NEW YORK (AP) — Most theater musicals are based on prized, cherished things. Now comes one that uses the trash we toss away.
This fall, the Atlantic Theater Company will present the world premiere of “Found,” a show built around discarded notes and other ephemera that litter the streets. It features a book by Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree, and music and original lyrics by Eli Bolin.
The show’s skeleton is the story of Davy Rothbart, who began collecting the flotsam and jetsam of society and built them into the magazine “Found.” The publication is a compilation of birthday cards, poetry on napkins, to-do lists, love letters, random notes and homework assignments.
“Our intent is not to do a documentary. We want to do a weird, wonderful, surprising, strange musical,” said Bell, who wrote the musical theater parody of the film “Silence of the Lambs” and the Obie-winning “(title of show).”
The show, to be directed by Overtree, will feature several of the best found notes from the magazine “because they’re the star of the show, basically,” said Bell. Only the names will be changed to protect the writer’s identity. “It’s hard to top those notes. They’re so weird and wonderful.”
Previews begin Sept. 18 with an opening set for Oct. 14.
Bell was already a fan of “Found” and Rothbart, a contributor to public radio’s “This American Life” and the author of the story collection “The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas.” But writing a musical based on random found items, Bell admits, has been a “horrible, wonderful idea.”
“It’s hard enough to make a new show, but then you have this other element – here are 10,000 notes you can play with and use at your disposal,” Bell said. “It’s a Jenga puzzle. It’s crazy.”
Bell said the idea of using Rothbart’s life made sense as a main story line “because there’s so much chaos in these notes.” He has teamed up with two veterans of creating something powerful from seeming randomness – Overtree and Bolin have worked with “Story Pirates,” an organization that makes theatrical shows from stories written by kids.
Rothbart has said he first became fascinated by discarded items when he came across a note on his windshield meant for someone else. Along the way, the magazine has compiled things that are, by turns, hilarious, moving and sad, glimpses into the human soul.
“Hopefully, you’ll get a taste of that in the show as well,” Bell said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us but I’m very optimistic.”