The coming-of-age stories of teenagers is not new fodder for the stage, but not many of them can boast warnings of sexual content and nudity. 13, this is not. Still, behind the disclaimer on the NYMF website for Trouble (book by Michael Alvarez, music and lyrics by Ella Grace) lies a raw tale of modern teenage relationships and one crazy night where teens explore their innermost passions. Read on to learn more about Trouble (which has one more performance today), straight from writers Michael and Ella themselves:
Ella Grace: A “grow-up-face -your-demons-life-goes-on-all-there-is-is-love” view of the world told through the hearts and minds of a group of young, glorious people.
Michael Alvarez: The show is a look at 8 teenagers and the relationships, sorrow, love, sex and joy that young love brings.
Me: How did you two become collaborators? For Michael, what was it like also directing the show?
Michael: I met Ella at a musical theatre networking event in London. I saw her from across the room and had instant butterflies and fireworks—I knew she was the one, artistically, I was meant to meet! It was kismet. I started on Trouble as the director, but then realized that I should also write the book as well.
Directing the show has been a great experience and opportunity to continue developing the characters and storylines. When you prepare a script as a director you dissect the script differently as you would a writer. I found as I was dissecting the script from a director’s point of view a lot of new layers and little things about the characters I didn’t realize I’d written. Some I liked, some I didn’t; but I had the freedom to change them as I saw fit. As I worked through scenes with actors I have been able to cut, tighten and focus to make the scenes stronger and more concise. A week into rehearsal I practically changed a whole story line! I love directing and I love writing, so put them together and it is theatrical bliss!
Me: The aesthetic for some of promotional materials reminds me a little of the British program Skins. Where do you think Trouble falls in the pantheon of works about teens and coming of age?
Ella: Trouble’s contribution to the teen story is a little Skins in subject matter, a little Dawson's Creek in character with a few magical Narnian elements provided by our show’s star crossed lovers. We all, regardless of age, can feel isolated by our seemingly overwhelming circumstances. I hope Trouble is a piece that will touch and encourage people, that will show we are all united in life’s fun fair. Sometimes things are bumpy, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes scary but it’s one hell of a ride and quoting the High School Musical line “We’re all in this together.”
Michael: I think we really explore what it is to be young and in love. It is sexy and scary and overwhelming and exciting and new and all these things! It may not always work out in your favor, but in the end it makes you who you are. The show looks at how relationships, with your parents, friends, lovers and self can shape you and make you become who you are. I think we have the sexy and edgy side of Skins, the drama of 90210, the heart and innocence of Dawson’s Creek and a fashion-forward sense like Gossip Girl.
Me: How did you develop the sound of the show/score?
Michael: By Ella’s genius!
Ella: The music has changed a lot as I’ve been growing up with the show. Initially the sound was very Paramore/Linkin Park to go with the dark angry mood of the story.
As the story has developed, the feel of the piece has changed a lot bringing a whole host of contrasting moments to play with. Overall, the music has arrived at a pop-ier, more musical theatre sound. For Trouble, I wanted the music to be simple and direct to communicate honestly the stories of the young people.
Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?
Ella: Meeting all the amazing crew and cast members who have been working their butts off to make this all possible, getting to see Michael after waiting a whole year and getting to spend 10 straight days with my amazing sister in one of the best cities in the world. I am nervous to venture into rehearsals as I know these people are going to blow my socks off!
Michael: Seeing the show come to life on its feet with this incredible cast and team! And being able to share this experience with Ella.