About 3 weeks ago, I received an email from Lauren Cunfer asking to be connected to Kristen Penner and Lorelei Mackenzie, writers of Pieces. Lauren is a student at CITYterm and needed more information for her final research paper about musical theatre. Now, it’s no secret that I am a part of the creative team of Pieces. I believe in the message of the show (to bring awareness to Dissociative Identity Disorder) and I believe in the team that created this beautiful musical. I thought the exchange was a wonderful mentoring opportunity. Honestly, kudos to Lauren for sending me an email.
Below is some of the questions asked by Lauren and answered by Kristen. You have 4 more chances to see the show.
What was the most difficult part about creating Pieces?
The structure! With other, more standard musicals, structuring the show is much easier. But Pieces hold a different challenge than most. We had to include as much of the structure of real DID therapy while including the internal world of Tabby’s alters and also giving her an outside life. That should be three different shows that we combined into one. And the structure has changed numerous times throughout the show’s life thus far and may even change more as it developed. It’s a process.
Why did you choose to create this specific musical?
The idea sprung from my mind in college as I was deciding on the topic of my thesis. I had actually grown up being very familiar with the disorder (I knew 2 multiples growing up). And so after watching Sybil and reading numerous case studies, I decided on “How to accurately portray DID onstage and why it is important to do so.” From that point on I wanted to write a stage show centering round the disorder. My advisor for my thesis knew my heart had always been with musicals and one day she asked me why I didn’t just write a musical about it. At the time I scoffed, thinking it was too deep of a topic for a musical. But that as where the idea began. And the rest is history.
Was the idea of creating a completely original musical daunting to you?
Yes. Very. It is always scary starting a new project from scratch. But we have an amazing team. And we are passionate about the topic. Combine those two things and you are doing a disservice to the world NOT pursuing your idea.
How did you take into account the many people who would be watching the show when you were creating it? How do you try to gear your show towards different audiences?
We knew we had to make the music and the story accessible to the general public. It’s a tough topic and not something that necessarily cries “Broadway Hit.” We knew we wanted the main focus to be about Tabby and her journey towards healing, we knew we wanted a love story, we knew one of the goals was to have the disorder be more understood by the end of the show. And with those parameters we began work. We also made sure to give the show plenty of levity- it’s a hard topic and we didn’t want to lose the audience by beating them over the head with the abuse. That wasn’t the point of the show anyway. The show is about hope and that’s what we wanted to showcase. We try to make the story and the music accessible. Especially in Pieces, there are so many different styles of music that at least some song should appeal to everyone. Whether they like, rock, musical theatre, or classical, Pieces has it. And the story, although centering around a very specific disorder, is a universal one. Everyone at some point in their life has trouble reconciling the different parts of themselves. Becoming whole. Loving themselves for who they are. Putting the past behind them. All of these things are the basis for the show.
Click HERE to listen to a few songs from the show.
Paradise Factory Upstairs Theatre at 64 East 4th Street
Book, Music and Lyrics by
Kristen Penner, Lorelei Mackenzie and Joni Ernst
Directed by Nick Radu
Tabby doesn’t know why time slips through her fingers like sand. But her alters, created to protect her, know. They know what’s locked away. But when survival depends on confronting those terrors, will Tabby and her alters be strong enough to look? Or will the darkness destroy them all?
From the award-winning creators of Pageant Princess, the provocative new musical Pieces tells the story of Tabby Morgan, a woman that has Dissociative Identity Disorder, who is desperately trying to survive in a world that she can’t remember experiencing. But her alternate personalities can. Along with Tabby, her alters bring a unique touch to the story that is all their own. Each of the alters is played by a different actor to give the audience a clear idea of how each personality sees themselves. They each also hold a different style of music; from rock to classic, jazz to contemporary musical theatre, their personalities shine through the electric score.