Fynsworth Alley: Rebecca Luker

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Rebecca Luker

Rebecca Luker

REBECCA LUKER is currently starring in The Music Man on Broadway. She has also starred in The Sound Of Music, Show Boat, The Secret Garden, and The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, and she can be heard on her Fynsworth Alley cd, Anything Goes: Rebecca Luker sings Cole Porter.

DL: You’re from Alabama, and I understand you were recently inducted into the Hall of Fame there. What’s that about?

RL: Paul Luney started this whole thing three years ago, down in Tuscaloosa. He just wanted to honor Alabamians that had done something in the arts. I am very, very honored, because the night I was honored this past March, To Kill A Mockingbird was also being honored, and Truman Capote was also being honored. I was flattered to death. It was a lovely ceremony. I’m still not sure why it happened, but I’m very, very honored that it did, and now I’m on a plaque on a wall at a Tuscaloosa college, and I have a plaque on my coffee table. It’s very sweet. It was just a lovely night.

DL: When you grew up there, were you involved in theatre and the arts in the community?

RL: Certainly as a young child I was not at all. I sang at church, at school, and in various groups, but we weren’t theatre-going people. There wasn’t much to see around there. I saw the occasional children’s theatre, but there just wasn’t time for that. It wasn’t part of our culture. As I grew up, I began to watch movie musicals when I could, but I still was very removed from that world.
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Fynsworth Alley: Bill Russell

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell

BILL RUSSELL wrote the book and lyrics of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, which he also directed. He’s perhaps best known as the lyricist and bookwriter of Side Show, for which he was nominated for two Tony Awards. He is currently working on Everything’s Ducky and Kept, both with his Side Show collaborator Henry Krieger. His songs appear on the albums Duets, Unsuspecting Hearts, Broadway’s Biggest ’97-’98, Emily Skinner, Haines His Way, and of course, Elegies.

DL: Let’s talk about the show from the beginning. I know you’ve told the story about how you came upon the idea of a Spoon River Anthology about AIDS – what was it about seeing the AIDS Quilt that connected the idea to Spoon River to give birth to Elegies?

BR: I was at the initial unveiling of the quilt in October of 1987, and I was looking for something to do in that free-verse style. I had written poetry in that style for years and years, and shortly after seeing the quilt, I had the idea that I could possibly do a “Spoon River of AIDS.” I was very familiar with Spoon River – I had studied it in high school; I had appeared in it in college; I had directed it also at a summer theatre. All of that came together, and it started out really as an exercise. I just thought I would go where it takes me. I wrote monologues about friends I knew who had either died or who were sick at the time. It went well, and I quickly decided there were theatrical possibilities. I called Janet and asked her if she’d like to write some songs to accompany the monologues, in the way that when Spoon River was adapted for the stage, Charles Aidman incorporated classic American folk songs along with the poems. Using that as a model, that’s what we did.
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Fynsworth Alley: Michael Kerker

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

MICHAEL KERKER is the Assistant Vice President of ASCAP, the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Performers, serving as ASCAP’s authority on musical theatre and cabaret. He coordinates the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, the Sunday Night Songwriters series at the Firebird Cafe in New York, and other programs to encourage work by emerging and established writers in the musical theatre idiom. He has served on the boards of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, The Johnny Mercer Foundation, The Songwriters’ Hall Of Fame, and The Society of Singers.

DL: Let’s start off talking about your job. For people who have no idea what ASCAP even is, how do you explain it?

MK: To explain what ASCAP is, it’s nice to tell this short story: When Puccini came to America towards the turn of the century for the American premiere of his musical The Girl From The Golden West, he invited the great American composer Victor Herbert to the opening night. When the performance was over, they went to a very famous restaurant in New York on 14th Street called Shanley’s – kind of like the Harmonia Gardens restaurant in Hello, Dolly! Most restaurants at the time had little four-piece orchestras, and when they walked in, because Herbert was the composer of the day, they struck up some Victor Herbert melodies and played them during dinner. Puccini said to Herbert, “Isn’t this wonderful that while we’re dining, you’re earning money?” Herbert didn’t know what he was talking about. Italy had already established a performing rights organization to protect songwriters, to ensure that songwriters would be paid for their music when it was played publicly. Cutting to the chase, Puccini explained what this performing rights society was like, and thus Herbert got the idea that the United States needed an organization comprised of songwriters so that songwriters would be paid when their songs were performed publicly. That’s what ASCAP is. Herbert started it, and the story goes that in 1913, he invited the major songwriters of the day to a meeting. The meeting was held at Luchow’s on West 14th Street, another very famous restaurant. Because the weather was so bad, only eight people showed up! So those eight, plus Victor Herbert are the nine founding fathers of ASCAP. Of interest to your readers, one of the people who showed up was John Golden, for whom the Golden Theatre on Broadway is named; he wrote the song “Poor Butterfly.”

Essentially, what ASCAP does – any place you hear music performed, and that can be bars, grills, restaurants, nightclubs, radio stations, bowling alleys, airports, radio stations, television stations… ASCAP licenses the rights to use music. All that money in turn goes back to the songwriters in the form of royalties. It’s a very complicated system as to how it goes back to the writers, so I won’t go into it now, but that’s essentially what ASCAP does and how it got started.
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