by Tony Lance · August 1, 2014
Tony Lance is part of the FringeU panel "Everything Old is New Again" on Tuesday, August 12 at 1pm.
Twelfth Night has always been a musical to me. It contains the most music of any Shakespeare play and even starts with the oft-quoted line: “If music be the food of love, play on…” It took me 7 years to fully find a voice to articulate the vision that I had for this piece…an idea that began in 2007 when José Zayas was directing me in a production of the play. There is a way that a musical can take you deeper into a character’s mind and soul that is unlike anything in theatre.
So many elements had to come together…first of which was finding someone who shared my artistic vision of collaborative theatre and music making. I found that in my dear friend Conly Basham: the composer of the music in our production. Falling in love with her sound (which is a hint of Joni Mitchell meets Nickel Creek and The Swell Season), I commissioned Conly to write this music back in December of 2012. I had decided that the premiere production of my theatre company would be a folk musical version of Twelfth Night. It took witnessing such companies as Fiasco and PigPen Theatre Co. so fearlessly portray Shakespeare or music-filled pieces on stage to find the artistic freedom I needed to get the show together. The idea had been there for years, I just needed the nudge to finally do it. So Conly wrote 10 new songs based on the music and characters in the play and we workshopped a production in December of 2013, getting it up on its feet with just 12 rehearsals in a studio with no heat. After our first performance I set my mind on having the show in the New York International Fringe Festival.
Each musician has created their own orchestrations, the cast has worked tirelessly to build their characters in a world that starts and ends with music and the finished piece is breathtaking. Essential Theatre Group is an artist-driven ensemble that brings highly collaborative and thought-provoking storytelling to adventurous audiences in NYC. Twelfth Night is the perfect example of this.