By Nick BeJeaux
A ragtag group of current and former students – many from LSU – are very close to staging an original musical, titled One Thousand Words, after working tirelessly to build it from the ground up.
One Thousand Words, a love story like any other – though unlike any other in many respects – will open tomorrow, Jan 8., on the stage of Theatre Baton Rouge and close on January 11.
“In the show we’re going to see a love story between two men,” said Michael Braud, the show’s lyricist. “The struggle that we see them in is that they just want to love each other, but they’re living in a time and place that will not allow them to do so. It’s as simple as that.
“We’re trying to tear down stereotypes. Our two main characters are pretty masculine; in fact people don’t really know that they are homosexual for most of the show. There’s a big coming out towards the end. Both of them are also somewhat religious, too, so we don’t really play up too many stereotypes; most of the time we’re taking them down. We’re sticking to a side that very many people don’t see in the gay community.”
One Thousand Words follows the story of Warren, played by LSU sophomore Trey Tycer, who begins to realize that his world is a little more complicated than he knew before.
“Warren is a coal miner, he’s the star of the local baseball team – he’s a jock,” said Tycer. “He’s dating this girl named Elizabeth, and he loves her, but he knows in the back of his mind that she’s not what he’s looking for.”
Warren eventually reconnects with his old friend Daniel, played by LSU Health Sciences Junior Brady Lewis, who wants to be an actor in New York City. Encouraged by their mutual desire to chase their own dreams, the pair leave their small hometown for the big city. There, their relationship unexpectedly deepens.
“Daniel comes out to Warren – comes on to him, really – and Warren is distraught at first, but he begins to realize that he feels the same way about Daniel,” said Tycer. “Once they figure that all out, the rest of the show is all about them being in love and dealing with the challenges that comes with that.”
Braud says that he wants to show a story about universal love and that homosexual relationships are essentially no different from heterosexual ones.
“I want the audience, whatever their sexuality may be, to look at the show and ask, ‘How is my relationship any different from the struggle these two are going through?’” said Braud. “They’ll also see this very common ‘I want you, but I can’t have you banter’ throughout the show. This is a love story, no matter what your sexuality may be.”
Glenn Carman, a LSU Biology Alum, plays Luke; the antagonist of the story, but he also represents a much broader opposition to Daniel and Warren’s love.
“Luke is more or less the antagonist, but he more represents the misunderstanding by the society that Warren and Daniel live in,” said Carman. “He represents the atmosphere that the two main characters were comfortable in before they realize who they actually are; all of a sudden that atmosphere was not as comfortable as they thought. Luke is threatened by their relationship with someone he is in love, a girl, with and his homophobic tendencies are more to do with his jealousy than his prejudices.”
Of course, Carman is nothing like his character and in fact hopes the story and his character’s role offers the audience a more enlightened view into the lives of homosexual men.
“The show, I think, makes homosexuality very accessible for people to understand as they would any other relationship,” said Carman. “Gay men are brave. They can fight for the country, stand up for themselves and they risk a lot for love and things they believe in.”
Beside the heavy story, the show’s execution has been a large undertaking. Director Alys Murray, a Sophomore at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University, says that the show could easily put on a massive spectacle, but it doesn’t need to in order to be successful.
“Because it is such a massive show in terms of places that we go and time periods that we span, it would be very easy to do a Phantom of the Opera-level deal,” she said. “But at the end of the day, the story isn’t the spectacle. The story is about a man telling his life’s story and really having to work through the memory of his life. It’s very simple because it’s so story-driven; I think to lacquer over that would take away from the heart of the piece, which is that these characters have to fight to exist.”
Of course, a musical is nothing without the music.
“You’re not going to hear 1940s jazz; this is more like a poppy, off-Broadway musical that you would see today, but it will have some jazz and other older elements to it,” said Composer Curran Latas, a LSU Theatre Performance sophomore.
While not quite as dramatic as One Thousand Words’ plot, the story behind the musical’s inception is still remarkable.
“I was just sitting in a practice room one day playing piano for fun and Michael Braud just walked in and I was like, ‘Hey, who are you?’” said Latas. “He asked what I was playing and I told him it was just something I wrote and he said, ‘That’s awesome! We should write a musical together!’”
From there, Latas and Braud were fast friends and as the project grew so did people’s interest in it.
“It almost started off as a joke, but he would write a song and I would write the lyrics and within two or three months we had a score and people who wanted to help us make it happen.”
While Latas tries not to play favorites with his work, he was quick to point out the musicals quintessential number: “There I’d Be.”
“I try not to have any favorites, they’re all almost like my children – 22 children,” said Latas. “But the one that comes to mind when I think about the score is actually the first one we wrote for the production, “There I’d Be.” It Daniel and Warren just sitting down and talking about their dreams and how they want to get out of this town and what they want to accomplish. I love it so much because it really sets the whole show into motion and it’s a beautiful song because everyone has aspirations like that; I think the audience will really connect with it.”
To help push the project through the final stages of production, the crew is considering re-launching an Indie Go-Go page for crowd sourced funds.