2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award®
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How did Fly By Night begin, and how did the three of you come together to work on it?

Michael Mitnick (MM): The show began in 2009 in a basement theater called the Yale Cabaret at Yale Drama as part of a summer stock season. Kim had wanted to write a musical for some time. She and I were two-thirds of the 2010 Yale Drama Playwriting Class and we became close friends. She asked if I might want to write a musical with her. I was already bowled over by her plays and jumped at the chance. 

 

Kim Rosenstock (KR): To my great delight, Michael agreed to work on the musical with me. He also suggested we ask Will to be part of our team. Will had recently been an actor in Michael’s original musical, Current War, and Michael had gotten to know Will’s work as a performer and a composer. I think Michael said something like, “If we include Will then the musical will sound cool.”  I was a big fan of Will's as well, so I was very happy to agree.   

 

Working on Fly By Night seems to have been a wonderful collaborative process. What did you learn about you partners along the way?

 

Will Connolly (WC):  I learned that Kim and Michael are John and Paul, and basically I’m Ringo. Calling myself George would be giving myself way too much credit. But seriously, it’s hard to complain when you’re trading ideas with a couple of geniuses who are equally brilliant in totally different ways. Writing Fly By Night with Kim and Michael has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. 

 

KR: I learned that Michael Mitnick has an encyclopedic knowledge of musical theater. And that Will Connolly is able to sing pretty much every note. And that they both love hamburgers. 

 

The music and songs in this show are just plain good. Did you know all along that these elements would be essential  to the story?

 

MM: Kim wrote the first draft of Fly By Night as a play so that we would all be writing the same tone, characters, story, etc. Occasionally, songs can set tone and ruminate on a theme, but the majority of all songs must be in service of the story or else you have a limping musical. If you pull the songs out of the show, there must be chasms that cannot be vaulted by the dialogue, otherwise the songs are superfluous.

 

WC: I’d written songs before but never for a musical. Luckily Michael had experience writing musicals so he was able to show me the ropes, and Kim had already tapped into this great idea for a play. I was instantly inspired by how music functioned in the story. There were real, very literal sources of music woven throughout this web of plots — an inherited guitar, an aspiring songwriter, a musical within a musical, a night club, a record player, an opera, even an alarm clock — and all the rhythms of our personal routines which tend to define our daily lives. When you combine all these things with New York City and the 1960s, for a songwriter it’s incredible food for thought.

 

I have no doubt that you love all the characters equally, but maybe there’s one you identify with a little more or maybe you really do have a favorite. Which character is that for you, and why?

 

WC: I do love all the characters, but I was lucky enough to play Harold in the first couple incarnations so I’ll always have soft spot for him. 

 

KR: I don’t have a favorite character, but as the show has progressed I’ve found myself weirdly identifying more and more with Joey Storms. Sometimes I write really long monologues for him that are all about how he just keeps writing this show that he’s never going to be satisfied with and he’s losing sleep and he has all of these deadlines and people depending on him and he’s terrified that at any moment it will all come crashing down around him and everyone will realize he’s a fraud ... and then I delete them. 

 

Once you finished the project at school, work and development on Fly By Night continued. What has that process been like?

 

MM: We were fortunate that both Kim’s and my agent Derek Zasky came to see the basement production. He began to champion it, seeking out developmental opportunities. At the same time, Meredith McDonough — then head of New Works at TheatreWorks Palo Alto and a friend of Kim’s — got ahold of the script. The following summer, we were offered a slot to develop the show at TheatreWorks and it was in those three weeks that the show transformed a great deal. Along the way, generous places like Northwestern University, Ars Nova, Roundabout Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, and, of course, Dallas Theater Center gave us time to come together with actors and musicians and continue work.

 

 

       

  

 

 

There seems to be a very specific artistic vision for this show. How involved are all of you in that process?

 

MM: It’s the job of the authors to write the show and have a clear idea of the look, sound and feel of the piece. Then, it is the job of director and music director (in this case, Bill Fennelly and Zak Sandler, respectively) to take the printed script and score and, in consultation with us, bring it to life with humans — actors, designers, etc. The show must have a unified vision, which is why theater and musicals in particular are difficult to do successfully. The entire show must feel as though it were created by a single pair of hands. Anything that does not jive with the singular beast of the show — be it a costume, a performance, a lyric line, a joke, etc. — jolts the audience out of the experience and reminds them that they’re seeing a performance. The goal is always for the audience to be immersed completely in the story.

 

Director Bill Fennelly has mentioned the importance of the “void” in Fly By Night. Please elaborate ...

 

KR: In my writing one of the things I’m most interested in is depicting what I call “the void” — the dark place we all sink into from time-to-time.  I think it’s important for people to remember that it’s OK to go to that dark place and that it’s very possible to come back. I’m also interested in watching characters demand happiness from their lives.   

 

These void moments are anti-theatrical in many ways. But I like the idea of making a void scene as compelling as a love scene.

 

Whenever I encounter void moments in film, books, visual art and theater, I feel less alone. Or at any rate, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my aloneness.

 

I think the void touches every character in Fly By Night. In a way it’s a show about the mechanisms the characters adopt to make themselves feel connected to something bigger.

 

How did you end up at Dallas Theater Center?

 

KR: Kevin Moriarty came to see Tigers Be Still at Roundabout Underground in the fall of 2010 and shortly after we met and had lunch. He told me that he wanted to produce Tigers in DTC’s 2011-2012 season and to commission me to write a new play for the Theater Center. I took a trip to Dallas in the spring of 2011 and I felt like I was being welcomed into a new theatrical family.

 

After showing all of that enthusiasm for my work it shouldn’t have surprised me when Kevin contacted me last year to say he wanted to produce Fly By Night. And yet, it did. I'm beyond honored and delighted that DTC has supported my work the way they have. It's the kind of long-term support that keeps a writer writing.

 

What is next on the agenda for Fly By Night?

 

KR: Our next production will be in the spring of 2014 at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. 

 

   ..
    Assistant Producing Partner
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

 

November 2017
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