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Keaton Wooden talks Albert Cashier, New Work, and Why he Loves Chicago

October 16, 2017 by Corinne Mosher
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Keaton Wooden, AKA one of the composers behind The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier, shared his Chicago love, musical insights, favorite authors, and much, much more with us.

How did you and the other creators of Albert Cashier meet each other? Have you worked on other projects together?

Jay Paul Deratany is a GLAAD nominated writer for his work on the play, HARAM, IRAN! which was about the two boys who were hanged for being gay in Iran. I interviewed with Jay to direct the original production, maybe 5 years ago, and we kept in touch. I’ve directed his one-act plays, we’ve shared scripts. It’s always been an amazing relationship. And it helps that Jay is a gifted, visionary artist.
Then three years ago, Jay handed me the script for a play about Albert Cashier that, after reading, I encouraged him to turn into a musical. It has everything you could want! So we started hunting down musicians to work with. Found Joe Stevens. And here we are!
Why did you decide this story should be a musical? Why now?

Albert Cashier’s story is both grand and small. It’s a deeply personal journey filled with impossible decisions, heartache, and struggle to find your way, all set against the backdrop of the deadliest war in US history. If straight-plays are about the dialectic of ideas, musicals are about spectacle and soliloquy, using a grand metaphor to explore a personal journey. And that’s Albert 100%.

As for “now” — we had zero clue that Albert Cashier would ever be such a pivotal figure coming into 2017. We’re just over 100 years since Albert passed away, and somehow his life is even more relevant. We just knew that a story about someone fighting for their personal freedom, set in the midst of America in crisis, was a vital story to tell. And as time went on, it has become even moreso.

Photo Credit: Cole Simon Photography

What is it like developing a new work in Chicago?
Chicago has the work ethic of a factory town with the heart of the Midwest, I would encourage anyone who wants to learn about collaboration and theater technique to come to Chicago. It does not disappoint.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a mistake you’ve made?

Early on we tried too hard to “make a point” with the show, and the more we dug into it, the more we wanted to let the characters speak for themselves, to let them be complex and unanswerable and not spelled-out. It took us a year to start stripping away all the “answers” we wanted in the text and to start letting the character be a mystery the audience could join us in discovering.

Photo Credit: Cole Simon Photography

What’s the best thing someone could do on a first date to win you over? 

I’m married, so I don’t a first date anymore! I have the best date every day!

What would you tell your younger self at this moment in your life?

That you should work a little every day and not look at a milestone as something that happens. Creating art is about erosion, not explosion.

What books have you read more than once?

Anything by Iris Murdoch. Over and Over. 

Photo Credit: Giphy

Make sure to check out The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier through October 22 at Stage 773!