Composer Duncan Sheik knew what Brechtian theatre was before he started composing for Brecht productions. He just didn't know that he knew.
"Saying he is an influence would be overstating it," said Sheik. "When we first started working on Spring Awakening, director Michael Mayer was always going on about the Brechtian influences in the piece" — that is, the theatrical examination of social ills in the musical's story, and the presentation style of singing to which Sheik's score lent itself. "At the time, I didn't even know what that meant. Now, I do!"
Sheik has composed songs and music for Classic Stage Company's current revival of Brecht's savage 1926 look at war and the military, A Man's a Man. It's the second Brecht play in as many seasons that he's done with CSC, the first being last spring's mounting of The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
The director of both productions is Brian Kulick, CSC's artistic director. Theatre-wise, Sheik can credit Kulick for giving him his start.
"I worked with Brian 11 years ago on Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. That was the first time I've ever had any of my music on stage. I was working on Spring Awakening at the time, but it wasn't done yet." He added, laughing, "Frankly, I didn't think what I did was all that great!" He feels differently about his work on A Man's a Man. "I have a better grasp of how to do it, having written for the theatre for a decade now."
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