An interview with Tom Mizer and Curtis Moore, writers of 2012 Fest show Triangle, about the development of the show and their upcoming production at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma in the spring.
|Logo for the Lyric Theatre workshop production|
Triangle is an original romantic drama that weaves together the story of two couples from different eras — in 1911 a Jewish seamstress and her Italian foreman, in 2011 a chemistry grad student and a free-spirited stranger who has broken into his lab. It all takes place in the same building, the site of New York’s infamous Triangle Factory Fire. Although the facts of the Triangle fire are tragic, the musical is full of humor, love, mystery and emotion. In the end, it’s not about grief — it’s about moving beyond the past to find joy in the here & now — how we need to take a risk and reach out to another person.
What was the response like to the show at the Festival?
The response to Triangleat the Festival was incredibly warm and positive. Once we could actually breathe again after the terror of our first presentation, we were so grateful that the audience seemed to fall in love with the characters as much as we have. The best part, more than any of the productive conversations about “next steps,” was seeing people emotionally affected, truly moved — and from just a cutting at music stands. Honestly, with just 40 minutes to tell our multiple stories, we would have been thrilled if people had simply followed the time period jumps without their heads exploding — but to have people also getting a good cathartic cry at 11am at New World Stages, that was amazing! It gave us such encouragement to know that the story we are telling can move people and that it belongs in a live theater where people can experience it together.
You were rewriting leading up to the Festival. How much did the Festival presentation influence your continued work on the show?
It was essential and transformative. Doing a 40-minute cut of the piece forces you to get to the heart of the show, to figure out what really matters in each scene and get rid of everything else. When we went back to the full script, we wanted to keep that momentum and focus – get rid of extra complications, cut the chit chat and get to the emotion and the conflict. As much as we may enjoy a page long conversation about the retrosynthetic analysis of haplophytine, it’s not the chemistry people come to the theater for… though Curtis will perform it for you if you ask him nicely.
What has changed with the show since the Festival?
Our Festival experience confirmed what we’d been feeling since our readings at TheatreWorks Palo Alto. Since then we’ve been focusing on the first 20 minutes of the
show to clean out the excess plot, jump into the heart of the story more quickly and make Brian’s (our leading man) problem clearer and simpler to engage with. More specifically, there’s a new opening number (with two other new songs in the works as well), one strand of Brian’s plot has been completely removed, we’ve allowed Brian to start the show from a more positive place so he has further to travel emotionally and we’ve reconfigured when we transition from present to past so that you live in each time period a bit longer (and have time to get emotionally invested) before jumping back and forth.
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma will be presenting a workshop production of Triangle this spring. Tell us a bit about this production and what you hope to achieve.
In Oklahoma, Brian is not a singing chemist; he will be a singing cowboy. Seriously, we are so excited to be working with Michael Baron and everyone at the Lyric. We will be heading out to Oklahoma in March for an extended rehearsal period, to workshop the new draft on its feet. The public performances will have full costumes and lights and sets and there will be a 6-piece orchestra! The chance to hear those big romantic melodies on some strings… it’s going to be so emotional for us. The big goal is to “write” the physical world of Triangle, to work through how we transition from the present to the past on stage. In readings, we can simply read a stage direction (“it is now 1911” and presto) but on stage, how do we make those transitions magical and theatrical and meaningful. And on a practical level, can Ben get into his Vincenzo costume in the two lines that we have on the page for him to change or are we going to end up with Bencenzo?
Why should people head to Oklahoma to catch Triangle up on its feet?
Well, first of all we’ve heard that the facilities at the Lyric are first-rate, so you’re going to get a great-looking and-sounding show. But I think the big thing is that the story of Trianglemay work in a reading but you’re always missing out on some of the magic of it, the theatrical elements that are just as important to the themes and story as the book and score. This show is about theatricality; the script has always had stage directions that emphasize what can only happen in a live theater experience… and they are finally going to happen. It’s about the moments when the present slides into the past, where ghosts appear and the past reaches to try to touch the present, where one actor with a slight change of posture or a single prop becomes another character right in front of the audience. It’s going to be challenging work for all of us to figure out how to do it right, but I think it will be exciting for the audience to see the show take those leaps at last.
For more information on Triangle, please visit www.lyrictheatreokc.com