Composers Pasek and Paul to coach master class on campus

Annie Bruce, Reporter

Two Tony-nominated songwriters are leading a master class at Northwestern on Wednesday.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the pair behind the music for the musical adaptations of “Dogfight” and “A Christmas Story,” will participate in a question-and-answer session and master class at an event organized by Arts Alliance, the NU cast of “Dogfight” and NU’s Musical Theatre Program.

“These are some of the hottest young writers in the country,” Communication Prof. Rives Collins said. “Their work is being done here. Anytime we can work with the artists who were the creators and writers, it is an exciting time for us.”

Collins, who is directing an upcoming NU production of “James and the Giant Peach,” which also features Pasek and Paul’s work, will moderate the event’s question-and-answer session. The cast of NU’s October production of “Dogfight” will also perform, followed by three students who will then receive feedback from Pasek and Paul.

Collins said the opportunity to be coached by Pasek and Paul will help both performers and audience members learn.

“These two writers are very, very dynamic,” he said. “I’ve seen them work with young writers before and they are very college-student friendly.”

Alex Wolfe, who produced “Dogfight” and helped coordinate the event, said she’s excited to hear from the composers behind the show.

“The music is probably what people remember most from seeing the show,” the Communication junior said. “It kind of spans the entire spectrum of emotion, and we found that throughout the run of the performances, the audience really felt all the emotion. And I think Pasek and Paul are really great at doing that.”

Myrna Conn, who played the role of Rose Fenny in “Dogfight,” said she is interested in both performing and writing and hopes to learn more about the process behind Pasek and Paul’s work and their journey through the business.

“Watching them work with students and (seeing) how they approach material will not only help me approach material in the future as a performer, but know how a writer looks at a song,” the Communication junior said.

Pasek and Paul are graduates of the University of Michigan and recipients of a number of different awards in the musical theater community, including a 2011 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre and a 2007 Jonathan Larson Award. They received a 2013 Tony nomination for Best Score for “A Christmas Story.”

The class will be held at McCormick Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

“They’re gonna be one of the huge names that musical theater history classes look back on,” Conn said. “And it’s kind of cool to be part of that history.”

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