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Williamstown Theatre Festival

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fellowship Musical | Western Country Sneak Peek Part 1

by Rachel Lerner-Ley

This year, Williamstown welcomes back Noah Haidle, the mind behind last season’s What is the Cause of Thunder?, as the book writer for the Fellowship Musical WESTERN COUNTRY.

I recently caught up with Noah to hear some of his thoughts on collaborating with composers Kellys Collins and Ryan Tyndell, country western music, and being back at Williamstown:

On Collaborating…
It started out as a screenplay called WESTERN COUNTRY and there was one song in it. I had never written lyrics before, but I’d written some poetry. So one day my girlfriend Jess was in Nashville where the play’s composers Kellys, Jess’s sister, and Ryan live and sent them the lyrics to this song. It wasn’t really a song; it was more of a free-flowing poem. They shaped it into song in the same day and they sent it to me. I remember hearing it and then saying “I’m coming.”  It took about 15 minutes for me to make the reservation and about two or three days later I got on a plane.

I went to Nashville. And we just started. Figuring out how to structure the songs and telling the story through song was something I’d never done before.

It’s a project that’s been made in living rooms, in kitchens. I believe we’ve written in Nashville, Brooklyn, and Massachusetts. So every time we record a song, I have people say where we are. So like: “New York City Radio,” “Massachusetts State Radio,” “Nashville City Radio.” And it’s been one of the happiest creative times in my life, writing with Kellys and Ryan.

On bringing Nashville to the stage…
I don’t think there has been anything like this before. I don’t think people have heard this type of authenticity in music on stage. And so for that reason I think it will be a really exciting piece for people to come hear. In a way, it is kind of the pulse of Middle America, where I’m from. It’s what my dad listened to. And so bringing that to a theatre is an exciting juxtaposition. I don’t know why nobody’s figured that out yet. But then again, they don’t have Kellys and Ryan.

On being back at Williamstown…
There’s a difference this year. There’s always enthusiasm for wanting to be here, but there’s a difference between people who are here for a gig, a professional job, they know the drill. And then there are these non-equity actors we’re working with who are newer and fresher and have a willingness.

Something I wanted to do with this project is revitalize my way of thinking about theatre. And so, to work with people who have this enthusiasm, to be like “hey guys” when you walk in the room and have them be like “oh my gosh I can’t believe this is happening”—that’s been amazing for me.

Anything else you want our audiences to know?
You know, the reason live theatre exists is to get you outside your home. It asks a lot to come all the way and get a babysitter and park the car and all that stuff.

When I teach, I tell students “you have to write without hope of praise or fear of derision.” And if that’s true then it’s something that will be original.

This is exactly what I want to see in the theatre and my bet is that people will have a really good time.

So it’s worth the babysitter. It’s worth parking the car and driving and going to Mezze and wherever they’re going to go. And it’s been some of the most exciting theatrical moments I’ve ever seen.

Come and see it!

Western Country plays two nights only! Monday July 19th and Tuesday July 20th at 7 pm & 11 pm. Directing Studio at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. Tickets are free, but reservations are required. Call early and call soon: 413. 597.3400

Photo by Sam Hough, Alison Yates and Noah Haidle.

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