Hot on the heels of the hit Spring Awakening from Basement Theatrics, 12th Avenue Arts is hosting another new company, Studio 18, and their production of the Broadway musical Bonnie & Clyde. The company is the brainchild of two young Puget Sound talents, who share a passion for theatre, as well as each other Alia Collins-Friedrichs and Matt Lang.
Alia will attend the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in the fall, studying Applied Theatre and Community Drama. She has worked at the 5th Avenue Theatre for the past three seasons and been an active member of the Twelfth Night Productions community for years.
Matt has been working in Seattle theatre in many aspects for the past 12 years. He studied Musical Theatre at both Webster University and Point Park University. Most commonly, Matt is to be found on stage as an actor, and often works as an educator in theatre teaching dance, and gymnastics to children.
The pair met last summer over the rehearsal process of Into the Woods with Twelfth Night Productions, began dating shortly after meeting, and have grown together in many ways over the past year.
Why Studio 18?
Alia: When I first had the idea to produce Bonnie & Clyde, I just needed a name to fill out the forms. At the time, we had rented the Studio space at 12th Ave Arts, and I was 18. So…that’s the story! Of course, since last October, Studio 18 has changed and grown beyond what we could have imagined. It’s become so much more than a vehicle to produce one show with, and we aim to create a platform for Seattle Artists within the Studio 18 community.
Bonnie & Clyde was considered by some to be a Broadway flop. Why did you choose launch your company with it?
Alia: I’ve loved this musical since I first listened to it four years ago. I truly believe that it could have run longer if not for the harsh reviews. What some consider a flop, others consider one of Frank (Jekyll and Hyde) Wildhorn’s better musicals with the potential of a cult classic. The score is passionate and the overall tale is one of love and murder, familiar yet wild and imaginative.
How will the story of Bonnie & Clyde be told in this adaptation?
Matt: The musical re-telling of Bonnie & Clyde follows the journey of these two famous outlaws whose story has become part of the backbone of the American mythology. The story explores the themes of good and evil, law and crime, godliness and secularism, family and love–where those lines blur and intersect, and how as humans we are similar in our means in order to reach different ends.
The media created a persona for Bonnie and Clyde that was flashy, glamorous, and sexy. We wish to explore all the aspects of their humanity–see where they went wrong, and how, As we move forward in today’s society, we can work to not repeat history.
Another thing that we want to be sensitive of in our production is the use of firearm props to be truthful to the context of the time and situation. We wish to conduct ourselves in a way that responsibly reflects the current events relating to firearms and show the harm that their unregulated use can cause.
What future shows do you have on your wish list?
Alia: We would love to produce Dogfight, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Songs For A New World, Violet, Side Show, Urinetown, and Parade to name a few.
You’re both mixing a personal relationship with a business one. Is that scary to you?
Alia: I don’t know if scary is the right word. There was maybe a feeling of trepidation, certainly a lot of discussion. However, our common interests and goals in the world of theatre made this a natural next step. It can be exhausting and frustrating, but we’re stronger for it, both personally and professionally. We’ve definitely learned a lot together and it has absolutely been worth it.
Matt: There have been a great many feelings that have come up throughout this process. It can be difficult sometimes to separate the business from the personal, but we work hard to find that balance. Our similar passions and desire to tell meaningful stories made the progression into Studio 18 seem like a no-brainer. In the end, we are creating something that is ours, and I am so proud of the work that we have done. This process has made my convictions in our relationship stronger, and I look forward to the future. I couldn’t imagine anyone better to be doing this with.
What will Studio 18 bring to the Seattle Theatre scene?
Matt: Let’s start with our Mission Statement. Studio 18 strives to provide a safe place for the development of artists. We are committed to professionalism and to fully representing the diversity of the Seattle artistic community. Studio 18 aims to create theatre that conscientiously questions the human condition, while making musical theatre accessible for a broader audience.
The questions that we want to ask are those of the condition of underrepresented and oppressed. The humans whose stories are potent, but remain often untold. So often the only side of the story that we see is that of privilege or the status quo. We question both sides of the story to present the audience with a question at the end of the shows we produce. We see a place in the Seattle theatre scene for a company that explores the human experience through musical theatre with a basis in reality, bringing up questions that are relevant to the issues facing us today.
Studio 18 presents the NW premiere of the Tony® Award nominated musical Bonnie & Clyde at 12th Ave Arts (1620 12th Ave) August 5-8 and 11-13 at 8pm (with an additional Saturday matinee on 8/13 at 2pm). For tickets go to brownpapertickets.com and for more information on Theatre 18 and the show, go to studio18productions.org.