In our "Meet The Writers" series, we're learning more about the participants of the CMTWC Writers Workshop. The Vancouver Writers Workshop meets every two weeks where, under the guidance of Daniel Maté, writers learn and practice the craft of composition and lyric-writing.
What was your introduction to the theatre?
I played a shepherd in the Christmas pageant.
When was the moment you decided to write for the theatre?
Me and a couple friends were encouraged to write a musical for the new play festival at our theatre school. We ended up writing a show called The Park! about a developer coming to turn Vancouver's Stanley Park into a parking lot.
Whose work do you admire and why?
Sondheim - he's a surgeon with lyrics. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx - great synergy of music and humour. Matt Stone and Trey Parker - I've always loved South Park and still sing some of their songs: "Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo" and "Uncle F*****" are two of my favs.
How do you like to write? What is your process? Where do you find inspiration?
I like to write in the morning at the piano. I go back and forth from piano to laptop. I usually go music first. I find a musical theme or riff or vibe that feels like the mood or energy of the song I'm trying to write and go from there. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes it can be very clinical - like "ok, we need an I Want Song for this character" and you ask ok, what does this character want? Other times it can come out of thin air - I remember during a writing session with my main collaborator we were bouncing around ideas for a song for a character, and the first thing I played was the song that ended up in the show. Wild.
What do you want to see more of on stage?
That's tough. There are lots of things. More diversity. More stories that challenge us. More Canadian stories. More sci fi. More synth. More of my work...lol.
If you had to pick one musical cast recording to be your "desert island record" which would it be?
That's a mean question. The 1958 original cast recording of The Music Man. It's beautiful from start to finish.
Complete this sentence: "I write because...”
It's work that pays off.
What's a tip you have about collaboration?
Check the ego and have fun!
Why did you join the Writers Workshop?
I wanted to up my game. There is always something more to learn.
What is your favourite thing about the Writers Workshop?
Hearing all the great work. There are so many talented people out there. It's fascinating to hear the results of the collaborations.
Ben is an artist based in Vancouver and has been composing for theatre since theatre school. Ben composed lyrics and music for The Park! and The Best Laid Plans: A Musical. He musical directed and arranged music for Amiel Gladstone and Dan Mangan’s Are We Cool Now? as well as five Bard On The Beach productions for which he received a Jessie Richardson nomination for each and one Jessie. Ben and his fellow collaborator Anton Lipovetsky are teaming up with critically acclaimed filmmakers Josh Epstein and Kyle Rideout on an exciting new musical which he’s not allowed to tell you anything about. Ben is a graduate of Studio 58.