Fiddler on the Roof
2014 - 2015 Season
Fiddler on the Roof
Thursday
Jan222015

Honoring the Old. Welcoming the New

YMTC Artistic Director and Director of the upcoming Fiddler on the Roof, Jennifer Boesing, talks about why Fiddler and why now.

 
Fiddler on the Roof had its debut on Broadway fifty years ago, and it remains one the most beloved musicals in American history. It's been translated into multiple languages, seen by millions around the world, and revived in six separate productions on Broadway since its debut.  What is it that is so special, so singular about this show? Joseph Stein's script is certainly extremely well-conceived; Bock and Harnick’s songs unforgettable. But there is something else at the heart of this show that touches so many, and has sustained both its meaning and potency over so many years. 
 
When the directors and students of YMTC gathered for our first rehearsal together to read through the script and discuss the themes of the play, much passionate discussion ensued, but most of us were in agreement about why the show continues to ring so true. Many see the link in Fiddler to contemporary political issues. Jews continue to be persecuted due to their religion; likewise religiously- and ethnically-based persecution of Muslim people is rampant and mounting worldwide; surely we need to keep telling stories about that. For that matter, the systemic oppression of people based on their identities, whether racial or otherwise, continues to reign not just abroad but right here in our own community.
 

Jennifer works with the cast on the famous musical number: "Tradition"

But what is even more resonant about the story of Tevye and his daughters, worldwide and across multiple generations, is the deep exploration of the tension between honoring the old and welcoming the new. In short, Fiddler is about the one constant in all of our lives: change. Resistance to change, despair about change, revolting for change, and celebration of change. It is about the necessary challenge of loss and rebirth. It is truly a celebration of what it means to be human. 
 
As someone who has been in the theater my entire life–grew up in it, studied it, and now teach and direct it–I have often thought of the theater as a kind of religion.  Performative storytelling as an art form is certainly as old as religion, and the two have overlapped and served similar cultural purposes. Fiddler on the Roof is one of those theatrical experiences that brings this connection into sharp focus, as we come together in a community to celebrate this tradition that in and of itself explores the very notion of tradition. Through the act of performing this story together again and again, we make for ourselves a place to work through these questions. We make a place to express the pain of our struggles, and a place to sing our prayers, that we meet the challenge to be true to ourselves and each other in an ever-changing, ever more complex world.

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Thursday
Oct302014

After American Idiot: Alumni Andrew Humann Performs in San Francisco!

Fresh off the national tour of Greenday's American Idiot and on to The Totalitarians at Zspace, YMTC Alumni Andrew Humann talks about his adventures in the professional theater world!

You just completed a national tour of American Idiot.  What was that like?  
American Idiot is an experience I will never forget. On top of traveling the country, I was able to rock out with my fellow cast mates eight times a week which was very rewarding. I'm a very lucky guy. The great thing about tour was that no matter where we were, sometimes in small less extravagant cities, the audience response never ceased to blow away my expectations. I can't remember a single show where we didn't receive a full standing ovation. That's a treat. The difficult aspect with touring, particularly with American Idiot which, as an ensemble member can be described as doing P90X on stage for 90 minutes, was the constant moving around. We would wake up, ride the bus from anywhere between 2-8 hours, check into our hotel, shower, scrounge to find a quick bite, take the bus to the venue, ROCK OUT, rinse, repeat. It can be very taxing on the body. But again, it was a phenomenal experience and I wouldn't change it for the world. 
 
American Idiot Tour

How do you think your YMTC time prepared you for acting on the professional world?
Working with YMTC on Jesus Christ Superstar and West Side Story taught me a number of things. For one, Jennifer and Dave brought out a stage confidence in me that I didn't know I had. They have this intense way of presenting actors challenges, and expecting them to meet them. And in my experience, both on and off the YMTC stage, they just nail it. Their belief in the kids is enough to unlock all kinds of potential that may otherwise have lain dormant. And to top it off, they're both extremely professional and delightful to work with which I think is vital in youth theater. YMTC is the only company of it's kind that achieves PROFESSIONAL youth theater. It's pretty amazing. I owe my vocal confidence to them.
 

Andrew plays Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar

What's your favorite YMTC memory?
Wow. Tough one. I bonded with a good number of my cast mates and still carry on deep friendships with a couple. But I'd have to say singing through West Side Story with that 32-piece orchestra the first time kind of blew my mind. I know I speak for the entire cast. I'll never forget hearing that band play those timeless tunes. And of course, the ritual cast party afterwards was always pretty sweet.
Playing Riff in West Wide Story

Playing Riff in West Wide Story
What are you working on now?  
I'm currently working on a play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb called THE TOTALITARIANS which will be at Z Space this fall. It's the first straight play I've done in a long time. I'm very excited. The cast and creatives crack me up all day every day. It's going to be a good one I think.

What advice would you give to today's YMTC students knowing what you know now?
Take the work as seriously as possible. If you match the professionalism that Jennifer, Dave, and Pam are providing you will find yourself becoming a better performer every day. Step outside your comfort zone and bask in the glory of creating. This business it tough and I'm still learning new things every day and don't expect to stop any time soon. YMTC really is a breeding ground for amazing talent. Use the tools they give you to make great art. It's a gift.

 

The Totalitarians opens November 19 at Z Below.  Learn More

 

Wednesday
Sep172014

Community Spotlight: Cabaret

We depend on our volunteers,, our audience, our community to help us make the magic. Opening weekend is the perfect time to spotlight three amazing volunteers who have dedicated their time and passion generously to making South Pacific and YMTC a success!

Left to Right: Glen Epperson, Jennifer Boesing, Mike Crane, Pam Crane, Lynn Koolish

Glen Epperson and Lynn Koolish

Glen volunteered as our Technical Director and Master Builder for three years, overseeing set building, volunteer work-parties, load ins, strikes, and negotiations with theaters for countless shows. He also did scenic design for several shows. Lynn lent her artistic expertise in many a set that Glen was building, working with Glen (and Pam and Mike Crane) to design and build all of our trees, starting most notably with our trees for Into the Woods and most recently the palm trees for South Pacific.

Glen has also been an amazing teacher to many young tech students. Though he is no longer YMTC's TD, he comes back regularly and assists our current TDs with set building and load-ins. Moreover he has worked very hard in keeping a clean inventory of our scenic materials, as well as setting up our tools and shop space at Aquatic Park.  Glen and Lynn have come to every event and every performance. We are proud to call them part of the YMTC family! 

 

 


Friday
Jul182014

Community Spotlight: South Pacific

We depend on our volunteers,, our audience, our community to help us make the magic. Opening weekend is the perfect time to spotlight three amazing volunteers who have dedicated their time and passion generously to making South Pacific and YMTC a success!

 

         

Rene and Wendy Ponder (parents of YMTC company member Samuel Ponder)

Rene and Wendy have become central and beloved YMTC community volunteers behind the scenes (where Rene works alongside our technical director building sets) and in the front of the house, where you will find Rene and Wendy serving as Lead Ushers during performances.  They assure that every audience member is welcomed and comfortable.  Their generosity of spirit is infectious.  Huge thanks to them both!

 

Kathy Rogers (parent of YMTC company members Caelan and Gabe Wilkie-Rogers)

Kathy has spent countless hours offering her services and those of her design firm, Sogno Design Group, to the creation of a new home and YMTC youth arts campus in Aquatic Park.  One of our biggest cheerleaders, we so appreciate Kathy's many talents and her willingness to dedicate them to YMTC's student experience! Check out Sogno Design Group and Kathy's awesome vision for YMTC's new campus here. Thank you, Kathy!

 


Monday
May192014

From Scratch: The Making of a Musical - Day 1

After commissioning a new musical with award-winning composer, Dave Malloy, and award- winning playwright, Krista Knight, YMTC is preparing for the piece's developmental workshop in May where 20 students will collaborate to bring a brand new musical from the page to the stage. Today marks the beginning of a workshop that will culminate in a full production the summer of 2015!

Dave Malloy shared some of his thoughts as YMTC embarks on this new adventure:

I was the Music Director for YMTC from 2006-9; during that time we did Guys & DollsCabaretMan of La ManchaInto the Woods and Les Miserables. It was a pretty formative experience for me; I had grown up loving movie musicals, and had played in a couple pit orchestras on college, but I had not really seriously thought about the musical genre as a composer until my time with YMTC. At the time I was focusing most of my time on writing music for experimental theater, so to be suddenly reintroduced to the worlds of Loesser and Kander & Ebb was a refreshing reminder of the power of standard song forms. And how exciting not just to be music directing these shows, but to be doing it with a group of young students who were learning this music for the first time. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and within a year of working there I was writing my own musicals, including Beowulf—A Thousand Years of  Baggage at Shotgun Players (which Jennifer graciously acted as vocal coach for!)

Crazily, YMTC was also my first real exposure to Sondheim. I had only heard his music in passing before YMTC tackled Into The Woods; I can’t think of a better way to learn a score than to music direct it with a full orchestra and 30+ teenagers, all of us struggling with and delighting in the rhythmic, harmonic and thematic complexities that make Sondheim so great. And getting to do Les Mis, which was my childhood favorite...in some ways I consider my time at YMTC my grad school, a crash course in musical form, orchestrations, lyric writing and book structure; and watching Jennifer work was like taking a masterclass in how to actually execute all of this on the stage.

So it’s with great excitement that I return to YMTC, with an opportunity to take all those lessons and apply them to the writing of a brand new musical. One thing I was always aware of when working with the students was how few of the roles in classic musicals are actually for teenagers; typically putting on a musical means donning lots of fake beards and tackling lyrical content that is difficult even for a mature actor with a life full of experience. Thinking here of things like “Do You Love Me?”, the Mysterious Man at the end of Woods, Valjean’s death…our excellent students tackled these pieces with aplomb and to great success, but all too rarely were they given the opportunity to act actual teenaged characters, to show off all the strengths and enthusiasm and unique outlook younger actors have. So it’s exciting to be a part of writing an original musical for teens that is completely age-specific.

Also exciting is that with these developmental workshops, Krista and I have the opportunity to work closely with the students and make our characters true reflections of their experiences. We’ve been learning a lot about what it is to be in high school in 2014, and using these insights coupled with our own memories we hope to write a piece that will be an accurate representation of what teenaged life is like, and how the microcosm of high school relates to some larger philosophical questions that we all continue to face.

And finally, setting the piece at a time-traveling high school dance is a composer’s dream; musically the piece will begin with contemporary dance music, from hip-hop to soul to house to techno, and then use that lens to reinterpret the dance music of the 50s, 30s, the Old West, Medieval Europe, a Roman Bacchanal, and a few other surprising eras. I’m excited to fuse the sensibilities of musical theater with such a disparate range of musical styles, focusing on the sounds of pop music today that are ubiquitous at teen dances but hard to find on a Broadway stage.

Making theater is my favorite way to get know people; so I’m beyond thrilled to be reunited with Jennifer and Pam, and to get to work for the first time with Krista and Dave. And of course I’m most eager to meet all these amazing students, find out what makes them tick, and then put it on stage. It’s sure to be a blast.

 

Dave Malloy is a composer/writer/performer/sound designer/musical director/pianist/theater slash artist. He is the winner of two OBIE Awards, a Richard Rodgers Award, Glickman Award, ASCAP New Horizons Award, Jonathan Larson Grant, and New Music USA Grant, a recipient of the 2009 NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Theatre Directors and Designers, the 2011 Composer-in-Residence at Ars Nova, and the composer for the Brooklyn based ensemble Banana Bag & Bodice. He has written the music for seven full-length musicals, most recently Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, an electropop opera based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace, for which he also wrote the libretto and performed as Pierre. Great Comet was commissioned by Ars Nova and premiered there in October 2012; the show recieved rave reviews, a sold-out run and won an OBIE award, the 2013 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater, the Off Broadway Alliance's Best New Musical Award, 3 Lortel Awards (and a record-breaking 11 nominations), 5 Drama Desk nominations and 2 Drama League nominations. In May of 2012 the show transferred Off-Broadway to Kazino, a space custom-built for the piece, first in the Meatpacking District and then in Times Square. More...