"Call Me Adam" chats with Erik Ransom, actor, writer, and composer of Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions, directed by Rachel Klein, which will be part of the 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival from August 8-22 at Theatre 80 in NYC (80 St. Marks Place between 1st & 2nd Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. Your show, Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions will be in playing in the NYC Fringe Festival fromAugust 8-22. What excites you about having this show in the NYC Fringe Festival? Any opportunity to wear 8-inch platforms, vinyl leggings and play a glam-rock Antichrist in front of a paying audience is inherently exciting to me. This opportunity is especially so, since it's at an internationally renown festival in the world capital of musical theatre! FringeNYC presents a wonderful opportunity to share this musical with a brand new audience.
2. How do you feel the Fringe will help nurture this show in a way another festival might not? We've got a big, glittery Glamageddon which isn't easy to squeeze into a theatre with eight other shows in rep, but we're lubing it up and forcing it in and Fringe is letting us. Not every festival would support a blasphemous, iconoclastic musical that pointedly questions a lot of things people hold sacred. FringeNYC isn't afraid to push that envelope.
3. Why did you want to write Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions? What made you want to write the music and lyrics in addition to the book? The Unholy Spirit overtook me! Coming was the first musical I ever wrote, and it wasn't something I planned. I wrote a song called "New Sodom" that I was thinking about recording for an album on which I was working at the time. The song was sung from the perspective of a character who claimed to be the hereditary heir to the royal lines of Sodom and Gomorrah. That character became our Antichrist: Damian Salt, the glamtagonist of Coming. The story just started pouring out from there! In five sleepless nights, I wrote 14 songs and a 60 page script. The current production evolved from that first gospel.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope we burn their retinas with shiny costumes, and melt their faces with electro-rock! I want people to enjoy themselves, of course, and there is plenty of humor and camp to be found in our show. Let's face it: The title is half dirty joke, half reference to the return of Christ to bring about the Rapture. But, beyond the high camp, I also hope it makes people think and converse about the things you aren't supposed to broach at dinner parties. I think faith can be a surpassingly dangerous thing when it's blind. Between groans and guffaws, I hope our audience will consider that notion.
5. This show is being directed by Rachel Klein, who also just directed another show you just wrote the lyrics for, The Anthem. What do you like best about working with Rachel? How do you feel her vision combines with yours? We've grown very close. Which is to say she greets me each day by motor-boating my face 'twixt her alabaster décolletage. Rachel's aesthetic is just a really uncanny fit for my work. We share a love of glam which inspired my writing and her direction of this piece, and her role as Self-Proclaimed Queen of the Gays renders her the obvious choice to direct Coming. I think our symbiotic collaboration has served to elevate the piece and we're already committed to work on future projects after Coming has... climaxed.
6. What excites you about having this cast bring your show to life? Apart from the fact that they're all sexy as hell, which makes the orgy scenes (Yes, scenes!) feel very method, they're insanely talented. They're mining new jokes, and fresh moments from the script and, more than that, they've been incredibly committed and supportive of the project. As an actor, I've been in enough shows where I saw the cast start to lose their faith in the project. Not the case, here! Across the board, the cast has been blowing up Facebook and Twitter with their testaments. As a writer, it gives me a great deal of confidence in the product we're putting out! Speaking of putting out, did I mention they're really sexy?
7. In addition to writing the show, you are also starring in Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions. What do you identify most with about your character? Being the antichrist, of course! But seriously, Damian Salt is a sort of really heightened, exaggerated version of myself which makes him fit neatly without lube into the heightened exaggerated world of Coming. He likes to dress up and be larger than life and I wrote him that way for a reason. As His Imperial Fierceness, David Bowie, once said: "I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human." I identify strongly with that sentiment. Oh, and I'm a proud Sodomite, so Damian and I have that in common, as well.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being an actor, writer, and composer? I've learned that heavy is the head that wears many hats! Coming was the first musical I'd ever completed back in 2010 when I binge-wrote it in those five days. When I was sitting in my parents' basement writing songs on acoustic guitar at 3 A. M. I honestly had no idea if I was any good at writing. I was pleased with what I was creating, but I had no idea if it was actually good. I've seen a lot of very bad projects put forward by writers who believe in their work just as much as I did. But then we presented Coming in Philadelphia and audiences and critics lauded the show. My very first show! People wanted to work with me. I was called "The Oscar Wilde of Philadelphia"! I was over the moon, but to this day, I look at the work I've completed and I think...Who the fuck did that? Did I really write a whole musical by myself? Then another? Then an opera? It's getting easier, but I don't think I'll ever be able to fully process that I'm actually living out my dreams. Woof! If I ever learn to process that, I will be insufferable.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Just finish a draft." I think there are two salient problems that writers of theatre face. The first is perfectionism. Art isn't perfect, lest it would be science. If you keep trying to perfect your work before someone sees it, no one ever will. Just finish a draft, then revise. Getting out your initial draft is the hard part of the writing process! The second big problem I see is people who haven't learned their strengths and weaknesses. I know that I'm a good songwriter, but I'm not a good arranger, so I have the brilliant Charles Czarnecki as a collaborator to hone and improve the music I put forth. I'm a good storyteller, but I'm not the most visual thinker, and so I have Rachel Klein's visionary eye to bring the sparkle to the stage. Some people are good at a lot of things. No one is good at everything. Assemble a team that elevates your work. That's the beauty of theatre: It's a collaborative art. A lot of people begrudge that. I bask in it!
10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Immortality. There's just not enough time to write all the shows I have in me!
11. Favorite way to stay in shape? Alcorexia: Starving myself all day so I have enough calories to get blitzed at night.
12. Boxers or Briefs? Dance belt.
13. If could be any original lifesaver flavor, which one would you be? Cherry.
14. How do you want to be remembered? As the Crown Prince of Sodom & Gomorrah, hatched from a Fabergé egg with a disco ball sceptre in hand.
Erik Ransom is a composer, playwright, librettist and performer with a diverse body of work. After graduating from The College of New Jersey in 2004 with a degree in music performance, he went on to work extensively as a performer on the stages of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, most recently in the repertory company of My Big Gay Italian Wedding and My Big Gay Italian Funeral.
His first full-length musical, Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions was fully produced at The Prince Music Theatre in February 2011— Less than a year after the first draft was begun. Coming played to packed houses and unanimously favorable reviews, including raves from The Huffington Post, Edge Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
His other produced works include, SAGA The Ragnarok Opera and Tragic Events. Erik also penned the lyrics for the commercial Off-Broadway production of The Anthem which just finished it's limited run at The Culture Project's Lynn Redgrave Theatre. His latest opus, GRINDR The Opera premiered in concert in Spring of 2014, and is currently gearing up for a longer run in the near future.