This weekend, SCAD’s Performance Ensemble will perform two staged readings of the first act of “Steam Punks!,” a new musical by Dramatic Writing Graduate Student Chadwick Harman.
Harman was inspired by a steampunk rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” at Belhaven University, where he completed his undergraduate degree in music.
“The motivation for [“Steam Punks!”] came when I sat down and wrote the first song at the piano,” Harman said. “It’s one of the worst songs I’ve ever written and it’s not in the show anymore! This was the first time I’d ever finished any writing project that I’d started…and I think that was its own motivation. I really felt like I had to tell this story. I couldn’t get away from it, even when I hated it. Here I am, going on eight years later, still working on it.”
Though he was a music student at the time, Harman hesitated to begin writing the show’s music himself. Now that it is finished, he says that writing the music has been both his favorite and least favorite part of the writing process.
“I’d always thought I’d find someone else to write the music . . . I didn’t want to,” Harman said. “What I learned is that I wanted to, I was just afraid to.”
Now that Performance Ensemble is producing the reading under the direction of Kevin Wallace, Harman has seen – well, heard – the music transform.
“It’s always hard to step away from control, but I think I’ve learned a lot about the show because of it,” Harman said. “There are some times when I go, ‘Wait, I wrote that?’ But only because Kevin’s take on the music makes it new and interesting to me and that’s a good thing.”
Harman sought out Performance Ensemble and talked directly with Wallace about producing a reading of the show.
“I played him a few of the solo pieces from the first and second act,” Harman said, “He stopped me halfway through the first song and said, ‘We’re going to do this show.'”
Harman is excited to see the finished reading and hopes audiences will enjoy the show.
“I hope people like it enough to warrant seeing the full thing,” he said. “The men and women who are performing in the show are killing it, and they’re finding things about the characters that I never thought were possible.”
The staged readings of “Steam Punks!” will take place in the Arnold Hall Auditorium on May 5 and 6 at 7 p.m. A Q&A session with Harman will follow the May 5 performance.