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Meet Playwright Guillermo Reyes

We're jumping back in for part 2 this Artist Feature with Guillermo Reyes, book writer and lyricist of Hit Music----a musical workshop production heading to Now & Then. Hit Music will be presented to audiences 1/31, 2/1, 2/7 and 2/8 at 7PM and 2/9 at 2PM.

John Perovich (JP): Welcome back! Let's get right to it. Guillermo, it's not common for writers to direct their works, yet it is something that I know you do often. What are the benefits to directing your own work? Are there any drawbacks? 

Guillermo Reyes (GR): I've been warned against directing my own work, but I don't see the problem. I just want to see how I can bring it to fruition. I don't mind another director eventually taking it over, but with a play as complex as this one, using multiple languages and then layering in music and lyrics----I figured I'd need to be there from the beginning. Don't anybody call me a control freak!....but with this show, I felt I needed to be present.

JP: I've only directed one of my play----Spy Love You----and it was with my students at Metro Arts. I was able to learn so much more about the play and about the characters because I was directing...it's a whole new insight that I didn't have access to as the writer----it was quite bizarre! Overall, I think my understanding of the work deepened which allowed me to see some challenges in the script that needed to be addressed. Anyways, I can definitely understand the draw to directing one's own work. Next question, you have a wonderful team of actors and you are working with Carlos, an excellent musician, composer, and performer. How does working and collaborating with this team impact your work? 

GR: Well, it's been a wonderful surprise really. I knew Carlos as a musician and as an actor. I knew he could play the father, and I thought it'd be a great role for him. A composer friend of mine from Los Angeles was supposed to compose the music and suddenly (a couple of months before the first reading) decided he couldn't come out here to Phoenix to work with me, and so I arrived at my first rehearsal in which we were supposed to work on the first song saying, "I don't have a composer----help!" Carlos (and another actor, Adam Mendez) said, "let me try it."  Adam helped shape "The Sunset Strip" with actor Jack Lambert, and then somehow I crooned "Orpheus in the Rain" (the first part) for him and he developed the first version of that song until Carlos took it over later and transformed it into what it is today----a duet. Adam Mendez played the Boy, then took over the role of Riggs, so he had some say in the development of those two songs. Carlos has then been consolidating his reign as composer. The dance-ability of that song, "Ecco la Ragazza," emerged from him very recently and it's been quite a surprise. I didn't know it would sound like that and that I might want to get up and dance to it!

JP: It's wonderful to learn about how natural the collaboration seemed to come together, and now----with this entire team of performers (intergenerational, too)----I'm excited to see how this new team shapes the show. Final question, since this is a workshop performance, what are you hoping to learn from audiences about Hit Music?

GR: Like with any other play, I want people to absorb the themes of the show, the passing of the torch towards a new generation and having the new generation learn from the old in a noble manner----and then we mourn the loss (or the losses, really). Having said that, for me, it was like being a kid, again, even as I transition into another chapter of my life (midlife and beyond----midlife plus) because I feel I learned to absorb music into my imagination. Now it's difficult for me to write without music, without somebody humming a tune. I didn't know I could do that. I didn't know it could feel regenerative. I didn't think I'd be listening to Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar in the middle of the night, but the rap in the play required me to seek inspiration from many different sources. I'm not sure I could have written a play with old Italian standards and then turn around and try to emulate today's rappers at the same time so that different characters would get their own tunes----but that was crucial. The Boy in the play ended up being me----the playwright (just a little younger)----played by a teenage boy. So, that was quite a journey! 

JP: Thank you, Guillermo!

Hit Music book + lyrics by Guillermo Reyes - music by Carlos Urtubey, will be presented 1/31, 2/1, 2/7 and 2/8 at 7PM and 2/9 at 2PM. For info and tickets, click here.