‘A Quick 5′ with Eric Shimelonis

Eric Shimelonis

Eric Shimelonis is a composer, conductor and multi- instrumentalist whose work can currently be heard at Round House Theatre in Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo. His work was recently heard at The Studio Theatre in Time Stands Still. Eric has played in a wide range of venues such as CBGB’S and The Kennedy Center. His works have been heard at Carnegie Hall, He has done music and sound for over 200 plays and composed the music for the Adam Rapp film Winter Passing. He is a recipient of grants from The National Endowment for The Arts and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Henry Hewes Design Award, a Big Easy Award and multiple Ambie Awards.

Where did you receive your musical training?

I am mostly self taught actually, but have had some targeted studies at Juilliard, Oberlin, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

What was your first theatrical composing job?

Just after moving to New York City in 1998, Valentina Fratti at the Miranda Theatre gave me my first shot – composing for a play called The Book of Wren, by Bronwen Denton-Davis.  This was a sweet little Medieval era play – something like an off-off Broadway “Game of Thrones.”  I made those first recordings using an electronic keyboard – a practice I am lucky to have gotten far away from, having since built an arsenal of instruments and a talented ensemble of friends and colleagues.

About how long does it take you to compose the music for a theatrical production?

The typical rehearsal process is around 4 weeks, and I usually use the structure of that process to guide my own.   The first reading of a play always does a lot to solidify a concept, and I use those first weeks of rehearsal to make sketches and round out a cycle of themes.  I usually finalize the scores and make recordings in the week leading up to tech.

James Whelan (Richard), Beth Hylton (Sarah Mandy), Nicole Moore (Mandy), and Eric M. Messner (James) in ‘Time Stands Still.’ Photo by Stan Barouh.

Your main theme for Time Stands Still at The Studio Theatre had a very driving sound to it. What were your first thoughts after reading the play?

I was really impressed by the drive of Sarah, the main character.  She gets blown up by an IED in Iraq, and throughout the course of the play fights relentlessly to get back on her feet and go right back to work.   Further inspired by seeing Holly Twyford bring this character to life, this music took on its “driving” sound.

What are your next few projects?

I have a couple of exciting shows coming up at Studio Theatre, including An Iliad, which will have composed music for a live, onstage musician playing a bass viol (which resembles a cello but is much older).   I am also in rehearsals for Our Class at Theatre J, for which I composed 16 or so songs that will be sung by the cast.  I am also looking forward to a couple of shows next year with Roundhouse’s new artistic director Ryan Rilette.