Jon Lorenz: the man, the myth, the legend.
Chances are you (inadvertently) know him. You may have performed in a CYT show that he’s written, been in a show that he’s directed, or you’ve seen him on stage in one of a gazillion productions. He’s among the most talented people on the planet and he’s going to be at the upcoming CYT Expo. Score!
I sat down with him to pick his brain about all things CYT, songwriting, and his role this weekend at the Expo.
You’ve been involved with CYT forever. Your history with CYT in four sentences or less:
In high school, I performed in CYT shows like Bye Bye Birdie, Little Shop of Horrors, Annie, and Mary Poppins. In college, Paul Russell saw me writing music for a variety show and talked me into writing music for Russell House’s version of Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. After that, I pitched my own projects (Little Women, The Legend of Pocahontas, and Looking Glass Girl) and directed/musical directed 30+ productions for CYT/CCT. On staff at CYT, I wrote and arranged music for Traditions of Christmas, special events and many, many summer camps.
The shows you’ve written for CYT are infamous (embrace it). Which ones are you most proud of?
That’s tough. Honestly, it’s hard for me to watch or listen to anything I have worked on so early in my development as an artist without thinking about how I could do it much better now! I will say that, whatever shortcomings The Legend of Pocahontas may have, it never ceases to amaze me how many people write me yearly about how doing the show has touched them in some profound way. That show is 18 years old and still playing a vital part in people’s lives! I am particularly proud of the 2003 CYT East County production – an exemplary fusion of dance, music, earnest performers, and clear storytelling. It felt like we really “got it right.” And we did the script as written (which, for some reason, rarely happens!)
Where did this gift come from and how long have you had it?
All good gifts come from heaven above. My desire to write music and tell stories comes from a lifelong love affair with stories and music – on page, film, and stage – and my desire to write and direct comes from a longing to share with others what I felt while immersed in my favorite stories. Every show I’ve directed is strongly influenced by every book, record, film, cartoon, play, and radio program I’ve ever consumed. I never considered myself a script writer, but as a director, I had lots of ideas of the kind of story I’d like to tell onstage. So when it didn’t exist, I tried writing it myself.
You’re attending the 2014 CYT Expo as a special guest. What cool things are in store for attendees that you’re involved in?
Lots! I’ll be involved in different workshops –co-leading an Audition Workshop with Paul Russell & teaching a Songwriting Workshop, to name two — and I’m directing the showcase that students will be putting on at the end of the Expo. I have my hand in other exciting parts of the Expo, but you’ll have to be there to find out! It will be epic. And fun. And useful. Don’t miss it.
Fill us in on what you’re doing now.
I just finished writing 1930s style songs for Lamb’s Players production of Twelfth Night in San Diego. It was a privilege to collaborate with a renowned lyricist like William Shakespeare – and a lot easier to not have to write the words! Currently, I am looking at moving forward on a few shows which may come into rotation in CYT in the next year or so (fingers crossed!), but mainly working on a rewrite of Alice for NBC/Universal Stage Productions: new music, new dialogue!
Let’s play word association. What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say the following:
Auditions – Which side of the table am I on? Me auditioning? Stress. Watching auditions? Hopeful.
Alice – Grateful
Opening Night – Ahhhh!
Broadway – Dream
Piano – Friend
Movie musicals – Moulin Rouge
CYT Expo – Opportunity
Thanks for your time, Jon. Have so much fun at the Expo!
Born and raised in San Diego, Jon Lorenz works as actor, director, playwright, composer, and teacher. He studied acting, directing, and music at Cal State Fullerton and Chapman University, and has spent the last nine years as a Resident Artist and Musical Director for Lamb’s Players Theatre. Jon is the co-creator of Mixtape: a Totally Awesome Musical Journey Through the 80s (book, musical arrangements) which was named by the Union-Tribune as “San Diego’s longest running home-created show.” His musical, Alice (book, music, lyrics) was selected by Stephen Schwartz to be a part of the 2005 ASCAP/Disney Musical Theater Workshop, performed at NYU in 2010, and optioned by NBC/Universal Theatricals in 2013. He lives in San Diego with wife and muse Julie, and their two children Hudson and Macy.