‘Assistants’ Musical Comedy Cowritten by Manny Hagopian Running in NYC
By Aram Arkun
Manuel “Manny” Hagopian and Bryan Blaskie have written the book, lyrics and music to a one-act musical comedy called “Assistants,” which previewed on June 20 and is running from June 22 to July 21 at the Players Theater in Greenwich Village.
The show originally premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2015, where it won Best Full-Length Musical of the Fringe from StageSceneLA.com, while being listed by Time Out Los Angeles as the Number One Can’t-Miss Show at the Fringe and named as one of the top five musicals at the Fringe by the LA Music Blog. However, Hagopian said, it has been reworked over the past few years and workshopped in Los Angeles and Philadelphia before its Off Broadway debut.
Hagopian said the show, looking at the lives of Hollywood assistants, was basically about “that balance between trying to do something for yourself while doing everything for someone else and the sacrifices you make to accomplish those goals.” It is not primarily based on his own experiences because he became friends with his boss, Jesse Stern, while an assistant, and that boss now is the executive producer of this show. However, many of his friends had grueling jobs while assistants trying to manage their bosses’ lives.
Hagopian and his cowriter are also both producers and wear a lot of different hats. Hagopian also deals with some of the marketing, video editing and raising money for the show. He pointed out that “doing these shows is not an easy task.”
Hagopian is well known as a writer for an award-winning series of video games from Respawn Entertainment and EA, including Titanfall, Titanfall 2, Battle Royale Apex Legends and soon a Star Wars game called Jedi: The Fallen Order. He writes the story, characters and dialogue.
Titanfall 2, for example, Hagopian explained, was basically “a story between a guy and a giant robot, and their adventure as they try to escape a planet after a mission gone wrong. Anything can happen.” The designers create the broader structure, which can include elements like time travel or fighting, while Hagopian focuses on the story between this boy and the robot.
Hagopian, 32-years-old, grew up in Lexington, Mass., and after going to community college a short while he decided to go straight to work and moved to Los Angeles to be a writer. Within a month, he said, he got a job on a television show and then climbed the career ladder. As an assistant to a writer himself, he learned a lot.
Hagopian’s father Roger Hagopian, well known to Armenians as a documentary film maker, is a musician too, and Manny and his brother were in a band growing up, for about ten years. Hagopian ran rock festivals in Waltham, Mass., for three or four years.
In Los Angeles, he combined his knowledge of music with his writing skills to create four or five musicals before this one. While he sometimes works alone (e.g. “Earhart: A Musical Flight”), his collaborator for this one has been working with him for five or six years. Among their creations was “Tonya Harding: The Musical.”
Hagopian’s storywriting, he said, derives inspiration from filmmakers like Billy Wilder, while as a musician, he said, he comes from a rock’n roll and punk rock background. Consequently, he said, “my sort of songwriting is a mix between punk rock and pop rock.” His collaborator Blaskie comes from a full musical theater background so together they produce something unique, including some jazzy blues songs in the present show.
Hagopian left Hollywood to move to New York City in February of this year because his fiancé got a job for the “Daily Show with Trevor Noah” last year.
While so far none of his musicals deal with Armenian themes or have Armenian characters, Hagopian is working on developing a character of Armenian or Armenian/Middle Eastern descent for a game called Apex Legends, for which he is a senior writer. He said that the character will be given context so his/her appearance will not come as a shock but as something natural. He pointed out that “There are people who have never even met an Armenian,” so this will have a type of educative effect.
He learned some Armenian from his father, and intends to visit Armenia with the latter. One of Hagopian’s biggest supporters in Los Angeles has been Rev. Ron Tovmassian, senior pastor at the United Armenian Congregational Church, who is a good friend of Hagopian’s parents and will conduct his marriage ceremony soon.
The show must go on
After “Assistants” completes its run, the show will be published, which will allow local theater to license the show and thus both encourage its distribution as well as produce some revenue. Its visibility may also lead to new writing jobs for Hagopian and Blaskie.
In the meanwhile, for those in New York, performances at the Players Theater (115 Macdougal Street) are Thursdays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. (July 5 instead of July 4). To obtain tickets, visit www.assistantsthemusical.com.
Source: Armenian Mirror-Spectator
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