We walk into the quiet teashop together and Emily Jablonski promptly orders a cup of coffee. She had been overseeing a last minute rehearsal only hours before and confided that she needed a little boost. Jablonski is the director of the mash-up musical Gleeam, which combines the hit show Glee and the horror film classic Scream that has made it up from Washington D.C. to New York under the guidance of the Landless Theatre Co. A few hours before the NY premiere at the Fringe Festival, I got a chance to talk with her a little about the musical and herself.
The High 5 Review: So, why Glee, why Scream, what is this musical really about?
EJ: Okay, so Glee and Scream, Gleeam I should say, was part of—well the people who made it was the Landless Theatre Company and back in January we did a thing called the Mash-Up Festival and it took four or eight different things and combined them into mash-ups. So we had All That Jaws, which combined Chicago and Jaws; PeeWee’s Big Side of Adventure, Tarzanadoo and then Gleeam. Basically it takes the characters we know and love in Glee. It’s more of a parody, so it kind of stereotypes those characters and has them slowly being killed off by a—
H5R: A masked slasher.
EJ: Yeah, yeah and there’s like a plot twist at the end. So it’s really funny, a little risqué. Glee in general, the show is more adult-themed anyway. It’s kind of about high school but it’s geared more towards the young adults or older adults. That’s essentially what it’s about. It’s kind of a parody, a mash-up; it takes the best of both of those things and makes them into something fun and entertaining theatre.
H5R: Did you pick this specifically or were you assigned this?
EJ: No, I was asked—well how I got involved with Landless, I mean most of theatre is networking really. I was in an apprentice at this stage which was an original theatre in Maryland, in the DC Metro area and then after that I was in an assistant director apprenticeship there so I started sending my résumé out to all the directors in the area to ask for assistant directing opportunities and that lead me to meet somebody else who got me to meet Christopher Finn, which is how I got to meet Landless and it was kind of just a networking thing and then they offered for me to direct this show and when a young director kind of trying to get in the theatre scene in you know, a city, that’s really the way to do it.
H5R: Was this kind of your big break?
EJ: I wouldn’t call it a big break. I think being able to direct a show in New York is a big deal. So we’ll see what comes of it. It’s constant networking, constant meeting people and that sort of thing. I did express interest in directing this in particular because I love Glee and it’s just a treat to do this, primarily because I like the script, the script is really funny, it allows for some really fun choices in staging things, stuff like that.
H5R: So is the musical based on a specific season of the show?
EJ: When we did it in DC, it was really based on season one, but there’s also been some rewrites that kind of incorporate some other things from season two. So it’s just kind of like an overall—like if anyone has seen it or is a Gleek, follows Glee, they’ll probably get the references.
H5R: Did you enjoy directing it?
EJ: Absolutely, absolutely. I’ve been blessed with a really great cast; it’s been a lot of fun. I mean today was exhausting [the director had a last-minute rehearsal before the interview] but we were laughing the whole time, and it’s really great to be able to direct something that you really enjoy or have fun doing cause otherwise, why do theatre? I mean that’s why—it’s a really collaborative process and I really enjoyed directing new work. I’ve been able to direct the DC premiere and to do that again here, it’s really—there’s a sense of accomplishment.
H5R: So how did you get from DC to New York? How did you get into the Fringe Festival?
EJ: I actually never was in contact with the Fringe Festival. Essential what happened was that Andy, who is the producing artistic director at Landless and also wrote Gleeam, he had asked me to direct Gleeam back in DC and then when it got accepted into NY Fringe, he really liked what I did with the show in DC so he asked me to come up to direct it for NY Fringe and I said absolutely. So that’s how I really got involved; more with the company as opposed to actually emailing with the Fringe. I didn’t even know they were going to bring it to NY Fringe until they told me, so, it’s pretty cool.
H5R: As you were directing it, did you find that you changed things from the script or…?
EJ: I try not to deviate from the script too much; I’ve worked as an actor, I’ve worked as a stage manager. I really believe in the hierarchy of theatre. I think that one of the things that drew me to theatre in general is the collaborative process and I think that to be really successful you have to accept everyone’s rules. I like to really take what’s on the paper and bring it to the stage. One of the benefits of working on new work, on new scripts where the playwright is really involved, it’s if the things aren’t working in rehearsal, you can kind of talk to them and say, “Hey, this isn’t really meshing.” And usually, playwrights are usually open with that, because they want their work to be the best it can be as well. So, I don’t really change the script at all.
H5R: No improv, or anything like that?
EJ: No, there’s not really improv in this show. I mean, in terms, of entrances and exits, I think that that’s really a director’s choice and a playwright kind of gives you a guide of how things should happen, but you can deviate from that. In terms of the language, I make sure the actors stay pretty verbatim, because I think that playwrights look for certain words; there are specific things why they wrote things a certain way and you have to respect their art, just like you would respect anyone else’s in the process.
H5R: Are you interested in being a playwright?
EJ: Not me in particular, no. I like writing and there have been some things that have happened in life that I have considered, oh this would make a really good play, but I’m more or less just leave it to more talented writers. I’m really—I enjoy directing, out of all the things that I’ve done.
H5R: So did directing come after acting, after stage-managing?
EJ: Yeah, I started acting when I was in high school. It was actually my freshman year in high school, I was walking into a bus, I saw a sign for auditions and I—I always wanted to do it, so I just walked in. It was called Anne of The Thousand Days and I walked into auditions and I got cast and my life kind of changed after that, I realized it was what I really wanted to do. So I studied theatre in college, I just kind of had my hand in everything, just to get a well-rounded education. Once, I took a directing class junior year and I remember I was up till about three in the morning working on a project for my directing class and I didn’t realize it was three in the morning, I was having so much fun. And I was always brought up to follow what you want to do in life, not what’s gonna give you the most money, so I realized if I’ve been doing this for six hours and it doesn’t feel like six hours then that’s what I should be doing. So after that I really started pursuing directing. After college I actually moved to New York for a while and I got some assistant directing opportunities and stage managing.
H5R: To go back to the musical—does the audience have to know both Glee and Scream to really understand the show?
EJ: No, I mean you can enjoy it. I think that people who know the characters of Glee will understand the humor a little more, but I think anyone would come out and enjoy this, as long as they’re open-minded.
H5R: So it’s an all-ages sort of thing?
EJ: It’s actually recommended for 18 plus, basically because of minor nudity, the language and things like that so I wouldn’t say anyone. Like my grandmother wants to go and see it, like it’s not really her thing, but she’s going to come see it anyway. But, I think that theatre is really subjective and it’s hard to say that anyone would love this play because you really don’t know and I think that’s what’s really cool about theatre or art in general is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so to speak. I mean I’ve gone to shows where people have absolutely loved something that I have hated. I mean—I would recommend this show to anyone who’s open-minded and wants to have a good time and if you’re a Glee fan.