“So, we just started screaming ‘Black hole!’ at each other while we were playing the guitar. We would scream ‘Black hole!’ and say something about religion, then scream ‘Black hole!’ again and say something about politics, and so that sort of became the frame of the entire first draft of the show. It is a musical about a black hole bearing down on the planet and our main character was struggling with religious figures and political pundits who were trying to tell him how to spend his final day,” David Seamon '11 said, describing how he and co-creators first came up with ideas for their original script.
Seamon’s first musical, titled, The Eleventh Hour!, has come a long way from those early days, and it is now an award-winning musical in New York City. Set in New Brunswick, N.J., it’s about a burnout-basement-band rocker and his astrophysicist ex-girlfriend who attempts to save the world before it is destroyed by a black hole. It won seven awards at the 2018 NY Winterfest, including Best Production, Best Score and Most Creative Play.
In addition to Seamon, who majored in Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) at SC&I, seven other Rutgers graduates are involved in the musical, including SC&I alumnus Chris Pasi ’13, an actor and producer, who majored in journalism and media studies. The other Rutgers graduates are Chris Bleeke ’09 (Mason Gross – Music), Skylar Fortgang ’19 (Mason Gross – Music,) and Greg Salmon ’09 (Mathematics), who are on the music team; Joey Braccino ’11 (English) manages lighting design, Annie Lutz ’10 (Theater Arts), until recently served as director and choreographer, and Dan Swern, ’07 (Theater Arts) is a producer and is also a part-time lecturer at SC&I.
The origins of the musical began back in 2015, Seamon explained, when he participated in CoLAB Arts' 48-hour Musical Challenge. CoLAB arts, which was founded by Swern, (who is Producing Director of CoLab Arts), is a contest in which playwrights, directors and musicians are given a theme or question to center their musical around. Seamon, along with his then randomly selected partners – Lutz, and Shimmy Schwartz, a local musician and the frontman of the band Little Rose, were given the theme of “Religion and Politics” to work on.
“The first draft was 15 pages and 15 minutes long with about three songs,” Seamon said, “and on the Sunday of that weekend, we performed it at Pino’s in Highland Park and just totally killed it. Later that summer, Swern commissioned me to turn it into a full length piece.”
Seamon said that he polished the script after two staged readings in 2016 which resulted in the current script, which is still about the end of the world by way of black hole, but is a little less about the themes of religion and politics and more about the spirit of the music and the town where the show was born, New Brunswick.
“I hope it puts New Brunswick on the map” Seamon said. “I know New Brunswick has a world-renowned university, two world-class hospitals, amazing law firms and it has a history with the revolutionary war. Now it’s got a musical. So, I know New Brunswick doesn't need my help to put it on the map, but the musical is definitely for love of my hometown.”
Seamon said one of the most long-standing messages from the show is about the heroine of the story, the character of Amy Leonardo, who is the one working to save the world. The play addresses toxic masculinity in the face of a strong female character and “of course,” Seamon said, “we do it in the most irreverent way possible, but the show has a really positive message about men taking a seat all the way in the back and trusting in fearless female leaders.”
Seamon also said that his time at SC&I, specifically as a JMS major, really taught him a great deal. “Part of what I learned at Rutgers in the Journalism and Media Studies Department was this idea of creating opportunities for yourself – the idea of being a journalist who can do it all – find a story, report a story, shoot it, cut it, release it yourself. With that instinct of being this one-man-band, I decided that I would have to make opportunities for myself.”
For more information about SC&I’s Journalism and Media Studies Department, click here.