We recently chatted with the award-winning creators of Come From Away, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, about how they got started in the industry and where they find inspiration.
The YPT Drama School is proud to offer a Music Theatre Summer Drama Camp where students have the chance to work with professional musicians and composers, and create (and perform!) their very own work on our Mainstage. This process-oriented camp for Gr. 8-12 is unique and exciting – and, most importantly – connected to what real artists like Irene and David actually do. See details here.
Q. If you were an opening song, what would the title of you be?
Irene: I don’t know if opening numbers can be perfected until the rest of the show is done and you have a clear overview of the whole journey. So I’m going to say, “unfinished” or “in progress” or “I’m still working on it.”
Q. When you are writing a new musical, where are some of the places you find inspiration?
Irene: We love finding cracks of light in the darkness.
David: And true stories. As a lyricist or book writer, it’s such a gift to hear the way an actual person speaks in interviews. And of course being inspired by the music from the world you’re representing. Come From Away wouldn’t exist without our first- person interviews or without the music of Newfoundland that I grew up with.
Q. When you are just starting out writing a new musical, what is one of the first things you do?
Irene: I like to clean and organize the whole house. Try to do laundry. Clear my email inbox. Play with my daughter. Plan a vacation (which we will likely never take).
David: Then once the rest of life is taken care of (ha ha – it’s never taken care of), we start by doing a lot of research and talking it all through. That doesn’t mean we try to plan it all out – we still want the writing to surprise us – but it’s good to talk about WHY you’re writing it and what the story is that’s inspiring you.
Q. How old were you when you started studying music and what inspired you? As a follow up question: what instrument did you first learn?
Irene: I started dancing when I was 3. I absolutely loved all things dance. Had to stop in HS because I had constant injuries due to having Ehler-Danlos Syndrome. I played drums in JHS, but my exposure to music was mainly through dance.
David: I played trombone in grade school and was terrible – but I learned tin whistle and guitar on my own and started writing songs when I was very young. I was inspired by bands I saw when my mom took me to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I wanted to be Jim Cuddy in Blue Rodeo or Alan Doyle in Great Big Sea. I didn’t study music again until I moved to New York in my 20’s and took some songwriting and guitar courses.
Irene Sankoff & David Hein (Book, Music & Lyrics) are a Canadian married writing team. They won the 2019 Olivier Award and were nominated for the 2018 Grammy Award and the 2017 Tony Award for their score for Come From Away, with the show itself winning the 2019 Olivier Award for Best Musical, three 2017 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, four Helen Hayes Awards, five Outer Critics Circle Awards and three Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical. David and Irene were also the recipients of the 2017 Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards for Best Book. Their first show, My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding (based on David’s mother’s true story) was picked up for a commercial run by Mirvish Productions and has now played and won best musical awards in the New York Musical Theatre Festival and across North America, with Sankoff and Hein performing in most productions. Current projects include the film adaptation of Come From Away (Entertainment One) among many others. Irene and David are proud members of the Dramatists Guild, Writer’s Guild East and ASCAP. Immeasurable thanks to all of Molly’s People, to everyone who helped us on this journey and to our extraordinary friends from Away and in Newfoundland for inspiring and trusting us to tell your story. @sankoffandhein