I do new works for two reasons: first, I’m interested in the future, and new works provide a glimpse into the future. In new works, yes, even in new musical theater works, most writers grapple with what we need now to make the future better. In CHANCE, by Richard Isen, a man overcomes the trauma of his past that he had buried so deep he didn’t even see it as a problem. He overcomes it by learning compassion – the hard way. Richard started writing this piece six years ago – I’ve been involved for four. And if we look around the world right now, compassion is what’s needed. We have a lot of prosperity, people live longer than ever, but we’re more closed off as individuals than we once were. We can and do deny others in exchange for our comfort. In GOLDRUSH 2.0, another show I’m developing, we explore the implications of the tech world and its Goldrush mentality – in which the goal is to make money through disruption of all kinds – on the psyches of three people involved in a start-up. The prescription there is to accept and appreciate our humanity, rather than brush it aside in the search of the perfect world promised by artificial intelligence. Anyway, it’s exciting to see people react to a work for the first time, to see the audience agree or disagree, and to hone the piece to perfection. Hitchcock, I think, said “Structure is the key to the unconscious” – though certainly others have said something like that. And it’s true – the more we hone the piece, the more we discover what it’s truly about – and vice versa. It feels as if somewhere in space/time the work already exists – if only we can reach it. When we do, it’s magical.
The other reason I do new works, especially new musical theater works, is that I have a big brain. I don’t say that in a boastful way, because actually it’s been a bit of a problem throughout my life. There are few endeavors in which I feel fully satisfied. I used to make a living acting, I write plays and poems and lyrics, I compose music, I paint and draw, my grandma taught me to sew, my children taught me to be patient, I’m good at business, I’m good at teaching, especially writing, and I’m really good at seeing how a project can materialize in time. Seriously, it comes into my mind like a 3D chessboard. So, when I produce a new work with a good writer and a good collaborative team, all of my needs are satisfied. New works are a harder sell to contemporary San Francisco public, I think, than they are in New York – or Chicago, where I’m from. So that has been a challenge. But I like challenges – they keep me young.
Chance – A New Musical Play about Love, Risk, & Getting it Right; By Richard Isen -Inspired by Quotations from the Writings of Oscar Wilde; Wednesday, July 20, 6:00 pm; Thursday, July 21, 9:00 pm; and Saturday, July 23rd, 3:30 pm. A gay psychologist and a handsome young rent boy stumble down a unique path to healing when guided by a mysterious Hollywood glamour queen (as played by a gender illusionist). 55 year old Gregory has spent his adult life denying the loss he experienced as a young man during the AIDS crisis. After a near-death experience, The Lady appears. Is she an inner guide from the Jungian collective unconscious? Or a musical hallucination resulting from a small stroke? Gregory is pushed out of his solitary reality by his unlikely muse, and down the rabbit hole of mid-life crisis where he enters into a turbulent, dangerous relationship with a young male escort named “Chance.” Produced by Anne Nygren Doherty and the New Musical Theatre of San Francisco. With book, music and lyrics by Richard Isen, direction by Jonathan Cerullo, and musical direction by Denise Puricelli, This unique theatrical cocktail is one part fun, one part heart, and one part magic.