Creator of BROADWAY MEOWS and BROADWAY CAN! Seth Bisen-Hersh offers the New York City community a wonderful night of music at the well renowned DON”T TELL MAMA.
Q: Congratulations on SETH’S TALENT SHOWCASE, what inspired you to create this production and what was the process like?
A: I have been doing showcases here (Don’t Tell Mama) since 2007 and what happened was, I was playing for showcases very similar to these, my friends would be in them and they would have to hire me as the pianist, so they would pay me a fee and then they would also have to bring 15 people to the show and then those shows were also pretty painful because they were jam packed with people, and I had this epiphone that I could do it better and cheaper. I had played for a guy who did showcases here for a while but it was no stress, and when he got a tour he said I should just do my own and I agreed. It’s great because I can sing my songs at the beginning and the end and I can emcee and I think I’m funny. It’s win-win so I started doing it with my friends and then decided to expand it to not just my friends. So I have been doing them since April 27th 2007 and this will be eleven that we are hitting and 500 that I’ve done almost weekly for the last eleven years. I hope they’re fun, I try to keep them more affordable than the other ones and more fun.
Q: You started with music really young, piano at eight and composing at thirteen, what was it that drew you to music at such a young age?
A: My mom read somewhere that you shouldn’t give your kids lessons before they turn eight because they might not stick with it. I was playing piano on a little dinky thing when I was three but I didn’t get official lessons until I was eight. I wrote my first song when I was thirteen, which was a song I wrote for my mom’s birthday, that’s when I learned if you write people songs you don’t have to get them gifts that cost money. My grandfather plays piano by sight and my grandmother, she played piano by ear so he taught me how to read music and she taught me how to figure out what the song was without the music. I guess it skips a generation because my mom doesn’t play.
Q: Do you have a favorite song that you’ve composed?
A: That’s like picking your favorite child. I think my favorite is always the last one I did, because I think they get better each time, and I always try to up the stakes for myself, and then I’m just really impressed with myself, which is the truth, it sounds really egotistical but I think I just get really impressed with myself like ‘I really like that’. So I think right now my favorite is my new score for THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ which we did a reading of last fall, we’re doing another reading in June of a revised book, and we just posted it for downloads and streaming. So I really like that score the best right now because it’s the newest, but I’m sure I’ll write something else and then that will be the best one.
Q: What would you describe as your favorite New York Moment?
A: There was a moment, I went to see the HD Opera at Lincoln Center and you know they screen the HD versions of the Opera, they do ten in a row and it’s my favorite free thing. I love free things because I hate spending money. All of a sudden it just started pouring rain at the point of one of the most intense scenes, and a lot of people left but alot of us just stayed, getting poured on, watching this opera and that felt to me like a New York Moment, ‘We don’t care if we’re getting rained on’. New Yorkers are just unflappable, I think all the tourists left and all the real New Yorkers were like ‘We planned to watch this opera, we are still seeing it, it’s not raining that badly’. I felt like it was very cathartic, because I was feeling kind of depressed that day and the rain just washed it away. I wrote about this story in my chapter on depression and insomnia in my second book.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about BROADWAY MEOWS and BROADWAY CAN!
A: Yes, in 2009 the Humane Society, My cat Smee’s bladder stopped working and he was having all of this pain, I called the animal hospital and they were going to be $2500 and I could not afford that at that time, I called the Humane Society and they said they could see me on Friday but he was not doing well so I called them on Thursday and they ended up doing surgery and the whole stay at Humane Society was only $350 for three days. So at the time I was thinking I wanted to get my songs out there more, second I wanted to thank the Humane Society, and my friend who was an agent said you can get Broadway people to sing your songs if you do it as a benefit and I was like, ‘That’s a great idea’ so I spoke to all of my friends who are on Broadway and Off-Broadway and got referrals and we did the concert and we raised $800 for the Humane Society. So we have been doing BROADWAY MEOWS every year since 2009 and this Summer will be our 10th annual and then we had such a good time so we decided to do one in the holidays for the holiday theme and I had a dream that we were doing a can raising drive and the dream was that it was ‘Yes, Bradway Can’ because Obama had just been elected. So I shortened it to BROADWAY CAN! And we’ve been doing that one for City Harvest. The first year we did it around the holidays and a lot of things happened so we pushed it back the next year to around thanksgiving and it was a lot better. So ever since then it has been the Monday before the week before thanksgiving and we raise all the cans, and we raise hundreds of pounds of cans every year. So those are really fun. Usually if around the same time I am doing a reading of one of my musicals I will bring that cast in as well. So we have a really great time with those.
Q: You just published your third book, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
A: It’s called MILLENIALS ARE RUINING THE WORLD: 24 Humourous Essays on the Generation Divide. It’s funny but I do talk about some serious issues with the world, according to my two five star reviews it’s very funny. The cover is a Seth-Moji and that’s supposed to denote the fact that it’s a comedy book. My cat Smee has a cat-eter (chapter) in the book, this is his second one, he did one in my other book, so his topic is why cats are better than millenials, and he just kind of pontificates on that for about five pages, he takes a couple of naps in the middle of the chapter but he finishes it.
Seth’s Showcases run weekly at DON’T TELL MAMA, 343 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
For more information on Seth and his upcoming projects visit sethbh.com
The Cast for SETH’s TALENT SHOWCASE included: Seth Bisen-Hersh, Kelsey Elaine Wilbanks, Lily Restivo, Joshua Schiritzinger, Brenna Wahl, KT Thomas and Richard Coleman.