Meet a NYFA Artist: Daniel Furman

Meet a NYFA Artist: Daniel Furman

NYFA speaks with Fiscally Sponsored Artist Daniel Furman.

NYFA: Hi Daniel, can you tell us what are you working on and what’s coming up for you?

DF: The goal of my project is to make possible productions of my work, RIP!, which is a full-length musical loosely based on the story of Rip Van Winkle. My take on the classic story has Rip Van Winkle returning to his town and family after 20 years of trying to escape post-traumatic stress from the Revolutionary War.

The next public show will be a Concert Version of RIP! at 8pm on Nov. 6 at the Puffin Cultural Foundation, 20 Puffin Way, Teaneck, NJ.

I have taken the full show (14-person cast) and reduced to 5 actors plus piano and violin. I’m excited about this show because I’ve added a new song, have fantastic singers/actors, and also a violinist (Rique Prince) who will be acting in the show as well.

NYFA: What kinds of resources are you most in need of right now as an artist?

DF: I am reaching out to find theaters all around the country, professional or collegiate, that will be interested in putting on the show . Each situation is different, but funding will usually be required in some way to make a production possible. I will be trying to make contact with people and organizations in the Hudson Valley in particular, since my story involves figures from the historical and mythical background of the region (Rip Van Winkle, Henry Hudson, the chain across the Hudson River, and much more).

I would love to receive suggestions as to people/groups/organizations to contact that may be interested in becoming involved with RIP! or in hosting or co-producing a performance of the full show or the “Concert Version.” If you would like to see the latest on the show, or listen to clips of the music, look on my website.

NYFA: Is your work appropriate for children? Why or why not?

DF: This is not a “children’s musical”–the primary focus of the show is on more mature questions . The lead character went to war, lived through a trauma and is now trying to return home. And while he drank and withdrew into a dream/fantasy, the real world moved on–his wife and his whole town lived through and participated in the Revolution and came out as changed, more confident people. So there are definitely some adult issues taken up in the show.

That being said, there’s nothing in RIP! that’s inappropriate for children, and there’s a lot that I think children could appreciate, including the general comedy and the historical aspects of the Revolutionary War.

NYFA: What makes your work like no one else’s?

DF: Unlike the show “1776,” this musical deals with the impact of the American Revolution on ordinary people in a small town. Not everyone is a hero, or is even sure of what is going on. The characters are a bit comical, but what they go through–an impending war, the disappearance of loved ones, the impact of progress, and confusion about what is happening in the world–is not so far from our world today. My version of the Rip Van Winkle is essentially a love story as well, so I had to reinvent the character of Rip’s wife (in Washington Irving’s story, she was a shrew who was never even given a name!)

Although I am a jazz composer, there is not much jazz in this show (it would be quite an anachronism). What I’ve tried to do with the music is to create the world of this show–a small town in the Catskills in the fall in the late 18th century, where ordinary people are trying to deal with big questions (and little ones as well). I hope the music for this show has that sound–the sound of the world of Rip Van Winkle.

NYFA: What project or idea is on the edge of your horizon right now?

DF: I’ve started thinking about a new show where characters inside a video game come to life after cross-reacting with the uploaded files of Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” That one is definitely on the edge. I’m hoping to move toward another album with my jazz band, the Primordial Jazz Funktet.

NYFA: Where did you grow up and how did it affect your work, if at all?

DF: I grew up in the town of Old Hickory, TN–a suburb of Nashville. My parents loved classical music and were always very supportive of my interest in music. Of course, Nashville is known for country music, but I didn’t learn to like country until my senior year in high school, when I was about to leave for college. I studied classical composition at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. But I became more interested in jazz and started a free jazz band there to play my own music. I had a lot of fun playing in cumbia bands in Washington DC, and later led my own Latin Jazz band in Atlanta, GA. Over the years, I’ve lived in Peru, worked in mattress factories in Maryland and railcar assembly plants in Alabama. Now I work as a jazz and cabaret pianist around NYC. It has all probably affected my work; I haven’t figured out exactly how yet.

NYFA: How do you balance your work and your life?

DF: I work a lot. But it’s what I’m interested in, so it’s hard to draw a line between work and life. Luckily, my wife is a scientist and educator (as well as an artist), so we expand each other’s horizons. We probably do need to take more vacations.

NYFA: How has The NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship impacted you?

DF: I just started with NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship this past summer. I hope that it will make a lot of things possible. It does put the project on a more professional level and makes broader funding possible. I guess the next steps are up to me.

For more information on Daniel Furman, visit his website.

Amy Aronoff
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