Friday, September 2, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: KISSLESS

Tickets to the 2011 New York Musical Theatre Festival went on sale to the general public yesterday, and if you haven't checked out the show listing, you better get on it! There are some really great shows in the line-up this year, so scan the list and then buy your tickets.

The festival runs from September 26-October 16, and to celebrate the shows, I will be posting 5-question interviews with writers from many of the NYMF offerings throughout this month. There will be a new interview posted every few days, so be sure to check back often!

To kick off the 5-question interview series, we have our first Q&A with Chance McClain, writer behind musical Kissless:

Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?

Chance McClain: Kissless is a sneaky, tricky, clique-centric, John Hughes-esque teen comedy that somehow meets Aristotle’s criteria for a Greek tragedy.

Me: Your show is about teenagers and the inevitable cliques of high school. What drew you to writing a musical about the teen experience?

Chance: I think I am still a teen. I am not a chronological teen, but I am a psychological teen. Sure I have to pay taxes, never get carded, and actually have a teenager myself, but I enjoyed my teen years so much I pretty much just stayed there. Thankfully, time has given me some wisdom and insight beyond that of most teenagers (not all), so I am able to see things through a different lens. But in essence, I was drawn to the teen experience and setting because I loved my experience as a teen.

Me: You wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Kissless by yourself. What are the challenges/advantages of wearing all of these hats?

Chance: I can hardly take credit for all of three disciplines of making a musical. There were three other guys that helped on music, Frank Bullington, Kevin Ryan, and Bryan Ford were instrumental in getting this thing done. Book, lyrics and music by Chance McClain is true, but only due to the need for brevity. The primary challenge was getting everything out of my head, and onto paper. I saw the story, as a whole…but it was this massive amoeba that kept its form, but was always changing. The main plot points were there, but the more I wrote the more the characters started..I don’t know…mattering? As far as book, music, lyrics…I like being able to reach into my brain and pull out whatever is needed as I write. That’s the main advantage.

Me: What is it like working with a real teen cast (especially one not from New York) for this production?

Chance: It is, like, awesome. In “You’ll See” from Rent, I keep going back to that one little line Benny sings, which I am taking fully out of context when I say, “Our dream can become a reality.” I kinda latched onto that when all of this NYMF stuff started taking form. And I latched onto the possessive pronoun, ‘our’. I have the same artistic dreams that most creative-types have: my stuff to be seen. Maybe I will get there, maybe I won’t. But the high school and college performers in Kissless have a different bucket list. These are actors…and they all dream of performing in New York. Well guess what? They get to. They get to not only perform as a character but also define that character. And they have taken this charge very seriously. What we lack in age and ability we are making up with heart and repetition.

And on the personal side, I love the kids. Their energy is infectious. Their smiles, contagious. I love them. Zits, emoticons, BFF problems, crankiness in the morning, and all.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?

Chance: The same thing I look forward to with anything I’ve had a hand in making. I can’t wait to watch the audience watch the creation. It’s a new, almost foreign audience for me. New Yorkers have a different sense of humor and style than us silly Texans. We silly Texans? I don’t know which is right. I am also electrified to see some of the other NYMF shows. Just knowing that the other showrunners have been going through the same crap we have creates a cool kinship and I hope to make some friends. When we made Horrible Turn ( – prequel to Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog) we had this big ass premiere at a historic theater in Houston…like 500 people were there…and I stared backwards from the front for the whole show seeing if they laughed and connected with the characters. I will probably be doing that again.

I am also looking forward to this tiny little pizza joins in St. Marks Place that has my favorite pizza on earth. Oh! And cruising through the airport in our dope Kissless uniforms. And it not being so hot. High of 106 yesterday. I’m looking forward to downtime with my wife…we have never been to NYC together. Excited to see the looks on about ¾ of the cast’s faces who have never been to New York. Or the quarter of the cast that has never been out of Texas. Basically everything. I will tell you what I am not excited about. Sleeping. I have no interest in those wasted hours of sleep. I know they are needed, but I wish that for just two short weeks I could bypass the whole ‘sleep’ thing and just ride this high, soar and fly, and never come down.

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