Music and Lyrics by Adam Gwon
Directed by Matthew Gardiner
May 28 – June 29, 2014
Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda
“Extraordinarily charming…effervescent, urban-romantic melodies…superlative direction…four smashing actors…joyfully eye-filling” – The Washington Post
“Caught the amazing production of Ordinary Days at @RHT_roundhouse last night. Go see it!” – Adam Gwon, composer/lyricist of Ordinary Days
“Extraordinary…this is the rare musical that ends before you’re ready to part with it” – Metro Weekly
“A pure joy…a delight. Don’t miss this one” – DC Theatre Scene
“5 stars…masterful direction…[an] extraordinary Ordinary Days” – DC Metro Theatre Arts
From one of the theater’s most exciting new composers comes this refreshingly honest, funny musical about making real connections in the city that never sleeps.
When Deb loses her most precious possession ‑ the notes to her graduate thesis ‑ she unwittingly starts a chain of events that turns the ordinary days of four New Yorkers into something extraordinary as they search for fulfillment, happiness, love, and cabs. Told through a series of intricately connected songs and vignettes, this Off-Broadway hit is a vibrant, original musical about growing up and enjoying the view.
Estimated running time is 90 minutes, with no intermission
Sponsored in part through generous support from Heidi & Mitch Dupler
Artwork by Esther Wu
Ordinary Days Audience Events
From discussions with directors, designers, and actors to audio-described and sign-interpreted performances, each production features fun and informative audience events. For more info, call 240.644.1100.
Gain an inside look at the show’s costume, set lighting, and sound designs from the professionals who make it happen
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.
Get up close with director Matthew Gardiner in this pre-performance talk
Friday, May 30, 2014 at 7:15 p.m.
Stay afterwards for a lively discussion with members of the cast and special guests
May 28 – June 1, 2014 and then on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday performances of weeks 2, 3, and 4, and Sunday matinees on weeks 2 and 3. Ordinary Days composer/lyricist Adam Gwon will join Ryan for the post-show discussion after the 8pm performance on Saturday, May 31.
RHT offers designated audio-described and sign-interpreted performances of each Bethesda production. More info about those performances may be found below.
Using the services of Maryland Relay, patrons who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind or Speech Disabled can easily communicate through TTY (text telephone) with the Round House box office about performances in our Bethesda and/or Silver Spring theatres. For more information about using Maryland Relay’s TTY service, visit http://www.mdrelay.org/.
Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 3 p.m.
Reservations for sign interpreting services needed at least 2 weeks prior to the performance.
Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 3 p.m.
PWYC tickets go on sale in person at the box office one hour prior to curtain. The patron decides the admission price. Cash/exact change only. Limit of 2 tickets per order. Subject to availability.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. PWYC tickets on sale at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 3 p.m. PWYC on sale at 2 p.m.
Side section seats at these Ordinary Days performances are available for $10 – call 240.644.1100. Discounts may not be combined. Not valid on previously purchased tickets. Supplies are limited.
June 10 and 17, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Warren: Samuel Edgerly
Deb: Erin Weaver
Jason: Will Gartshore
Claire: Janine DiVita
Director: Matthew Gardiner
Musical Director: William Yanesh
Scenic Designer: Misha Kachman
Costume Designer: Frank Labovitz
Lighting Designer: Justin Thomas
Sound Designer: Eric Shimelonis
Props Designer: Andrea Moore
Stage Manager: Bekah Wachenfeld
Adam Gwon’s “Life Story”
By Brent Stansell, Dramaturg
Last year when Audra McDonald sang “I’ll Be Here” from Ordinary Days Live at Lincoln Center while touring her latest album Go Back Home, composer Adam Gwon finally arrived as musical theatre’s future great talent. Gwon was inspired to become a musical theatre composer in college when he listened to McDonald’s first solo album featuring then up-and-coming composers Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, and Jason Robert Brown. Just as Guettel, LaChiusa, and Brown have all solidified themselves as the newest generation of Broadway talent, with Ordinary Days, Gwon has established himself as the next rising star.
At a young age, Gwon’s parents astutely signed him up for piano lessons when he began playing songs on a keyboard after simply listening to them on the radio. Gwon attended a performing arts high school where he grew up in Baltimore County, Maryland, to study theatre. But it was only once Gwon went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts that he began to combine his gift for music with his interest in the stage. After serving as a music director for productions at school and writing his first song for a summer cabaret at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY, Gwon graduated NYU in 2001 knowing he wanted to be a musical theatre composer.
Gwon hit the ground running in NYC taking any workshops and master classes he could to further learn his craft. He self-produced his first musical Lulu in the inaugural year of the NY Musical Theatre Festival in 2004. After a master class with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (the composers of Ragtime, Seussical, and Once on this Island, among others), Ahrens grabbed his arm and they became his mentors and champions. He was accepted into the Dramatists Guild Fellowship program when it was under their purview and started writing Ordinary Days.
What makes Adam Gwon’s work so special is his gift for capturing complex human thought and emotion through music. In Ordinary Days, Gwon is able to allow four characters to expose their souls simply through song. Reflecting his characters’ inner desire to connect the disparate fragments of their lives, Gwon takes the structure of a song cycle (no scenes or dialogue) to create a musical where individual songs long to connect with each other through musical motifs and reoccurring character obsessions. His songs pack an emotional punch for anyone trying to figure out their own life story. Although he writes beautifully complex lyrics and music, Gwon is ultimately able to capture the simplest, most ordinary, everyday moments that we often ignore in our everyday lives.
Since Ordinary Days’ off-Broadway production at Roundabout Theatre Company in 2009, Gwon has continued to write new musicals and receive many awards. When he won the Fred Ebb Award, Gwon says it was his “big breakthrough moment” because he was finally able to quit his day job and pursue writing full-time. Since then, he has had major productions of new work, including The Boy Detective Fails at Signature Theatre in Arlington in 2011 and Cloudlands at South Coast Repertory in 2012.
The following are excerpts from our interview about his hit musical Ordinary Days.
Brent Stansell: What inspired you to write Ordinary Days?
Adam Gwon: I was so excited to be accepted into the Dramatists Guild Fellowship that I didn’t stop to think about what I planned to work on over the nine months that I’d be there. So I showed up on the first day, and Stephen Flaherty said let’s go around the room and talk about the projects you’re tackling, and this alarm went off in my head, because I had no idea. All I knew was that I wanted to start something new and write something contemporary. So that’s all I said. Everyone else’s proposals were amazingly specific, and I was kind of embarrassed, but it certainly lit a fire that forced me to get writing. I went home and the first song I wrote was “I’ll Be Here.” It’s almost the same now in the show as it was in that first draft. I brought it in to the group and it got such an amazing reaction that I basically decided to build a show around that song.
I wrote a couple more songs and started honing in on these characters who felt like the pieces of their lives were not coming together into a big picture, which became a major theme in the show. It was certainly something I was wrestling with at the time: trying to be a writer, having a day job, socializing with various, disparate groups of people. Feeling like I lived in many different worlds and being frustrated that I couldn’t see any meaningful overlap between them – that they didn’t add up. It seemed appropriate for a musical that was taking the form of a song cycle – the musical is a collection of individual songs and it so happens that when you put all of the individual songs together they tell a bigger story.
BS: Let’s talk a little about the characters. You wrote “I’ll Be Here” first, so obviously Claire existed first. But how did you come up with her journey?
AG: I wanted to capture this couple who’s trying to survive while one of them is holding onto a really painful secret. It’s something I relate to a lot, this idea of what it means for a very private person to open up to another person and commit to building a life with them. When I was creating the character of Jason, I wanted someone who could rub up against Claire’s insecurities as much as possible. Someone who is so open and wants things to move quickly and who, in fact, doesn’t really like living in New York City, but loves this woman so much that he’s willing to sacrifice a huge part of himself in order to be with her. Which is the opposite of what Claire is feeling, since she finds herself unable to let go of part of herself for him.
BS: What inspired Warren?
AG: Warren is probably the character who is closest to myself.
But I came up with the character of Deb first. Deb is a hybrid of two very specific people I know: one friend who is wild and kooky and crazy and the other who was my across-the-hall neighbor while I was writing Ordinary Days. She was a grad student and was working on her thesis; our apartments shared a wall which was very thin and she was writing her thesis on this old fashioned typewriter so I could hear every time she was working on her thesis and she could hear every time I was working on Ordinary Days on my piano. So I came up with Deb first and then, again, wanted to create someone who seemed like the biggest possible foil for her, and Warren emerged. Like I said, he’s very much like me – an optimist to a fault. It’s very clear what Warren’s philosophy has to offer Deb in her crisis, but I was equally interested in what part of Deb’s worldview had something to offer Warren. So I got interested in what Warren’s unflappable optimism could be masking, and what happens when an optimist reaches his breaking point and can no longer look at the world in the same way.
BS: Where did the inspiration for Warren’s flyers come from?
AG: I was at the gym, which in New York is thirty stories high, and I was on the elliptical machine looking out the window and saw these papers falling down from somewhere above. It was so striking because it reminded me of that similar image from September 11, but there was also something really joyous and beautiful about it. I wanted to find a way to transform that image in the same way it felt transformed for me in that moment watching the papers rain down on 34th Street.
The idea for the flyers came from an actual artist named de la Vega who was very active while I was a student at NYU. He would write these inspirational messages on sidewalks and walls all over the Village.
BS: Ordinary Days has now had a significant life on regional stages and I wondered what has surprised you about this musical existing in the world and watching other people produce your work.
AG: The sheer enormity of the life this show has had is consistently surprising to me. It’s been translated into Japanese and there have been two productions in Japan, three productions in Australia, in Vienna, so many in London, and of course all over the United States as well. The scope of that is astonishing to me.
For me personally, the show captures a particular moment in time – being twenty six and living in New York and trying to hurl myself into the future – and I’m astonished by what a broad swath of audiences respond to this show. Young people are obviously represented in these characters, but the themes have resonated with so many audiences regardless of their age or where they’re from. People in their sixties and seventies come up to me and talk about coping with loss and ambition and reaching for something they thought would happen that maybe hasn’t and how one comes to terms with that. I remember one older woman who came up to me after the show and said, “I’m still waiting for my piece of paper to fall from the sky.”