Joel L. Derfner

Adjunct Instructor; Adjunct Assistant Professor

PHoto of Joel Derfner

Musical Theatre Writing Workshop

A.B. Harvard University (Linguistics)
M.F.A. New York University (Tisch, Musical Theatre Writing)

Joel is from Charleston, South Carolina, where his great-grandmother had an affair with George Gershwin. He graduated from Harvard with an A.B. in linguistics and from NYU with an M.F.A. in musical theater writing. His musical Blood Drive, with words by Rachel Sheinkin, has been produced (in part or in whole) at the Bridewell Theatre in London, the Provincetown Playhouse in New York, and the Theatre Latte Da in Minneapolis. His musical Signs of Life, with lyrics by Len Schiff and book by Peter Ullian, has been produced at the Village Theater in Seattle and off-Broadway. Joel wrote the music and lyrics for Spirit Child, with book and additional lyrics by John Herin, for the Thomas Pullen Performing Arts School in Washington, D.C.; he has also written songs for the 52nd Street Project. He has been in residence three times at the O’Neill Music Theater Conference, and his work from his first year there has been heard at the Duplex and Joe’s Pub in New York. Joel also teaches aerobics, knits, and is the author of Gay Haiku (Random House, 2005) and Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead (Random House, 2008). He is or has been a knitter, an aerobics instructor, a go-go boy, a cheerleader, and a math teacher. He has been fired by Harvard, the Public Theater, and the Anglo-Catholic Church.