Don Seybold

Interview with Don – part 1

How did you and Lynn end up working together on this project?
Lynn invited me to come to the cabaret performance of the tunes in Indianapolis last fall. I went and not only enjoyed the performance, but was impressed with the quality and inventiveness of her work, both musically and lyrically. After the show, we spoke and I conveyed that to her. During the conversation I asked her what she planned to do with the material next and she said she wanted to rework some of it, maybe write a couple of new things, and then mount another cabaret performance. I asked her if she ever thought about making it into a full-fledged musical with a book and she said not really. She didn’t have the skills necessary to write the book. And as I recall, she then looked at me in that principal-ed way she does, and said, “Can You?” Of course, there was a challenge in her question, as I’ve learned is frequently the case with Lynn. And, as is the frequently the case with me, it is not my style to avoid such challenging directness, so I replied, “Hell yes, I can. I’m a writer.” She said, “Then go write something and let me see it.”

Driving back to Lafayette that night, my first thought was–“Just what in the hell have I’ve gotten myself into?” But I was playing the CD of the tunes she had given me, trying to think how and where I might combine them into a story. It didn’t strike me as an easy task, but certainly an interesting one. Just as I was arriving in the southern part of Lafayette, I came upon the idea of an airport as not only a perfect, but perhaps the only, setting to make all of it work. I’m not sure exactly how I got to that–I was surrounded by corn, but I did. And by the time I got home I was feeling a lot less uneasy about what I had gotten myself into. Not that I thought it would be easy, but now I at least thought it would be possible to construct and then frame a narrative for the music and lyrics that already existed.

You wrote the characters after Lynn had already created most of the music. Was writing to line up with the existing music a good constraint or a bad constraint?
Creating the characters, a story, and a plot after the music and lyrics have been written is definitely a “constraint.” Is it a good or a bad restraint? The answer is “yes.” Had this not been my first time actually writing a book for a musical it might have struck me as impossible. But there are certain times when not having done it the way it’s always done is an advantage because you are not really aware of the impossibility of doing such a thing another way. Not exactly that ignorance is bliss but more like your first kiss–you’ve got nothing to compare it to, so you just do it and hope it turns out well and not too sloppily. I also remembered that old anecdote that every physics teacher I ever had would smugly recite the fact that according to the laws of physics bees can’t fly, but somehow they don’t know that and they do. I never checked to see if the laws of physics do suggest that, and every bee I’ve run into is too busy collecting nectar to interrupt without a stinging reply, so I will assume it is true.

Why an airport?
You’ve got all these voices that have to be attached to characters, all of these songs that need to be sung, all of these different ways of people falling in, being in, and falling out of love. A whole hell of a lot of falling, as it turns out. That’s instructive in itself. All of these people of different backgrounds and ages at different junctures in their lives and relationships. All of these infinite and sometimes nuanced manifestations of romance, individual experiences with it, and ideas about it. Where in the hell could all of these people be, more or less, at the same time and interacting. Of course. A laundromat! But I rejected that idea quickly. It is not big enough, older people have washers and dryers, and it’s just too full of allergens and much too damp and grim and smelling of rancid socks and excess bleach for a musical setting. Where else then but an airport–and especially a bar in an airport. What is more 21st century than people moving through this transient space always on their iPhones endlessly explaining themselves, or on their Blackberries trying to pick someone up, all desperately attempting to make or keep some sort of contact with someone–and barring that, so to speak, there’s always the person on the next stool who is waiting for the next connecting flight to, perhaps, the next connection. The airport is simultaneously a realistic and a symbolic space for 21st century life and romance. I think I finally understood what T.S. Eliot meant by “an objective correlative.” And I made one. My setting was a metaphor! What could be better than that? And once I got going on the script I discovered the added benefit of being able to satirize and make jokes at the expense of the airline industry, which begs to and deserves to be be ridiculed. In the script I could, in a sense, make them pay for their own baggage.

Check back next week for part 2 of this interview.

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