WORLD VIEWS: 2017 Musical Theater Lab Q&A Series Part 4

July 3, 2017

Presenting the fourth 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 Anton Dudley and Faye Chiao.

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

Red Cross

Artwork: Red Cross Work Room 5th Avenue, NYC during the War by Jane Peterson

Title of your Mini-Musical: “The Clinic”

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

Neither of us were familiar with the painting, however, we knew this was the one.  For such a quiet and still scene, there is an enormous amount of tension, exacerbated by the looming threat of the “To Let” sign.  And all those women!.. laboring for the Red Cross, dressed like nuns.  There was so much narrative to be mined.

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?  

In this current political environment, the importance of generosity of spirit and compassion, both of which are captured in the painting, seem particularly important.  This generosity is juxtaposed with something darker: a sense of impermanence and disappointment – that duality felt very human and immediate, the story came to us, instantly, as did its sound.

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

We’ve written both songs and larger works, but never a ten-minute musical.  This process has been a great learning experience: we started with the idea for an epic story then made it into a sort of balsamic reduction to fit the form… the end result was thrilling – especially to have it brought to life immediately after writing it – usually, you have to wait a while before the show steps off the page.  

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?

We like to keep challenging ourselves in both style and form.  So far, we’ve created a one-act musical, a children’s theater piece, and some cabaret songs – and have received grants and commissions to develop an opera, an orchestral piece, and a full length musical; the lab was a wonderful opportunity to continue both our exploration of musical storytelling and look at yet another side of the prism of humanity.

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

We’re excited to hear all the pieces!  Aliens, familial relationships, trash on beaches… it’s inspiring to be a part of this talented group of theater makers.

Faye Chiao is an award-winning composer of musical theater, opera and concert music. Chiao’s work has been commissioned and presented by: Single Carrot Theater, The Lunar Ensemble, The Johns Hopkins University, and with Anton Dudley American Dream Theater, Playwright’s Realm, and the Boston Chamber Symphony. As a mezzo-soprano and founding member of the Corvus Ensemble, Chiao appears regularly on stage and in recital performing innovative programs of art song and chamber music. Chiao holds degrees from The Peabody Institute.

Anton Dudley’s plays and musicals have premiered Off-Broadway with Playwrights Realm, Second Stage, Cherry Lane Theater, and Theater Row, and, regionally, at Signature Theater (directed by Eric Shaeffer), LaJolla Playhouse (directed by Christopher Ashley), Walnut Street Theater, Williamstown Theater Festival, Adirondack Theater Festival, and EST, and are published by Samuel French, Playscripts, Applause, and Vintage. His play Letter to the End of the World was finalist for the 2012 Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Drama. He is currently under commission from Musical Stage Company and collaborating with Faye Chiao on the OPERA America funded Island of the Moon.



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