Renewable Energy is coming to the New York Musical Festival–in the form of the new musical Black Hole Wedding. In this satire of energy politics, a corrupt oil baron battles a shy geek and his fiancé in the face of a large and powerful black hole. I talked to writers Katherine Brann Fredricks (words) and Paul E. Nelson (music) about musicalizing a black hole, researching and writing about a chicken bone fuel generator and an electronic sniffer, and why you shouldn’t call this a sci-fi musical.
Shoshana Greenberg: Where did this idea come from?
Katherine Fredricks: Paul wanted to do an office musical, something set in an office. He mentioned Dilbert, and I said, ‘Yeah, but we don’t have the rights to that.’ And so we were talking, and he said something about a black hole trash compactor, and I just fell over laughing. And so we were like, we have no idea what the show is, we have no clue, but yes, we’re writing something about a black hole trash compactor.
Paul Nelson: My original idea, because I’ve started a couple of companies, was to have the world’s worst start-up company make a black hole trash compactor, and because the company’s so dysfunctional they threaten the entire earth. That was the genesis of the idea. It ended up going in a much more political direction, appropriately, I think. It was an interesting blend of both of our ideas.
I’m so excited to have been involved in this program! My 30-minute opera with composer Kevin Cummines goes up this Saturday, May 18th, with additional performances on May 19th and May 20th at the Stonewall Inn itself.
There are four half-hour long mini-operas inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots will making their world premiere at NYU’s Shubert Theatre and the Stonewall Inn. The four operas performed will conclude NYU’s Stonewall at 50 Series, a collection of panels, performances, events, and discussions commemorating the riots and their legacy.
Our opera is called “The Community,” and it is directed by I-Chen Wang. It’s 400 years in the future, and humanity has rebuilt itself after an apocalyptic event that sent the survivors into another dark age. The only artifact they have from the previous civilization is a book on the history of the Stonewall Uprising. A madcap dystopian comedy that asks, what happens when a society is built on the story of Stonewall and what happens when someone wants to deviate from the norms?
Last year, I read 11 books!This year I read 14! Two of those books were A Series of Unfortunate Events books–I had started this re-read of the series with my babysitting charge and now I’m finishing it on my own. I also read the children’s book Hero Dog at babysitting, so I included that as well. I completed my usual goal of 10 books (not babysitting books) per year, adding an extra one this year for a total of 11 non-children’s/babysitting books. I’m glad I’ve kept up and even surpassed my reading pace.
Overall, I read 5 fiction books (3 classics, 1 new (fantasy), and 1 book of short stories–last year I read 4), 5 non-fiction books (1 history book, 3 memoir/personal history books, and 1 feminism book–overall, the same as last year), 3 children series books, and 1 book of poetry. I didn’t read any non-American authors this year; last year it had been 2. I also decreased in my number of women authors from 9/11 to 8/14 (not really a major decrease), with 4 of the 8 being women of color. 4 books were for my virtual book club with my college friends, and 2 were for another book club at work. Usually I read 1 book by someone I know, which I wasn’t able to do last year, but this year I did with the poetry book. 1 book I read because it related to something I was writing/working on.
These stats are fairly similar to last year’s. I am happy that I kept up with reading more women authors, although I’d like to try to read more non-American authors again next year. I also kept up my resolution to read 1 feminism book a year and to keep my good mix of fiction, non-fiction, children/young adult books, and poetry. My resolution has been to read 1 poetry book a year, and I have stuck to that, as well as to my resolution to read 1 Thornton Wilder book a year. However, one of my resolutions last year AND the years before that had been to read a biography, and I still did not do that. I basically achieved all my reading goals except for biography, though. Next year: Continue with at least a 50:50 ratio for women to men authors and continue with my reading variety–make sure to continue to read 1 poetry book a year, 1 feminism book a year, and 1 Wilder book a year–but make sure to read a biography as well.
I also read 8 New Yorkers (1 more than last year!) and 7 New York magazines (2 more than last year!) in between each book, as well as various other magazine/web articles. Plus, every Time Out New York. Next year: Try to bring myself up to previous years’ numbers of 10 New Yorkers and 10 New York magazines a year.
I’ll still list the online reading/writing classes I was in, although unfortunately I was not able to keep up with ModPo this fall. I kept up with some of the posts, however, and will look over the materials in the new year. Last year I read 9 short stories, and I didn’t read any this year except for those in the book collection I read. I’d like to get back to reading short stories next year as well.
My favorite book(s) of the year: Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own Kindred The Ides of March Special shoutout to Backlash, which I read for the second time and still loved, especially reading it in the reading group.
Disclaimer: I only rank shows that I watch and I’m not a TV critic. Also, there are some spoilers. Read at your own risk…
I had to push a lot of 2017 shows to 2018, like the final season of Girls, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Transparent. I did manage to watch a lot more this year, including starting shows but not quite getting to the latest seasons, like Westworld and The Bold Type. This list is a reflection of those shows I watched this year that aired the season I watched this year.
1. The Americans It’s still hard to accept that The Americans ended, even though it was probably one of the greatest finales in TV–completely unexpected and yet so right. The showdown with Stan, leaving Henry, Paige’s choice, and Elizabeth’s and Philip’s return–I could never have predicted it. It left viewers with so many questions and interpretations in the best possible way. And I don’t want to forget the rest of the season, especially that sequence set to Patti Smith’s “Broken Flag.” I will miss you, The Americans, but can let you go because you ended wonderfully.
2. The Middle As I said last year, The Middle could go on forever. But it ended, and, like The Americans, the ending was wonderful. It’s hard to find a family sitcom that was conistently good for nine years, and The Middle never wavered, even as the older kids went off to college and graduated. Sue remains my favorite character and one of my favorite TV characters overall, and there is talk of a spin-off centering on her character. If that happens, someone up in TV land is looking out for me.
3. The Good Place I’d been meaning to start this show, and I’m so glad I finally did. It’s always surprising and enjoyable, and just goes farther and farther out there while getting deeper and deeper. It’s like a constant brain teaser, challenging you philosophically but at the end of the day, it’s more about the emotion and relationships. Also, the cast is fantastic.
I saw 5 movies this year.This is two fewer than last year, which had been a major drop. What more could I expect though since I basically stopped going to the movies? The number was so low that I had to include a movie I watched on a plane and a movie I watched on Netflix.
This year, I saw 3 new movies in the theater, which is on par with last year. 2 were with my company as field trips. Of the 5 I saw this year, I saw all of them for the first time.
Last year I saw 75 shows, not a bad showing. This year I saw 65. Sadly, 69 had been the lowest count thus far, so now I’ve hit a new low. I’m accepting that my show count should be in the 60s and 70s, though, so 65 is still in keeping with what I expect, especially when I missed a ton of shows I’d wanted to see this past fall.
I saw a good number of these shows for free and paid a discount rate for most of the others. Last year I saw multiple shows multiple times, but this year the only show I saw for a second time was the Hello, Dolly revival, this time with Bernadette Peters (the first time was with Donna Murphy the previous year). I also performed in 6 of them: The Pops holiday concert twice, the Pops Broadway program: “Song and Dance,” Everybody’s Theater Company’s New Works Spring Forth, Russell’s piano concert, and then my own cabaret at the Duplex. 3 shows were concerts/workshops of my own work: A Story No One Knows at NYTB and the two workshops of Days of Rage. 3 shows (as opposed to last year’s 9) were connected to articles I wrote for Culturadar.com and Musical Theater Today. 1 show was an autism-friendly performance for people with autism. 2 were in Philly, 1 was in San Diego, 1 was in Peterborough, NH, and 2 were in New Jersey.
I used to do a star rating system, but since I know people involved in many of these shows, I’ve done away with that and just highlighted my favorites. After the favorites is the HUGE list of everything I saw. Then, I have listed some fun panels, exhibits, and events I also attended this year.
Top 10 Favorites (in no order, I swear):
Angels in America Parts 1 and 2 Spongebob Square Pants Dance Nation Salty Brine: I’m a lot Like You Hello, Dolly! The Skin of Our Teeth Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope Fiddler on the Roof Scum What the Constituion Means to Me
Runners Up (Also in no order): Passing Strange Once on this Island The Bridge of San Luis Rey One Thousand and One Nights and One Day The El Salomons at Union Hall School Girls, Or The African Mean Girls Play The Band’s Visit Straight White Men Head Over Heels
On Sunday, November 4th, I debuted my new cabaret show, “Not Coming Back.” It was a wonderful afternoon at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre on Christopher Street. My cabarets are a hybrid of storytelling, songs I wrote, and existing musical theater and pop/rock songs, and this story, while a bit personal, was a joy to tell.
I wrote five new songs for this show with five different composers: Gaby Alter, Eric Day, Rob Hartmann, Julia Meinwald, and Russell Stern. The show also includes songs from the musicals The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, The Ballad of Little Jo, She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, and Here’s Love, as well as songs by Smokey Robinson, Gary White, and Leonard Cohen.
The title comes from an Eve Ensler quote by that has particular meaning for me both in my life and when telling this story.
“Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back.”
Description: Have you ever asked out someone you really liked? Did you do that for the first time in your mid-30s? Writer and singer Shoshana Greenberg took this leap and lived to tell the tale. Her new cabaret, “Not Coming Back,” combines her own songs with her favorites and explores what happens when we have the courage to go after what we want and leave our old selves behind.
I’m looking forward to developing the show further and performing it again.
As part of our Sokoloff Fellowship at Town Stages, Hyeyoung Kim and I are doing two mini-workshop presentations of our new musical Days of Rage on Wednesday, October 17th at 7pm and Thursday, October 18th at 4pm at Town Stages in Tribeca.
Days of Rage has book and music by Hyeyoung Kim and lyrics and additional material by Shoshana Greenberg.
This workshop is directed by Jaclyn Biskup (assistant director of Straight White Men on Broadway) and choreographed by Glenn Giron (Ragtime National Tour). Music direction is by Hyeyoung Kim. It also features sound design by Sun Hee Kil (Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, Bernhardt/Hamlet), projection design by Hyunsoo Woo, and lighting design by Ethan Olsen. Casting is by Eisenberg/Beans Casting.
Days of Rage is inspired by the activities of The Weathermen/Weather Underground Organization and The Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It tells the story of Jean Avery, who leads the militant protest group The Weathermen after her brother leaves for Vietnam, and Fred Hayward, the leader of the Chicago chapter of The Black Panther Party, who tries to keep his fellow Party members from descending into violence. As Fred and Jean’s paths intertwine, they grow closer and apart in a turbulent time of war, civil rights, and rage. You can listen to some of the musichere.
The cast includesShanice Williams (Dorothy in The Wiz Live on NBC) Alex Joseph Grayson (A Bronx Tale),Taylor Pearlstein, Zachary Schanne, Ian Ward, Keith White,Michael Mahany,Aaron Ramey,Forest van Dyke, Amelia DeMilo, Glenn Devar, Samantha Duval, Jarred Bedgood, Avery Royal, and Corinne Scott.
I was interviewed for both a podcast and a blog this summer!
In June, I was a guest on Julia Meinwald and Sam Heldt’s podcast, The 29-Hour Podcast: Conversations with theater actors, writers, and directors. I talk to Julia and Sam about the strange experience of seeing childhood favorite shows as adults, gender differences in what characters get to sing about, and the difference between writing for pleasure and building a career.