Artist Ruth Bauer Discuss Her Collaboration On The War Dept. Now at The O’Neill National Music Theatre Conference By Ademola Bello July 1, 2014 The War Dept. workshop readings at the O’Neill National Music Theatre Conference began on June 28-July 4. The War Dept. Libretto, music and lyrics was written by Jim Bauer who won the 2014 O’Neill Music Theatre Conference Georgia Bogardus Holof Award. Libretto, Art, and Video Direction of The War Dept. was written by Ruth Bauer who also collaborated with her husband Jim Bauer, on the book of another musical called The Blue Flower. The War Dept. is about cleaning up the mess after the American Civil War has ended and the task of doing the job falls on fictionalized character called Private T. Clarke a staff of the mysterious division of The War Dept. The director of the O’Neill readings of The War Dept. is Melia Bensussen a recipient of an Obie award for outstanding direction. The music director of The War Dept. readings is Dominick Ammendum who has for the past seven years served as Associate Music Supervisor for the Broadway mega- hit musical Wicked. Playbill.com speaks with Ruth Bauer to share her insights on musical theatre, The War Dept. and her collaboration with her husband Jim. Question: What drawn you to musical theatre? Ruth Bauer: I love the way music can provide an inviting entry into a story for an audience and can open up storytelling possibilities. Question: Can you mention your musical theatre influences? Ruth Bauer: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well in Paris made a big impression on me when I was a teenager. I was also fascinated with the musical film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which is completely strange and surreal. Question: Stephen Sondheim once said, “If you work at the piano, you’re limited by your own technique.” Do you agree? Ruth Bauer: I am not a composer or musician so I can’t answer this question. Question: Can you discuss the process of musicalizing either a play, short story, novel or non-fiction book? Ruth Bauer: The process of writing The War Dept. is very organic and moves between the music and lyrics (Jim’s responsibility), story, and visuals; and we are always considering how to use the best medium for each part of the narrative. Question: Is it difficult to write the opening lines of music lyrics in musical theater? Ruth Bauer: Jim is the lyricist so I can’t answer that specific question, but figuring out the beginning of a theatrical show is very challenging. Question: What inspired you to write The War Dept.? Ruth Bauer: We were commissioned to write a music theater piece by the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge as part of a sesquicentennial commemoration of the American Civil War. Our research led us to the history of the Ford’s Theater, which was converted to offices to be used by the War Department (now called the Defense Department) and we found the legacy of the Civil War to be a compelling and rich topic. Question: Did you tell the story of The War Dept. from the point of view of William T. Clarke? Ruth Bauer: William T. Clarke’s peculiar command of facts and numbers makes him a pivotal figure in The War Dept. but the multiple perspectives of all of the characters are essential to the story. Question: How did you manage to create characters that wrestle with history and political change in The War Dept.? Ruth Bauer: We are particularly indebted to three books that were instrumental in developing our story and characters, although I have a long list of other books that were also very helpful: This Republic of Suffering by Drew Faust The State of Jones by John Stauffer Sick from Freedom by Jim Downs Question: Can you discuss your collaboration with your husband Jim? Ruth Bauer: Jim and I each have our own areas of expertise but share a similar approach to the creative process, which is a willingness to ramble and explore ideas without a specific destination. We have our disagreements, but in the end, we find a solution that best serves the work itself.