As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are coping with the self-isolation on a daily basis, both physically and creatively.
The series continues with composer-lyricist Joe Iconis, who was nominated for a 2019 Tony Award for Best Original Score Written for the Theatre for Be More Chill, which marked his Broadway debut. He is also the author of Broadway Bounty Hunter, Love in Hate Nation, The Black Suits, Bloodsong of Love, ReWrite, Things to Ruin, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks, and We the People. Iconis’ new cast album, Broadway Bounty Hunter, is now available from Ghostlight Records.
What is your typical day like now?
The past six weeks I’ve been working every day on a massive rewrite of a massive script, so my schedule has been weirdly consistent, which would never be the case in a non-quarantined situation. I usually spend the first couple hours of the day responding to emails, doing interviews, and making my way through all of the business-y things that are a surprisingly large part of my life as a writer and cult leader (#IconisAndFamily). This is my office time, and I often have episodes of Tales From the Crypt playing in the background (I find trashy horror anthologies of the ’80s/’90s relaxing) while drinking coffee out of my super cool Knives Out mug that I bought especially for the quarantine. This is also the time of day where I have to avoid getting sucked into the hellish digital carousel of mania and confusion that is social media during the quarantine. This is also when I spend some quality time with my cat, Diane Kitten, who is really thriving during this global catastrophe. Both her parent masters are trapped at home, and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to her.
After office time, it’s writing time, where I do the thing that most people assume I do all day: sit in front of an open Word doc with a furrowed brow and create works of musical theatre. I’m used to writing in coffee shops or bars—public spaces where there is a lot of activity. So this “writing at home and only at home” thing is hard for me.
The best part of this very upsetting time is that I’m actually getting to see my wife, the brilliant Lauren Marcus. Lauren’s an actor and writer and so it’s rare that we’re both in the same place at the same time. Getting to eat dinner together literally every night has been kind of a dream. In addition to spending time together, we’re also watching Schitt’s Creek because that’s what white people do.
But if you’re out there feeling rotten because you’re isolated, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for feeling bad.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Aside from Schitt’s Creek (which I am so beyond in love with—I want to work with every single cast member so badly), I’ve finally found the time to catch some movies that have been on my “must watch” list forever. Some of my favorite newly discovered gems are House of Games, Withnail and I, Shock Corridor, Paris Texas, The Late Show, and What We Do in the Shadows, which I cannot believe I hadn’t seen. I am embarrassingly ignorant of the work of Taika Waititi beyond Jojo Rabbit, so I’m making my way through his filmography. I feel an immediate kinship with that guy. I really dug the Imagineering documentary series on Disney+. The combination of 1964 World’s Fair footage and Angela Bassett narration hits the spot for me.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
I have no advice. I get it; I understand it’s awful. Obviously, there are so many who are touched first-hand by this tragedy, and I have nothing but love and respect for them. But if you’re out there feeling rotten because you’re isolated, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for feeling bad. My heart breaks for those who are quarantining solo and feel alone. My heart breaks for those who are quarantining with people they hate. Maybe that’s the key. Sure, it’s awful feeling alone, but imagine if you were isolated with a monster? Or imagine if you were isolated with the Phantom of the Opera. Do you know how annoying he would be? Constantly playing the organ in the middle of the night and hiding in your mirror and stealing all the good masks? Just be grateful you’re not dealing with that guy. Unless you are. In which case: my condolences.
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
Consuming as much art as I possibly can, making cocktails, trying to appreciate the amount of sleep I’m getting these days. I know I’m supposed to be exercising, but I’m not. As I type this, Lauren is in the other room doing a Zoom exercise class. I admire her dedication but not enough to join a class. I just read Justin Peck’s Checking In With…, and I think he’d be repulsed by my lifestyle.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I’m working on my Hunter S. Thompson musical for La Jolla Playhouse and on Punk Rock Girl. Figuring out the next steps for Love in Hate Nation and doing my best to spread the word about our newly released Broadway Bounty Hunter cast album. Some concerts I’ve done have streamed recently, which is a great excuse for me to dress how I normally do: jacket, tie, etc. The quarantine has forced me to buy my first pair of sweatpants, which really bothers me. “Lounge wear” has not classically been a thing for me. Usually, I’m either dressed like a Mad Men cast member or I’m in my underwear. Sweatpants feel so middle of the road to me. I prefer extremes.