WORLD VIEWS: 2017 Musical Theater Lab Q&A Series Part 2

July 1, 2017

Introducing the second of 9 writing teams in the 2017 Musical Theater Lab!  Each team will be presenting a new mini-musical in culminating lab concert performance, World Views, on July 8th (link here for details!).  These writers were selected through a competitive application process, and in these brief Q&As you’ll get some behind the scenes insight into their process and work.  Our next profile is the writing team of Sarah Rebell and Teresa Lotz.

This year’s lab assignment was to create a musical inspired by a work of visual art found in an NYC museum.

Chagall

Artwork: Paris through the Window by Marc Chagall

Title of your Mini-Musical: “A Surrealist Sort of View”

1. Were you familiar your with painting / artist prior to the lab process and if so what were your impressions?

Sarah: I was familiar with the artist but not at all with the painting. I think of Chagall’s work more as representing Eastern Europe (angels, stained glass, shetls) than as representing Paris. So it was really cool to see how this particular painting is, in many ways, an amalgam of the two cultures.

Teresa: I was vaguely familiar with both but not familiar enough with either. I’m more intimately familiar with surrealism since I did a lot of research on it for one of my plays and I’m a huge Dali fan. I knew Chagall’s work through that lens and was excited to dig into the symbolism..

2. What drew you to the painting? Were your impulses more abstract, or did the image evoke any specific personal experiences or responses for your team?

Teresa: I was drawn to the rainbow and the cat sitting on the window sill. I really wanted to write a show about that cat… thus why our protagonist is named Catherine. She’s not a cat. But it counts.

Sarah: Catherine is sitting on the windowledge at the top of the show, looking out at the world around her, much like the cat is in the painting. She is our surrealist symbol of the cat, which was in itself a surrealist symbol for Chagall. He loved animals. He loved putting them in his paintings, often in places they didn’t belong and/or sometimes with human faces.
Honestly, I was drawn to the colors and composition of the piece more than to any one specific detail at first. But the more we’ve studied the painting, the more we’ve analyzed its metaphors and read up on the life of its artist (and his incredible wife), the more in love I fell with all the elements of the painting.

3. How was the lab writing process for your group? Was it different or similar to experiences you’ve had before?

Teresa: It’s been easier than past processes, and that’s funny considering that it’s the first time we’ve been working together against such tight deadlines. We are also exploring a new style that is actually more in line with what I usually gravitate towards. It’s been really refreshing to work with Sarah on this.

Sarah: One of the first things that was conveyed to us by Prospect Theater Company, in the very first lab meet and greet, was that they hoped this would be a joyfully creative experience, a time for trying new things in our writing and a chance to play in a way that writers often don’t get to do much after grad school. Teresa and I talked a lot about that goal, of having fun, letting ourselves be playful and blissful in the process, because that ultimately is what leads to taking risks and coming up with work that genuinely excites us. This has been one of the most enjoyable writing processes I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience, in large part because Prospect gave us that freedom and encouragement right from the start.

4. How does your piece in the lab relate to the rest of your body of work? Is it a new direction or collaboration, or a continuation / deepening of styles or themes you have explored previously?

Teresa: We tend to write about unsatisfied women and how they choose to move on from that. We also tend to write a lot about unhappy marriages (which is curious and slightly(?) disturbing to me as a recent newlywed!) Though our show relates to both of those things, I really do feel like it’s something new altogether which is exciting for me, musically and collaboratively.

Sarah: Teresa and I had a conversation back in November, shortly after the devastating presidential election, about prioritizing certain themes in our writing. Female protagonists are a really important component of that. In a world in which men are consistently telling women that they are less important (on the campaign trail, on the senate floor, in terms of healthcare reform, etc.), it is crucial to us that women’s stories are examined, celebrated and TOLD. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to have a homeland vs. to be an immigrant vs. to be a refugee. That’s a new theme that we have explored for the first time in this piece.

5. Which of the other lab musicals are you most curious to see and why?

Teresa: Trash Beach. Because I really appreciate the title, and because I can’t wait to go the beach. Also, the one about aliens because I believe they might actually exist and I believe there should be more musicals about them. I’m also really excited in general to see new work by writers I know and respect as artists.

Sarah: Same. I’m really truly so excited to see ALL these pieces come to life. The other writing teams are all so incredible, and it’s an honor to be included among them in this lab. That said, if I had to pick one piece, I’m really intrigued by Zoe and Emily’s interpretation of the beautiful Turner shipwreck painting. I can’t wait to hear the sounds and harmonies that Zoe creates for her humongous choir. It’s going to be epic!

Teresa Lotz’s work includes Red Emma and the Mad Monk with Alexis Roblan (Ars Nova AntFest 2017, dir. Katie Lindsay) ThreeTimesFast with Naomi Matlow (Pallas Theater TableRead Winner 2017, The Script at Stage 74, dir. Michael Bello, NYFA, dir. Robert Longbottom, 2016),The Awakening with Sarah Rebell (Reading, MTF at Playwright’s Horizons 2016 dir. Celine Rosenthal), She Calls Me Firefly (Workshop, Parity Productions/New Perspectives Theatre Company (NPTC), dir. Ludovica Villar-Hauser 2015, Reading, Cherry Lane Theatre TONGUES 2014). NPTC’s Women’s Work Lab, Dramatist’s Guild, ASCAP, League of Professional Theatre Women. Musical Theater Writing, MFA NYU. teresalotz.com

Sarah Rebell’s musicals include Off The Wall (music by Danny Abosch), The Awakening (music by Teresa Lotz), and Rose Petals (music by Lizzie Hagstedt). Workshops/Readings: Playwrights Horizons, Musical Theatre Factory, Stages Festival of New Musicals, Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival, NYMF, NYU, and Vassar College. Sarah’s work has also been performed at 54 Below, the Berkshire Playwrights Musical Theatre Lab, the Catalina Jazz Club, the D-Lounge, The Duplex, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and the Metropolitan Room. As a theatrical journalist, she has written for The Interval and Howlround. Sarah currently works for The Dramatists Guild of America and for The Lilly Awards. MFA: NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

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