Brisa's Pieces: My conversation with EDGES' Pasek & Paul

Brisa's Pieces: My conversation with EDGES' Pasek & Paul

In last week’s Small Show Feature, we focused on EDGES, the four person, coming of age, rock musical by one of Broadway’s hottest young writing teams, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul.

I had a chance to talk with Pasek & Paul recently and you won't want to miss what they have to say about EDGES and why you should consider it for your theater!

Have you had the opportunity to see a productions of your show outside of NYC?
We've had just a few opportunities to see the show outside of NYC. I think that's partly because it's just tough to get around to all of them, and partly because we are so critical of our own work that sometimes it's downright tough to sit and watch it! Ha! And that's nothing to do with the quality of the productions...and all to do with our own insecurities. Neurotic, we know! But when we have had the chance to see the productions, it's been mind-blowing, surprising, inspiring, etc. Especially with a show like EDGES, which is really a blank canvas for a director because of its simplicity (a bunch of songs, with thematic links, and a minimum of 4 characters), the show is wide open for interpretation. So it's a thrill for us to see what different groups respond to in the material, how they interpret it, and the imaginative ideas they form for how to present it. But mostly...we just sit there in disbelief that someone else is actually performing song that we wrote in our living room. That's wild and humbling.

What is the most creative thing you’ve seen a theater company do with your show?
We've seen everything from storytelling through photography projection to modern dance accompanying the vocalists. And seeing the show in a foreign language is a special treat. We saw a production of the show in Denmark that may have been the most creative just because the rules there are different. It's thrilling. After one of the songs, the guitarist walked onstage and shredded for a minute while the character, a shopkeeper who had just sung a song about wanting more out of life, played air guitar on his broom. It was insane, and something we never expected. It was like a rock concert, and the crowd went nuts. And we were sitting in the middle of the countryside 2 hours outside of Copenhagen. WHAT?! What we loved is that there weren't any rules. Later in the production they pulled out an iPad and taped themselves singing, and the next thing you know, there' s a projection of the actors, on a huge screen, right behind them. So we're watching a real-time video mirroring the musical performance we're watching. It was invigorating and provocative. I think what excites us about productions like this is the element of surprise. We walk in, not knowing what to expect, and we're continually surprised by the inventiveness of directors all around the world who interpret the show in completely unique ways.

What’s your favorite song or moment in the show?
I'm not sure we have a favorite song or moment, but I think we're proud of the closing number, which is called "Like Breathing." I think what we like about it is the simplicity of it. This show was written when we were in college, and most of the numbers reflect that. Many of them are fast-paced, packed with drama, and the excitement of youth sort of spills into the uptempo musical vamps and wordiness of the lyrics. So it was therapeutic in a way, for us as writers and for the show itself, to have this number at the end of the show which basically says "Hey, hold on, I don't have to think so hard...I don't have to worry so much...I don't have to plan my life out down to the last millisecond."

What’s the funniest/weirdest/craziest thing that happened at a performance of the show?
We once attended a production of the show where, if we're not mistaken, the pianist only used one hand to play the score. It was not a feat of great ability, or due to a was literally just that only one hand of the two-hand part was played. I guess they ran out of time to practice the second hand. That was weird...ha!

What are your future goals or dreams for the piece?
We are just so excited that it gets done at all - it has already exceeded our wildest dreams and expectations. Personally, a goal of ours is to finally make an official cast album, have a big fun release party in New York City, and get the recording out into the world. Of course, we love to see the show spreading throughout the world...and we hope that continues!

Who’s the audience for your show and why do you think your show will be popular with audiences around the country?
We'd love to think that the audience for our show is anyone who is a young adult, anyone who will become a young adult, or anyone who has been a young adult. So, everyone ever. Whether that's true...who knows? But certainly the show has an appeal to folks going through the high school and college years. This makes sense, as that's the era of our own lives in which the show was written. There's a universality to the questions, obstacles, and decisions that the characters in the songs face. So hopefully it will continue to appeal to folks of this age as well as all ages.

What are you working on now?
Well, we just finished up this past year after having our work Off-Broadway with the musical DOGFIGHT, and on Broadway with the musical A CHRISTMAS STORY! We've been writing for the NBC Broadway-based show SMASH, and now we're diving into a couple of new musicals. Here goes!

Anything else you’d like to say to producers/theaters who are putting on your show?
Be bold, be creative, be daring...that sounds so cheesy but it's true! If you're putting on EDGES, you're choosing a show that is really open to interpretation. The songs were meant to be snapshot moments in the lives of these characters. And there are so many choices of a lens with which to view those snapshots. So go for it!

Click here to order a perusal copy of EDGES.

Read all of Brisa’s Pieces here.
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You can reach Brisa on twitter: @brisatrinchero. I also blog about the art and business of new musicals at I look forward to hearing from you!