EPA Auditions and the 54 Below Showcase

It has been exciting so far in the “Hunter Foster era” of Circus in Winter. Since the announcement of the Goodspeed Musicals production set for this fall, we have brought on recent Drama Desk nominee Joe Calarco to direct. Sean, Hunter and I all listed Joe as a primary choice to direct this production, it’s nice to see everyone’s interests come together. Shortly after announcing, we set a date for our Equity Principle Auditions.
Beth got in town and we met to drink tea down the block from Pearl Studios in Midtown NYC. We were way too early, and nervous about nothing. It was just another moment, but a reality check all the same. We were officially casting this show.
(Claire and I thought these were the best special skills from actor resumes: “delightfully offensive Asian”, and above that “general dochebaggery”.)
It was an eight hour day, with casting director Paul Hardt. We saw all kinds of things, all positive in my eyes. I feel like I know more about auditioning from an acting standpoint that I ever have. By the end we had a stack of people we wouldn’t forget as we move forward.
Auditions were a treat, to be honest. It was great to see so many people prepare specified things to be apart of the show. But the real focus of my week was to prepare every performance aspect of a small set of music from the show. We had been invited back by NAMT for a Songwriters Showcase at 54 Below, one of NYC’s premier cabaret clubs. I had seen a good many performances there previous to ours, scheduled for April 28, it is very intimate and compliments our style.
I had Corey Mach and Kate Rockwell available to sing, always a treat. Kate had just finished her Broadway run of Rock of Ages, and agreed to sing while also doing a reading of a play on the same night we performed. Corey, as well, would only be available to hit sound check and performance the day of, off tour for small time from Flashdance.
This is something I should categorize. #nyclearningexperience People be busy. Always. It’s tough to get a band of people together in the same place before the gig. Wait, rephrasing: it’s tough to get a band of REALLY GOOD people together. But I’m getting used to it. The upside is, amazing artists are always ready to go when it’s time.
I took an early morning train the week before the show to see our fiddle component, Justin Smith, at his apartment in Harlem. A long ride, but I take a book. And any playing of Justin’s seems to be worth the travel. Me and Justin ran through the arrangements with the company of his daughter, Kira, not even a year old. It’s amazing how kids respond to music, she was very involved in our rehearsal.
I had a separate rehearsal with Dan Fabricatore, bass, Eli Zoller, guitar/vocal, and my main dude Nick Rapley on drum set. Nick’s first time back on set since Ball State for the show. It was also nice to have so much of the original group from last May back a year later. Dan showed up with his own charts, always nice playing with people whose ears work well. It’s a good unified experience.
Speaking of. I had the pleasure of going to Violet at Roundabout Theatre starring our Circus supporter and good friend Sutton Foster. We have team members involved as Matt Hinkley is playing guitar for the show, and Justin Smith is lead fiddle. I was inspired significantly by the production. The music was a huge presence, told the story from all angles emotionally. I had seen it at Ball State, when Beth directed it my junior (?) year. This was something else. Sutton had a calmness during the show, while doing so much demanding singing, it was mesmerizing. She had a joy. Josh Henry though…zoinks. This is what they look like.
Seeing this was a strange motivator for my own, our own, performance upcoming. It made me excited to challenge our group to find the same life within our sound.
Soundcheck came and went on the day of 54 Below performance, everybody was feeling good, Justin, Eli, Nick and I got lunch at a diner. I had dinner before with some Ball State affiliates in town to see the show, and then hung out with the other performers in the show in the green room, 14 floors above the actual stage. It was great to mingle with so many talented musicians and theater peeps before our set.
We closed the night, but prior crammed into a room to practice. First just Kate and Corey and I, then Dan, then Eli, then Justin. We were all packed in. But having a great time, people in the green room were standing outside listening. What started as a brush up turned into a run through for the sake of enjoying the sound, each others’ playing.
It continued onto stage. As we were introduced, I tried not to look at the audience. I was really excited. I didn’t want to say anything really, just jump straight into music. The stage was small for the number of people on it, but we fell in line soon enough. As Nick was preparing his sticks, I crept in with some guitar before “Runnin to Get Whats Mine”. The set began just like that, out of thin air, and we were off. It was over and done before it started, like most things in this show anymore (in a good way.) We received a standing ovation, and the buzz was strong after the show. So many friendly faces showed up, seeing Hunter was exciting, it felt like a preview of good things to come.
I truly can’t wait to continue the story of this musical. Every step we take leads to a bigger and more exciting family of creatives, people who love making and supporting art, education, and the combination of the two principles together. I’m fortunate to be apart of it.

The Circus In Winter – Equity Principal Auditions

April 9, 2014

AUDITIONSEquity Principal Auditions have been announced for The Circus in Winter fall production at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, CT.

Monday, April 21st, 2014  10 AM to 6 PM (lunch 1 to 2)
Chelsea Studios   151 West 26th Street | 6th Floor,   New York, NY

Casting Director Paul Hardt/SH Entertainment

Read full audition posting


April 28: CIRCUS at 54 Below

Join us at 54 Below for a performance of selections from The Circus in Winter, performed by our composer Ben Clark and friends Corey Mach and Kate Rockwell.  Tickets at www.54below.com

NAMT Showcase

 The National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) will highlight three songwriting teams who have been part of NAMT’s Festival of New Musicals: Paul Gordon (Broadway-bound Emma and Analog and Vinyl, which will premiere this summer at the Weston Playhouse), Barbara Anselmi & Brian Hargrove (Broadway-bound It Shoulda Been You, which was recently seen at The Village Theatre and George Street Playhouse) and Ben Clark (The Circus in Winter, which will premiere at Goodspeed Musicals this fall). The writers will sing songs from their Festival shows and upcoming projects, perhaps sharing a behind-the-scenes story or two along the way. Performers will include Corey Mach, Patti Murin, Kate Rockwell, Andrew Samonsky, Sarah Stiles and more!

“Workin’ Man” Original lyrics


I have heard rumor Hunter and I will get to dive in very soon and begin the ending of the Circus script process. So, I’m gonna take a look back at a song about just that, working.

We haven’t kicked off because Hunter is cast in the new Jason Robert Brown musical on Broadway. First world problems, haha. So, after he’s settled with his big boy job we’ll go.

I began writing ‘Workin Man’ as the opener to the show. I like the four on the floor idea at the beginning, a foot tapping, a lone voice. I can’t find the first pages, but I have the second verse. Before Pearly was a girl, the character was based off another Cathy Day character, named Gordon, a boy. He sang the line about “some men work for freedom” (sorry it’s hard to read, pencil is not coming through as well anymore. I’ll post exactly what it says below.)

I also remember these notations. Because I had to write and recite so much in the classroom during initial development, I started my own method of shorthand notation feel changes and intervals in my lyrics. For instance, the word “5th” above the words “see” and “couple” is there to indicate the jump in the vocal melody, a perfect fifth (the Star Wars leap). It’s funny to think I couldn’t hear that jump, its now turned into a blues run I’ve heard about 30 different women sing.

Ooo, I’m a Workin’ Man
” ” (indicates repeat)
Some men work for freedom
Porter, he works for good
He’s a man who’s always gonna spend
his money
just the way he
Never can find him
a woman
Work in the stable
all day
Plenty women comin
round lookin for him

To see if he’ll
look their way
Ooo, ooo, he’s a workin’ man

Works his nose to
the grindstone
Lives his life on the
Never looks up through
the dust
To see a couple
women passin him

Oh, how things do change :)
Fun to see where it will go next
^^^ Those aren’t lyrics, haha

A big start to a new year

It was a good weekend.

The team traveled to East Haddam, CT and Goodspeed Musicals to give a preview of our show to the season ticket holders and other theatre goers of the area. Reason being, Goodspeed has accepted us to do a full production of Circus In Winter at the Norma Terris Theatre. Likewise, we have announced a collaboration with actor/writer/director/Braves fan/Tony Nom Hunter Foster. I couldnt feel more comfortable if I wanted to.

I don’t feel pressure from this announcement, just joy. Feels like dreaming. I played five songs in the afternoon, and Beth joined me to fill in plot lines and give the backstory of our own journey. It was well received.


The strangest things come back around. I performed “Never Alone”, seems to be my staple anymore, and a woman commented in the Q & A after my mini-set. In answering questions about where we’ve been, Beth and I spoke about the original concept of the Virginia Ball Center group from 2010. Originally, our first idea was to compose a connected song cycle about how 9/11 affected the midwest.

She rose her hand, house left, front row. She said she didn’t have a question, but more of an observation. This woman said we may not have written the 9/11 musical, but we touched her with “Never Alone”. She talked about the feeling of helplessness, imminent end, the water rising, but the beautiful sense of being and euphoria that comes with acknowledging how amazing life itself is, in any capacity. I can’t remember how she put it, but I was enlightened. I had never ever considered the piece in that context.

After the talkback was finished, it was time to enjoy the announcement. People were excited, it was a little bit like going back to summer camp. Seeing old friends from last years Johnny Mercer Colony, as it was currently chugging along for its second cycle. Meeting new people, meeting people who would work on, and later attend Circus when its presented. We talked casting. It was all very freaky and awesome.

A cabaret at night closed radical day, featured the inspiring Benjamin Scheuer and Sam Willmott performing their own work. Then a party. And drankin’.

We visited Norma Terris the next morning (no headache) and the neighboring town of Chester. It was pretty magical, small town, big artistry all around. It’s Goodspeed’s 30th Anniversary season, and I can’t believe we’re apart of it. But in some ways, I can. It only gets better from here. I hope :)