Today’s interview is with a St Louis rebel- Scott Miller!
Scott Miller has been directing and writing musicals since 1981. He has written the book, music, and lyrics for ten musicals and two plays. With a degree in music and musical theatre from Harvard, Scott has written six books on musical theatre, From Assassins to West Side Story; Deconstructing Harold Hill; Rebels with Applause; Let the Sun Shine In: The Genius of Hair; Strike Up the Band: A New History of Musical Theatre; and Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Musicals. He also appeared in the 2008 documentary, Hair: Let the Sun Shine In. Scott hosts Stage Grok, the roaming theatre podcast, available on iTunes and at StageGrok.com. You can read his New Line blog chronicling New Line’s creation process, at newlinetheatre.blogspot.com
Q: What was your first experience in theatre?
A: First grade, “Dick Jane, and Sally Go to the Zoo.” My teacher told me I could either play Dick or the Head Elephant. I chose Head Elephant. My mother didn’t understand why I didn’t want the “lead,” but I just thought it would be cool to be an elephant! I got to recite a hilarious poem that I still know by heart (and I just found it on the internet!).
Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards
Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)
Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
A: For my 21st birthday, my mother wrote to all these Broadway and Hollywood stars, asking them to send me birthday greetings. I ended up getting more than 40. The first came from Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill. Lucie wrote an incredibly nice letter, and Larry added the P.S., which changed my life. He wrote, “Go broke if you must, but always over-estimate the public’s intelligence. They will thank you for it.” When I started New Line six years later, that became the company’s core philosophy, and it still is.
Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.
A: When New Line did A New Brain in March 2002, nine of the ten actors got sick during the run, and a few of them essentially lost their voices for a while and had to croak/speak their lyrics. The only one who didn’t get sick was Ken Haller, a pediatrician.
Q: What is your dream role/show?
A: There’s a show I’m dying to do, Promenade, which opened off Broadway in 1969. It’s the wildest, weirdest, funniest show, but I’ve always been scared to put it in New Line’s season, partly because it’s far weirder than anything we’ve done, and also that title really won’t sell any tickets… Someday…
Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?
A: Project Runway!! I realized long ago that I relate deeply to the designers, to Tim Gunn, and to their whole process. When I listen to Tim’s critiques, and those of the judges, I realize that though they’re talking about fashion, they’re really just talking about art-making. So much of what they talk about applies directly to my work in the theatre. After all, art is art, with all its compromises and panic, and like theatre, fashion only matters if someone sees it, if there is an audience. The morning of the runway show on each episode is directly equivalent to our Hell Week. You fix what you can fix, hope for the best, and release your art into the world.
Thank you so much Scott- we enjoyed hearing from you!
Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.
You can see her work at gracemaustin.com