Music Theatre of Madison Shines Light on the Odd God in ‘Hephaestus'
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Music Theatre of Madison.
While toying with an idea for a musical, Madison native Nathan Fosbinder decided he needed a little help from his friends.
So, he asked a few pals from Boston Conservatory to get together and pretend to be Greek Gods for two hours.
“We just kind of ran around and I gave them silly prompts,” Fosbinder says. “We ended up coming up with a story and a lot of that has carried over into what is becoming Hephaestus.”
After Meghan Randolph, founder and executive director of Music Theatre of Madison, came across a clip of Her Song, which Fosbinder originally imagined to be the finale of Hephaestus, she began inquiring and offered to produce the musical at her company.
Nathan Fosbinder. Photo courtesy of Music Theatre of Madison.
Hephaestus will receive a world premiere workshop for audiences to attend June 16 and 17, in preparation for a fully staged production produced by Music Theater of Madison (MTM) in 2019. Although MTM has been presenting public readings through the Festival of New Musicals since 2012, this is the first time the company is workshopping a new musical in preparation for a world premiere.
“Our mission is to bring new work to Madison and the fact that we could bring new work that was written by a local, very talented young man, felt like the perfect fit for us,” says Catie O’Donnell, MTM’s artistic director who will be directing the show.
Fosbinder’s relationship with MTM began when he appeared in the company’s third production, The Sound of Music, at age 14. Fosbinder went on to earn his bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre from Boston Conservatory and is currently enrolled in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at the Tisch School at New York University.
Hephaestus tells the story of its namesake, the often forgotten outcast of Greek myths. Hephaestus (Caleb Mathura) is an artist, blacksmith, and hopeless romantic, desperate for the love of Aphrodite (Kelsey Anne Johnson), but faces epic hurdles to win her over. Brutally shunned by his mother, Hera (Meghan Randolph), he embarks on a quest for love, identity, and art, surrounded by humorous and modern versions of Greek mythological characters.
In Summer 2017, Fosbinder received his regional writing premiere with his musical The Dancing Princesses at Summer Theatre of New Canaan. He also wrote a musical adaptation of Holes and a semi-biographical play entitled What About Cal.
Fosbinder explains that he enjoys focusing on the underdogs in his plays and musicals.
“That’s why I was drawn to Hephaestus of the Greek Gods,” Fosbinder explains. “A lot of my friends were saying wait, he’s the lame one...I was like yea, but I like him. He’s so powerful and yet in that context he is the odd one out.”
After collecting feedback from the audience during the workshops, Fosbinder will have a year to make adjustments to Hephaestus. The goal is to have a complete script that no longer needs edits once it is time to start rehearsals for the full production.
Catie O'Donnell. Photo courtesy of Music Theatre of Madison.
Prior to the workshop performances, audiences will be able to view vision boards created by O’Donnell and Fosbinder, as well as early costume and set renderings. There will also be a listening station so people can hear previous versions of the songs.
“We are inviting the audience to use their imagination even more in this process and see if they are excited by what we have started to put together,” O’Donnell explains. “We want to see if it is clicking for them the way it is clicking for us.”
Hephaestus workshops will take place Saturday, June 16 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 17 at 2 p.m. at Madison Opera Center, 335 W. Mifflin St. For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006, or visit mtmadison.com.