"Call Me Adam" chats with the creatives, Tricia Brouk (Writer/Director/Choreographer) and Andrew David Sotomayor (Lyricist/Composer/Musical Supervisor), and cast member Mike Longo about the new Off-Broadway musical Committed, a dark and beautiful book musical about eight people working through the pain of their mental illnesses in a psychiatric institute. Committed hopes to use art and entertainment to de-stigmatize mental illness and get people talking about it.
Committed plays from April 17-20 at the West End Theatre at Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew (263 West 86th Street between Broadway & West End Avenue). Click here for tickets!
Tricia: Andrew and I had already been working together for about four years on various shows I directed. He was music directing and arranging for me. In 2013, I asked him if he wanted to arrange a new show I wrote, and he asked how I felt about him writing an original score. That was the catalyst for it all. We wrote our first musical, 50 Shades of F****D Up. Our first project together was optioned theatrically, and recently has been optioned as a feature film. It was such a positive and inspiring experience working with Andrew, I asked him if he wanted to write the music and lyrics for the next musical I had in mind about "crazy people." Andrew is extremely prolific and works as fast as I do. We are incredibly well suited for each other. For me, it's the perfect creative marriage. Writing Committed came out of wanting to create another project to work on. It was another way for me to work with Andrew and to create more work. What I wasn't prepared for was that Committed would take on a life of its own and become much bigger than me. I started writing it as a comedy. Once I realized just how many people suffer from mental illness, and that no one is talking about it, I knew that I needed to treat this subject matter with much more sensitivity. I knew that I had an opportunity to create art around a painful topic that could potentially change people's lives and open up the dialogue of mental illness. Bringing awareness to mental illness, while entertaining and inspiring, is in the end, why I wrote Committed.
Andrew: I had been working as a network administrator for a high school and moonlighting as a music director by night. Someone that was general managing one of Tricia's shows hired me as an audition accompanist for her. I had a day job but I called in sick to take the gig because I knew that if I wanted to create theater I was going to have to start making some little sacrifices. Taking a day off in the summer to play some auditions seemed like a good start. Shortly thereafter she brought me on board to music direct and from there we spent 4 years collaborating with me arranging and music directing shows she was directing. In December of 2013 she asked me if I would do some arrangements for a script she wrote and I countered with asking if she was open to me pitching an original score to her. By January we had completed our first original book musical 50 Shades of F****d Up. After several successful performances and being optioned theatrically (and as a feature film) we began to discuss what else we might be able to create together. Eventually she came to me with an idea about a show dealing with "crazy people" and I, of course, jumped on board. Right before we worked on 50 Shades, I had written a song cycle involving characters dealing with mental illness. I hadn't done anything with the piece and put it on the shelf to focus on 50 Shades. When she asked me to write the music and lyrics to a new piece she was creating involving the same subject matter, I took it as a sign. Somehow, the subject matter had found it's way back to me through someone I had a wonderfully synergistic collaborative relationship with. It was too perfect.
Mike: I had worked with the writers Tricia and Andrew on 50 Shades of F****d Up! and I had a blast. They move FAST, go above and beyond, and can have fun all while doing it. What attracted me to the Committed material was my character, "Antonio" who is in treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or more commonly known as Multiple Personalities Disorder. It feels wrong saying it but it's an actor's dream role. The thought of getting to dive into the emotions of 3 different personalities all in one character is daunting but so juicy. So many possibilities and I get to originate it. What's special about the direction Tricia and I are taking with "Antonio" is that he is very real as opposed to how comically people with DID have been portrayed in the media all these years. It's about relating to "Antonio," not laughing at his disorder. That's important to me.
Tricia: I hope that audiences feel inspired, and moved and not alone. It's my hope that each audience member can relate to one of the characters and feel a sense of belonging and love, without judgement. I also hope they can have a few laughs at the same time.
Andrew: My hope is that audiences view the piece as both moving and entertaining as well as come to a greater understanding of how vital a sense of compassion, patience, and community is to our existence.
Mike: The feeling that you are not alone!! Sotomayor's finale "Not Alone" really sums it up....Come see it.
Tricia: In our first table read, the cast shared with me their concerns about actually feeling like they had some of the traits of some of their character. When we dig deep and look at ourselves, I think we can all relate to the pain and complexities of all human beings. Seeing each cast member take on their role fully and with abandon, while at the same time, paying the deepest respect to the truth in it, has been very beautiful and inspiring to me. Each actor is approaching their character with sincerity and passion. And there have been a lot of tears, which moves me to pieces. I'm in awe everyday.
Andrew: These characters and their illnesses could so easily have become caricatures. Tricia established early on that we are treating these characters and what they are going through with the utmost respect and sincerity. Because that was established from the start I have seen these actors develop these characters in such an honest and moving way. I'm constantly overwhelmed by how much they're willing to give to these characters and this world.
Mike: The personal stories. From it's table reads to yesterday's rehearsal, we learn something about each other whether it is from sharing a very personal experience relating to the piece or seeing a fellow cast member struggle to say a line because he/she is struggling with their own personal pain related to it. It's just beautiful and comforting. I'm not alone!
Tricia: I've written eight characters with eight different mental illnesses. Each character is relatable, flawed, and strong. It's my hope that by spending 90 minutes at the theater watching Committed, will get people talking about mental illness who have never felt safe talking about it. When I tell people what our show is about, they immediately share personal stories about themselves or people they are close to who suffer from mental illness. It's been my experience, that people are afraid to talk about it. Well, why not sing and dance about it and get that dialogue going?
Andrew: I think anyone that watches the show will be able to personally identify with one of the main characters or recognize traits they share with more than one character, or see someone they know in one of the characters. There is a stigma attached to mental illness that sometimes gives us permission to forget that there is a human dealing with it, coping with it, or suffering through it. All of our characters have a different mental illness, but all of them are innately human and beautiful. I think the music and dance helps to augment the humanity behind the illnesses and hopefully it will give us permission to celebrate the humanity and be more open to candidly discussing the illness.
Mike: This show has such power to bring out awareness because it resembles realism. Again, we are not laughing at these characters.
Tricia: My family is crazy, but not in the clinical form. I do however, believe that there is a little of me in each of these characters. Pain is pain, we all have it, we all know it. Whether it's depression or mental illness, it's touched us all. Knowing we are not alone, is what keeps us all going.
Andrew: In college a dear friend of mine took his own life. He had been suffering from severe depression for many years. It pains me to think of how alone he must have felt despite being such a light to all of us that knew him. It's so important that we acknowledge those that personally suffer and those that love someone who is suffering, and constantly remind each other that we are not alone.
Mike: I've had an encounter with a close friend that myself and many of his peers believed had sociopathic tendencies. And the sad part about it is none of us were ever sure it would be diagnosed. None of us said anything and I separated myself from him because I was so unsure and didn't feel safe. Later in life, I met someone who's own father was diagnosed sociopathic and saw how much abuse she went through growing up and how it hurt her but it was only until adulthood that his condition was treated. I kept thinking if only this wasn't something this man's family thought he would "grow out of," lives could be saved.
Tricia Brouk recently wrote, directed and choreographed 50 SHADES OF F****D UP, A MUSICAL PARODY, for the stage and has now adapted it for the screen, which will be made into a feature film. Tricia is choreographing BLACK BOX for ABC, starring Kelly Reilly, directed by Simon Curtis. She is also choreographing THE ZOMBIES: A MUSICAL, directed by Max Resto. Her work has been recently seen at Joe's Pub, BC Beat and Stage 72 in New York City. She directed/choreographed BROADWAY VARIETEASE, I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE!, BINGO, THE WINNING MUSICAL and POPESICAL, which played the Lyric Theater in LA.
She directed/choreographed EROTIC BROADWAY: VINTAGE VARIETY, FRANKIE AND DEBBIE LIVE AT THE MARTINI LOUNGE, and the Off Broadway TOKIO CONFIDENTIAL at Atlantic Stage 2. Tricia also choreographed John Turturro's feature film ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES where she received a Golden Thumb award from Roger Ebert for her choreography in the film. She also wrote, directed, choreographed and dances in ROLLING IN THE RING OF FIRE, a short film. Her choreography can also be seen in Dennis Leary's RESCUE ME starring Steve Pasquale and in Lasse Hallstrom's THE HOAX, starring Richard Gere. Her choreography is also featured in Capitol One Commercials and on the Travel Channel. She choreographed and produced a one woman show called Dining Alone at Dance Theater Workshop and created work for The A Train Musicals and THE FRED ASTAIRE AWARDS as well as New York Musical Theater Festival shows DRIFT and LOVE SUCKS, directed by Andy Goldberg. www.TriciaBrouk.com
Previous credits include music directing CUTMAN: A BOXING MUSICAL, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, EROTIC BROADWAY: VINTAGE VARIETY, Counting Squares' WOYZECK, FRANKIE AND DEBBIE: LIVE AT THE MARTINI LOUNGE, I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, the Honeck and Moss productions of SOCIAL INTERCOURSE, FROM BOOK TO BROADWAY, SING ME A STORY, and the 2012 and 2013 DUPLEX GALA. As a composer he has provided music and lyrics for 50 SHADES OF F****D UP as well as scores for BENT, and the short films CUBA 1961: A LOVE STORY and TIMELESS. His original song "MOVIN' ON" earned a nomination for a 2013 MAC Award. He is also the recipient of a 2014 MAC award for his original song "THE RIGHT TIME."
Mike Longo has gladly committed himself to the Brouk/Sotomayor team after first submitting to their last piece, 50 SHADES OF F****D UP! (Red House Theatre, Syracuse). Other credits: White Plains Performing Art's Center's LES MISERABLES (Marius), world premiere of TAMAR OF THE RIVER at Prospect Theater (Onan, dir. Daniel Goldstein), MOTHER DIVINE (NYMF'13) and the international tour of HAIR (dir. Diane Paulus). www.mikelongo.info