I just want to put it out there that I do a fantastic Angela Chase impression. Okay, now let’s talk about writer/director Tim Paul. In addition to having two first names, Paul is notable for the fact that he’s made a satirical musical based on THE BEST SHOW EVER ON TELEVISION EVER-- My So-Called Life, obv. Paul’s production, entitled My So-Called Afterlife envisions AIDS victim Ryan White posthumously forced to attend Eternal High along with King Edward VI, JonBenet Ramsey and Anne Frank. Paul spoke with Our Town about the show’s genesis and how he did right by Anne Frank.
Our Town I’m guessing you’re a My So-Called Life fan. Who was your favorite character and why?
Tim Paul Angela Chase was and is easily my favorite, which is totally the obvious answer, but 15 year-old me was simply in awe of her. She was my age and she dyed her hair red and I wanted to dye my hair red. Although, I was more like a fat, closeted Brian Krakow in real life. Oh, but Claire Danes winning the Golden Globe that year was my first memory of the Golden Globes. She made one chubby kid from Massachusetts real happy that night.
OT What inspired you to create My So-Called Afterlife?
TP I've always wanted to write a love story for Anne Frank and I liked the idea of a musical where Ryan White was her star-crossed lover. The concept remained dormant for years until last fall when my friend & collaborator, Alex Kliner, agreed to compose the music for the show. He was the catalyst I needed to finish the script and luckily for me, Mick & Jen from the Annoyance are amazing people with an amazing theatre where they truly foster local comedians.
OT Writing about Ryan White, not only an actual person, but a pretty key figure at a certain point, how did you decide what character choices to make?
TP In the pilot episode of My So-Called Life, Angela tells her teacher that she thinks Anne Frank was lucky, because she was, "trapped in an attic for three years with this guy she really liked." Once I knew that I wanted to write a musical called My So-Called Afterlife around the character of Anne Frank, I knew I needed a teacher. I knew I needed a Jordan Catalano. Famous dead people from my childhood, like Christa McAuliffe and Ryan White, popped in my head and I ran with it. I kept getting the idea of writing in Baby Jessica, forgetting that she was still alive.
OT Actually, a number of your characters carry deep meaning for people. Were you at all nervous about using characters like Anne Frank in a satirical piece?
TP I feel somewhat protected when I work on a show at the Annoyance. If you know Chicago and you know the Annoyance Theatre, you know that when you walk in those doors and pay to see a show, you may see and/or hear things that are subjectively offensive. They promote zero censorship & creative exploration there, so people like me can create shows, even if said show is a musical with Anne Frank that satirizes religion. Why would I be nervous? I've written the first show where Anne Frank has a happy ending (SPOILER ALERT!).
OT What are the pros and cons of both writing and directing a show?
TP The main pro is definitely the overlap in the two processes. The Annoyance green lit this show without a completed script. As the director, I was able to work with actors during the rehearsal process to help me finish it. The major con is that I am probably way more attached to the material than I should be as a director. There are a couple of sections that probably stayed in the script too long because I knew I had spent so much time writing them.
OT What can audiences expect from the show?
TP A Kick-Ass original musical for anyone who has ever wondered why God lets sh*tty things happen.
"My So-Called Afterlife" runs March 14 through April 18th at The Annoyance Theatre.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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