Cathryn sits down with the up-and-coming creative team Joshua W. Kelley and Addison O'Donnell
By Cathryn Salamone (Actor/Singer)
On Monday, I chatted with New York theatre director Joshua W. Kelley and with composer/lyricist, producer, and musical director Addison O'Donnell about being young, working professionals in the New York theatre scene. Josh is a recent Pace University graduate, and Addison will be entering his senior year at Pace. The two are presenting a cabaret night of O'Donnell's music this Saturday at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, with details below.
CS: So, how did you two meet?
JK: We met in Ryan Scott Oliver's Musical Theater Writing Class [at Pace] last year.
AO'D: We actually met prior to that. When I worked at the Signature Theater, I was the assistant to Adam Bernstein, the general manager. I was his intern, so I made a lot of calls, contract negotiations...
JK: And at the same time, I was the intern for the head of the theatre department at ICM, so I was handling that kind of stuff from the agent's side.
AO'D: So, I get on the phone and say, "Hi, this is Addison O'Donnell, I need to get in touch with Sean Liebowitz. And, on the other line, it's Josh, and he goes, "...Addison O'Donnell? What is this?" And I'm like, "Joshua Kelley?"
JK: So then we had that connection. Not only did we do this class together, but we were both interning and trying to work in the real world in addition to going to school.
CS: What was your first professional gig together?
JK: I am good friends with the composer Drew Fornarola and we had been talking about doing a cabaret of my favorite songs of his. I was looking for a music director for that project, and Addison came up because I remembered him and saw his work in class. So, I brought him along that crazy wild ride that became ALL OF MY FRIENDS ARE WHORES: PACE DOES DREW FORNAROLA at the Duplex in May.
CS: And what are you two at work on now?
JK: Now we are creating CLUELESS: THE MUSIC AND LYRICS OF ADDISON O'DONNELL, which is all of his music, directed by myself.
CS: When is this happening?
A'OD: This will be this Saturday, August 17th, at 7:30, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. It's going to be a really intimate night of me basically showing my secrets of songs. You will hear some songs from SLEEPY HOLLOW, which is a show that I am working with a theatre that is in Sleepy Hollow [ARC Stages] to produce a workshop of. You'll also hear other works in progress of the future - songs from CRITICAL ACCLAIM, and several stand alone songs.
JK: It's a really great collaboration of writer and director, and is featuring some of my favorite people and some of his favorite people. What we're very passionate about is looking at this huge network of people that we both know that are young and up-and-coming, and finding reasons to introduce everyone and make something together. In this industry, there's a sense nowadays that there's a level at which everyone is working professionally, and that everyone else [recent grads, young performers] are trying to reach up to that level. But when you look around down here, there's a whole army of us with the ability to find each other and make things on our own.
A'OD: What I've found out too, is that we are no longer living in the theatre industry where everyone is cutthroat. Yes, it is very competitive, but what we live in is an industry where artists create, and have an entourage of people that they create with. You see it with RSO and with Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lindsay Mendez, far before they were performing Broadway roles, he was working with them intimately, much like we are now. We're becoming this new generation of writers, directors, and producers who work with each other, and it benefits the big picture.
CS: How important was Pace in finding your entourage?
JK: Completely necessary. I always think that it must be so hard to go to school elsewhere, and then move into New York City cold. Pace provided this great opportunity where it brings students from all over who are not only passionate and talented and interested in craft, but who are also professionally minded, and remembering that we should be working while we are learning. So, it only made sense that when one of us decided that we should get together and do something for real, everyone else agreed, "Well, yeah! Of course!" Working with Amy Rogers at Pace has been invaluable...becoming familiar with her fantastically talented students and having an outstanding pool of people to pull from. In addition, our teachers are our mentors. They are a permanent part of our professional lives as well as our student lives. It is a great community that is here all the time.
CS: Talk to me about any future endeavors that you guys have in the mix.
A'OD: I will be producing a work with Josh, which we can't release the name of because we're still working on rights, but I am very passionate about this work and very excited about it. What's wonderful working with Josh is that though we bicker and argue, when we get inspired by work, we become a fire that no one can put out. We want to create work from nothing. In a world where there is red tape and that it's all about who you know, we are building from the ground up.
JK: Even though we're still playing the rights came, our next project will hopefully be a fully staged play - a fantastic, two-woman play by one of my favorite British playwrights. Since we've worked together in the musical theatre-cabaret world, we now want to work together to figure out a new thing to do.
A'OD: And it's true that we've had problems along the way. We've faced real world problems while trying to figure out producing our work, but I'm glad that we're doing this together...this is an artistic journey that I wouldn't be able to do without him, and that he wouldn't be able to do without me. It's simpatico. Josh is driving the car, and I am paying for the gas. And the trip better be worth it.
JK: [laughs] It will totally be worth it.
CLUELESS: THE MUSIC AND LYRICS OF ADDISON O'DONNELL is being performed Saturday, August 17th, at 7:30, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street). There will be a $15 cover, plus $15 food/drink minimum. For reservations, call (212) 695-6909.
CATHRYN SALAMONE is an actor and singer-songwriter based in New York City. She is a recent graduate of Pace University's BFA Musical Theatre program and co-vocalist of the pop duo Panhandle Poets. Current influences include professional sand castle artists and Fiona & Cake episodes of Adventure Time. www.cathrynsalamone.com
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