A Conversation with Michael John LaChiusa
November 17, 1999
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 November 17, 1999 Platform with Michael John LaChiusa:
THOMAS COTT: Good evening, everybody. I'm Thomas Cott from Lincoln Center Theater. I want to welcome you to the Platform series here at the Beaumont. For those of you who have not been to one of these events before, we started this program last year as a way of introducing our audiences to the artists who work here and to give you a behind-the-scenes look at Lincoln Center Theater productions.
Tonight, we have with us Michael John LaChiusa, author and composer of Marie Christine. You may also be familiar with his earlier works including Hello Again!, which Lincoln Center Theater produced in 1995 and First Lady Suite or The Petrified Prince which were at the Public Theater. He also contributed material to Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which we produced a few seasons back on Broadway.
This year is a very busy one for him; in addition to Marie Christine, he has also written and composed The Wild Party, which will be seen in the spring on Broadway. We're delighted to have him here tonight... please welcome Michael John LaChiusa! [audience applause]
[To the audience] The format of these evenings is informal. I'll start off with some questions, and then I'll open it up to the floor. So please be thinking about what you want to ask Michael John. Let's start with some basic information, Michael John. Where did you grow up?
MICHAEL JOHN LaCHIUSA: I come from Western New York, near Buffalo. Today's cold weather is, like, summer out there! [audience laughter] This is what we call summer in Buffalo, New York. Actually, I come from a small community in western New York called Chautauqua, which is actually an artists' community.
If you've been to Chautauqua, it's quite an interesting place to grow up. There was the Symphony available to me, and theater and music programs. It was wonderful to grow up there, a beautiful environment. Grape Country, as they call it. Welch's Grape Juice is there. [audience applause] I grew up on plenty of fruit juice.
TC: So when you weren't drinking fruit juice, were you playing piano?
MJL: Yes, I was! I started very early. Mom bought a player piano, so I would play piano along with—before I had taken lessons—with the player piano rolls. You're pumping away, it's quite an aerobic exercise, and this is before aerobics! [laughter] That's sort of how I learned to play. I had a blind piano teacher—but that's a long story—which was great. I got away with murder a couple of times... [laughter]
TC: Did you always know you wanted to be a composer?
MJL: I don't know. I started writing very early on. I started writing songs for my neighborhood and my classmates. I had a really great 4th grade teacher. I wish everybody had a great 4th grade teacher like Mrs. Hammer. She's 94 years old now, God bless her soul,