Published on June 16th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Mike Doughty On His History With “The 24 Hour Plays” & Preparing For 2019’s “The 24 Hour Musicals”
The 24 Hour Musicals feature four new musicals written and performed in the span of just 24 hours. The marathon creatives process begins at 9:00 PM on the night before the performance. Writers, composers, directors, choreographers, actors, music directors, musicians and production staff — many of whom have never worked with or met each other before — gather for an orientation where they share costume pieces and props, their special skills and reveal something that they have always wanted to do on stage. At 11:00 PM, composers and writers get to work crafting 15 to 20-minute musicals overnight and at 9:00 AM the next morning, actors receive their roles and directors, choreographers and musicians arrive to begin rehearsal. Less than 12 hours later, the company will perform said creation with a star-studded cast in front of a live New York City audience.
Proceeds from The 24 Hour Musicals benefit The 24 Hour Plays’ programs, including The 24 Hour Plays: Nationals — a professional intensive for young artists — and help support the organization’s ongoing non-profit work, including partner productions of The 24 Hour Plays and Musicals.
One of this year’s creative forces for The 24 Hour Musicals is Mike Doughty. After leaving the influential band Soul Coughing in 2000, Doughty began a successful solo career that has yielded plenty of radio hits, including “27 Jennifers,” “I Hear The Bells,” “Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well,” “Na Na Nothing” and “(I Keep On) Rising Up.” Doughty has also written a published memoir, crafted a rock-opera and successfully experimented with a variety of crowd-funded artist campaigns. Simply put, the Memphis-based artist — after decades as a New York City resident — has been both prolific and successful within a variety of media, styles and entertainment forms for a long, long while.
Scheduled cast members for The 24 Hour Musicals include Erich Bergen, Aya Cash, Clifton Duncan, Isabelle Fuhrman, Noah Galvin, Joel Marsh Garland, Montego Glover, Jessica Hecht, Nikki M. James, Atandwa Kani, Leslie Kritzer, Bonnie Milligan, Solea Pfeiffer, Anthony Rapp, Dee Roscioli, Sarah Steele and Tamara Tunie. Announced directors include Oliver Butler, Sammi Cannold, Shira Milikowsky and Taylor Reynolds. Named writers for this year are Kristoffer Diaz, Dave Harris, Lily Houghton and Christopher Oscar Peña. Other composers besides the aforementioned Doughty are Toshi Reagon, Nellie McKay and Grammy Award nominated singer/songwriter LOLO; last year I had the pleasure of speaking with the aforementioned LOLO about this event and other then-upcoming happenings for The Hype Magazine. Music supervisor Zac Zinger and choreographers Brad Landers and Jenn Rapp are also on-board for this year’s edition of the 24 Hour Musicals on June 17th.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mike Doughty himself by phone on the eve of The 24 Hour Musicals. A few minutes from that chat are transcribed below, while the full conversation — including updates on other forthcoming projects from Doughty — will be broadcast in the near-future by visiting the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast. More on Mike Doughty can be found online via www.mikedoughty.com, while The 24 Hour Musicals keep a home at www.24hourplays.com.
On first getting involved with 24 Hour Plays:
Mike Doughty: I went to school with Tina Fallon who founded the 24 Hour Plays. She and I met in a [college] poetry class taught by Sekou Sundiata and it was kind of sort of a celebrity class (laughs)… We were in a theater company with Jeff Buckley. In that class with Ani DiFranco, name-drop, name-drop, name-drop. (laughs)
I’m a huge fan of this process. I first did it as a playwright in ’98. Then I did as a playwright again and in 2002 or something. I was a musical guest for the first time in 2001. Just a musical guest on the Broadway version a few times. I don’t know, like four or five times I’ve been a player? This is my first involvement in the musicals. But I just think it’s great.
On preparing for 24 Hour Plays:
Mike Doughty: I don’t know how they decide who the lead is, which composer goes with which play, but usually for the plays you know all the actors are Polaroid-ed and there’s like kind of an introduction thing where people get up and they’re like, “You know I don’t know if I can do handstands.” Or “I’ve always wanted to speak French on-stage.” It’s kind of amazing, especially at the celebrity ones, just exactly what people want to do on-stage…
The writers sit down with a table full of Polaroids and divide up the cast… Then you go back and you write the play all night based on that cast. And when they get there in the morning, the directors get there at like 6:00 AM… This being said, I do not know [yet] how it works for the musical. I don’t know if it’s like the same thing or different things, or if I’m gonna hear what people sound like before I put them in the piece.