For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award winning playwright-composer-lyricist Nico Juber. Her debut theatrical work, Millennials Are Killing Musicals, is an original musical that sits at the intersection of motherhood and the Millennial existential crisis. Her sci-fi short musical, Holo, won one of the top awards in the 2020 National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Challenge.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
My original musical, Millennials Are Killing Musicals, that’s been in development for two and a half years. It’s a 90 minute, one-act comedy that explores finding one’s unfiltered happiness in an increasingly filtered world. I finally saw the show come to life a few weeks ago in a concert performance at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in L.A. We have another concert planned next year at Feinstein’s/54 Below in NYC on April 4th.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
I had a few months between jobs, and it was the first time since having kids that I had long periods to myself. Having never written a musical before, I started writing songs and scenes that eventually turned into Millennials. Once I started getting reactions to the show, particularly from women and other parents, it felt more urgent to tell this authentic, modern story that deals with motherhood, generational stereotypes, and social media filters.
Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?
Focus on what I can do within current circumstances and look for unique opportunities. Living in L.A., there’s been unprecedented access to things normally just in NYC. I’ve found wonderful online communities in Maestra and Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) and taken classes with The Business of Broadway. We were lucky at our stage of development with Millennials to get exposure through New York Theatre Barn’s New Works Series and to benefit from two virtual 29-hour readings.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
My parents, Hope and Laurence Juber. They’re both musical writers and have co-written the music and lyrics on multiple shows, including A Very Brady Musical and Gilligan’s Island: The Musical – as well as my mom being a book writer; and Sara Bareilles, and her beautiful score for Waitress, put in my head that pop songwriters could write musicals. I am most inspired by folks like Jonathan Larson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. They have been the solo creatives in the middle of writing a musical. For a solo writer, it’s hard to find the perfect balance of taking in feedback from your collaborators while staying true to your vision.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Watching and reading as much as I can. Giving feedback to other writers and getting feedback from other writers. I love the supportive community of musical writers. We all have such different stories to tell, and there’s a place for everyone’s voice.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
Right now, I’m writing my first full straight play and in the early stages of writing a new musical called Reset with collaborator Selena Seballo. Last year, I won an award for a short sci-fi musical Holo in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) challenge. It premiered earlier this year at Beck Center for the Arts with Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre. Holo was also picked for the Broadway OnDemand short film festival in August.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
Two weeks before our second virtual reading of Millennials, our arranger and Music Director Ted Arthur called me and suggested that I try writing a new finale. I hung up and said to my husband, “This is the life I wanted.” Then immediately wrote that song with that line as the hook. When that creative lightning bolt hits, that’s when I feel like I’m living in my vision.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Getting Millennials up on stage for a full production. Luckily, the right partners have gotten involved along the way, and I now know that developing a show is a long process. So I’m trying to be patient.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Energy. Being creative and being a parent especially during a pandemic is a giant challenge. I’m also a 19-year lymphoma survivor and deal with multiple survivorship issues including chronic fatigue syndrome, so I have to be careful with my physical and creative energy.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I give myself permission to write or record total nonsense. Carve time into every day to create and then shape whatever it is later.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Self-doubt. After spending my whole life running away from the idea that I could be a professional creative, I have to trust that not only am I capable of this kind of work but that the well of inner creativity isn’t going to suddenly dry up.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
My sister-in-law’s husband, Joe Ferriso, gave us a print of a work he did called Creative Outlets that has 15 different electrical outlet configurations that we have hanging by our stairs. It’s a good daily creative reminder.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
I’m overthinking this question since the pool of living, or dead heroes is very large, so I’ll say my kids Asher and Rigby for their resiliency through the last year and a half of uncertainty and Zoom school.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Making people happy.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Trashy reality T.V.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Practice piano. I thought I’d tell myself to start writing musicals sooner, but I think having the work and life experiences I’ve had gave me a lot of fuel for the writing I’m doing now.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
I love where I live in L.A.! I grew up here, so it’s home. The dream is to be bicoastal, though. I’m looking at you, NYC.
Q: What is your idea of success?
Feeling creatively fulfilled, validated, and paid for the work I’m doing — and my family and friends are all happy and healthy.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
A very long nap.
Q: Final Thoughts?
If you’ve got a story to tell and you’ve got the right skill set, it’s never too late to start writing musicals.
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