Playwright and head writer of the new CCS musical “Even Greater Brittan: A Musical,” Daniel Jordan Booth entered the room wearing a black Strfkr tee and agreed to let me pick his brain about writing for theater.
Daniel Jordan Booth2nd yearLiterature major in the College of Creative Studies
“I took some creative license.”
What is the name of the play you’re working on?
It’s called “Even Greater Brittan: A Musical”
Nice. Is it a period piece?
No, it takes place in the present day. (The actors are working with accents. It should be fun to watch). The accents are a big factor to the back-story of the universe of this play.
What do you mean back-story of the universe?
Well basically this whole thing takes place in a fictional country called Even Greater Brittan. If you think of the relationship that North Korea has to South Korea, it’s what this fictional country has to Great Brittan.
Is there a dictator in the play?
Yes. There’s a terrible regime, run by the protagonist’s mother. He’s the prince.
What’s your elevator pitch for this play?
This is a funny thing, because everyone is so involved, at all levels of the production, so I never actually had to develop an elevator pitch. Everyone who was ever going to work on the play knew what it was about at every stage of creation.
The first rehearsal
How would you pitch it to a stranger?
It’s basically a story of a prince who’s about to become a dictator of a very, very terrible regime. He rejects this fate, insisting that he wants to go off and do his own thing. He’s pushed by one of his personal heroes, a reggae star, to go out into his country and really meet the people; he doesn’t really know anything about anyone. He’s lived a very sheltered life.
Do the people of this realm listen to reggae?
No, they don’t. He has specific taste. He’s a very, very big fan of this one particular, not very prominent, or well-known, reggae star,
So the prince is sort of like a hipster reggae lover.
Sure. Yeah. You could say that. It’s a classic heroes’ journey, nothing particularly out of the ordinary with that.
Is he a likeable character or is he an antihero like Dexter, from the show Dexter?
I wouldn’t say “antihero” because that implies some level of competence. He’s kind of a loser at the beginning of the play but he comes into his own into the end.
Ah, it’s an underdog story
He’ about as much of an underdog as a prince of a regime can be.
So he’s just like a derpy prince, then?
Yes. Think Kim Jong Un struggling to find his inner man.
Whenever I think of Kim Jong Un, that’s kind of what I think of anyway.
He gives Ted Talks.
Tell me more about the writing process
This was an extraordinary group effort. There were people from the literature major and people from the music composition major. It was an entirely in-house CCS project, between those two majors. Any time anyone brought anything in from either side, whether it was plotting the story, figuring out who the characters should be, or bringing in scenes, bringing in songs, bringing in snippets of songs, all of that was shared with everyone. It wasn’t just musical comp people doing their stuff in their corner and us just doing our stuff in ours; it was a very open process.
It takes a village.
It does. It does. It’s exactly true in regard to a very large musical. It can be very hard to conceive and write a musical all by yourself.
When is the premiere?
April 9th, 10th and 11th. And on the 12th we will actually film it and then it’s going to be shown on TV.
He wouldn’t tell me the name of his bike; “It’s a pet name.”
What are your plans for when this is finished?
I’m hosting an event now called Soap Box, which is a writer performance event, like story telling. It’s with a bunch of people who are in CCS, but also not in CCS. It’s a monthly event. It’s not like typical storytelling, it’s much more engaging. The work shared is usually creative nonfiction and I do a lot of personal editing with the writers before they perform the pieces.
But I don’t really like to think about it as editing. It’s more like directing. Because this is more theater than it is, say, a live poetry reading at a coffee shop. The pieces are not just read, they’re performed. Some people bring props. But it’s all about connecting with the audience, and being in the company of friends.
Is this a club? Or a class?
It’s neither. It’s a show that’s completely independent of any organization on campus. And there’s no charge. It’s free.
What are the next steps you’re going to take to be a playwright?
The playwright world, it seems to me, is one where once someone gets good enough and the work speaks for itself, then they will have success. It’s not like the film world in Hollywood where even if you’re very good and talented you might not get noticed. Everyone is so intimately connected in the playwright world. So if you go up to someone and say, “here is this script. It’s an incredible piece of work,” then it will get passed around very quickly and people will notice it. So because of that, I’m not so interested in moving to a particular place and trying to make things work that way, I’m more focused on just becoming better, wherever I am.