Playwright and composer – creator of the musical Group

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Notes on Of People and Not Things

A couple breaks up and at least for one of them it felt like the end of the world, that is to say, until it was. This brilliantly written piece is essentially two epic monologues performed truthfully first by the man crushed from the breakup and then from the woman trying to sort through all that she has lost and all that she doesn’t miss.

This show is surprising well crafted and thought out. Each moment in the first monologue connects to something in the next and we see how subtle differences in experience can change everything.

I thoroughly enjoyed this moving piece. Of People and Not Things is clever, tight, moving and much funnier than the term “post-apocalypse” may imply. There are only three more performances and the show is only 70 minutes long so make sure you fit it into your Fringe schedule. I’m glad I did.

Remaining performances: June 18 (10:15pm), 19 (8:30pm) & 20 (8:15pm) all at the Complex. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/445

Moving forward:

Tonight I’m going to be performing new and never before heard versions of songs from Group (some cut from Group) at Fringe Central with two of my actresses. We will be on the stage in the tent from 9pm – 915pm tonight. We will be back up there Tuesday 9:30pm – 9:40pm as well.

Monday is our full dress rehearsal and then we open on Thursday!!! I can’t wait for you all to see Group. Here is a link to where you can buy tickets to see our musical: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452


Notes on Last Five Years

Full Disclosure: Last Five Years is one of my favorite musicals of all time. The music is beautifully written and the concept is brilliant.

Bright Eyes Production’s Last Five Years does Jason Robert Browns moving masterpiece justice. The vocal performances of Ashley Cuellar and Rory Alexander are spot on and the live band is solid. These are important points as this show lives and dies on the quality of the performers. I turned to my wife during the second song and said, “We lucked out!” Ashley and Rory are wonderful.

It is a full-length one-act play consisting of almost nothing but music. It tells the five-year tale of two young lovers. We watch Jamie as he moves forward chronologically from when he first met his Shiksa Goddess till five years later. Meanwhile, Cathy’s timeline is the exact opposite moving from someone in pain to someone experiencing new found love.

If I have any qualms with this highly successful production it is with the often distracting and unnecessary projections and the unflattering wardrobe choices. These minor issues do little to deter me from recommending this powerful, moving, hilarious and brilliant production of one of the greatest modern musicals. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Moving Forward:

Seeing a show like Last Five Years simply makes me want to gather up my actors and start singing songs from Group. Tomorrow I have a rehearsal with two of my actors who are going to sing with me on the Fringe Cabaret stage this coming Saturday and the following Tuesday. I’m still considering how many shows I’ll be able to see before my next schedule fringe show, which is a double header of Super Sidekick and Trouble with Words both on Sunday June 19th.


Notes on Voices From Chernobyl Jr

The task of writing a show for children about the Chernobyl tragedy must be daunting but you wouldn’t know it from this lovely production. Cindy Marie Jenkins’ deft writing bridges the gap between an educational presentation and an interactive children’s show that is as funny as it is serious.

The particular preview that I had the pleasure to see had an adoring adult audience, but Voices From Chernobyl Jr is tailor made for children eight years and up. I highly recommend this show for parents and children alike. It is equal parts entertaining and important.

Voices From Chernobyl Jr has four remaining performances at Fringe Central at 1pm June 18, 19, 25 & 26.

Moving Forward:

We had an amazing rehearsal of Group last night. My anticipation for it to be June 23rd already is getting a little ridiculous. Speaking of anticipation, I’m bringing a pack of people to see Last Five Years tonight. Cannot wait.


Notes on Spring Awakening

Have you ever seen a production where the positive energy and passion of the cast made it impossible not to enjoy their performance? Lonesome No More’s production of Spring Awakening has energy and passion in spades.

Spring Awakening is a coming of age story featuring the tragic results of negligent parenting during puberty. This tragedy is surprisingly funny under the skilled direction of Dana Murphy and Patrick Riley. I’m not sure which director was responsible for the bulk of the staging for this production, but whoever first decided to use every inch of that space should be commended. It was brilliant.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many young and promising actors who give powerful and honest performances throughout. I was particularly impressed with leads Patrick Riley and Jennifer Allcott whose truthful portrayal of two youths mystified by love are a must-see.

Spring Awakening – Complex Theatres – Friday June 17 & 24 at 10:30pm / Sunday June 19 & 26 at 2:00pm Tickets are $10. More information on their show can be found here:  http://lonesomenomoretheatre.blogspot.com/

Moving Forward:

I regrettably won’t be able to see any shows tonight (June 10) as we have a rehearsal for Group all night. It’s one of only two more rehearsals we have (excluding tech and dress) before we open on June 23rd!

I cannot wait until this weekend. I’m seeing Voices from Chornobyl Jr & Last Five Years on Saturday!


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.