Welcome to the July Edition of the DGF Fellows Spotlight.
These interviews put the spotlight on a DGF Fellow and invite you to take a behind-the-scenes look at our program.
This year, you’ve met Jessica Kahkoska & Elliah Heifetz; Paulo K Tiról, Andy Roninson, Kate Douglas and Andrew Rincón. And we’ll continue to introduce you to all the 2019-2020 Fellows: Avi Amon, Kyoung H. Park, Melis Aker, Nikhil Mahapatra, and Nolan Doran.
Each writer is asked a series of questions to help us get to know them better, while exploring where they’ve been, what they’re up to now, and what they hope for the future.
Please take your seats, unwrap your candies, and silence your cellphones as we put the spotlight on Avi Amon!
What was your first experience with theater?
Auditioning for West Side Story as a freshman in high school. You may remember me from my role as unnamed Shark #3? My acting career has been in a steady decline since that moment.
When did you decide to become a writer? Is there a writer, show, or piece of writing that was particularly influential on your path?
After I finished my undergrad at the University of Delaware – I majored in economics and history – I worked as an admissions counselor there for a few years. I’d been studying piano for almost 20 years at that point, usually disappointing my very patient teachers by improvising around the lessons they gave me. And I was a huge a-cappella nerd while in school, so I had been vocal arranging for years but I’d never really written anything substantial. During a staff meeting, I pitched the idea for a video musical as part of a new marketing campaign and for some reason, they said yes! Delaware: The MUSICAL is a super silly and fun little piece (which a little bit makes me cringe now), but it received some national press and was a huge success on campus. And then I quit my job and used it as part of my application to grad school at NYU. And the rest is still happening.
How do you describe your work overall? What sets your work apart?
I am a sort-of chameleon when it comes to writing! I love to dive into the specificities of genre, learn, absorb, and recreate in my own image. I usually consider a song a success if it feels so authentic that it makes you question if it exists already. And not as in, “does this song sound exactly like a song I’ve heard a thousand times?”, but rather, “do I believe that this song exists in the world in which we’re creating?” I also tend to use Middle-Eastern and Balkan tonalities and rhythms while writing, leaning into my Turkish heritage. This part of me has become more present as I’ve gotten older. The various music, rhythms, and languages of my immigrant parents – and their friends – heavily influences my “sound.”
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you’ve been developing as a Fellow?
THE LESSON is a fantastical reimagining of an actual (aka possible) lesson given by Mozart to Beethoven in Vienna in 1787, set in an alternate steampunk-inspired universe. The piece is a meditation on the purpose of artistic expression, the influence of family on who we are, and the control of information and ideas by the government. Pieces of their concert music will be peppered throughout the show, contrasting and intertwining and influencing the modern art-pop/electronic world we’re developing for the original score, creating a truly unique and hybrid piece of music-theater. We imagine it as part chamber-opera, part projection installation, and part dance-party.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a writer?
This is one of the few careers where our coworkers & community are genuinely one in the same. Collaborative writing is a tool for empathy – for the creators and for all folks involved in any part of the process. In order to share a part of ourselves, we must create space not only for others to do the same but to truly receive that sharing. I feel very lucky to collaborate with so many wonderful people who are not only doing the work, but are also fighting for equity and justice within artistic spaces and in the outside world.
Have you been working on anything lately that you’d like to share?