A Conversation with William Finn
July 22, 1998
Lincoln Center Theater's Platform series presents conversations with artists working at LCT before an audience of interested theatergoers. Admission is free and open to all. Platforms are held in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The following is a transcript, edited for clarity, of the July 22, 1998 Platform with William Finn:
THOMAS COTT: Hi, everybody. I'm Thomas Cott from Lincoln Center Theater. Welcome and thanks for coming. Tonight is our second in a series of Platform events this summer. Our first Platform featured Bob Crowley, set designer of Twelfth Night, and coming up on August 26, we'll have Twelfth Night's director, Nicholas Hytner, and we hope you come back for that as well.
These Platforms are modeled after a popular series at London's Royal National Theatre, and they're part of our expanded effort to include our audience more in the shows that we do, giving you a chance to meet some of the artists working on our plays. We also publish background information about each production in the Playbill as well as in our own magazine, the Lincoln Center Theater Review, which is available in the Theater lobby. All these efforts are made possible by a generous grant from the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation, and we're grateful to them for their support.
Tonight, we are pleased to have with us the composer and writer of A New Brain our show downstairs at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater: William Finn is the Tony Award-winning composer and writer of Falsettos, which combined two of his earlier shows, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland. He has also written In Trousers and Romance in Hard Times, among other shows we can talk about. Upcoming is The Royal Family, a new musical version of the play which he's adapting with Richard Greenberg. Most recently, Bill contributed to the show Love's Fire, as one of a group of writers who adapted Shakespeare's Sonnets.
To interview Bill tonight we have Ira Weitzman, associate producer of A New Brain, who has long been affiliated with musical theater here at Lincoln Center Theater, and at theaters across New York. So... please welcome Ira Weitzman and William Finn! [Applause]
IRA WEITZMAN: Thank you. [To the audience:] You all think of some questions, because we'll get to them eventually. I've worked with Bill Finn since one of his first productions, if not the first production in New York, In Trousers, and what attracted me to Bill's work I think attracts a lot of people to his work; people are very touched, in a very personal way by a lot of things Bill writes. And I'm going to venture to guess that a lot of people wonder how autobiographical your writing is, maybe particularly regarding A New Brain, the current show that's playing here. Do you want to speak a little about autobiography and writing? If it's relevant...
WILLIAM FINN: I don't even know if it's relevant, but sometimes everything is true and sometimes nothing is. With A New Brain, I did have a brain thing that was fixed, and so a lot of these things stem from what happened to me. For example, there's a song, "Crainiotomy," which is the treatment we give the character in the play because, when I tried to describe all the things that actually happened to me in a song embolisation, gamma-knife radiation it became ridiculous. I mean, you couldn't understand anything. So there are many things that are different, but there are a lot of things that are actual in the show, much more than in any other show I've done.
IW: A lot of your songs, I think, touch a deep chord. And a lot of times when you play them for me, I wonder what your muse is, what are your influences, where do you how do you touch so deeply into a set of feelings that people can identify with so well?
WF: When I was younger well, I won't answer the question, I'll just talk around the question I realized that certain songs I liked were the songs that in 3 minutes or 4 minutes could tell you the story of a life. And those were the sorts of songs I wanted to write. Where a panoply of emotions is expressed, but also where real craft is demonstrated.
IW: Do you have influences as a songwriter?
WF: Uh, yeah. [Pause. Audience laughter] I guess.
IW: Well I think of you as having some, as having arrived in the theater, at the same time that a lot of singer-songwriters who record their own work also developed...
WF: A lot of the best songs in A New Brain, for example, are singer-songwriter songs like "And They're Off," which for me is kind of the best song, or "The Music Still Plays On." They're songs meant to be sung by people who are writing, and then, because I used to have a voice and used to be able to sing these songs, I think that's where it all began, you know, with me at the piano writing certain songs I wanted to sing.
IW: As opposed to becoming a singer-songwriter yourself. Because you know I met you when you were performing, and you had a magnificent you have a magnificent voice...
WF: Ira, Ira, Ira, Ira...
IW: You do!
WF: It's a frightening voice. But my songs sometimes, they're I think most songwriters know how to sing their songs, you know, in a way that few actors with much better voices can sing them. They can sell their songs in a way that other people can't. And I can do it, but I certainly could not do it eight performances a week I don't think I could even do two performances a week. If I did one performance a week, it would be a miraculous thing.
IW: Well let's say out of 100 songwriters, well, there's probably not a hundred good songwriters... there's around fifty really good songwriters in this world, of your generation, and you picked the theater. Others did not pick the theater, others picked other kinds of songwriting. So what attracted you to theater?
WF: I just write theater songs.
IW: And what's a theater song?
WF: I'm going to drop a name: Paul Simon, whose work I admire above most everyone... At a party years and years ago so I cannot be blamed for Capeman [audience laughter] Paul Simon said to me, 'What is a theater song, what makes a theater song,' and I said, 'Well, this may not make a lot of sense, but it comes...' and if you saw Capeman, he didn't listen to a word I said [more laughter] but I said, 'It comes, it's sung at the front of the mouth. It's not back, you can't sing it in the back of your it's all, it's in the front, you're [demonstrating] dit dit dit dit dit dit you're talking, it's like talking...' And if you don't get the talking part of it, you know the thing is, writing beautiful ballads is great, but you can only have a few. And that's the dessert, that's the fun part. But the other part is the stuff that makes theater theater, and that's what sets us apart.
IW: What's the first song you ever wrote? Do you remember?
WF: I do remember, let's not go into it. [Audience laughter] I used to play guitar, and for some reason I bought a book of folk songs but never had any interest in playing them. I always had an interest in writing songs, right from the very beginning when I didn't know how to, when I only knew two chords, I loved writing songs.
IW: Did you envision your career when you started writing songs, did you envision writing for the theater in this way?
WF: I envisioned being successful. I don't know what that meant, but I always thought everything that I'd do involved being with the theater.
IW: And do you like other theater that you see around you now, musical theater in particular?
WF: I like some things that are going on, yes.
IW: What kind of things attract you to the theater? In other people's work, I mean. Other things you see.
WF: I don't know, I want to be moved, and I want to laugh. So, if it makes me laugh and it moves me, then I usually like it. And I can be moved other ways too, but especially if I laugh, and if I cry, then I feel like I, you know, I've had a decent time.
IW: Now I don't want to hog the whole thing. If anybody has questions they'd like to ask right away, please raise your hand and let's get right to it. Yes sir...
Audience Member #1: I thought A New Brain was a great musical, but I was surprised when Gordon was sort of rude to the Minister, and if you had it to do over again, would you make him less intolerant?
AM #1: Did you have a particular reason for making him...
WF: Well, the Minister's part I love the guy who plays the Minister, and I kept on trying to give him new songs and we had to take them away, because by the time he could sing them, you didn't want to hear from the Minister. Also, Gordon has to be a little nasty at the beginning. He has to change, he can't be the sweetheart who becomes the sweetheart that's not a play. The Minister comes in, and he says,
It takes place when Gordon's about to have this big operation, and I think that people come in all the time in hospitals and are annoying and say inappropriate things. That is not particularly inappropriate, but I wanted to have the Minister come back later and do a gospel song and couldn't think of how. So that's why we started there, we just kept it in and I think it's kind of funny, it's all right. I wouldn't change it.
'Schwinn?' Is that German Protestant?|
and Gordon says, 'Schwinn is German Jewish...'
and he says, 'Oh well, the Lord is kind and all-knowing.'
and Gordon says,'Thank you for coming... Thank you for going.'
IW: When you talk about the idea of constructing a show, and all of these elements that go into the construction of a show, things you leave out, things you include, things you do... and a lot of that particularly in A New Brain comes out of a collaboration with other people. Let's talk about this collaboration in particular, with Jim Lapine and Graciela Daniele on A New Brain. How it influenced the development of the show and its result.
WF: Well, I've worked with Lapine on many other shows, including Falsettos, and he's someone I can work with easily, and he was very helpful, once we get the show up knowing what to cut and everything. But it's I don't know what to say.
IW: Well, let's start at the beginning. I first became aware of these songs after Bill's real-life incident, and at the point he began to write again. And there was wonderful material that seemed to not be connected intrinsically, each song to each other. And so we had a journey, clearly, to reach a point where we are with this show that accomplishes both things, that is a compilation of these great songs from the point of view of the writer, that also tells a story. I think that's interesting to people, how it went from some songs that you wrote at one period of your life, not necessarily connected, to something very, very connected and very moving to people.
WF: The show began when I was writing all these songs when I got out of the hospital, I thought, 'Oh my God, there are a bunch of songs that only I could write, that no one else could write.' And I couldn't believe that I hadn't written them. That I was there in the hospital, and I didn't know what was going to happen but I couldn't believe I'd wasted the opportunity. And so when I got out of the hospital, I started writing these songs and they just kind of flowed almost effortlessly, and I was just there to write them down.
That's a huge exaggeration, but it's as true as it'll ever be for me. Because, for me, writing is not easy, and every word is painstaking and, while writing even when I'm going great guns I'm still in so much low-grade pain. So these were coming much easier than they usually do, and it was thrilling to have that. I played some songs for Ira and for Graciela, and they said 'Well, you have to make it into a show, kind of.' And I said, 'Well, then I have to tell the story.' And that's the hard part. That's the theater part. Writing the songs is fun. Telling the story for me is always the much harder thing. And so over a 3-year period, we told the story.
It's not a linear, linear show 'and then this happened and this happened' I went to see the Asian Falsettoland the other night and that's like a jigsaw puzzle. Everything fits, slot here slot there slot there slot there, and then, whoosh! You're in tears. This show is not like that, you have to let this show wash over you. It's a very different experience, I think, and a different form of a musical. Which interests me, trying to find different forms for shows.
But it's a different sort of thing where you just have to sit there and let it come to you, instead of saying, oh, so this happens and this happens and this happens and this happens and then bang!, and then it all flies together. Cause it doesn't fly together in the same way, and it was never intended to. It started out to be all the songs I wish I had written, and then the songs become the action of the play. And it's insinuating and complex and weird, a little weird.
IW: And has many layers, I think. I would say that it's a show with many layers.
WF: I think of it as a 20th-century show. But Falsettoland I think of as kind of 19th-century linear: this happened and that happened you know, George Eliot could've written it. [Pause] If she wrote songs. [Audience laughter] This show I think of as being... deeper. It's not going from A to B across this way, it's self-referential the horses, for example. The discussion of horses, the discussion of fathers and sons, where different people are giving you different information at different times. And I find it kind of thrilling. But you have to be listening for it, you have to be expecting that sort of show. It's not the sort of show I think that you've seen before.
IW: Have any of you seen A New Brain yet? [Many audience members raise their hands] Can we speak specifically about some things? [People nod] I'm curious what was the first song you wrote for the show...
WF: It was the last song, "I Feel So Much Spring." And so I knew the ending of the show. Then, second, "And They're Off". I'd been trying to write it for years, and hadn't been able to write it. But when I got out of the hospital...
IW: For those who don't know, "And They're Off" is a song about Gordon's parents, and the father leaves because he is a compulsive gambler.
WF: It's not about leaving, because I made that up. That's not true. But the gambling is true. And I felt I was the only one who could've told that specific story. And it killed me that I hadn't written that yet, that I hadn't finished that song. And when I was in the hospital I knew how to write it. All of a sudden, when you have no more time, when you think you're dying tomorrow, that's when all the answers come. And it just kills you.
IW: Are there any more questions from people? Yes ma'am.
Audience Member #2: Will you talk about the Frogman, Mr. Bungee?
WF: He was the last character we added. And James Lapine said [he speaks in a slow, nasal voice], 'I don't know... you're starting out, we'll start it with the Spring Song, you know, a spring sort of thing, so what springs?', he says, 'A frog?' He said, 'let's make a frog.' [Laughter] I said, 'Can I write it for Chip [Zien]?', and he said, 'Oh, that'd be good...' [More laughter] Then he said, 'Frog... Mr. Bungee... bungee... jump.' I said, 'Okay, that's fine.' And he was really easy to write. First of all, because I know Chip so well, and he's so great in everything he does, and so when I wrote it I just thought, 'let's show the Chipper off!' And even though it's not a large part, I feel everything he has is choice.
IW: Well, you talked about the ease with which you wrote a lot of the songs, but what was the most difficult aspect of the show for you?
WF: Graciela would say [using a brogue instead of her Argentinian accent] 'Oh, what we need here is a little connective tissue.' [He laughs at himself] I make any accent sound Irish! Connective tissue is hideously hard for me. Where the nurses are coming in and saying, 'This is what we're doing today, and how are you doing' giving a reason for the songs I found really hard, and it's what I like doing the least, and on the recording we cut all that stuff out because we had to cut it down to 78 minutes, and so all the connective tissue that I bled for is off the record, which is a killer.
IW: Other questions? Yes ma'am.
Audience Member #3: [Asks a long question, inaudible on the tape]
IW: Let me repeat the lady's question for those who didn't hear it because we're not amplified here. This woman is bringing up the idea of writing a show at the turn of the 20th century, at the pace of life today, and our show I think reflects that kind of fast pace, and...
WF: The past merges with the present and the future...
IW: Exactly. In layers, and I think you're talking about how fast the show goes. It's a quick show. [To AM #3:] I hear, though, maybe a little deeper question in what you're asking, if I may paraphrase. Correct me if this is not what you're asking but the sense of an artist receiving a lot of images and information and emotions and having to sort that out into what really is a very coherent...
WF: Well, I think that's what art is. You take all this information you don't understand and you make it coherent. That's... that's art.
IW: In the theater, we collaborate much more than in some of the other artistic endeavors. And in the case of A New Brain, these songs were originally put together in a pretty raw and natural state that Bill wrote from, and in collaboration with James Lapine and Graciela Daniele, questions were asked and things were clarified, and we did a series of informal presentations that led to the ultimate piece.
WF: Some of the best songs aren't in it. Some of the most fun songs. It's just the songs that we could stick in and make coherent we kept. And the other ones we tossed.
IW: How much does that hurt to toss a song?
WF: It's not my favorite thing to do. [To Audience Member #4:] Yes?
Audience Member #4: Have you had any reaction to the play from people who were so troubled, so disturbed... I went with somebody who has just been through a long illness and...
IW: Can we let that question stand? The lady's asking has there been anybody who's been particularly...
WF: Yeah, I people who've had brain things have been calling me up and writing me a lot of letters. They say I got it exactly right, even though, you know, I changed everything [laughter].
IW: [To Audience Member #5] Yes sir?
Audience Member #5: [Asks about the origin of the character of Marvin in Falsettos.]
IW: The character of Marvin in Falsettos, did you base it on someone or is it a fictious character?
WF: It's fictitious. I am not Marvin, though I played him in the first reading. That's the last acting I did. The first time we did March of the Falsettos, I was Marvin at Playwrights Horizons in the workshop. But I couldn't sing it and the facts of his life are not mine.
IW: And how did you arrive at them? How was that show, was it written in a similar way to...
WF: Lapine was very helpful with that show, and...
IW: Do you remember specific things that James contributed that did not exist in your imagination?
WF: Yes, Lapine said 'I work well with children, why don't you put a child in the show?' [Audience laughter]
IW: ...pretty pivotal...
WF: I said, 'Could he be Marvin's son?' He said, 'Oh, I really don't care.' [More laughter] So I mean, he was very helpful. And the thing that Lapine for me more that anything else, he gets me unstuck.
He's a wonderful writer, and he has an unbelievably fertile mind, so that when I say, 'Well, I don't know what to do' and, you know, we sit and whine at each other... well, he's not a whiner, but I go, 'I don't know what to do here,' and he goes 'Well, what about this, or what about that, or what about that or what about that,' and I say, 'Well, yeah, but I don't know what to do here,' and he says 'What about this or what about that,' or 'Make him a frog,' or something. So it's a way to get unstuck very easily. And I could be stuck for months when I don't know what to do.
IW: [To Audience Member #6] Yes, you had a hand up?
Audience Member #6: Do you often have a specific actor in mind when you write a role, like Chip Zien for Mr. Bungee?
WF: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. It often works best when I do. And when I have a person in mind and they don't do the show, it's a little annoying. You have to get commitments.
AM #6: Does that happen a lot?
WF: No. I just thought I would mention it. [Laughter]
IW: Since you have such a tremendous capacity for writing a wide range of emotions in your shows, have non-theater people approached you about writing single songs on assignment?
WF: Not a person. Not a soul.
IW: They will. I hope.
WF: We're waiting.
IW: [To Audience Member #7:] Yes ma'am.
Audience Member #7: Will you use the songs that got cut from A New Brain in future works?
WF: Yes, I'm writing another show incorporating many of them. Funny you should ask. There will be yes, they'll all be heard. Because I don't waste a thing. Because not that much comes out of me.
IW: [to Audience Member #8] Yes sir?
Audience Member #8: I'm curious to know to know the format you've chosen, you know, a 90-minute through-sung piece, not a typical musical theater piece... What drives you to write in that style?
WF: Well, they're not always ninety minutes.
AM #8: Well, a one act...
WF: They're not always one act. [Laughter] Just my successful shows. [More laughter]
IW: They're ninety minutes and one act...
WF: These are the most personal shows, and then people seem to respond to them the most. And when I'm more abstract, they don't seem to respond. Even though...
AM #8: But why do you find yourself writing in a one-act formula, as opposed to a traditional musical theater...
WF: It takes me off the hook so I don't have to write I hate writing openings and I hate writing endings. So this way I don't have to write four, I just have to write two. Basically, it takes a lot of pressure off me.
IW: Well, and as you say, the shows I think are very beautifully edited slices of life, and music goes by very quickly, it seems much faster than speaking.
WF: It's exhausting. And the music I write is not calm. It's a little nervous and skittish, maybe less so than it used to be, but it's still a lot of [demonstrates] plink plink plink plink plink and so, you can only take so much. And the audience I don't want the audience coming out drenched, you know, feeling like they've just gone for a swim. And I feel like if I made it too long, they could die of overexhaustion.
IW: [To Audience Member #9] Yes.
Audience Member #9: I saw you guys Thursday night at the opening of [the current revival of] Falsettoland. Did it work for you, with an Asian company?
WF: Did it work for you?
AM #9: It worked for me beautifully. One minute into that show, I was laughing, I was...
WF: I don't think there's any doubt that I think it's a moot point basically, that there's an Asian version of Falsettoland, put on by the National Asian-American Theater Company...
IW: Well, it's Falsettoland cast with an all-Asian company, as opposed to that the show is in any way made Asian...
WF: And because there's so much to do with bar mitzvahs and Jewishness, and with taluses and yarmulkes and everything, everyone was wondering whether it could work, and it doesn't seem to be an issue about... it's a moot point. A mute point, as we used to say in ninth grade.
IW: In writing A New Brain, do you feel release from the experience, from the past of this show, do you feel how has the completion of the show affected you? Has it in any way related to the original experience?
WF: Well, when you're interviewing for these things you're not supposed to answer with a yes or a no. No. [Laughter] I don't know how else to respond, except...
IW: That's fair.
WF: Just, no, it's something I'm glad I did, and I liked the way it turned out, and I feel I was the only one who could have written it, and I don't know. There it is.
IW: I agree with all of those things, and I feel very satisfied by the show, having worked on it and having seen it progress, so I'm curious, that's what made me ask you the question. I think many others are satisfied as well.
Thomas Cott: A 'ringer' question from the back. What comes first, the music or the words?
WF: Often the title comes first, or the first line of the song, and then I musicalize that and write a lot of music with dummy lyrics and then fill in, fill back in what I missed. But I certainly don't take a lyric and write music to it. Though I was working with Ellen Fitzhugh a little, and she would give me a full lyric and I would write this is another show and I'd write the lyric to it and I thought it was the greatest thing I've ever done.
IW: You'd write the music to her lyrics.
WF: I'd write the music to her lyrics, it was the easiest thing
I've ever done. It was so quick, I felt like I was on vacation.
I loved it.
IW: Do you want to do it again?
WF: [Hesitates] Yeaaah... I don't know...
IW: [To Audience Member #10:] Sir...?
Audience Member #10: Is there's going to be a cast album?
WF: Yes, the cast album's been made, I'm hearing it tomorrow...
IW: And will we all get to hear it?
WF: At the beginning of September. [To Audience Member #11:] Yes, sir?
Audience Member #11: Do you work on choosing an orchestrator? And how do you determine what the instrumentation of the music will be?
IW: Very good question. Bill has a long-time collaborator in Michael Starobin, who's done most of his work. Maybe we should talk a little bit about the relationship of writing a song, which basically is done where, on the piano?
WF: The thing though that's funny about the orchestration is that, when Michael Starobin the orchestrator came to see the show he said, 'Oh, you need twenty pieces. You need twenty pieces.' And Andrι [Bishop, LCT's Artistic Director] said, 'Oh, Michael Starobin's going to ruin the show, he's going to ruin the show, he's going to over-orchestrate the show' and everything. Because when we saw it in workshop, with just two pianos, it was a very emotional, a very pure and emotional thing, it was just kind of pure emotion. And Andrι was afraid that more was going to wreck the whole thing. And Michael decided to orchestrate with a piano, a synthesizer, a cello, a reed, reeds and French horn...
IW: And French horn. And percussion...
WF: Which is the weirdest instrumentation you could imagine. And I think it's just sublime, teally beautiful. And you can hear them better on the record, they're just spectacular. They're really just beautiful.
IW: There's a lot of trust that must be implicit in the relationship between you and Michael as an orchestrator. How much free reign does Michael have in orchestrating your songs?
WF: He has total free reign, except you know, I say to him, 'Michael, I don't like the orchestration on this song,' he says 'Well, you will.' [Laughter] Just because he's lazy. And the truth is, I get so used to it, I don't remember what I disliked on first hearing.
IW: Also, the space the show is being performed in, the space that is available for musicians to be located a lot of things dictate, well, a lot of the things you see are dictated by the necessities of the space and also the show and the work itself.
WF: Michael and I saw a bigger show.
IW: What made you think of it bigger, what made Michael say twenty instruments?
WF: Because he knew how good the score was and he thought he could just make it sound glorious with 20 instruments. And he wanted everyone to appreciate the score the same way that he responded to it.
IW: And yet I think six sounds like 20 in the Mitzi Newhouse.
WF: Well that's because he's so good, one of his gifts is he can make six instruments sound like 12.
IW: Well we just have time for a few more questions, so please don't be shy now, anyone who has one or wants to know anything, please ask. Bill: your plans for the next show?
WF: I'm doing the musical version of The Royal Family, the Kaufman-Ferber play with a book by Richard Greenberg, to be directed by Jerry Zaks, and...
IW: Is that an idea that you had? How did that come about?
WF: Someone suggested it to me. He's no longer on the show. [Laughter]
Well, someone had suggested it to him, and then...
IW: Well, ideas are golden, you know, for any writer, I mean ideas are the foundation of everything, and your shows have not all been adaptations, so this is a little bit of a departure for you, it's not...
WF: And you know what? It's really just writing the songs when you don't have to write the connective tissue is a real luxury. Because that stuff is the hard stuff, writing the songs for me, I mean it's hard, but it's not the stuff that kills me. I don't have to make sense, I can be poetical, I can write with a little bit of fancy and I don't have to be exact, it's not, I don't have to fulfill, 'What are you trying to do here, what are you trying to say here, we have to get from A to B and we have to be very precise, you have to get there as economically as you can,' and I find that exhausting. And the other stuff I find you know, writing a song that's supposed to rouse an audience, or that a character's singing that I find touching, I think it's fun. Spending two days writing a lyric is a great way to spend two days.
IW: But since you mentioned the relief of not having to have the burden of connective tissues and all of the stuff that goes into a lot of your writing, is there any secret fantasy of something that you might ever want to adapt as a musical? I won't hold you to it either and neither will these people, but I'm curious.
WF: No, I always thought I'd want to do Lulu, the Wedekin play, that Berg made into an opera, but nobody would want to see it. [Laughter]
IW:How do you know?
WF: Well, I don't feel that strongly about it anymore.
IW: [To Audience Member #12:] Yes?
Audience Member #12: I'm curious if you have any particular personal connection to the Jewish material you've worked with in Falsettos, etc...
WF: Oh yeah, well, I'm a real big Jew. [Laughter]
AM #12: I'm serious.
WF: So am I! I like being Jewish, and I kind of celebrate it in my work.
IW: [To Audience Member #13:] Yes?
Audience Member #13: I'm curious to know, from a performer's point of view your shows are enjoyable for a performer, they have all kinds of... you have these great ensemble pieces and then you have these wonderful, poignant ballads... I'm just wondering, is that [variety] the thing you concentrate on?
WF: I don't concentrate on it, but I'm always aware of what's come before and after. You think, 'Who hasn't been onstage, and let's get them up here,' and then you're not going to have two ballads, you don't want two ballads in a row. You want to keep the ball in the air. I want to keep everyone amused, and interested, and how can I do that without being a whore, so...
IW: I think there is a natural variety, if I can be complimentary...
WF: No, you can't be, Ira...
IW: Well, then I'll save it for another time. We have time for one more question. Yes, back there. Yeah.
Audience Member #14: I'm curious if you plan to write more about Marvin [the protagonist of the Falsettos shows]?
WF: The question is 'Am I going to write any more Marvin shows?', and the answer is 'I don't know.'
AW #14: Where exactly is Falsettoland?
IW: You know what, I'll give you one little anecdote of my own, just to respond to your question. When we did Falsettoland originally at Playwrights Horizons we had a wonderful opening night party which was basically Jason's bar mitzvah, and I had to order some yarmulkes for everyone for it, and I had them inscribed 'Jason's bar mitzvah, Falsettoland' and the date, and this lovely man in New Jersey who manufactures yarmulkes said 'Falsettoland!? Where's that?' [Laughter] I tried to explain that it was a show, and what it was about, and he didn't understand, and I said 'Well, it's a lovely town in New Jersey.' [Laughter] He said 'I'll give you a break on the price.' [Laughter] So Falsettoland is kind of everywhere, but maybe a little in New Jersey. Thank you all for coming. [Applause]