Arthur the Sasquach in Times Square.
Image courtesy Phil Darg
Starting next week, a Twin Cities creator will have the rare chance of having one of his shows produced in New York City. Phil Darg wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Sasquatched! The Musical. The show plays as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and will be presented five times between July 9 and 14 at the PTC Performance Space on 42nd Street.
Darg, a veteran performer, writer, and musician in the local area, has been in New York over the past several weeks putting the finishing touches on the musical. He took a moment to chat via email about the development of the show and where he hopes to see it next.
City Pages: Take me through the process of creating Sasquatched! The Musical. What inspired you to do it, and how long did it take?
Phil Darg: I created Sasquatched! The Musical in a period of about 30 days from late January to late February 2012. I was inspired by a number of elements, and had several goals in mind when I created the piece.
First, I wanted to offer an original take on Bigfoot. The media does its best to depict Bigfoot as a supposedly fearsome creature. Arthur the Sasquatch, the central character of the show, is an intelligent, rational, and sensitive being who is offended by these media stereotypes. The point is: Why is it that society and the media need to portray a monster and induce fear in their audiences? What if Bigfoot did indeed exist, but was not at all like the gruesome monster hyped by the sensational media? The acceptance of the unknown "other" is a major theme of the show.
Second, I wanted to spoof the legions of current reality TV journalist shows where the hosts go prowling about in search of ghosts or monsters, never finding anything, yet still managing to convince their audience that their show is worth watching.
Last, there are also themes of over-parenting, environmentalism, and finding romance -- even when you think that it may have passed you by.
I was also trying to create a show that would have great popular appeal, but would be relatively easy to perform. The title Sasquatched! The Musical says it all: This is a musical comedy about Bigfoot. How could anyone not like that? The songs are short, fun, and catchy. The characters are humorous, and the plot is intertwined. Also, this is an ensemble show. Every part in the show is fun, and each actor gets to be in the spotlight. Too many musicals created these days require large budgets, special effects, elaborate scenery, etcetera. I really wanted to create a strong ensemble musical comedy that would be embraced by general audiences and could be performed anywhere from Broadway to the local high school.
CP: What made you submit to the theater festival, and what was your reaction to it getting in?
PD: I was looking for an opportunity to showcase Sasquatched! The Musical when I discovered the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). It is one of the few competitions that is truly open to new authors, since the judging of the material is done blindly by a panel of Tony Award winners and nominees. Some of the shows from NYMF have gone on to Broadway or Off-Broadway. It seemed to be the most prominent and prestigious musical theater competition of its kind. Apparently, Broadway veterans saw something in my piece that deserved to be seen. I was honored, but at the same time worried about how much money and effort would be involved. Sure enough, they selected my show as part of the Next Link Project. A short time later, I found myself in New York in production meetings and holding auditions for the show.
CP: What kind of work have you done to it so far ahead of the showings?
PD: The show has never been performed live onstage, so it is going straight from script to stage, which is rare and challenging. However, I spent time working on revising the script and lyrics between March 2012 and May 2013. The script is currently in its 19th draft, although all of the major elements, characters, songs, and overall structure have been there since the beginning.
Aside from these revisions, all of the work in the past five months has been about getting the show onstage, which has actually proven to be a far greater task than creating the piece itself. This includes everything from learning about producing a musical in New York to mastering the AEA (equity) code; from raising funds to finding talent to perform in and design the show; from building a media presence from nothing to ending up with over 4,000 Facebook international fans.
CP: Has writing a musical been an ambition of yours? And what kind of background did you bring to the process?
PD: I actually created another musical towards the end of my college days. However, there were problems with the book and the piece never went anywhere. Since then, I have written some plays and composed a lot of songs. In the back of my mind, I always had the thought that I would try to create another musical. It's a natural fit; someone who writes both drama and music -- why not put them together in one work? In early 2012, I did that when I created Sasquatched! The Musical.
I am not a working theater or music professional -- well, I guess I am right now -- but I have always had a strong interest in music and drama. I did quite a few productions earlier in my life. I have also made recordings of my own songs for years, so much of the arranging and song composition flowed easily.
CP: What kind of ambitions do you have for the piece following the New York run?
PD: I would like to see the show go on to a future where it can be seen by larger audiences. This could include a run Off-Broadway or at a regional theater, or it could mean licensing the work for performances across the country or internationally. The show is funny, charming, clever, and moves swiftly. I am fairly certain that it would have a large following, and could eventually be performed by professional, community, and school theaters everywhere. Someday I would love to be traveling around and see a poster in the window of a restaurant advertising the local high school production of Sasquatched! The Musical -- that would really make me smile.
Also, I would like to produce the show locally sometime in the near future. Minnesota has a vibrant theater scene and there's no reason why we couldn't mount a production in the Twin Cities.
For more information on the show, visit online.