This week, we delve deeper into the brand of RSO and the heart of Ryan Scott Oliver.
By Michael Ruby (Writer)
Last week’s post featured the start of my dialogue with the wonderful and wonderfully gifted Ryan Scott Oliver. (Read Volume 1 here). This week, the conclusion, and one of my favorite conversations to date, as Ryan speaks insightfully, inspiringly and a bit introspectively about the craft and business of writing musical theater. Plus, I post my favorite RSO track and give a shout out to its grotesquely hilarious lyric that makes me giggle like a goof whenever I hear it.
Do you write full-time, or do you have a “survival job?”
I am a writer. I have about thirteen jobs, and they’re all part time, but writing is [my primary source] of income.
One of those thirteen jobs is that you teach at Pace University.
Teaching at Pace is my favorite day of the week.
What’s your signature lesson? What do students come away from class learning most from you?
That you have to treat your acting career like a business. You have to have a vision of where you’re going, a mission to get you there, and a set of values for the journey. It’s about branding.
I talk about this with clients all the time. Even more than a mission/vision/value statement, in a world where products are so commoditized you need a purpose.
Exactly. An actor that says, “I want to be on Broadway because I really like musicals and I’m going to audition a lot to get there” is a lot like a computer company being like, “We are going to make a lot of money because we like making computers and value our customers.” That’s not going to sell anything. It’s about what you do differently that is going to make you special.
The same thing applies to writers, especially when you’re trying to get a writing gig. I’ve talked with a couple people about writing spec material, but haven’t asked about their approach. I know you’ve done it, and done it successfully. What’s your take?
One of the lessons I’ve learned in the last year…
*RSO makes a parenthetical shape with his hands and shakes the backstory it contains like a magic 8-ball.*
A composer, like any artist, has to brand himself and sell his product. It’s got to be a product that no one else does, or which they do better than anyone else. I do darkness, musical intricacy, a sort of organized chaos really well, or better than anyone else.
(Jay Armstrong Johnson sings "Leave Luanne" from 35MM)
This last year, because of this experience [I had], I realized that I wasn’t embracing the best parts of myself. I was offered a job and said yes without asking myself if I’ll have fun and if I'd write something really great. So…I didn't have fun and I didn't write something all that great. And a week after that process was over, I started the piece I'm writing now – which was my idea and very important to me, and I'm enjoying every second of it. It’s fulfilling in every way. It's me, and I hope it's something the world appreciates and embraces.