Chad Gracia, Executive Director of Inverse Theater Company conducted the interview. Jessica filed her cyberspace interview Friday, July 18, 2003.
Lost: The Musical begins performances on August 9, 2003 at the New York International Fringe Festival.
What was your first composition?
In San Francisco, I wrote a string trio called "Have Kabe Angst." I developed this piece at NYU in the summer of 1996 at a composer's seminar. I would call this my first significant work. At NYU, each composer had his/her composition played by a professional ensemble. For me, hearing my score brought to life by such talented players was one of the most thrilling experiences I'd had, and I was hooked. I realized then that this was my dream - to create a work for others to perform rather than to perform myself.
Lost is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Why did you choose to create a musical based on a fairy tale? Is there something in the story that resonates with you?
The idea of lost or abandoned children seems to resonate with my generation and subsequent ones as traditional family structures have eroded. The idea of innocence is lost.
Tell us about the musical style of Lost.
At the beginning of the process, I thought much about the musical style of Lost. I thought about pulling from opera, from traditional American folk music, from Southern religious music and other sources. Then when it came to the writing, I threw these ideas away and wrote what I felt best expressed what was in the text and the character's emotions. I think you can primarily hear a pastiche of romantic-era opera, art song, and bluegrass.
Your musical styles are so varied -- from Gregorian chanting to bluegrass to punk -- why is this?
An established genre provides you with a ready-made vocabulary, and many seminal musicians from whom to draw. For me, writing in a specific genre is fun, and has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of that formula. This is a starting point, but the true challenge is to establish a style that I find truer to my own leanings. I judge the success of my works not by how close or far they are from a particular genre, but by how closely and powerfully they fulfill their function, whether that is to emphasize a work's emotional content, to build suspense, etc.
You've been composing music for Inverse Theater productions for nearly five years, what has that been like?
It has been great to have a steady outlet for my work. For a composer who loves to write, and hates to self-promote, it has been an ideal situation. Bromley and I have established a comfortable means of collaborating with each other since we both like to write in solitude, and give each other a lot of space in which to do so. I find his poetry consistently inspiring and challenging, whether I am writing a melody or a song or a general underscoring for a scene.
How did you come up with the melodies for the songs in Lost?
While sitting around, while sleeping, while on the subway, while staring off into space...
What is your favorite composition in Lost? Why?
My favorite song is "You are Wrong." It is still a little mysterious to me and i don't know if anybody else will like it. In this song, I pay less attention to having the song be beautiful and more attention to the character's inner state. I wrote the song based on the first line of an early draft of one of Bromley's poems. The melody wasn't set to the tempo of a piece of text but rather to a non-verbal, emotional rhythm, then Bromley wrote a new set of lyrics to match the song. As it turned out, the words are brilliant.
What effect, if any, has your experience of being sick had on the music and/or story of Lost?
Being ill takes a lot of time, between paperwork, phone calls, doctors visits, and just feeling badly. Then again, having a job takes a lot of time, too. Aside from the inconvenience, I've tried to avoid getting too mixed up in the obvious parallels one could make between the story of Lost and the facts of my illness.
Jessica Grace Wing, a composer for the theater and a filmmaker whose new musical, "Lost," is scheduled to open next week at the New York International Fringe Festival, died at her home in Brooklyn on July 19. She was 31.
The cause was colon cancer, said her mother, Jennifer Schneider.
A fan of punk music and poetry, Ms. Wing was an active force in the city's downtown theater scene and was a founder of the Inverse Theater, a troupe devoted to performing work written -- as the title implies -- in verse.
After graduating from Stanford University, Ms. Wing lived in San Francisco, where she played in a pair of punk and electronica rock bands. She later studied film at the graduate film department of Columbia University.
Shortly after moving to New York, Ms. Wing met and began working with Kirk Wood Bromley, who is now the artistic director and principal writer of the Inverse troupe. Ms. Wing composed the music for several productions for the company. In a 1998 production of "Othello" Ms. Wing mixed classical chamber music with operatic arias, while in "Midnight Brainwash Revival," a surreal comedy produced by the company earlier this year, Ms. Wing composed in a country style.
Her last work was a full-length musical titled "Lost," based on the children's story "Hansel and Gretel." She finished writing the final songs for the musical -- with a book and lyrics by Mr. Bromley -- 36 hours before she died. It is to open on Friday at the Linhart Theater on Lafayette Street in the East Village.
In addition to her mother, Ms. Wing is survived by her father, William H. Wing; her brother, Ben Wing of Tucson; and three stepsisters, Lara Young of Pickerington, Ohio; Andrea Matheson of Tucson, and Jennifer Ochoa of Fort Worth.
Jessica Grace Wing
Jessica Grace Wing, who scored many of the productions of Off-Broadway's Inverse Theatre Company and whose musical Lost is due to premiere at this summer's New York International Fringe Festival, died July 19 at her Manhattan home. Ms. Wing had been battling colon cancer.
Ms. Wing was a founder of Inverse, the company which produces the work of prolific downtown verse playwright Kirk Wood Bromley. She wrote music and songs for such Bromley plays as The Death of Griffin Hunter, Midnight Brainwash Revival and Don Flagrante Delicto. An eclectic talent, she often matched her music to the style and setting of the play, writing country music for one work, bluegrass for the next, operatic arias for another. Lost was her first full musical. Written in collaboration with Bromley, it is a modern retelling of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, set in the Great Smoky Mountain. The piece, which has a cast of 13 singers, debuts at the Fringe venue The Linhart Theater on Aug. 9 and runs for five performances.
Ms. Wing grew up in Arizona, where she took piano lessons. She attended college at Stanford, where she played in and wrote music for a punk rock band. While living in San Francisco, she dabbled in electronica music, before moving to New York City in 1997. She met Bromley within a month of arriving in the city. Other work outside Inverse included being an assistant sound designer on Todd Solondz' feature film Happiness; and writing and directing a number of short films in pursuit of an MFA in film at Columbia University. For a number of years, she supported her composing career by designing websites.