WORLD VIEWS: 2017 Musical Theater Lab Q&A Series Part 8

July 7, 2017

Our countdown is almost finished as we feature the eighth 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 Christiana Cole and Rona Siddiqui.

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

magritte voice of space

Artwork: Voice of Space by René Magritte

Title of your Mini-Musical: “Make the Earth Great”

The responses below were made by Christiana Cole on behalf of the team.

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

I was familiar with Magritte, but not with this particular painting. I’ve always enjoyed surrealist art. I especially like Magritte because of his dry wit and his interesting mix of cartoonishness and coldness.

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?

Rona was first drawn to the painting. I forget how we came up with our story, but we both dig outer space, speculative fiction, and allegories, so it was born out of that.

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

Rona and I both enjoy working quickly, in part because it forces you to cut everything that isn’t essential to the storytelling.

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?

For me (Christiana), I found that this story necessitated a more symbolic (and less literal) form. I wrote a complete draft and had already edited it when I went and saw Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage, and it motivated me to throw out everything and start over — in a great way. Pacific Overtures inspired me to cut the plodding “hows” and focus on the more-interesting “whys” of the story.

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

I’m interested in seeing Emily Kaczmarek and Zoe Sarnak’s piece. I’ve sung some of Zoe’s music before and really enjoyed it! I’m also really excited for “Trash Beach” (we loved the image but couldn’t think of a story) and “The Door” (the Georgia O’Keeffe) (same deal).

The New York Times called Christiana Cole “top-notch.” Lyricist for musicals for young audiences, including Peanut Butter and Cupcake (based on the best-selling book), to be produced at Interlakes Theatre this summer. Her new adaptation of The Frog Prince will be produced at Random Farms Children’s Theatre in fall 2017, and is licensed to theatres in Japan, China, and Korea. Christiana is a champion storyteller, featured on NPR’s The Moth GRANDSLAM. Currently writing a musical about the life of Bella Abzug with Rona Siddiqui and Beth Blatt. Member: BMI Advanced Workshop. Christiana is an accomplished performer, and teaches voice lessons.

Rona Siddiqui is a composer/lyricist in NYC. (Musicals) One Good Day- ASCAP/Dreamworks Musical Theatre Workshop, 2014 Festival of New American Musicals’ Best New Musical. (Off-Broadway)The Tin,Treasure in NYC. (Regional Original Scores) Middletown, The Vagina Monologues, The Good Person of Szechuan, The Clean House, Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer. (Web series) Amateur Dicks. (Awards) 2014 ASCAP Foundation Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hart Award, 2011 ASCAP Foundation/Max Dreyfus Scholarship. Collaborations include The Civilians, NYC Gay Men’s Chorus, MuseMatch, 52nd St Project. Currently composing musical about Bella Abzug. Graduate of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

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