Art Imitates Life in 'One-Man Opera'
By RITA PAPAZIAN
Fairfield Citizen News
February 8, 2008
"Me, Me, Me! A One-Man Opera" literally takes a page from the life of Fairfielder Jed Wolf, its creator and star.
The musical comedy is the second production of works that are part of the "From Page to Stage" initiative offered at the Playhouse on the Green in Bridgeport.
The one-man opera will be performed Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. A talk-back with Wolf and the production's director, E. Katherine Kerr of Wilton, will follow.
In essence, this musical is art imitating life Wolf's life. And what a life it's been so far. He is a composer, lyricist, arranger, singer and actor in his own shows. He is also an inventor, landscaper, graphic designer, video editl surface. The glistening water is mesmerizing and the sound of it gently trickling is soothing."
His invention is a combination of his inventive mind and his talent as a landscaper, one of the many careers he has had to pay the bills while he follows his creative pursuits.
The Springscape Wall Garden is now patented, and he is in pursuit of getting his invention in production to sell to consumers. Wolf said the invention is popular with medical offices, especially dentist offices, as well as restaurants and health food stores.
Becoming a losing contestant on the reality show may have gotten his ego off track a little, but it gave him the inspiration to write "Me, Me, Me!" In one sense, the title sings out the one note from the musical scale while at the same time screams out the inventor's thoughts as he sits in the Green Room waiting for the reality show's producers to select him as a contestant. All during the long 10-hour wait, Wolf said the songs for his one-man show were writing themselves in his head.
Here he sat with his "waterfall in a box surrounded by all these people 'just like me all these inventors who have rushed to a cattlecall I'm sitting and thinking, 'This is a musical.'"
He went home and began writing songs. The reality of being a contestant on a reality show was so strong that the lyrics just seemed to write themselves.
Reflecting upon his experience, Wolf said that people who see his show should be able to identify with one of the songs that deal with the "voices in my head."
"They thought you were crazy, Jed. Look at yourself Get a job."
"They hate me, these voices in my head."
"Why do they want me defeated?
"They hate me. They say my dreams are fiction."
He explained how creative people have these voices, usually negative ones from family and friends who whisper how crazy they are to think that they have something that is good and marketable. He said the show "is a must see for anyone who's ever considered giving up on or following his dreams."
Wolf said the song about voices is just part of the message he wants to get across with his opera. He did not want to write about relationships. He thought such a theme would be too boring. Self-esteem and having the courage to do something are common themes.
"Who are all these people with dreams of their ideas?" he sings.
"There's a woman with a self-tying shoelace and a man with a talking bouquet."
They are all "just like me," he sings. "The judges will decide and their dreams will be denied.
"They are rocking with anxiety just like me."
Asked why he hadn't pursued a career as a performer early in his life, Jed replied, "Most of my life, I lacked the ambition and never considered myself a performer. It went against my 'introspective loner' persona."
He chose not to write music professionally (commercially) because he thought it would ruin his love of it. He knew his songs sounded "theatrical."
While in his 40s, he took a chance and wrote a score for a musical called, "The Spare Serasphim" by Donald Yonker, which was produced in Manhattan.
Wolf said, "The behind-the-scenes drama between the actors and writers, the fundraising and the enormous trouble and heartache of getting the show up and seeing it fail left a very bitter feeling about being involved in musical theater."
He has an "affinity for writing musical 'theatery' songs" so he has chosen to write a "manageable one-person show," he said.
Kerr couldn't agree more. "Jed's a uniquely creative guy," said the director and actress, who sees the possibility of this show touring college campuses and having a off-Broadway run.
Kerr said the show appeals to the "heart and intellect" for the theme is about the struggles creative people go through, in particular in this country, where Kerr said the arts are not supported the way they are in Europe. She cited only New York City and Los Angeles as the places where actors and singers can make a living. "We don't live in a culture that supports creativity," Kerr said.
Mark Graham, a member of the playhouse's board of directors and until recently its acting co-artistic director, said "Me, Me, Me!' is "eccentric" in the sense that it's about a traditional inventor in contemporary times trying to sell his inventions. Graham described Wolf as "a renaissance man."
"Me, Me, Me!" is an example of the type of shows the playhouse seeks to produce under the banner of "From Page to Stage." These are "no-frills" productions giving local writers opportunities to showcase their works. In the case of Wolf, Graham said, the playhouse could not ask for anything better. "Here was a writer and actor in one.
"It's an intriguing piece," said Graham, who agreed with Kerr that the work has strong possibilities for becoming a production in New York City.
Wolf's current success in getting "Me, Me, Me!" onstage may come as a surprise to him. After all, he said, early in life he expected to be retired at age 10. "I was born retired. I had visions of sitting is a studio painting landscapes and having people want them. I had visions of playing the piano and having people like it. I wanted to be over it all. I was very reclusive. I was introverted. I didn't have a normal social life."
His parents noticed his innate ability to play the piano by ear and encouraged him to take lessons. He then was sent off to a "progressive alternative boarding school." At 16, he hitchhiked across the country. He calls this experience his own "Into the Wild."
"I had so many strange jobs. I could talk my way in," said Wolf, citing his hiring as the personnel director of the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. There he installed music into the shark tank viewing area and created promotional materials. He was offered a position at the museum's advertising agency, which led to his own advertising business, followed by writing elaborate songs about the perils of advertising.
His career as a door-to-door salesman in northern Vermont, inspired him to set the entire sales script to music with his first one-man show, "Door-to-Door."
Wolf sang bass in the pop musical group The Spinouts. After one of his original songs was heard by a record producer, Wolf was flown to London to write for the pop singer Bob Chubala.
His experience taking a performance class with Kerr led him to meeting other actors and becoming more receptive to the idea of performance and writing songs. He wrote about the lonely guy in the office, the guy who doesn't participate in life as others do.
Could be that Wolf heard the phrase, "Go fly a Kite," so many times that he just got up one day and invented a kite. He has a patent pending for his Affinity Feather Kite.
"They really work," he said. "All you need is a light wind or stiff breeze. They do what regular kites do but because they are so lightweight, they also glide just like a soaring bird."
Now at middle age, Wolf may just find his bundle of creativity will keep on soaring in the many forms it has manifest throughout the years He may just feel like that light feather gliding through the sky.
As he sings Me, Me, Me!: "Suddenly I see no one can be just like me."
Playhouse on the Green is at 177 State St., Bridgeport. Free parking available. For information, call 333-3666 or visit