If you would have told me four years ago that I would be writing a musical - I would have laughed at you. Yet, here I am. I AM ALIVE began as a labor of love and it remains that way today.
I am a film composer, songwriter, producer, musician, and now a playwright. I approached this new adventure with the same excitement and confidence that I do with most everything creative. With songwriting or film scoring, when you write the song, complete the score, and record everything - it's pretty much etched in stone - done - and rarely, if ever, do you go back and rewrite anything. Musical theatre however is quite a different animal. First, you find the perfect director who then seeks out the best-in-their-field crew, casts the finest actors for each role, and off we go. But that is only the beginning. Once those actors begin rehearsal, speaking and singing your words, questions arise, changes are made and THIS NEVER STOPS!
My co-writer, Lisa Nemzo, is also a songwriter, producer, musician, among her many other attributes. I don't think this process was any easier for her than it was for me. It's uncomfortable to have your lyrics poked at, your dialogue questioned, or anything you create being put under a microscope. But one thing I will say is that once I decided to dive deep into this process, I had a much better appreciation for all of it. So many talented people put their best work into something they believe in - and that in itself is the ultimate compliment. Besides, at the end of the day, I was new to this so best to put on my learning hat and take it all in from the professionals.
The idea of a musical came to me in January 2014. Writing the original book, lyrics and music, Lisa and I completed (?) this musical in a mere 5 months. Once the writing was done I began the arranging, orchestrating, music charting and recording of the music tracks using the vocals that Lisa and I provided. These were to be the demos that the actors would use to learn the songs. This was from May 2014 to roughly January 2015. Our first performance was an "on book", semi-concert version on April 21, 2015, in Denver - a few days prior to the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide (April 24). With this performance we had successfully met the deadline of our original intention - to mark this important anniversary. The audience reaction let us know that we did something that the Armenian community felt provided some healing to wounds that had been open for 100 years. So we continued.
My wife, Lynette, is the most supportive person. She stands by me and my hair-brained schemes and dreams - and never once makes me feel crazy or unworthy. Because of her support as partner and co-producer, we agreed to do a second presentation in April the following year, once again in Denver. Still the same story, the changes, deletions, additions and refinements were continuous - with many on-the-fly during rehearsals. We came to realize that this was just the beginning of our work on this evolving creation.
Continuing on the journey in September 2016, we flew the entire cast and crew out to Glendale, California to share I AM ALIVE with the largest Armenian community outside of the nation of Armenia. Although the attendance was not what we had hoped for, the lesson learned was that this story is about more than one people and their history - this is a universal story of love and survival in a world where genocide still exists. A world where refugees struggle to survive; where we identify the "other" so that we may condemn them; where labels are placed on people of color, those with opposing religious or political beliefs...the list goes on. This work can speak to all of it - and I want this work to speak for everyone.
In the coming months I will continue refining this script and to pursue opinions, comments and suggestions that will help to make I AM ALIVE the best musical it can be. I want to do a staged reading, invite audience members to share their thoughts - and see where the next steps take us. I will continue to enter contests, try to get grants and to eventually find investors. This project has a long life ahead.
I embrace the process completely and while the work has changed for the better throughout this whole adventure - I wouldn't change one step of the journey.