A little over a year and a half ago I was somewhere… don’t remember where… doesn’t matter where. When you are a writer in New York, there are only a handful of places you can be, really… so anyway, I was in this place and I was drinking my white chocolate mocha when I… STARBUCKS!!! … I was at a Starbucks.
Okay, so I was in this Starbucks, and I began overhearing a conversation from the table next to me. There were three people, and the conversation was a hilariously opinionated round table…. At a Starbucks. These three people were very clearly actors. These three people had very clearly just graduated and moved to NYC. And these three people were very clearly bent out of shape about something. That something? The state of the musical theatre world. And even more to their point, the state of the musical theatre writer.
As I sat and listened while I was pretending to write (… aren’t I the worst? Eavesdropping like a middle school girl. Get a life, Gasparini!) I heard phrases like: “It’s a shame that this is what actors are forced to work with now.” And “You know, [insert conservatory teacher’s name here] would have killed us if we brought a song like that in.” They were of course speaking of the ever growing, ever more popular work of new writers in the musical theatre world. They would mention songs from dear friends of mine in this business and say things like “how do you act a song like that?” or “none of the new writers know what musical theater is!”
And then something I was hoping for happened… after they shit-talked about the truly amazing work of my truly amazing friends and fellow writers… they said my name. I was dying for this to happen. To me, it means I made it. Fuck Broadway! Fuck the rest of the business… I was mentioned and judged by a trio of youngsters with the vocabulary and conversational skill set akin to the cast of any Bravo! reality show. INTELLIGENCE ABOUND!!!
My ears perked up and I immediately thought of how I was going to deal with this. The bigger person would’ve either A) laughed it off and been on their merry way, or B) chosen not to eavesdrop in the first place. As you will find out from the rest of this story, I am not the bigger person. I dealt with it my way. After they mentioned how my friends (fellow new writers) and I had no clue what we were doing, they went into a specific song of mine. They said that one of their classmates sang it at showcase, and it’s probably the reason he didn’t get any attention from agents. Which I’m sure is accurate. I’m a total hack after all, and I’m sure there’s no way it was his performance of the song that hindered his opportunity of gaining talent reps. …by the way, it was at this point that I decided to become a part of their conversation.
I told them that I’d been listening in, and what they had to say makes a lot of sense. I said that I remembered what it was like to be new to the city, and that I too noticed that musical theatre just isn’t what it used to be. After getting strangely chummy with them, I asked their names, and I introduced myself: “I’m Drew Gasparini. You should at least know what the person you’re shit-talking looks like.” They all were shocked and silent. I grabbed my bag, then left. I felt like the hugest badass, and I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure that I felt my integrity and penis grow three sizes that day. It was a champion moment for me. But this story only gets better…
The moment I got home I had Facebook friend requests from all three shit-talkers. ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Hashtag Amazing. Hashtag They Must Have Big Balls To Request My Online Friendship. Needless to say I accepted their request as to further teach them a lesson… which brings me to the last, and my favorite, part of the story…
It had been announced that a few NMT writers (including myself) were to join the songwriting team for the second season of “Smash” on NBC. The day this news hit Playbill I got a private message from one of the Starbucks shit-talking culprits:
I’m a musical theater performer and I love your work! I know you do a lot of concerts in the city and if you ever need a new face to perform your music I’d love to! Here are some clips of me singing so you can hear me.
Congrats on smash! How exciting!
To which I responded:
Thanks so much for writing and for the congrats! I’m very excited about SMASH! I remember meeting you back in December at Starbucks. Do you not remember that? You were talking with your friends about how I don’t know how to write musical theatre. It sounds like you’ve finally come around! Glad to hear it! Thanks for your youtube clips. Tell your nice friends from Starbucks I said hello.
Then her final interaction:
Sorry. Hoping you didn’t remember that. But just so you know I’m not friends with those guys anymore.
That was the last I heard from her. I wish her well and much success, truly I do.
Things to take away from this story… THIS IS A COMMUNITY! We are all going to have our opinions, but remember, NYC in the musical theatre world is a lot like the cafeteria in high school. It all gets back to who you were talking about it, so be careful where you voice that opinion and be careful what words you use.
Also, don’t be so quick to judge something. Creative people in the MT world jump at the chance to hate something. Production people in the MT world jump to the chance to fill a theater. ALL OF US need to look at the potential. Nurture it. Love it. Give it time. Things need time. Stop rushing shows that aren’t ready for Broadway into a Broadway theater, and stop hating things before you see what it can be!
For those who hate what theater is, or what theater is becoming, relax. You need to relax, and you need to know something. Theater is an ever-changing, ever-growing, and ever-evolving art form. Whatever your professors are teaching you is miles behind where new theater is. If you graduate to move to NYC to be a part of this community, then you must be privy to that, and get on board with the up and comers. We are all trying to do something amazing. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it? Know your foundation, and know that what we are building on top of it is so this generation has a voice in the theater world. New is good. Different is good. The foundation is still there, and we all love it. Welcome to the community.