The Making of a New Musical: A conversation with composer/lyricist Seth Bisen-Hersh about Love Quirks
Over the past couple of months you may have seen my various posts following the progress of a new musical entitled Love Quirks- well, the time is NOW! Love Quirks will be starting previews for a limited NYC run THIS THURSDAY (September 11th)!!!
Love Quirks, which is the first full musical from the collaboration of composer/lyricist (and my close friend) Seth Bisen-Hersh, bookwriter Mark Childers, and director/co-conceiver Brian Childers has been a long time in the making and I am very excited to see and help promote this very important step in the musical’s evolution.
I sat down with Seth last week to discuss the process of bringing an off-Broadway bound musical to life.
Theater Geek: To start, tell me a little about the musical.
Seth Bisen-Hersh: Love Quirks centers around four people in their late twenties/early thirties living together in a NYC apartment. They are all emotionally bruised in some fashion and throughout the show we see them navigating various relationships ranging from tolerating one another as roommates to love between friends and romance.
TG: What inspired you to write a musical about people in this stage of their lives?
SBH: A lot of the songs in the show were based on real stories from friends and personal experiences. I have a good ear for listening to people vent the frustrations they are having with their lives. Late 20s/ early 30s is an interesting time in a person’s life, especially if they are single in this city. They had a lot of expectations for what their lives would be like and reality doesn’t always live up to these dreams. They also know more about what they want out of a relationship; the difficult part then becomes finding another person who embodies that.
TG: Finding another person who embodies that and also has the same sexual preferences as you!
SBH: Yes! Two of the characters in the musical struggle with that. (Song: Haven’t You Noticed?)
TG: It has been a long road to get a full production of Love Quirks to the stage, what were the early steps in the conception of the musical?
SBH: I had been writing songs as emotionally therapy for a VERY long time (since I was 13). I found that I liked, and had a talent for, writing funny songs with a lot of heart. These were developed into song cycles for cabaret performances and eventually, based on audience reaction and performer demand, I realized that the best of these songs were all about the quirks of love and relationships.
TG: And that is where Brian came in?
Seth: Yes, in the fall of 2010, I decided to produce a concert with all of these quirky love songs, hence the title of the musical. Brian Childers was one of the performers that night and after the concert he was the first person to comment that these songs could be made into a good musical. In 2011, we produced a 4 person concert together and found that there was audience interest in getting to know more about the characters. Brian then enlisted his brother Mark Childers to write the book.
TG: Was it difficult to trust Mark to do right by your songs?
SBH: Not at all. Mark is brilliant, and I like collaborating with brilliant people. He won me over from the moment I met him. Like Brian, Mark just got IT. Plus there is no bullshitting between us. It is important to have collaborators that will tell you if something isn’t working otherwise you are guaranteed to hear it from someone else down the line, and in a much harsher and detrimental way.
TG: You produced a concept album for Love Quirks back in 2011 to garner interest in the musical. What changes can audience members who know the music expect?
SBH: A few of the songs have been dropped and/ or rewritten to fit better into the story arc and pacing of the production. There have also been a number of book adjustments since our last reading in May. A lot of what Brian calls “potty humor” has been replaced with double entendre and more sophisticated innuendo.
TG: Are you going to miss the potty humor?
SBH: Just a few of the “that’s what she/he said” jokes. Apparently those are dated but I still enjoy them.
TG: Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign that you ran over the summer.
SBH: Our May reading had caught the interest of an off-broadway theatre manager who offered us space to put up the show for a limited run if we could fund it. Due to scheduling conflicts (thanks to the success of another show running in the theatre) we will be opening in an off-off Broadway space for this run but hopefully we will make enough in ticket sales to afford the step into an off-Broadway space next. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who donated towards bringing our show to life.
TG: Is there any advice you have for composers and other creators looking to get their projects produced in NYC?
SBH: It takes a LOT more time than you ever expect it will. You need to devote a lot of your heart (and money) into the project. And just keep moving forward, never lose hope.