JOHN – fifties, male.
NEASA – thirties, female.
LAURENCE – twenties, male.


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A Match Made in Musical Theatre Heaven

Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian Murder for Two

Kellen Blair (L) and Joe Kinosian (R)

The creation of musical theatre is no stranger to lighting in a bottle partnerships; take familiar names like Kander and Ebb or Rodgers and Hammerstein, for example. Murder for Two is all about partnerships. It’s two actors working together to create the physical world of the show. It’s two characters working together to solve a murder. And it’s paralleled in real life through creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair who worked together to write the show. “I have definitely found we work better together than apart,” Kinosian said to The Huffington Post of his partnership with Blair. The writing team had not worked together previous to embarking on Murder for Two. They met in 2008 at the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. “It’s like speed dating for musical theatre writers,” Blair joked last year to The Playbill Collector, “They let about 15 lyricists and 15 composers in every year. We got randomly paired to write a “Charm Song” for It’s A Wonderful Life. We did it totally wrong.” They may not have gained a hit song from that first collaboration, but they did find in each other the perfect creative partner. “Joe and I have a similar sense of humor, like the same movies and books and other things. It just seemed like a perfect match from the beginning.”

Like most other musical theatre writers they really wanted to write the next great Broadway musical with hundreds of actors and a thousand piece orchestra, but seeing as how their partnership was beginning in the midst of a recession they decided instead to start with something more economical. “Kellen and I sat down one day to write something fast, funny, and producible — a show that would need nothing more than a piano on a bare stage and two piano-playing actors to play it,” explains Kinosian in The Broadway Blog. The stars aligned when they discovered they both were lovers of murder mysteries and the Marx brothers. There was nothing more interesting and challenging to them as a team than the idea of writing a two man farcical murder mystery musical. So that’s exactly what they did, working together every step of the way. “The book was very collaborative,” Kinosian shared via phone to In New York Magazine. “We handed it back and forth, and back and forth. We’d rewrite drafts and send them back and forth. It’s now at the point where we don’t know who wrote which lines because we both had a hand in all of them.” Creating music for their projects he says is a little different, but no less a partnership. “Together, we discuss and discuss and discuss the idea of what the song is going to accomplish, what it is going to feel like, what information needs to be conveyed through it. But then I’ll definitely step aside, do my music and come up with a draft. We’ll go over it, change what needs to be changed, pick up a note or add one. I’ll say that line isn’t as funny as it might be, and we’ll adjust accordingly. Then we’ll have a reading, and no one will laugh, and we’ll write a new song,” Kinosian joked.

With a successful off-Broadway run completed and a nationwide tour underway for Murder for Two, the pair are happy to remain together creating theatre. These days Kinosian likens his now well established partnership with Blair to a marriage of sorts. “There’s no way to talk about it that doesn’t make it sound like a marriage,” he laughs. “I mean, anything I’m going to say is going to sound like a cliché definition of what makes a successful marriage. You have to compromise. You have to support your partner, and you have to respect your partner. Where writing is concerned, specifically, you have to do what’s best for the play and not push your own agenda.” And anyone who’s been married knows that kind of partnership is not always smooth sailing. “We’ve definitely been tested by things and definitely have had challenges. I think all of that truly has reaffirmed how much we enjoy working together and love each other’s work. We get each other’s sense of humor. We know what we’re trying to do. It’s fun to be the two people in the room, who really understand each other.”


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