Wednesday, November 30, 2011

‘Simpsons’ writer from Bristol pens play about CT

It’s been a long, creative journey for Bristol Eastern High School graduate Mike Reiss, who’s a Peabody Award winner and four-time Emmy award-winning writer.
He’s been writing for “The Simpsons” for more than two decades and now is returning to his Connecticut roots in a new play he wrote, “I’m Connecticut.”
Reiss expressed pride in the Nutmeg State and particularly his hometown in a recent interview.
“I love Bristol,” Reiss said.

He attended Memorial Boulevard Public School, Thomas Patterson School and then Bristol Eastern.

After he graduated from high school in 1977, Reiss’ family moved to Arizona and he later attended Harvard University. Yet he admitted that he holds a greater appreciation for his high school days.
“I went to Harvard but did not like it as much as Bristol Eastern,” he said.
He explained that a random conversation years later gave root to “I’m Connecticut.”
“The idea was pitched to me at UConn. A guy said I should write a play about Connecticut. I laughed it off then, but the idea stuck,” he said.
Reiss finally sat down and wrote the play and made it about a 30-something Connecticut native now living in New York trying to come to terms with an apparent lack of personality that he attributes to his upbringing in Simsbury.
The production has attracted an impressive cast.
Joyce DeWitt, best known for her role in the sitcom “Three’s Company,” plays Polly; Tony Award-winning actor Jerry Adler, who you might know from “The Sopranos,” plays grandpa; and Harris Doran, who comes from New York theater, plays Marc.
“I’m delighted with the cast. I thought it was going to be a little college production, where students play adults, but they got a bunch of professional actors, which is way beyond anything I conceived,” Reiss said.
Once the play opens at UConn Friday, Reiss will return to his adopted home of Los Angeles and continue to work on “The Simpsons.”
“I’ve been working on ‘The Simpsons’ for 23 years. The hardest thing about doing the show now is finding something someone hasn’t written about yet,” he said.
Reiss and his writing partner, Al Jean, were the first two hired to write for the show back in 1989. Before that they wrote for National Lampoon magazine and shows like “Alf,” “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.”
He mentioned that “The Simpsons” is coming back for at least two more years and that another Simpsons movie is likely.
“I think we’ll do another movie someday,” he said.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Interview With Jonathan Edwards

For 40 years, Jonathan Edwards has been eating highway and bringing quality folk music to the masses. This Saturday he will be performing at Terryville High School, sharing his new and older songs.

Many know Edwards from his hit song Sunshine, but his library is vast and his songs have deep and powerful meanings.

His musical journey started 40 years ago, when he picked up his neighbors guitar and instantly fell in love with it. He immediately started to write songs and forge a career that would last for decades, a career that now leads him to Terryville.

“I’m Looking forward to it (the show), it’s going to be great,” said Edwards.

Edwards has a very specific style, a style he melded together by listening to different types of music and artists when he was growing up.

“I grew up listening to R&B and Blue grass and popular folk music,” said Edwards. “I listened to Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Animals,” he added.

The show at Terryville High School will see Edwards performing many songs off his new album, ‘My Love Will Keep’, which is his first album in 14 years.

“I’ll be playing songs from the new album and some older songs. I will also open the floor for request,” said Edwards.

The new album has a total of 12 songs, Edwards favorite on the album is the first track called ‘Surrounded’. A song he wrote when he was living in Nova Scotia.

“I really like surrounded. It came out of one of those afternoons that you remember for the rest of your life,” said Edwards.

‘My Love Will Keep’ is a very gentle album and Edwards made it that way on purpose. He didn’t want to come back after 14 years and deliver something hard he wanted to come back and give us something gentle.

Yet, before all of this could have happened, Edwards had his hit Sunshine, which is a song he is very proud of and still likes performing.

“When I wrote sunshine I just narrowly survived a pre-draft physical. I was an angry young man, had a lot to say and I was disappointed in our leadership,” said Edwards.

He then sat on a bed and started to write this song with a folk sound, which ultimately became Sunshine. It was a late entry in his first album and it became the most popular.

Edwards will continue playing gigs throughout November, but is going to take December off. During his off time he’ll be writing and recording for a new album.

“I want to release a new album by the middle of 2012. I have some songs pent up,” said Edwards.

After four decades in a very solid career this new album tells us one thing, that Edwards still knows how to write and deliver true and intimate lyrics. He is still good at telling us a story and that’s what always seemed to work for him.

If you are interested in seeing Edwards, he will be taking the stage at Terryville High School at 7: 30 p.m., this Saturday. Terryville High School is located at 33 North Harwinton Ave., Terryville.