By Chris Randall
Composer, writer and theater director David MacAdam speaks about his musical, Ruth, and offers an inside look into the writing of the play and the creative vision that inspires his work.
How did you get started in musical theater?
Even as a youngster, I had a passion for musical theater. I remember begging my first piano teacher — a musical-theater composer in New York — to perform in his latest songs. He gave me a window into the craft of songwriting and piqued my interest in writing for the stage. He also connected me to the world of community theater, and I launched my stage career at age nine, performing in “South Pacific.” I also regularly tuned into Leonard Bernstein’s televised “Young People’s Concerts.” His lively discussions of musical history and theory captivated me. My passion for theater deepened in high school, where I threw myself into nearly every aspect of making theater happen.
After college, my wife and I lived in England for ten years, where I served as a church pastor. We created productions that used story, music, and dance to explore universal themes and to create experiences that spoke to people’s hearts. Theater is the ultimate community art form.
Why have you based much of your work on classic books? What do they have to teach modern audiences?
Stories are potent tools. They teach, entertain, challenge, guide, and unite us. I have often turned to books considered classics to find stories of transformation and redemption. For example, I wrote “Scrooge,” based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” I based “Celestial City” on John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” And of course, the Bible is a prime source of compelling stories. Two that I have brought to the stage are the books of Esther and Ruth.
What inspired you to bring the story of Ruth to the stage?
It stands out from many Old Testament stories because it is a story of personal redemption rather than one of an epic-scale redemption of a nation. Ruth’s story is individual and personal. While at its core it is a love story, Ruth squares off against laws and tradition and struggles to overcome prejudice as she, coming from a Gentile nation, marries a Jew. I find Ruth’s strength, determination, humanity, and love and faith in God inspiring.
As an artist, I want to share with others what I see and understand. I want to tell unvarnished truths. As Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In my musicals, I have each character portray a specific truth. Truth helps struggle resolve into meaning, hope, joy, and peace.
MacAdam’s musical “Ruth” opens September 15 at the Groton-Dunstable Performing Arts Center (344 Main St., Groton) and runs through September 24. For tickets and information, visit newlifefinearts.org/tickets or call 978-795-9075.