A Sentimental Love Letter to the Idea of “Home” (Tom Wojtunik Talks The Human Comedy)

Tom Wojtunik

APAC's Artistic Director Tom Wojtunik talks about choosing and directing the upcoming musical The Human Comedy.

This is a special year for all of us here at APAC. And by all of us I mean the staff, artists and audiences that have shared in the stories we have told over the past 10 years.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, it seems only fitting to round out the mainstage season with a musical that explores the idea of home, as APAC hopes to continue beyond the next 10 years to be your home for adventurous theater in Astoria.

APAC’s Artistic Director and director of the upcoming The Human Comedy, Tom Wojtunik, explains more about the best musical you’ve never heard of…

NOT MANY PEOPLE HAVE HEARD OF THE HUMAN COMEDY. HOW DID YOU FIND IT AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THIS SHOW?

I’d been a fan of the cast recording for years–it’s truly one of the best scores ever written for a musical. Still, for a long time I couldn’t imagine directing it. I liked listening to it, but couldn’t “see” it. The musical is based on William Saroyan’s novel of the same name, and it really wears its heart on its sleeve–it’s a sentimental love letter to the idea of “home.”

This past summer my grandfather passed away and I was taking the train back and forth to CT, and started listening to it again, and it just unlocked for me. Everything that had troubled me about the piece suddenly made sense.

YOU OFTEN FIND A DUALITY BETWEEN SHOWS WITHIN APAC’S SEASON, WHAT WAS YOUR THINKING IN CHOOSING THE HUMAN COMEDY TO COMPLIMENT MILKMILKLEMONADE?

Joshua Conkel’s MilkMilkLemonade is a play about a young, gay kid who dreams of leaving his suffocating small town home for the big city where, we infer, he will find happiness and acceptance. The Human Comedy glorifies the idea of home and small town life, as well as the importance of family and community for helping us face the inevitable tragedy in our lives. I really liked the idea of contrasting the two pieces as two sides of the same coin.

In addition, APAC has become a home to so many different artists in our ten year history. It seemed appropriate to explore what it means to have a “home” in this milestone season.

WHY IS THIS STORY IMPORTANT NOW?

I’m not sure if there’s ever an inappropriate time to explore how our family shapes us as individuals.

THE HUMAN COMEDY REUNITES MEMBERS OF THE CREATIVE TEAM FROM RAGTIME AND CHILDREN OF EDEN, WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE WORKING WITH EVERYONE AGAIN?

A dream. Truly. I love working with people I’ve already worked with. It makes everything easier–you have a short hand with the person, and there’s a trust. Almost the entire production team for The Human Comedy is back from last year’s NY IT Award-winning production of Children of Eden. The high return-rate of staff is remarkable enough for an Off-Off Broadway company, but it’s even more impressive when you take into account no one makes a lot of money. Not to mention that Children of Eden was a massive undertaking that put us all through the wringer.

It moves me and inspires me that they are all back, and it speaks volumes for the chemistry of this particular team of artists and the fun we have together. It’s worth noting that these people make me a better director, for which I am extremely grateful.

AS A DIRECTOR, WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THE HUMAN COMEDY?

Saroyan’s philosophical world view has been accused of being somewhat cloying. It’s important to me that APAC’s production finds the right tone so the piece doesn’t come off as manipulative or maudlin. A lot of that will have to do with finding the right actors…we’re in callbacks right now, and I am positive that we will.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?

I hope people will come see this amazing musical that deserves a much better life than it’s had. Galt MacDermot’s score is breathtaking, and to hear these lush melodies sung by a 25-person cast, and led by Musical Director Jeffrey Campos, is something you won’t want to miss.

Don’t miss your chance to see this sentimental love letter to the idea of “home.” The Human Comedy begins May 5, 2011 and runs through May 21, 2011 at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St (@30th Rd), Astoria, NY 11102.

Get your tickets here.

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