AAPEX Interview: Carolyn German — AAPEX Interview , Carolyn German , Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Dept — AAPEX

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

AAPEX Interview: Carolyn German

Carolyn German

Interview by Jaz Dorsey
AAPEX Dramaturge

Working with Carolyn German on the Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department's New Play Reading Series has been a dramaturg's dream.

I woke up on New Year's Eve 2011 - my birthday - to the realization that I have borne the burden of dramaturgy for 32 years - over 1/2 my life. Over the years, I have acquired a wonderful catalog of scripts and now I have the opportunity to put them out there.

Thanks to Carolyn's vision, two voices from the African American Playwrights Exchange - Hershell Norwood and Mark Clayton Southers - have added these Nashville readings of their work to their resumes, and two Nashville songwriters, Steve Leslie and Len Cohen, just had a chance to share their new musical, UMBRELLA, with a packed house last Monday night (2/13/12).

And Nashville film makers Peter Ness and Raeanne Rubenstein have had an opportunity to screen their works as well.

And on Monday, March 12 the MPTD New Play Reading Series will honor women veterans of the American military with Halee Culicerto's reading of Dr. Jamie Cutler's ANGELS WITHOUT WINGS.

All at Nashville's own Looby Theatre.

On Monday, February 27, Carolyn and her collaborator, composer Rollie Mains, will present a reading of their own new musical THE AIRSHIP AT VAPOR STATION: THE STEAMPUNK MUSICAL at 7 pm at The Looby.

We should all show up for this - even if only to find out what "steampunk" is. So save the date and "Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre."

I asked Carolyn to tell us about herself, her work, her job and her mission, and this is what she has to say:

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
My parents were musical theater fans, and my sister and I spent a great deal of time in our living room dancing around the coffee table to Zorba the Greek, and singing the duets from West Side Story. She was older, so of course, I was the one who always had to sing Tony's part. Maybe that's why I have always liked roles that are a stretch.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
There is, I think, a huge and elaborate process called evolution. My first love of the performance world was always singing. In my school-age days, I was working towards a country music career. Then, in high school, I got a taste of musical theater, and that took hold in a way I could not have predicted! I worked in theme parks, did lots of dinner theater, cruise ships, and off-Broadway plays, while continually studying acting, jazz, and ballet. Meanwhile, I was still writing, mostly songs and some short plays, although I had not intended on doing anything with that work.

When I decided to move to Nashville, it was for a country music recording contract. Upon arrival, one of first job opportunities was an audition notice for Tennessee Repertory Theater's production of A Chorus Line. Once again, theater got the best of me! I played Val in that production, and continued working with them and other Nashville theater companies and have been ever since. In the late '90s I started my own company, Theater Craft, Inc., and offered classes and produced independent theater. Adding that layer was a huge step for me, and prompted me to take my own writing more seriously. Several years later, I wrote "The Story Builders." My company produced it for TPAC Education and it was seen by over 10,000 people. I took on this job with Metro Parks about 5 years ago, and it has been a wonderful journey. Today, the joy of my craft is knowing how fortunate I am to be able to tap into all the aspects of the theater-world (singing, performing, teaching, writing, directing, producing, and venue management) that have driven me over the years. I count myself very, very, lucky.

What’s going on theatrically with Metro Parks and what does your position as artistic director entail?
I wear two hats at Metro Parks – Supervisor of the Music and Theater Departments and Manager of the Z. Alexander Looby Theater. With the Music and Theater Departments, the focus is on opportunities for youth. We have several music classes like jamBand, Songwriting or Guitar. Usually, most of these classes are free. However this semester, the theater classes are with guest instructors, so there is a small fee, but it’s a great way for kids to dive into the world of performing arts.

We also have two wonderful opportunities in the theater department that include full performances - WinterSong at Two Rivers Mansion and our summer musical. The cabaret, Wintersong, is a charming annual event I created several years ago that offers young singers the opportunity to experience in a lovely, historical setting the classy art form known as “cabaret.”

For those new to the genre, that is cabaret spelled with a small “c,” and it is the style of performing that features just the vocalist and pianist in a cozy setting as opposed to Cabaret spelled with a capital “c,” which is a show that is well-known, but certainly not appropriate for children.

Two years ago, I wrote a full-length play about Z. Alexander Looby’s life and triumphs in the Civil Rights Movement – that was a wonderful experience that truly celebrated one of Nashville’s own heroes. With that success as a foundation, we look forward to producing more historical plays that will feature the arts in several of Metro Parks’ historical properties.

Our biggest project is our summer musical that features talented young performers from all over Metro. It’s an audition-based program that encourages those that are new to the stage as well as those who have tread the boards already to grow and explore. This year’s production is "AirShip at Vapor Station: A Steampunk Musical," a brand new musical written by Rolin Mains and me. The play will be a challenge for the performers but fun for the entire family.

What are the objectives of a new play reading series?
One of our goals is to continue to find ways to serve the community-- large and a vibrant, if sometimes, underserved theater community as well. I created the New Play Reading Series so that groups or individuals would be able to do two things: work their craft and share it with the community. The reading is a powerful step in the creative process of theater, but it can be a heavy financial burden. Usually what happens is that the reading is presented to only a mall invited audience in someone’s living room. That type of scenario is not effective for the playwright or for patrons because the playwright might lose valuable theater-goer feedback, while area resident lack awareness of the play. So, we are pairing opportunity with awareness. It’s been a success so far.

What are your hopes for Nashville as a theater town?
Well, things have certainly changed since I moved here more than 20 years ago. What I like most right now is seeing the number of new works being created: that means different viewpoints, new energy, new audiences – all the things we need for the city to have a thriving performing arts community. The theater community continues to grow, and even the smaller companies are showing staying power and bringing new folks to the theater all the time. It’s an exciting time to be here. I’m glad I’m part of it.

Carolyn German
Metro Nashville Parks Music and Theater Depts, Supervisor
Z. Alexander Looby Theater, Manager
Celebrate Nashville, Children's Area Chair

To learn more about the Metro Nashville Parks program and to contact Ms. German, please click the post's title.

Come to Nashville & Go to the Theatre!

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