Dan is the author, lyricist, and assistant director for The Art of Living. Here, we asked him a few questions about musicals, the show, and those awesome sketches of all the characters.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working on musicals?
A: I love the collaboration that is involved with this type of play. I love music, dance, and movement, and I love how all the different layers of talent and creativity come together in a musical. It is so exciting to watch and see the different stages of development unfold.
Q: What’s great about community theater?
A: Discovering how much local talent there is right in my own neighborhood is wonderful. I am often proud and amazed at the performances I see by friends and people I know. The level of commitment is very impressive too.
Q: How did you get your start in theater?
A: By chance my high school English teacher asked me to fill in for an actor who dropped out of a play. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and this inspired me to continue. Later I took theatre as a minor in college and I began writing.
Q: What’s your favorite show?
A: The Music Man. I directed this play and I have very fond memories of my experience. Every time I see the play I recall the great time I had directing and collaborating with others. Wicked and Hamilton are also favorites. I am very fond of Waitress and a huge fan of Sara Bareilles.
Q: How did you get involved with The Art of Living?
A: I wrote this play as a high school play. The story line came to me quite naturally. It took 12 years to write and I have enjoyed every minute spent on perfecting the story and the musical lyrics.
Q: How has being a teacher influenced your writing?
A: For the better part of my career I taught high school students. This has given me insight into their sensibilities. It has allowed me to come to know what they find interesting and entertaining. Much of what I have written has been done with my students in mind.
Q: What was your inspiration for The Art of Living?
A: The play is kind of a reflection on how I view life. I tend to have a positive outlook on life. I believe things will work out in the end. The play also contains many characters from the past that I grew up knowing and loving. There are many sayings, jokes and points of view in the play that are kind of a personal collection of my favorites.
Q: What’s the most challenging thing about writing a musical?
A: Because I don’t know how to write music, I initially had to make do using public domain music. I finally found the right partner in Vivienne Deane, who has brought my lyrics to life in an original way. I have had to have patience and perseverance in this regard. It’s been the biggest but sweetest challenge.
Q: Do you have a favorite song in the show?
A: I love the song Alive Again. It’s Ily’s song — she’s the lead female character in the play. It reminds me of my wife.
Q: We love your sketches of the characters! Which came first: those sketches, or the written descriptions of the characters in the script?
A: The written descriptions came first. The characters lived inside my mind until I decided to draw them so I could share my vision with the other directors, cast and crew of the play. The sketches have become endearing souvenirs.