Q & A with Steve Cosson

Thursday, Feb 22, 2018

Steve Cosson

Director Steve Cosson, Tisch Drama's spring 2018 Artist-in-Residence

This spring, Tisch Drama is thrilled to welcome renowned director and writer Steve Cosson as the department's artist-in-residence. Over the past several weeks, Cosson and his company The Civilians have collaborated with our students, faculty, and staff to develop and produce the new musical Times Square, directed by Cosson. The production, which features music and lyrics by Jill Sobule and Robin Eaton, and a book by Jim Lewis, will be the first offering in the 2018 TISCH DRAMA STAGEworks season. Tisch Drama recently caught up with Cosson to discuss the project:

Congratulations, Steve, our featured Artist in Residence! How has your experience working at Tisch Drama been so far?
It has been an invigorating experience, and a very ambitious project, since Times Square is a new musical. New work always comes with surprises because you're learning what the show is as you rehearse it. There have been changes and revisions, and as we've worked with it, the show has revealed itself to us.

What has it been like to collaborate with our students on your vision?
I would say having the involvement of the very talented and enthusiastic students has been really inspiring to everyone on the team. The students have given so much of themselves and their creativity to the project, which has helped bring a new show into the world.

Can you tell us about the origins of the project, perhaps walk us through its development?
The project originated with me and Jill Sobule—we had been introduced to each other by the Public Theater because she's a regular performer at Joe's Pub. At the time, the person in charge thought Jill might be interested in working in theatre, and perhaps cross into musical theatre, with her background as a singer-songwriter. We started talking, and I'd seen the film Times Square a long time ago and had it in the back of my mind as a possible source for musical theatre adaptation. Jill watched the film and agreed it was worth exploring. So she brought along her collaborator Robin Eaton, and I brought in Jim Lewis, and we started working on the adaptation.

Your company, The Civilians, is dedicated to creating and producing work that dynamically engages the broader social and political environment. In that process, what have our students brought to the conversation?
It's amazing, you learn so much more about the work when it's fully staged, designed, and brought to life. The students have brought a great deal to the work on the production side and in the characters. While they're certainly closer to the characters' age than we are, the show is set in the late 1970s, which is part of my life experience. So we've enjoyed bringing it all together—with the students' questions and choices, creating the story. They've contributed so much and helped us to see and feel the story of who Nicky and Pammy really are.

What has been your favorite part of working on this collaboration at Tisch Drama?
It's been interesting to create the larger environment of the story—Times Square of the '70s, as opposed to today. It involved figuring out how to portray all sorts of characters and settings. I think the dance ensemble has done a lot of interesting quality work with our choreographer to portray that world with authenticity and integrity through characters who are three-dimensional people.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I would share that it was very interesting when we had an opportunity to perform some songs from the show at Joe's Pub, as part of its ongoing performance series. We were able to invite some of the cast members (students) to join our composing team, Jill and Robin and Music Director Ada Westfall, as well as our band, on Feb. 5. The cast had just recently learned the songs, and it was a great opportunity for them to just jump in and do it. And they rose to the occasion brilliantly. I'd say all of those songs took a great big leap forward, because you learn so much when you do it in front of an audience for the first time. I was very excited to see that, and glad they had a chance to do that as part of the process and my residency here.