‘The Song of Summer’: A Note from the Artistic Director

‘The Song of Summer’: A Note from the Artistic Director

For many years, between theatre grad school and starting San Francisco Playhouse, I earned my living as a musician, playing piano, keyboards, and singing in about as wide a variety of styles as one can imagine—ragtime, Dixieland, blues, jazz—played piano in showcase bars for singers showing up with sheet music, played countless gigs on ships, trains, etc., and organized a couple of rock ’n’ roll bands that performed original songs written by the members including myself. I also wrote songs that I tried to market to famous singers. I managed to get some tunes to Merle Haggard, The Eagles, and placed a song with the producers of The Simpsons (I’ll sing it for you sometime). Suffice it so say that when I discovered this play by one of our most treasured playwrights, I identified powerfully with the protagonist, a young songwriter who has written “the song of the summer.”

Every summer, it seems there is a song that captures the nation’s imagination, setting the tone for summer vacations, trips to the lake, dances at the armory, hot dogs and corn on the cob, the state fair. Some of these become lasting treasures, “Sealed with a Kiss,” “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,” etc. But many are relegated to the summer song dustbin, along with the artists that composed them, one-hit wonders who fail to reach lasting fame. Our protagonist is both the receiver and the victim of the instant fame that is granted him when he pens this summer’s hit song. Elated but terrified, he flees his multi-city tour and five-album deal to rediscover his identity in the small midwestern town where he was raised by visiting the piano teacher who started him in music and her daughter who was his teen summer crush twelve years before.

Entrusted to the hands of Lauren Yee, a playwright incapable of embracing cliché, The Song of Summer, besides being a sweet summer romance, becomes a deeper riff on the destructive power of American pop culture and a dramatic study of destiny. What forces pull on us to determine the directions our lives will take? All four characters in this play wrestle with the roads taken, not taken and about to take. How do we decide what we will become? And/or how does fate conspire to decide for us? When we look back at the crossroads we have all come to we wonder, did we follow our gut instincts with our choices, or were we swayed by socio-economic pressure to make a choice we ended up regretting? Lauren Yee challenges us to join with these characters to investigate the choices that form our destiny.

Bill English
– Artistic Director

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