City of Conversation
Written and Performed by Benjamin Scheuer
Directed by Sean Daniels
Presented in association with Eva Price
Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle
Some stories have to be sung. Writer/performer Benjamin Scheuer uses his guitar — actually, six guitars — in this wholly-original musical experience that tells a coming-of-age story that “lifts the spirit” (Time Out New York). The award-winning songwriter inspires and disarms with his raw wit and emotional depth as he leads you on a rock ‘n’ roll journey from boyhood to manhood, through pain and healing, to discover the redemptive power of music. Don’t miss the show New York Daily News calls “an irresistible winner.” Much like its hero, The Lion roars.
BENJAMIN SCHEUER (Writer/Performer) is the recipient of the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and a 2015 Theatre World Award. The animated music videos for Benjamin’s songs “The Lion” and “Cookie-tin Banjo” have won prizes at the Annecy Film Festival, British Animation Awards, Encounters Film Festival, Crystal Palace Festival and Buenos Aires’ ExpoToons Film Festival. Benjamin’s album “Songs from THE LION” will be released in 2016, along with animated videos for the songs “Weather the Storm” and “Cure.” With photographer Riya Lerner, Benjamin is co-creator of the art book “Between Two Spaces,” from which 50 percent of proceeds go to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society (www.betweentwospaces.com). Benjamin has toured with Mary Chapin Carpenter and performed at venues including Royal Albert Hall in London and Lincoln Center in New York. He has been a writer-in-residence at Goodspeed, Weston Playhouse and the Johnny Mercer Songwriting Workshop and been commissioned by Williamstown Theatre Festival. Benjamin lives in New York City. The Lion is on tour through February 2017. Twitter/Instagram: @benjaminscheuer. www.benjaminscheuer.com
SEAN DANIELS (Director) has directed at Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynn Redgrave Theater, the Kennedy Center, St. James Theatre (West End), Actors Theatre of Louisville, Portland Center Stage, Geva Theatre Center, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Cleveland Play House, Alliance Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Long Wharf Theatre, Dad’s Garage Theatre Company, Swine Palace, Neo-Futurists, Aurora Theatre, Crowded Fire Theater and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His direction and shows have won “Best New Musical” in London; the Drama Desk Award in New York City; and “Best Play” and “Best Director” in the Bay Area, Rochester and Atlanta. His shows have also been nominated for a Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Award. Sean was named “one of the top 15 up-and-coming artists in the U.S. whose work will be transforming America’s stages for decades to come” and “one of seven people reshaping and revitalizing the American musical” by American Theatre. He is the artistic director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre. He previously served as artist-at-large for Geva Theatre Center and spent four years at the Tony Award-winning Actors Theatre of Louisville as the theater’s associate artistic director, where he directed 17 productions including five Humana Festivals. Sean is the former associate artistic director/resident director of California Shakespeare Theater and before that spent a decade as artistic director and co-founder of Dad’s Garage Theatre Company in Atlanta. Twitter: @seandaniels.
NEIL PATEL (Scenic Designer)’s designs are well known on and Off-Broadway and at regional theaters and opera houses in the U.S. and abroad. Recent New York credits include Mr. Burns, a post-electric play; Stage Kiss; Indian Ink; and Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3). Other work includes production design for the HBO series In Treatment and the feature films Some Velvet Morning (Tribeca Films) and Loitering with Intent (Parts and Labor).
BEN STANTON (Lighting Designer)’s Broadway credits include Fun Home (Circle in the Square, Tony Award nomination), An Enemy of the People (Friedman Theatre) and Seminar (Golden Theatre). Recent Off-Broadway credits include Fun Home (The Public, Lucille Lortel Award nomination); The Nether (MCC Theater, Lucille Lortel Award nomination); Our Lady of Kibeho (Drama Desk Award nomination); Kung Fu; Angels in America (Signature Theatre); Murder Ballad (MTC/Union Square Theatre, Lucille Lortel Award nomination); Belleville (New York Theatre Workshop, Lucille Lortel Award nomination); Into the Woods (Delacorte Theater); and The Whipping Man (MTC, Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk nomination). Selected regional credits include Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Kirk Douglas Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, South Coast Repertory, Goodman Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Huntington Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Paper Mill Playhouse, McCarter Theatre Center, Intiman Theatre and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Concert and tour designs for Regina Spektor, Sufjan Stevens, Beirut and St. Vincent. Touring lighting designer for The National Theatre (summer/fall 2014) and 2015 Obie Award winner for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design. www.benstanton.com
LEON ROTHENBERG (Sound Designer)’s recent Broadway credits include Violet, The Realistic Joneses and The Nance (Tony Award). Select New York/Off-Broadway credits include Culture Project, Primary Stages, Second Stage Theatre, Tectonic Theater Project, Women’s Project Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Public, LCT3 and New York City Center. Select regional credits for Arena Stage, Seattle Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, New York Stage and Film, Two River Theater, North Shore Music Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, Intiman Theatre and Theatre By The Sea. International credits include Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza and Wintuk, National Theatre of Cyprus and the Dijon Festival. www.klaxson.net
JENNIFER CAPRIO (Costume Consultant)’s credits include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Broadway), The Lion (West End, St. James Theatre) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (current national tour). Select New York credits include Tail! Spin! (Culture Project), The Lion (Manhattan Theatre Club), Little Miss Sunshine (Second Stage Theatre), In Transit (Primary Stages, Lucille Lortel Award nomination), Fugitive Songs (Dreamlight Theatre Company) and Striking 12 (Daryl Roth). Opera credits include Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Opera Colorado and Mill City Summer Opera. Costume designs at over 60 U.S. regional theaters.
DOM RUGGIERO (Production Supervisor)’s Broadway credits include The Gathering starring Hal Linden; Borscht Belt Buffet on Broadway starring Bruce Adler and Mal Z. Lawrence; and Ain’t That a Kick in the Head—The Music of Sammy Cahn directed by Chet Walker. First national tours include The Cole Porter Songbook starring Melba Moore, The Irving Berlin Songbook starring Carole Lawrence and Greetings…Shalom Aleichem Lives starring Judy Kaye, Bruce Adler and Theodore Bikel. Dom has worked on various productions in many capacities from stage management to general management and producing. His projects have taken him across the U.S., Europe, South America and Australia with Aint’ Misbehavin’, Phantom of the Opera, Anything Goes and Song and Dance, among many others.
MIND THE GAP PRODUCTIONS (Technical Supervisor) is a Brooklyn-based production company specializing in custom fabrication, production management and production logistics. Notable projects include On the Town (Broadway), Hand to God (MCC Theater), And I and Silence, A Particle of Dread (Signature Theatre), Sex With Strangers, The Substance of Fire (Second Stage Theatre), Romeo and Juliet, Caucasian Chalk Circle (Classic Stage Company), The Tribute Artist, Poor Behavior and While I Yet Live (Primary Stages).
MAXIMUM ENTERTAINMENT (General Management) is a producing, developing and management company. Maximum Entertainment was founded in 2006 by Avram Freedberg, MaryBeth Dale and Eva Price. Associate General Manager Jim Brady joined Maximum in 2014. General management credits on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on tour include 50 Shades! The Musical Parody; Ivy + Bean, the Musical; Blank! The Musical; Colin Quinn: Long Story Short; Forever Dusty; Voca People; The Judy Show; Circumcise Me; The Great American Trailer Park Musical; The Magic School Bus Live!; Ella; ’S Wonderful; Strega Nona; and Irving Berlin’s I Love a Piano.
EVA PRICE (Producer) was recently named one of Crain’s New York Business’ “40 Under Forty” Rising Business Stars as well as one of Blouin Artinfo’s “25 Under 35” Emerging Broadway Players. She is executive producer/EVP for Maximum Entertainment, a producing and general management company located in New York City. Recent Broadway and Off-Broadway productions include On Your Feet! The Story of Gloria & Emilio Estefan; The Temptations and The Four Tops On Broadway; Found; Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin; John Grisham’s A Time to Kill; Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; Lewis Black: Running on Empty; Annie; Peter and the Starcatcher (five Tony Awards); Kathy Griffin Wants A Tony; Colin Quinn: Long Story Short directed by Jerry Seinfeld (Drama Desk Award nomination); The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle Award nominations); The Addams Family (Broadway, tour and Australia); Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking; and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. International and touring credits include Ivy + Bean, the Musical (national tour); The Magic School Bus Live!; The Climate Challenge (national tour); Ella, a bio musical about the life and music of Ella Fitzgerald (national tour);’S Wonderful (national tour); Strega Nona (national tour); Irving Berlin’s I Love A Piano (national tour and Japan); The Great American Trailer Park Musical (national tour); Private Jokes; and Public Places (London).
The Lion Promo Arena Stage
Benjamin Scheuer’s critically acclaimed Off-Broadway smash The Lion comes to Arena Stage February 26 - April 3, 2016.
An original music video of “The Lion,” from the critically acclaimed musical The Lion, written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer (and Escapist Papers), directed by Peter Baynton.
An original music video of “Cookie-Tin Banjo,” from the critically acclaimed musical The Lion, written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer (and Escapist Papers), directed by Peter Baynton.
Arena Stage (AS): What was the development process for The Lion?
Benjamin Scheuer (BS): An hour before my 11th dose of chemotherapy, I wrote the first draft of the song “The Lion” about four generations of my family. I was twenty-eight years old, and had a kind of cancer called stage-IV Hodgkins Lymphoma. When my chemotherapy proved a success, and I was cured, I recorded this song and a few other autobiographical ones, and made an animated music video for the song “The Lion.”
I was playing these songs in the coffee shops around Greenwich Village, not knowing what I was gonna say between songs. I decided to write down and memorize the talking-between-songs. Then I had, to my horror, a score and a script: A musical!
AS: Which song, from The Lion, do you feel closest to?
BS: “Weather The Storm” is a song I like very much. The music video for this song will premiere at the British Animation Awards on March 10, 2016. I made the video with Peter Baynton, a London-based animator/director. It’s Peter and my third collaboration; the first two were videos for “The Lion” and “Cookie-tin Banjo.” The track for “Weather The Storm” will be on iTunes March 11th, and I’m proud of the recording. It was produced by Geoff Kraly and mixed by Grammy Award winner Kevin Killen (David Bowie/Peter Gabriel).
AS: One of the songs in the show is called “Cookie-tin Banjo.” What kind of cookies were in the cookie-tin?
BS: My mother is from London; she and my dad met, married, and settled in New York, where he’s from. My mother would order tins of shortbread cookies from Harrods, the famous London department store. My father built my cookie-tin banjo from the lid of one of these cookie-tins.
AS: When you are writing, how many iterations, typically, does a song go through before you are ready to record?
BS: My record-producer and dear friend Geoff Kraly — who produced the forthcoming album “Songs from THE LION,” (coming Spring 2016) — was asked this same question. He answered, “how many drafts of a song you write depends on if you want your song to be good, or you want your song to be done. If you want it to be done, then stop; you’re done. If you want it to be good, then keep writing.” I agree with Geoff. The best songwriters don’t write better first drafts than other people; they do more rewriting re-writing than other people. They consider every verb. Every syllable. Every comma. They use all tools available: a rhyming dictionary, Roget’s 7th Edition Thesaurus, the eyes and ears and thoughts of people they trust. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.
AS: What do you hope audiences will take away from the production?
BS: What do I hope people take away from my show? I want them to take away a copy of the book “Between Two Spaces.” Once a week, while I was getting chemotherapy, I was photographed by the fantastic New York photographer Riya Lerner. Riya and I put together a book of these photographs, with text from the journals that I kept. 50% of proceeds from sales of the book go to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. The book is for sale at www.BetweenTwoSpaces.com and in the lobby of the The Lion.
Sunday, March 20 from 5-7 PM
Arena Stage - Ammerman Rehearsal Hall
Drama Desk Award-winning songwriter Benjamin Scheuer hosts a free songwriting masterclass for amateur and professional songwriters. To apply to work with Scheuer in the class, please send the lyrics of your song, and an audio or video recording of the song, to Arena@arenastage.org by March 17 at noon. Please use the subject MASTERCLASS in your email. The class is FREE and open to the public, and anyone is welcome to watch Benjamin work with the songwriters.
March 10 at 8:00 pm
March 16 at 12:00 pm
March 22 at 12:00 pm
March 22 at 7:30 pm
Welcome to Off Book – Arena Stage's online forum featuring American artists at the top of their game, talking about what they do best. Actors, directors, writers, dramaturgs, designers – unscripted and unrehearsed.
THE PRIDE OF THE LION: BENJAMIN SCHEUER AND SEAN DANIELS
The energy of Benjamin Scheuer’s one-man show, The Lion, is so contagious that, once you see it, you can’t stop talking about it. It has captured the hearts of audiences across the country, and internationally. Go inside The Lion with Benjamin and director Sean Daniels to discuss the origins of the piece and their collaborative relationship. Plus watch the newly-released video for “Weather the Storm.” Read More
March 5 at 2:00 pm
March 17 at 8:00 pm
March 23 at 7:30 pm