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Jeremy Desmon talks about Cyrano de BurgerShack

Cyrano de Burgershack explores the themes of selflessness, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, and of course, the generation that brought you the “selfie”. This modern day retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac blends well-known pop songs, a present day setting, and relevant young adult formalities (cue the use of cell phones and the hashtag) while thematically exploring the importance of being true to one’s self. The playwright, Jeremy Desmon, discusses his own writing techniques, his works, and his own grand romantic gestures.

While teaching musical theater workshops at Princeton University, do you ever teach anything you wish you knew when you were starting out?

The one “trick” I teach about writing is really the most simple: Write. Write, write, write. The more young writers I meet, the more I learn to appreciate that there’s this magic when you are just starting out in that you have this unceasing, limitless voraciousness for creation. It’s youth, passion, blissful inexperience… I’m not sure what to call it. But before you know exactly what your taste is, before you know exactly what audience you’re trying to cater to, before you have a sense of “good” or “unique” or “new” any other limiting, critical adjective that might slow you down in the creative process, just write, write, write. Work begets work. A writer writes.

There’s an unfortunate American Idol-mythology out there that claims that talent just happens at a crazy young age, and that’s utterly ridiculous. Writing is a muscle, and if you work that muscle out each and every day, pretty soon you can pick up some pretty weighty stories and toss them around with ease.

What is your technique to overcome writer’s block?

When I’m stuck? Walking’s good. Sunshine. Sandwiches. Coke Zero. Calling an old friend. Calling a new friend. Watching a movie that’s similar to what you’re working on, but just different enough.

Although, y’know, it’s funny to hear the word “writer’s block,” because to me that’s sort of a misnomer. A bogeyman. I find that what’s called a “block” is natural, that it’s just a part of the whole thing. Sure, there are those magical moments when writing is a breeze, when I’m jamming along and I’ve achieved maximum flow and the words fly out like lightning bolts and I am a God among men and the world SHALL KNEEL DOWN BEFORE ME… but, in reality, those moments are rare.

So, what you call “writer’s block,” I call “process.” Maybe I’m in the minority, but it makes me feel better to know that on every project, I’m guaranteed to encounter some monumental, unscalable, booby-trapped roadblock protected by a conniving troll. If I can trick myself into accepting that this “block” is just part of writing, I can (almost) always find some path over, under or through.

Who are some actors you would love to see perform in your plays/musicals?

Justin Timberlake. Neil Patrick Harris. Bernadette Peters. Steve Martin. (How’s that for four names you’ve never seen next to each other!)

Who is your favorite character in any of your shows?

I absolutely loved writing for Cyrano in Cyrano de BurgerShack. He’s cocky and bold and very quick on his feet, but this outward confidence hides a deep insecurity. At his core, Cyrano just wants to find love and acceptance, like most of us, only his self-doubt is as plain as the nose on his face. I think that’s why he connects with so many people — and why the original character that he’s based on is so beloved.

Another character I’m crazy about is this famous fellow in a new play I’m writing. It’s a comedy (yes, a comedy) that stars the character John Wilkes Booth, and it’s such a blast writing for such a dynamic and passionate character who is a notorious villain. It’s liberating to know that no matter what he says or how charming he says it, audiences will never forget that this charismatic cad is one of history’s most infamous American traitors.

Just for fun, have you ever pulled off any grand romantic gestures like Cyrano?

When I was in fifth grade, there was this adorable girl named Mariah who sat across from me at my table in homeroom. Blonde. Plucky. Sly. Well, she was my everything, and I had dreamed of telling her how I felt for months… and when Valentine’s Day rolled around, I was like, well, now’s my chance! You remember, in elementary school, how you’d buy those little themed Valentine’s Day cards at the drug store and give one to everyone in the entire class? The ones with, say, Goofy on them, driving a car, saying “I’m car-razy for you” or whatever? Well, I picked out the most über-romantic of them all — something with Minnie Mouse and tons of hearts, I think? — and in my most impeccable eight-year-old handwriting, I poured out my heart, screaming to the stars, announcing to my yellow-haired, nine-year-old goddess how wondrous I thought she was.

What happened?

We have two kids, a dog and a goldfish named Fluffy.

Seriously?

Nope. But, if you’re out there, Mariah, hit me up on Facebook!

–Jeremy Desmon

Jeremy Desmon is an award-winning musical theatre bookwriter whose stories have played around the world.

The Girl in the Frame, seen in over a dozen productions, earned him the prestigious Edward Kleban Prize as America’s most promising Musical Theatre Bookwriter. His “revisal” of Good News recently opened The Goodspeed Opera House’s 50th Anniversary Season. Pump Up The Volume, his rock musical adaptation of the 1990 Christian Slater film, is currently being developed for Broadway under the direction/choreography of Christopher Gattelli.

Other notable credits: Surviving The Avalanche (Barrington Stage), Virtually Me (TheatreworksUSA) and the non-musical comedy, 7 1/2 Wondrous Act(s) of True Love (Midtown Direct Rep).

In addition, Mr. Desmon has written numerous “family theatrical” touring arena shows, as well, including Universal’s Curious George Live!, Disney Live’s Mickey’s Music Festival!, Sesame Workshop’s Elmo Rocks! and multiple editions of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Only one of these shows was on skates (Disney On Ice’s Rockin’ Ever After. )

Mr. Desmon is an alum of Stanford University (BA) and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (MFA). He teaches a musical theatre workshop at Princeton University and is a former Jonathan Larson Fellow with the Dramatists Guild for his work as a lyricist.

Mr. Desmon lives in Manhattan, right by that Starbucks.





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