With Halloween fast approaching, it was timely to do a story on The Flowertown Players/Underground Series production of Ghost Quartet with music and lyrics by Tony Award-nominated composer and lyricist Dave Malloy, I interviewed local Director Hanna Cole and Musical Director John Daniel.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, please note the play will not have performances on Oct. 25, 26 nor 31. Opening night will be at 8 p.m. on Nov. 1, with shows also slated for 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, and then again at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
The story is a song cycle about love, death, and whiskey that spans seven centuries and connects four souls. Returning to the stage are actors: Sarah Daniel, Carlos Nieto, Bailey Gaines, and Rusty Cooler with additional musicians David McLaughlin and Will Goss. A camera breaks, four friends get together to drink and, over the course of the night, they are all forever changed.
Ghost Quartet is a mystical look at the stories we tell, why they endure, and the ghosts they leave behind.
Regan: Hanna, is this your first time directing a play?
Cole: I have directed previously in Orlando, FL where I am from originally. I have worked with kids and adults although I don’t have a preference. However, this is my first directing experience in the Charleston area, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a new thespian community.
Regan: John, is this your first time or are you returning as a Music Director at Flowertown Players? I see you’re also a piano teacher at Summerville High School?
Daniel: This is my first foray into music directing but I am finding myself more and more involved in musical theatre. My day job is working with over 100 piano students at Summerville High School and at night you can find me playing a variety of music gigs around Summerville and Charleston.
R: John, what do you like the most about the music in this play?
D: I was initially attracted to the incredible variety found within the score. Many songs are comfortable and familiar sounding even if you’ve never heard them before. Other songs are frenetic and dissonant but work beautifully with the story being told on stage.
R: John, I see your wife, returning actress Sarah Daniel, is also one of the four friends in this production. Is it a challenge or just a lot of fun to work with your significant other on stage? Did you both meet through the theatre?
D: Sarah Daniel is not only my wife, she’s also my muse! She is wonderfully professional and dedicated to her art which she loves so much. I am inspired by her and would be lying if I didn’t concede that spending more time with her was part of the draw for me to get involved with this play!
R: Hanna, what did you like most about directing this musical? The show takes place in Flowertown Players’ Studio, so what can audiences expect from such an intimate space?
C: That’s a tough one! I’d have to say my favorite part of this process was working with the actors to establish a narrative outside of the written text. Our show is by no means conventional and this made for a challenge when creating the visual story. The actors and musicians are so passionate about the piece we have created and that has to be the most rewarding part! The show is definitely in an intimate space with a minimal set. The audience should expect INTERACTION! There are moments throughout where we are pulling the audience into our experience or journey. It is less about the razzle dazzle of most theater performances and more about the connection we create as we share our stories.
R: What’s the main message of this production that you’d like the audience to contemplate?
C: There are many layers to this production but the baseline is we are all souls and, through our memories, stories and choices, we are all connected. Do you know yourself as well as you think you do? Who are you? Come find out!
D: The main message is widely open to interpretation. The message audience members should contemplate is the one that speaks to them. After five years of shows circling the globe, this production has something to say.
R: Hanna or John: Ben Brantley of the New York Times praises this show, stating,” You will believe [in ghosts] by the evening’s end.”
Do you believe in ghosts?
C: I think, after this show, my idea of what a ghost is has been altered. I absolutely believe there is another spiritual world out there. I’ve had my fair share of eerie phenomena!
D: Energy is neither created nor destroyed and we humans are full of an energy that sometimes has echoes of what it used to be or what it will be or what it is right now. Yes, I believe in ghosts.
Mary E. Regan, Columnist, is a Publicist with her ProPublicist consultancy. Story ideas? Email: Mary@ProPublicist.com