Goodspeed Musicals is in rehearsal for their upcoming world premiere of Deathless, written by Zack Zadek. We chatted with Donna Lynn Hilton, the Line Producer at Goodspeed, to learn more about the musical’s history, current production and hopes for the future.
The Serling family is taking its annual road trip to Niagara Falls, but this time they’re saying goodbye to Mom. Along the way, memories of past trips, old wounds and family secrets are navigated in a not-too-distant future where no one dies of disease. For daughter Hayley, the journey means facing the big questions of life and death.
How did Goodspeed’s relationship with Zack Zadek first begin, and what about Deathless inspired you to produce the show?
We first became of aware of Zack and his work in the fall of 2015 when Zack was nominated to participate in the 2016 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed. The Mercer Colony, created at Goodspeed five years ago with support from the Johnny Mercer Foundation nurtures the work of writers, composers and lyricists of all backgrounds and in all stages of their careers, by providing a safe haven for creative work and collaboration. Zack applied and was quickly invited to attend the Colony in February of 2016 with his project Deathless. Each day during their colony residence, writers are given the opportunity to gather for a communal breakfast and again each evening, to share their work and to exchange thoughts and ideas. Otherwise, they are free to spend each day in the manner that best suits their individual projects and writing styles. Along the way, we strive to provide each project with individual support that best suits their needs. On the final day of his residency, Zack requested that several other writers join him in a very casual read through of his completed script of Deathless. At the last minute, I was invited to sit in on the reading. My presence that day wasn’t a given. The Colony is very much by, and for, the writers participating and if Zack didn’t want to expose his work, we wouldn’t ask him to. But in this case, Zack was comfortable and invited me to stop by. So on a snowy Saturday morning in February, I wrapped up and trundled into town…and I am very glad that I did so. The reading—while completely cold, with five other writers reading scene and Zack performing the songs—was transformative. I left that reading and called Michael Gennaro…”You gotta read this piece.” He did and had a similar reaction to my own…we were off.