Friday, September 4, 2009

Goodman Getting Back in the Game After Rooms Closes Prematurely

Yesterday afternoon I caught up with a friend of mine, composer and writer Paul Scott Goodman. We met to share stories about our time at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, but we got on few tangents.

I first met Goodman following my internship with New York Musical Theatre Festival when I did a story about his show Alive in the World. Alive in the World is a post 9/11 look at the city, and the show played as a benefit concert for a few nights at the Zipper Factory. (The sad news here is that the Zipper closed earlier this year. The house was made up of scrapped car seats, and you could literally buckle yourself in if you so desired. Such a unique venue now shuttered - it's a shame, really.)

This past spring I did another piece on Rooms, Goodman’s two-person musical that played at New World Stages. Its run ended in May, and a cynical (“yet hopeful”) Goodman feels that producers may have pulled the plug prematurely. The coming-of-age romance about two kids from Scotland, he says, needed the summer to really build an audience. Hey, if Toxic Avenger managed to cultivate its following in these lazy, hazy days, why not Rooms? I am quick to remind him, though, that one of Bon Jovi’s founding members is attached to the former. (Smells like another Spidey scheme to me.)

What’s more, Goodman’s still sore about the New York Times giving him the runaround. The paper sent a third string critic to the press preview, and then the review came out three days after the show’s opening and was stuck on P.6. Meanwhile, Rooms had garnered great press during its out of town tryout in Washington D.C. and was nominated for five Helen Hayes Awards. Goodman believes that the New York incarnation really could have benefited from an Isherwood byline.

I play devil’s advocate by arguing that the power of a Times critic just isn’t what it used to be. And he later agrees, saying that there’s just too many “wankers” writing anything they want all over their self-indulgent blogs. (Dum, da, dum, dum …)

So, Goodman’s got good reason to be grouchy because his first Off-Broadway venture didn’t recoup its initial investment. But he’s incredulous that a royalty’s paycheck from a 60-second TV slot was more in his pocket than the chunk of change he made off Rooms. (This is yet another staggering example that no one goes into this business to make money.) Royal Pains used his song “Waiting”—the only recorded track from Alive in the World—and just like that, Goodman’s music was on the small screen.

But Goodman prefers live audiences, and he was pleased to have a following up at the O’Neill. His Easterhouse was a part of the National Cabaret and Performance Conference last month. And earlier in June, Goodman had been an artist in residence. While he doesn’t seem to think the place is as magical as I do, he agrees that it’s a summer camp for theater professionals and appreciates the tranquility the O’Neill has to offer. After living in the city for the past 25 years, a sandy beach and a patch of grass look mighty fine every now and again.

I walk with Goodman on his way to the synagogue as he discusses his daughter starting the University of Michigan and plans for a restaging of his show, Bright Lights, Big City. He tells me if he were a wealthy man, he would start a foundation that would pay certain individuals not to go into musical theater.

Smiling impishly, he says that it’s the only award people wouldn’t be itching to receive.

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