In January 2012, multi-disciplinary theatre collective Waterwell collaborated with the glam-punk band Bambï to create GOODBAR, a rock concert based on the book Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which played in Under the Radar at the Public Theater. I had the pleasure of personally rocking out with the show, and after, I spoke with director Arian Moayed about the development and future of the show.
James Carter: Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a product of the 70s, so it makes sense a glam punk band like Bambï would create a concept album inspired by it. How did you go about creating this piece and did it differ from other musical works Waterwell’s previously done, like The/King/Operetta and #9?
Arian Moayed: This project differed from other Waterwell productions in a lot of ways. First of all, the idea for the concept album came about before the idea for the production as we know it. Bambï had already been working on adapting Looking for Mr. Goodbar into an album for a while when Waterwell proposed collaborating on a project for SummerStage last year. With shows like #9 or The/King/Operetta the devising and writing was shared equally amongst the core Waterwell team, but in the case of GOODBAR, while the narrative was structured by the group, the songwriting was done by the band.
JC: You developed GOODBAR at Ideal Glass, and Mark Russell had the good sense to curate the show into Under the Radar. How did performances at the Public Theater differ from those at Ideal Glass?
AM: There were some benefits to both spaces. Because Ideal Glass is more of an “art space” it seemed like people came in with fewer expectations around what they would see, whereas at The Public people are clearly expecting so see THEATER. And GOODBAR really isn’t a play or a play with music or even a musical – it is a theatrically staged rock concert. So in that regard, GOODBAR may not benefit from being performed in a traditional theater setting. However, the technical capabilities of The Public far exceeded Ideal Glass and made the sound a lot clearer, and everything run smoother overall.
JC: There’s several downtown art stars and celebrity cameos, including Bobby Cannavale, Ira Glass and Moby, in the video. How did these performers become a part of the project? What was your reasoning behind casting name artists as opposed to other actors in your company?
AM: We wanted the scope of the video to be really big and cinematic, so it made sense to try and get more recognizable faces to play the different characters. Also, it’s good publicity to have famous people help you out. We’re not proud.
JC: The video design, created by the fantastic Alex Koch, is a huge part of the show. Did you always intend on using video, and why use it to support the narrative instead of creating a rock opera/musical?
AM: We knew that since we were going to be creating a live concept album we wouldn’t be able to rely on the typical conceits of theatre to convey the narrative, like scenes for example. And since video plays such a huge part in rock concerts it seemed the perfect medium to help tell our story. The degree to which we ended up using video surpassed what we initially thought though, considering we created a feature-length film to accompany the concert. It was also exciting for us to explore this way of telling a story because essentially what we’re doing is telling one story in two different ways (through music and video) simultaneously and they’re constantly banging up against each other throughout the show.
JC: What was the most challenging aspect of creating GOODBAR?
AM: The challenging aspect of GOODBAR was coordinating the many different visual elements into something cohesive and exciting. At first we wanted it to be a big, bad and bold, which the narrative suffered for it. Then in the second go of it, we kept focusing on the narrative aspect and worked on that for a good portion of a year. And with the major design elements, we had to hone in on what would help to tell that story. Making sure that the costume pieces, somewhat matched the images on the screen. That the world of the video didn’t overpower the choreography. That the dancers weren’t overpowering the lyrics but guiding the audience better. Every decision was geared to help tell the narrative even though each element is so powerful and bold. That’s the challenge.
JC: After your successful run in Under the Radar what’s the next step for GOODBAR? What’s next for Waterwell?
AM: Obviously we want to tour it. And we want more and more people to see it, but a live concept album based on Looking for Mr. Goodbar isn’t an easy sell. Right now we are taking a break from it, then get together again and see what the future holds for the show. But Bambï continues to play clubs and really rock their audiences with their kick ass music. They really are an incredible band with incredibly energy. Everyone should see them. Check out bambirocks.com for more info. As for Waterwell, we have a bunch of different projects and still running the drama program at the Professional Performing Arts School.
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