"Call Me Adam" chats with Fred Ebb and Richard Rodgers award winning playwright Doug Cohen about his show The Gig which will be part of NYMF 2014 from July 15-24, playing at PTC Performance Space (555 West 42nd Street). Click here for tickets!
The Gig tells the story of a used car salesman, a dentist, a real estate agent, a financial advisor, a deli owner, and a teacher who put their careers and families on hold to pursue their passion – jazz – with their first professional "gig" in the Catskills. The results are funny, touching, and unexpected.
1. What made you want to write The Gig? I saw the movie on TV and had a very visceral, emotional response. It deals with the opportunity to live a dream and explore the road not taken, even if the timing is less than fortuitous. First and foremost, it follows six entertaining guys who have the capacity to feel tremendous joy through music, even though their interaction becomes more complex when the music stops.
2. What excites about you having this show be part of NYMF 2014? I had an excellent experience with NYMF in 2005 when I wrote the score to THE BIG TIME (with a book by Douglas Carter Beane). I love how the emphasis of NYMF is not on big production values but the material itself. Plus the opportunity to work with the very talented Igor Goldin (who is directing his eleventh show for NYMF) is a significant incentive.
3. How do you feel NYMF will foster this show in a way another festival might not? I’ve never been part of another NYC festival, but I like the way NYMF makes you feel like an integral part of the experience. They’ve chosen excellent venues this year and have been attentive to our needs. They have a strong marketing campaign and a great staff. We were honored to be part of their press launch and represented with an abridged version of our opening number.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope people will be entertained and moved by the characters’ journey. It would be great if they’d consider their own choices in life and how important it is to take risks, even if the end result isn’t necessarily what you planned.
5. Since The Gig is about pursuing your passion, did you leave a previous career to pursue playwrighting or do you still have another passion you want to pursue? For eighteen years, I was an employment counselor helping people find jobs while I wrote musicals in my spare time. I got a keen sense of the 9-5 world and how important creativity was for my soul and sanity. I now teach song interpretation at the Neighborhood Playhouse, which is a great way to encourage students to embrace musical theater and understand how the best songs are really one-act plays.
6. What are you looking forward to about this cast bringing your work to life? I think I most look forward to their choices as actors, which illuminate the material. This is an exceptionally talented cast of actors who are also very giving and intuitive. I’ve made changes based on some keen observations, so I welcome the time we spend together in rehearsal as it strengthens the piece. They also work beautifully as an ensemble, which is how the show was designed.
7. You have one several awards and grants for your previous work. What do this recognition mean to you? Who doesn’t want to be recognized, especially in such a difficult field which is usually devoid of recognition? If an award gives credibility to the work and makes people eager to see it, then that in itself is meaningful.
8. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? I was raised on musicals starting at the age of two, so I have to thank my parents for making theater an important part of my diet. My grandmother was a concert pianist, so her influence is keenly felt. But the idea of writing music and lyrics first occurred to me when I was cast in HANSEL AND GRETEL in the fifth grade and wanted to beef up my ancillary part by writing a song for the "narrator." Fortunately, my teacher encouraged me, and the score of H & G became 95% Englebert Humperdinck and 5% Doug Cohen!
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? I’m not sure I have an answer to that, although I truly admire Frank Gilroy’s fortitude. He never dwells on the negatives and instead always thinks "onward and upward."
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright? Creating musicals takes time. You have to be willing to accept a significant gestation period, be humbled by workshops and early productions, and learn from people who may have the perspective you lack.
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I definitely like the idea of popping in and out of locations, revisiting the past and exploring the future. Basically anything Elizabeth Montgomery did on BEWITCHED.
12. What do you want to be remembered? I think THE GIG contains more of me than other shows I’ve written, so I guess I’d like this musical to be my legacy.
Doug received the 2010 Fred Ebb Award and two Richard Rodgers Awards for writing No Way to Treat A Lady (produced twice off-Broadway and worldwide) and THE GIG (O’Neill Conference, Goodspeed). He penned scores for The Opposite of Sex (WTF) and The Big Time (book by Douglas Carter Beane) which debuted at NYMF. Drama Desk nominated for Children's Letters to God, Doug received a Jonathan Larson Grant for Barnstormer and contributed songs to Boozy directed by Alex Timbers. Nine Wives, with collaborator Dan Elish, debuts July 24-27 at the TriArts Sharon Playhouse.