Next Thing You Know: An Interview with Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham recently sat down with Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, writers of I Love You Because, to talk about their newest show, Next Thing You KnowHere’s an inside look at the show, its development, and Ryan and Joshua’s writing process: 

For those not familiar with Next Thing You Know, how would you describe the show?
“Next Thing You Know” is a collective four person quarter-life crisis.  It’s a hilarious journey through twenty-somethings’ New York.  A contemporary take on age old themes of “Who am I?” and “What am I going to do when I grow up?”

What was the first song you wrote for the show?
The first song we wrote for the show was ironically cut from the final score.  “Home Calls” appears as a bonus track on our cast album, and was our first foray into exploring some of the themes both musically and dramatically.  As the book developed around much of the score, the song no longer had a place within the show, but still holds a special place in our hearts.

How has Next Thing You Know changed as you’ve developed it? Why did it evolve the way it did?
“Next Thing You Know” was initially conceived as a song cycle.  While working on other projects, we thought it would be fun to write a collection of tunes that explored many of the topics we were grappling with in our own lives.  As we began sharing the work with people, specifically producer Greg Schaffert and director John Simpkins, it became evident there was more of a story to be told. The book was largely written around many pre-existing songs, however once the storyline developed, the score came into focus in a new way.  At that point, we rewrote about 25% of the score to support the version as it currently exists.

Did you work with any actors consistently as you worked on the show? If so, how did they influence the show’s evolution?
Two of our four actors featured on the album have been with the project from the very beginning.  We first met Jay Armstrong Johnson in 2007 when he was a student at NYU Steinhardt.  Along with director John Simpkins, we workshopped the show at Provincetown Playhouse.  At the time, there were five actors in the piece, and Jay was one of them.  Colin Hanlon, who was our Austin in the off-Broadway production of “I Love You Because,” was someone who we instantly knew that we not only wanted to work with again, but whose sensibilities matched our own.

If you had to pick one, what’s your favorite song from Next Thing You Know?
Hard to pick just one favorite tune, so we’re going to cop out and choose two.

Ryan: “As Good As I Get” is my favorite song in the show.  I love its emotional honesty.  While completely desperate, it’s also quite funny to me.  It’s a great song for an actor, and in the hands of the thrilling actors we’ve seen do it, it’s been a joy to watch.

Joshua: “Manhattan Bridge” is my favorite song in the show.  I love the story song nature of it, the way it’s scored, and the marriage of performance and writing.

What advice do you have for any performers or directors who are working on their own productions of Next Thing You Know?
We have found the most successful productions of “Next Thing You Know” treat the material honestly, and like a play with songs, rather than a musical.  While the problems of the characters may seem small from far away, they are deadly serious to the characters themselves – they’re facing the death of their dreams and the birth of lives never imagined.

 Interested in producing Next Thing You Know at your theater company? Click here for more information and the licensing application. 

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