The musical Love Quirks centers around four single people in their mid-thirties who are struggling to navigate adulthood, especially when it comes to relationships. These broken-hearted New York City souls are trying to figure out what keeps them in love limbo. “There are perhaps some quirks that have held them back,” explains Seth Bisen-Hersh who wrote the music and lyrics. “And through the show our four single characters figure some things out and attempt to move forward.”
Now playing at AMT Theater in Manhattan, the comedic musical features heartfelt songs from Bisen-Hersh, a script by Mark Childers and direction by Brian Childers. The talented cast features Maggie McDowell, Erin Lamar, Matthew Schatz, Lauren Testerman and understudies Rori Nogee and Dylan Hartwell.
“The show is authentic because so much of what transpires on stage has transpired in one of our or our friends' lives,” shares Bisen-Hersh. “People in their thirties and forties come out feeling the show is very relatable, and usually see themselves and their behaviors in one or more of the characters. Meanwhile those who are younger can see what they have to look forward to. And older people can watch the show with nostalgia and perhaps a bit of "thank god I don't have to go through that again.’”
Seth Bisen-Hersh shared more.
What inspired you to write Love Quirks?
In 2010, musical theater song cycles, [or concerts with only theatrical songs], were in vogue. Having had written a couple hundred cabaret songs which I had grouped by topics such as "Neurotic Tendencies" and "Why am I Not Famous Yet?" I realized I could easily make a song cycle of my popular quirky love songs.
Brian Childers was one of the singers at the first concert of the song cycle at the renowned cabaret venue Don't Tell Mama. And Brian approached me about turning it into a musical. It was his idea to bring his brother, Mark Childers, on as book writer. And Brian has nurtured the piece and helped Mark and I shape it for 12 years.
What was your process of making the show and bringing it to life?
Since my songs were clearly about specific people, namely myself and my friends, Mark was able to find the basis for the four characters that would evolve into Steph, Chris, Ryan and Lili. Once we workshopped it, many songs were jettisoned and new ones were written in their stead. Most of the original songs that remained went through lyrical overhauls. Although there are a few that are almost exactly as I wrote them originally years ago. The oldest songs in the show were actually written in 2002 for my first Fringe musical "Meaningless Sex" though both have undergone massive changes.
So many people dream of writing a show and having it on its feet and in front of an audience, but don't have the courage or feel they have the resources. What would you advise?
Producing a show is basically nonstop problem solving and is probably one of the hardest things one can possibly do. Indeed, I would much prefer just being a writer. And while some people somehow find other people to produce their work, I find that most successful people I know have produced it themselves. So, the first thing to do is accept the fact that if you want something to happen, you have to do it yourself. Then, I would suggest doing a lot of research to figure out how to make your dream a reality. As a huge fan of to-do lists, I break everything down into steps and then check them off to feel accomplished. I find this tool very helpful in making large tasks feel less daunting. It also helps to have a mentor who can offer real time and advice and feedback.
You opened at the beginning of Covid-19 and had all these obstacles. What helped you stay the course, kept you from giving up and led you to find joy along the way?
Knowing that we found a way to bring this show back in the worst time for theater in history is a joy. Seeing how many friends and family traveled from all over the world to witness the show is also a joy. Also, having people you've known for decades lavish praise on you and remind you that you have achieved what you set out to do over a decade ago is a joy. And finally, watching this wonderful cast and crew every night is a remarkable joy.
Indeed, everyone involved in the show returned 27 months after we shut down our show and three days before opening night. Seeing how much they all love this show is the reason we could not let it die. We all know how special it is and seeing that confirmed nightly by audiences has made all the struggles and obstacles, of which there were a ridiculous amount, somehow worth it.
Do you remember one of the first songs you wrote?
The first song I wrote was when I was 13. It was called "I Love My Mom." She really liked it. And to this day, it's probably her favorite song of mine. That was when I learned the lesson that if you write people songs, you don't have to get them presents. So, I think I my frugality is the reason I started, but then I realized that I could put all my copious emotions into music. It became therapy for me, as I feel very deeply, probably because I am a Pisces.
What about the first time you performed?
In terms of performing, I starred as the tree in my 4th grade production of The Giving Tree. Then, I went on to play Captain Hook in Peter Pan and my music teacher had me audition for a regional production of The Music Man and I was cast in the child lead of Winthrop. From then on, I was always doing a show, or multiple shows really, whether it be at my town's children's summer theater, community theater or at school. I started producing shows at night after summer camp and also at MIT, where I did my undergrad, and then New York University, where I went to grad school. And that lent itself well to a career in cabaret and theater.
I know it takes years and years to create a musical and then bring it to audiences. What was one of the most moving moments in this process that really stands out for you?
Getting to opening night off-Broadway after a 27-month delay was a huge win for the team. Indeed, I was having nightly panic attacks we would have to shut down again, so I finally started sleeping again when we got through opening. It turned out that our opening night June 27, 2022, was exactly 11 years from the first reading of the musical version of Love Quirks in 2011. We can thank Facebook for that knowledge. I had my friends who invested in the show come from all over the country: California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and even Long Island. I gave a very teary-eyed, heartfelt speech. It takes a village, and having my village show up this summer has been incredibly moving.