Playwright and composer – creator of the musical Group

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More Rehearsal Photos

For tickets to see group: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452

Here are some photos from our weekend rehearsal at the Powerhouse Theatre. (The amazing paint job was done by our very own Brooke for an amazing retelling of Lysistrada called “The Naked Army”)


Bitter-Lemons Interview about GROUP

 

On May 27, 2011 Cindy Marie Jenkins (@cindymariej) of Bitter-Lemons (labitterlemons) conducted an interview via twitter with myself (@aespiano) the director of Group (@RichardTatumLA) & actress Caroline Sharp (@charp7) who plays Meg in Group. I have reordered the tweets from the interview for easier reading. I hope you enjoy.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Up next at 7pm is @AESPiano , the mind behind #GROUP, the acclaimed musical http://bit.ly/iU6Ece Read & enjoy while I re-group.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

I’m not sure how to follow the previous two guests. It’s almost like Theatre people are diverse or something.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

@AESPiano It’s not like #GROUP is all sunshine & roses!

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

@LABitterLemons boy, you got that right…

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Let’s everyone welcome @AESPiano , who wrote Book, Music & Lyrics for #GROUP , remounting at #HFF11 http://bit.ly/iU6Ece

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Hello everyone. Thanks for having me

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

So this will be a little harder for me, because I saw #GROUP @latensemble . So no giving anything away! Q1: Why remount?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

1) We wanted @latensemble to be a part of #hff11 2) I’m still making tweaks on the show and wanted instant feedback 3) I think there is a whole new audience in Hollywood that had not seen the first run in Santa Monica. It was a perfect fit

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Q2: Give a little background on how #GROUP came to be. How long was writing process & did it change through rehearsal process?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Group evolved over a rather long period of time. The original concept for a college therapy session musical started a decade ago. I began writing the script the summer of 2009. First workshop March 2010. First previews December 2010. The truth is, the script continues to evolve and grow. I made a few minor changes at our last rehearsal!

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Q3: How did Director @RichardTatumLA become involved & how was/is your collaboration?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

@RichardTatumLA was brought in by Tom & Danika w@latensemble we hit it off immediately. I sometimes wonder if he can see my dreams

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Q4: #FullDisclosure I love live bands integrated into the story. Was that always the intention?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

To be honest, I haven’t personally seen many shows where the characters are aware that they are singing. I absolutely love it. My next musical has characters aware that they are singing as well #clarification my next show won’t literally take place in my head. I just haven’t typed it out yet.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

I have many of those. Q5  Who are your musical influences?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Am I allowed to answer with non-musical composers? I do appreciate musicals, but they are not my influences

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

You are allowed whatever influences you like!

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

@BenFolds @aimeemann Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, James Taylor, early Billy Joel, Tom Waits… I don’t allow myself to listen to other musicals while I’m writing, but after Group closed I began to listen to @MrJasonRBrown. Last Five Years, for example, is right up my alley. I already bought tickets to see the production of it that is in Fringe 🙂

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

What do you think of the new musicals that have come out more recently?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Look, the truth is I haven’t seen many of them. Rent is hardly considered “new” though I love it still.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Hard to argue with #RENT 🙂 I hear we may have some of the ensemble & team joining us. Who is here from #GROUP?

CAROLINE SHARP (ACTRESS)

I’m a #Group cast member… does that count? 😉

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Of course cast counts! Tell a bit about your character

CAROLINE SHARP (ACTRESS)

I play Meg, a young woman whose marriage has begun to fall apart. She convinces her husband to come to therapy with her. But very quickly, her assumptions about what therapy will entail are challenged. She is forced to confront her own real demons.

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

Director is here 🙂

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Welcome Mr. Director.! @RichardTatumLA For both you & @AESPiano : how did you start w/ collaboration?

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

I got a call from Danika @LAtensemble, whom I have known for years. Wanna direct a musical? I had JUST been thinking I did! We all had a meeting that night for coffee, and we got along famously. @aespiano and I bonded in about 8 seconds over books & music. I was sent the script and heard the demos from the workshop reading. The story really got to me and Adam’s stuff sounded like Aimee Mann, to me whom I love. Since then, we’ve been reading each other’s minds

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

I would have finished @RichardTatumLA sentence just then, but the twitter delay…

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

HA! And there you have it, @aespiano

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Ha! When to know a #newplay problem doesn’t need fixing, and just needs rehearsal? Anything taken out then put back into it?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Nothing taken out has been put back in yet. @csharp7 character probably has experienced the most rewrites

CAROLINE SHARP (ACTRESS)

That’s not true, @AESPiano! I lost a song for about a day and a half there! 🙂

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

You are so right!

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

Yes – Meg and Julia went through the most changes, to my memory @csharp7

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

I think we softened Meg a lot between the December previews and the January run. I love that @csharp7 is here because she plays Meg so different from how I originally had planned. She brought this “privileged” quality to the character that makes her characters revelations that much more intriguing.

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

@csharp7 owned the role from the audition, though. Gotta say.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Who was hardest character to write?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

I think the character of Julia is the least like me, but she was such a joy I wouldn’t define writing her as difficult

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

I heard the cast dynamic was pretty much unicorns and puppy dogs. Any idea how the magic was sparked?

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

I cast a lot based on gut response to personality. I knew we needed a cast that could trust each other. Casting, tone in the room, and Adam’s and Josh’s great energy.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

We all just enjoyed each others company so much it made us more inspired to work harder and longer

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

I cast a lot based on gut response to personality. I knew we needed a cast that could trust each other. Plus, what @aespiano said.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

What were musician’s feelings towards being such active participants onstage? Was it weird for @AESpiano to be in own show?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Are you kidding? I was an actor long before I was a playwright. I had visions of being Dr. Allen before meeting Isaac…

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Since I did see it @latensemble : did you write the group leader FOR the actor? Because he is kind of perfect.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

…and then I wrote the part for him. Thank God he auditioned and auditioned well 🙂 You hit the nail on the head. I heard Isaac sing when I was half way through the writing process.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Any drastic changes for #HFF11 or is it mostly adapting to new space?

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

It’s mostly reblocking for the space. BUT we’ve found a bunch of new things in the process. Lovely new characters twists!

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

There are very few writing changes. I’ll let @RichardTatumLA and @csharp7 speak of the acting choices which have been changed

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

I don’t want to give too much away. 🙂 But it will be a darker Act I. Still funny, though! Just … well, you’ll have to see.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Darker perhaps, but I think it is just as funny as ever.

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

Yes, just as funny. But in a different way, I think.

CAROLINE SHARP (ACTRESS)

Some of the songs have been raised for my voice 🙂 I feel like I sing them better now. And what @RichardTatumLA said about Act 1.

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

I agree, you do. You sound GREAT.

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

What do you think are key components to a successful writer/director/actor/any combo collaboration?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

As far as collaboration goes, it’s all about respect. @RichardTatumLA has a great amount of respect for his actors.

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

Thanks, @AESpiano. I always hated hater directors. Won’t be one.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Plus, the script is about a group of people coming together as a makeshift family. If that doesn’t bring you together as a group…

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

What do you (all of you) want audiences to leave theater with? What to think about, take away, or do?

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

I want people to walk out and call someone they love they haven’t connected to in ages.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Look, I want the audience who see http://bit.ly/fAdMiK to feel like they experienced something. Like they felt part of our family. There will be a few people in every audience who won’t get it, who want song and dance numbers… but for those that get it, who buy in, who connect with the characters, I think it can be a moving experience… #goal

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

To me so much of what works about the show is that it’s about our need to love and be loved. And what we can lose.

CAROLINE SHARP (ACTRESS)

I like stories with no defined “bad guy”, everyone just trying to find their peace, and sometimes work at cross-purposes. Hopefully it reminds us to always be kind, as Plato says, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

I stopped typing because I knew @csharp7 was about to come up with something nice. #nailedit

RICHARD TATUM (DIRETOR)

Yeah, she did!

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Do you have a cast recording?

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

Funny you should ask! 🙂 We are in the process of recording six songs from the show. Not available for purchase but we are making those tracks available to those supporting the show through our fundraiser: http://kck.st/k2sJHP It turns out that professionally recording music is expensive (and producing a show in Hollywood is too) no one tells me anything J. OH, and you can totally hear a song from the show here: http://bit.ly/iuL9sU

BITTER LEMONS (CINDY MARIE JENKINS)

Truly thank U 3 for yr time & shedding a little light in2 the process & story. Lking forward 2 #GROUP again! http://bit.ly/maTwfQ

CAROLINE SHARP (ACTRESS)

My pleasure! What a fun time 🙂 I just love the #HFF11 and #LAThtr communities!

ADAM EMPEROR SOUTHARD (PLAYWRIGHT)

It was an absolute pleasure. We only have three shows, so I hope people can get tickets early.


Photos From Our May 15th Rehearsal

This was a full cast rehearsal / demo recording session. It was absolutely a thrill to get the whole cast back together in the historic Powerhouse Theatre where it all began.


Fringe, Spiders & The American Musical

Three performances only.

That’s all we have.

June 23, 24, 25 8pm.

Group had two weeks of previews in December of 2010 and three weeks in January 2011 at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica with the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble.

The same actors, the same director, the same band (that’s me at the piano)…

I love the idea of just showing up that day and going for it. There will be no lighting, no sets, no props, just our show raw and fresh. I think this is what my friend Corwin meant when he first told me about Fringe during our first run. It’s theatre in its naked form. No artifice, no spectacle: just theatre.

I wrote my show specifically to work in this type of environment. I wanted a musical that could be done on a budget of nothing. So many of our most successful musicals these days are huge travesties of commercialism that hurt my soul. I’m sorry, but if your musical is a remake of a movie, you are doing it wrong. I hate saying that because many of those composers are more gifted and brilliant then I will ever be, yet… LOOK, I’m frustrated by the state of the American musical okay? Not bitter, frustrated. Disappointed maybe.

Last night I watched the Spider project: http://bit.ly/h02sfw It’s a short musical based on the story of Spider Man created on zero budget to spite the U2 debacle that was made for the cost of a small nation. The Spidey Project: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility is pretty great. Look, it’s not going to win any awards but it has a small yet talented cast who find creative ways to tell a grand story on a small stage. It’s a riot and has some rather lovely moments. You can feel the energy and love in that theatre as you watch the clips and if THAT isn’t what theatre is about, I don’t know what is.

So, that’s what I expect Fringe to feel like this June. A bunch of theatre lovers ready to experience something new just for the love of the ride. It sounds like something I could do the rest of my life. Instead, I’ll have to settle for three performances only. That is, unless you count all the shows I plan on seeing.


Ouroboros & The Hollywood Fringe Festival

The Hollywood Fringe Festival project logo

As we inch closer and closer to submitting GROUP for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I become more and more anxious, excited and nostalgic. I miss my actors, my band, my crew and my audiences. That’s right, they are mine and I am theirs. We are all in this together during the performance and every moment has the potential to change who I am, what I feel and what I’ll do next.

This is the essence of live performance. The symbiotic relationship between the audience and the performer. We feed off the energy of one another. We are but a snake eating our own tail. Ouroboros.

Now, in these early performances of Group, I am not an actor per se. I am but a humble musician. But I still am afforded the unique opportunity to witness and feel the energy of the room without having to sit in the audience. It is a rare joy that few playwrights get to experience.

This June 16-26 is the Hollywood Fringe Festival and I have every intention of hiring every baby sitter I have ever used so that I can see as many shows as possible. I love everything the festival stands for and I love creators and performers getting a chance to put up their work in all their glory.

As of today, I’m about 99% sure that the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble will do a few encore performances of our first run in the festival. We are hoping to finalize performance space details early next week just in time for the deadline to register for the festival.

I, for one, cannot wait to see those lights come up, feel the nerves of the actors and hear my words and music being performed by artists as passionate about my work as I am. I cannot wait to share my work with new audiences and to hear the conversations start between people that are not aware that the piano / guitar player in the band is also the writer. Go ahead. Talk about the show with me nearby. I can take it. I welcome it. I love it. And I love you for discussing my work.

Thanks in advance LA. I can’t wait.

Is it June yet?

Adam Emperor Southard – creator of the musical “Group” which MAY be performed this June at the great Hollywood Fringe Festival.


My First Podcast Interview

I had the great privilege of being interviewed by Trevor from the Inside Acting Podcast. I am convinced that I am absolutely the least famous person that will ever be on their show 🙂

That being said, I had a great time and I hope a couple of people out there find something useful in what I had to say.

Here is a link to that interview…

www.InsideActingPodcast.com


Playing Catch up

Too obvious?

We theatre creators need to try harder.

There was a time when theatre was king. Film, Television and now the Internet has passed us by and we are in a constant fight to catch up. We are struggling and we need to try harder.

Can going to the theatre still be a powerful and life-changing experience? Yes. But the question is not the power of the theatre but the motivation of the viewer. Everyone knows that seeing a live show can be infinitely more moving then watching something on TV. Go see a hockey game live and tell me how you feel about this. The problem is, it is EASIER to sit on your couch and stay inside.

So, we theatre directors, creators and performers need to make going to the theatre as easy as possible so that our audience will not have to WORK to see us.

I think many of us are failing.

This all came about when I began conducting a cursory search on theatre companies that hold playwriting competitions. I recently finished a one act play and a full-length mystery drama that I want to enter in a few contests. I actively am interested in paying companies my own hard-earned money to read my scripts. What did I find?

Most of what comes up in my searching is about contests of the past. There was almost nothing relevant that came up right away. Is this a failure of companies to update their sites? Yes. But it is an even greater failure of companies with current contests to make their sites relevant and accessible. Again, we need to catch up to the other forms of entertainment and we don’t even know how to make our websites come up on search engines.

I’m not coming from a place of hate. I’m writing this with love. If we truly want to catch up and help audiences see our work we need to try harder. It is not difficult to update a website or make a site popup on search engines. It’s just not.

Trust me.

The last computer class I took involved dial-up. I’m serious. Yet, in about ten minutes I can create a website, that’s free, that will come up in a search. To make sure it keeps coming up all I have to do is update it with keywords every week… hell, every month. It’s not that hard.

If you have a site with the wrong information or outdated material, you are hurting yourself and making your potential audience work too hard. Catch up to the times and get to work. Update your site, keep updating it and help me and your audience give you money!


Readings, Festivals and The Future

Page One Of My Mystery Drama

So, this is turning out to be a pretty important week.

Last night I began talks to have Group participate in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Will it happen? I don’t know yet, but it sure seems like a wonderful way to promote a show and/or an ensemble. We shall see.

Tonight I am hosting the first ever reading of my full length drama titled, “The Belt.” It’s a missing persons mystery that jumps through time and space to allow the audience to piece together what happened.

Saturday I am having new promotional photos taken of me for this very website. I’ve been taking photos of other people for so long I may have forgotten how to be IN one. We shall see. Thank whatshisname for photoshop, am I right?

I’m also planning on attending the Center Theatre Group’s Sherwood Award meeting this weekend to see what that’s all about. Any organization that offers financial and artistic support to emerging artists is okay with me. Sounds like an amazing opportunity.

There is more.. much more… but really, no one wants to read everything I’m up to. And in truth, so many things are only ideas, notions and possibilities. Actual tangible happenings are so much more fun to write about.

Talk to you soon, world (ie: me, myself and I)

Adam Emperor Southard, creator of Group (musical), The Unspoken Pull Of The Moon (One Act), The Belt (Two Act Drama).


The Collective We

My Bookshelf

Early on in my musical “Group” Dr. Allen talks about the power of a community and how the collective we can figure anything out.

I’ve decided to follow my own advice and lean on collaboration more often.

Last night, for example, I had five gifted actors over to cold read my one act “The Unspoken Pull Of The Moon.” In the past I might have started submitting it without much outside help. I know now the power of others opinions. When the play is working, it helps to have confirmation from people you believe in. When a play isn’t working it… Helps to have confirmation from people you believe in.

Thankfully it went well and we had a blast. There are few things as satisfying as creation and sharing that process is rewarding… I promise.

Adam Emperor Southard
Los Angeles playwright


Art Versus Machine

... My Computer

A couple days ago I wrote the most intense / high stakes scene of my entire life. I then went to hit save and guess what? Spinning wheel of death. It’s okay. It’ll come around… waiting… waiting… poof. Gone. Apparently, that writing never really happened.

Now, I’ve always been one to secretly make fun of the writers who handwrite everything first or who use a typewriter. Wake up people it’s two thousand and something. Use a computer. Now I found myself feeling like maybe they were onto something.

Technology punched me right in the face. I only lost about a 1/2 hour of work, but the way I write that is about five pages worth. You think I’m kidding but when I’m rolling…

Anyway, I went to bed and decided to take a fresh look in the morning. Now I know I should have just redid it right there and then, but I’m a father who needs his sleep so I gave in to midnight.

Thank goodness I was able to recapture the mood and spirit of what I had written the previous night. Even so, I promise to no longer snicker at the old school methods of writing. I promise to embrace whatever works for me in the moment. I promise to save everything constantly. I promise to no longer let my work go poof.

Adam Emperor Southard – creator of the critically acclaimed musical “Group” and current playwright of a little play that shall remained unnamed for another minute or two.


Flashes Of Past Passions

My Favorite Copies

Reading a one act I wrote over a decade ago is like reading the work of a writer that no longer exists. It’s an odd yet excited process. There are flashes of deja vu where I remember a moment or phrase but then it’s right back to something I have no memory of.

It makes me want to write something today and then hide it until I turn 40.

I am so different now and have experienced so much more. Since I wrote the play I am now letting marinate in my head I have been married, had a son, had a corporate job, began workings as a photographer, lost said corporate job, became an uncle, lost friends and family and have had my first musical professionally produced in Los Angeles.

I am just not the same man (or writer) that I was.

That being said, I think who I am now is the ideal editor for who I was. I look forward to a spare moment to rework the show and tighten it up.

I look forward to sharing it with you.

Adam Emperor Southard – creator of the musical Group

February 3, 2011


Plan Of The Moment

The Artwork From The First Run Of "Group"

Now that the first run of my musical “Group” has wrapped, I have the time and (fingers crossed) momentum to begin work on my next musical. Before getting there, and I will soon, I’m going to rework an old one act play. It’s a show titled, “The Unspoken Pull Of The Moon” I wrote way way way way back in 2001 with my wife. She was living in Michigan at the time and I was here in Los Angeles. We sent each other monologues and ideas on characters because she was working with a group of playwrights at her school and I was, quite frankly bored out of my mind! You live in LA poor and tell me how you do!

Anyway, I’ve been told that if I have a 15-35 minute long play, I should submit it to the Eclectic Company Theatre’s Huricane Season writing contest. I remember loving the work we did on the show and I’m excited to look at it a whole decade later.

Now I know it’s a terrible idea to let people know you are considering entering a contest because then everyone will know when you don’t win. BUT, I figure if I tell enough people I am going to enter it, I’ll have to follow through on it.

Nothing wrong with putting a little pressure on yourself to find time for what you truly love.

Here’s to following your passions and giving yourself a push once in a while.

Adam Emperor Southard

February 2, 2011


A Work In Progress

My work to begin promoting my writing and photography begins today.

It won’t be long before this will be the easiest way to keep up with everything I am working on.

If you would like to reach me to discuss my musical “Group” which just wrapped at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica, you can email me directly at AESPiano@gmail.com.

If you would like to discuss my photography, the best way to reach me is to email me at AESPhotoLA@gmail.com

Thanks for the visit, we’ll talk soon.

Adam