From Elon to the New York stage
Ethan Andersen '14 is taking “HeadVoice,” an original production he’s been working on since high school, to this month's New York Music Theatre Festival.
By Kyle Lubinsky '17
Ethan Andersen '14 was born to perform. The New Orleans native began acting in third grade and working on the script for an original production in high school. In 2014, "HeadVoice" made its way to the stage at Elon as the school’s spring musical.
Now 23, Andersen is taking “HeadVoice” to the next level with a string of performances at the New York Music Theatre Festival, with the opening show on July 17. The production will feature other Elon alumni, including Katie Emerson ’09, Charlie Johnson ’12, Matthew Summers ’13 and Alicia Varcoe ’13.
Andersen recently answered some questions about “HeadVoice” and his future plans.
What inspired the storyline of “HeadVoice?” Has it changed since you started writing it in high school?
I began writing music during high school (at the peak of my teenage angst) as I experienced several of my firsts: love, loss, frustration with my parents, and growing up in New Orleans. I became fascinated with how writers turn personal experiences into music. From that seed came “HeadVoice.” Loosely based on my life and experiences, the play tells the story of Eric, a young composer, using the voices in his head to write a show about his ideal musical life as a way to cope with reality. The show has completely changed since high school. As I’ve grown up and my writing style continues to evolve and mature, I’ve edited and refined the story “HeadVoice” tells. In fact, only four songs from the original version still exist in the show.
What has been the biggest difference between the production at Elon and the production in New York?
There are several new songs and the book is all new. I learned so much from the Elon production. It’s amazing how much an audience can tell you about what works and what doesn’t, specially when that audience consists of the Department of Performing Arts! The biggest difference between this New York production and the one at Elon last year is the role of the three voices. Each of them, at one point in the musical, play a role in the story Eric is telling, and my director, Charlie Johnson ’12, and I have worked very hard to make that super clear.
How do you feel your time at Elon influenced the pursuit of your dream?
How hasn’t my four years at Elon influenced the pursuit of my dream? Before I came to Elon, all I had was my “dream” but not enough tools or knowledge to know how to get there. Elon, its faculty, and my peers taught me all about the industry, professionalism and owning my personal strengths. I came into Elon wanting to perform on the stage, but during my four years, I was also able to music direct, accompany on the piano and compose. Being able to work on those skills as well has given me so many more opportunities in the “real” world.
What has been the most memorable part of your career thus far?
Well, it’s only been a year since graduating, and though it has been a long and crazy year, I am still brand new with my career just getting started. “HeadVoice” and this production at the New York Musical Theatre Festival has certainly been the highlight because it’s been something I’ve been working on through high school, through college and now into the real world. So to see all of the changes it’s undergone and to culminate in this production is very exciting. After seven years of working on this puppy, I truly believe I’ve finally reached the show I set out to write which makes me very proud.
What are your future plans?
My future plans and goals are to keep working as an artist in New York City (“working” being the key word). I’ll keep auditioning, and I’ll keep music directing and playing piano. I’m very excited about making this New York debut as a composer and writer and to keep writing and getting my work out there.