Wake Up To A New World!
Composer Dan Furman has reworked his first musical, Impossible But True, and is preparing to present it starting in April – first in Brooklyn then across the river in Manhattan.
Impossible But True (IBT) follows Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. It follows Rip, trying to find “home” after a sojourn in the Revolutionary War. Now written in an immersive style and presented environmentally (in a tavern), the actors stroll ’round the audience looking at the play from a view topical to toady’s concerned-about-the-world crowds.
Running at Franklin 820 (820 Franklin Ave in Brooklyn) on four Mondays: April 30, May 7, May 14, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. (Reservs: firstname.lastname@example.org).
We grabbed Dan on his way to a run-thru for some bits of business:
Tell us about yourself as an artist
I hail from Old Hickory, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville) where I began playing piano and composing music at an early age and went on to study composition and jazz piano at Oberlin Conservatory. After moving to New York in 2003 to play jazz, I began writing for music theater as well, and spent four years in the BMI Lehman Engels Musical Theater Workshop. That same year, “RIP!,” (the original version of “Impossible But True”), was featured in the 2011 Midtown International Theatre Festival. I also wrote the theme song for the Big Apple Circus 2010-11 show, “Dance On!”
I collaborated with bookwriter Anita Gonzalez on “Ybor City,” which was given a staged reading at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Manhattan in the summer of 2015 as well as a studio production at the University of Michigan in early 2017 and was workshopped in Manhattan in early 2018. I’m actually writing the book, music, and lyrics for The Proust Virus, a musical about video game characters who come to life. You can hear me play at Cleopatra’s Needle.
How does this play resonate today? Feel free to be blunt.
When Rip Van Winkle is mentioned, people tend to think of a guy who falls asleep and wakes up with a long beard. One of the interesting things about Irving’s story, however, is WHEN Rip Van Winkle sleeps. He falls asleep before the American Revolution and wakes up after the new country has been formed. That’s a focus of this show: how do we know what is possible—in science, in love, in life? Until we step forward and try to do it? Although it is set nearly 200 years ago and has a hero who is mostly known for falling asleep, the show is very forward-looking.
How is it to do immersive theater like this? Good? Bad?
It’s been a lot of fun so far working with the cast and the director on how to make this show work in a bar setting. I am looking forward to seeing how it develops as we continue rehearsals and staging. I think it’s a great thing to be sitting right next to the actors and singers and even get involved physically in the show that is going on all around you.
Imagine this style catches on even more. Where do you see it going in the future?
My vision is having a “theater” night in a bar could be a great opportunity for artists to produce their work and for local audiences to see it—all at a fraction of the cost of going to the latest show on Broadway. Like trivial pursuit or other “game” nights, it brings people into the establishments. It also raises the cultural level of communities to have more things like this happening. If our model works, I would like to take the show to other bars or unconventional theater spaces.
It’s exciting to be in the middle of a theatrical production. I hope our show brings some of that excitement to everyone who comes out to see it!