Saturday, September 24, 2011

The 5-Question NYMF Interviews: OUTLAWS

Outlaws is a rock musical about one of the most legendary outlaws of all -- Billy the Kid. Going beyond the Hollywood portrayal of cowboys on the range, this musical explores themes of violence and masculinity through the eyes of teenage bandits. The show kicks off on Monday, Sept 26th, and you can get your tickets here. In the meantime, writers Alastair William King and Perry Liu, who originally conceived the show (the book was also written with Joe Calarco), take the time to answer questions about their show.



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

Alastair William King: An edgy rock musical that spins a tale of youth and friendship, fame and violence in America.

Perry Liu: It’s a rock musical that uses the iconic legend of Billy the Kid to address issues that teenage boys are still dealing with today.


Me: What was it like tackling such an iconic character and legend like Billy the Kid?

Alastair: Initially very challenging as so much has been written and said about him. We wanted to reveal the Billy behind the myth.

Perry: The history of Billy the Kid is fascinating. But one of our first revelations while researching was discovering how the “Wild West” was not the honorable showdown or the obvious good against bad that was portrayed in so many Hollywood movies. The ‘West’ was a brutal deadly and dog eat dog existence. That was when we decided we wanted to play with many reveals. The boy behind the myth, the reasons we raise our boys to be tough and keep their feelings inside, why are we obsessed with violence and guns and so on. Billy the Kid is still a popular legend because, sadly, these are issues that we are still dealing with today. So we thought we’d thought we’d deconstruct the “West” and our Billy the Kid.

Me: How did you decide on a rock musical?

Alastair: As we know the west at that time was wild and lawless and so rock music was an allegory for this.

Perry: Rock music is the epitome of lawlessness but it also captures the youth of Billy and his gang.

And we wanted this kind of allegory to be woven through out the show. So the dialogue has a contemporary feel, as do the costumes and the sets. We tried to create our own 1880s west from the mind of teenager so we tried to find the elements that existed in both times that could live together. The story told from their perspective so we wanted to use elements that reflected how they see the world.

We tried a more musical theatre sound early on but we were more successful with rock. I think it’s because that’s what we grew up on.


Me: What has the development process been like leading up to this NYMF production?

Alastair: It has been very exciting to be working with such talented people and to be given such help and guidance along the way.

Perry: Yes, all of the shows in the festival have been given Dramaturgs and it’s really great having a third set of eyes with a playwriting background to help hone your work.

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

Alastair: Just being part of a festival which has gained such acclaim and to know that our show made it there.

Perry: I’m just grateful to see our work staged and on it’s feet! That’s why we write, right? You can’t predict whether it’s going to be successful or become a hit but you do want to see it staged, see it come to life. I’m going to feel as if I went full circle, I had an idea, wrote it down, got it staged. Everything else is icing on the cake.

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