The Poptimists, a world premiere, opens at Tabard Theatre Company on December 4th and runs till the 12th. “There was a time when clean-cut young American singers toured the land, spreading optimism and patriotism through the pop music of their generation…this is not their story. Meet The Poptimists, a 1970s-era traveling pop group, in this satirical but affectionate musical poke at the politics and perspectives that defined a decade.” Check out the interview below with Ted Kopulos, the writer of The Poptimists.
Q: The Poptimists’ story comes from a high school memory from the 70’s when The Spurrlows came and visited Leigh High School. Why do think The Spurrlows had such an impact on your life that you would actually write a musical based on them?
A: I think it was the first time I had ever heard a big band in a gymnasium. From the first note of the assembly, it was loud and incredibly energetic. And I couldn’t believe the energy and pearl white smiles of all these clean cut kids. Of course the “Breck girls” were gorgeous to a 14-year-old male adolescent. And since I had been into popular music my whole life, I liked the selection of songs they performed. It was like an avalanche of sound and sight. And yet odd as well. Even at that age I knew there was something just slightly off (and a little scary) about a bunch of kids who were so square yet so intensely sincere.
Q: What’s your writing process like? How long have you been working on this project?
A: Unlike a lot of writers in most formats, I actually start with a title and general idea first–especially for my songs. The title suggests what style and type of work the piece will be. I rarely use a detailed outline. I like to let the work carry itself along and then I step in when it hits a snag. The Poptimists was written in about a month. I started in early March and finished the score in early April. The songs came incredibly fast because the character types were so clearly defined so quickly. The book was written in two sittings. Sometimes shows come this fast, but usually not. This idea had been in my “mental crock pot” off and on for a number of years. I did add a completely new song in August for the male cast members.
Q. Is the musical poking fun of current politics and themes, or is it strictly based in 1970’s?
A: It takes place in Spring 1970, and on the surface it’s a period piece. But certain jibes are timeless. Self-importance, happiness through ignorance, unabashed willingness to go along, believing things are perfect because others say they are. The Poptimists is not heavy-handed in the least, but I suspect a lot of audience members will like a lot of the material on different levels. At least I hope so!
Q: With your expansive theatre background in the South Bay, how/why did you decide to work with Tabard Theatre Company?
A: I absolutely LOVE the space. Theatre on San Pedro Square is just the most unique performing space in the South Bay. Over the last ten years I’ve had a number of musical revues and read-throughs of my musicals and plays produced there. I still love watching people’s faces when they come up the stairs and see it for the first time. In many ways, it’s like a classic New York cellar theater, but on the second floor of a classic San Jose building. The brick walls and the beautiful cherry wood bar are just two of the amazing elements that create an intimate and fun ambiance. Tabard is the diligent keeper of this space and fills it with fascinating and entertaining fare.
Q. What’s it been like to see your vision and story come to life with your actors/production team at Tabard Theatre Company?
A: After 30 years of playwrighting and composing, I’m still amazed each time a work of mine is mounted. Tabard has enthusiastically welcomed me and been incredibly helpful in getting this show mounted. This is one of the larger shows of mine that has been produced and there’s no way I could have gotten it on the boards without Tabard.
Why are you excited for audiences to see The Poptimists?
A: For the same reasons I like audiences to see any of my shows. They’ll have a good time and see something a little off the beaten path, but in a good way. I’m no Arthur Miller or Neil Simon, but I write theater for the sole reason to give the audience, the cast, and the crew a fun time and a few funny hours away from the outside world. The Poptimists is a lovingly warped recollection from my high school days. And everyone had one or two school assemblies which stuck with them. I think the flavor of the time period, the energy and talent of my cast, and hopefully the affectionate satire of my material will combine for a really fun evening. And that’s what it’s all for. Fun.
More tickets and more information, please visit Tabard’s website.