Professor-Alumnus’s Show Opens Off-Broadway

Songbird is playing at the 59E59 Theatre until Nov. 29. (PHOTO BY LYDIA BENNER/THE OBSERVER)

“Songbird” is playing at the 59E59 Theatre until Nov. 29. (PHOTO BY LYDIA BENNER/THE OBSERVER)


"Songbird" is playing at the 59E59 Theatre until Nov. 29. (PHOTO BY LYDIA BENNER/THE OBSERVER)
“Songbird” is playing at the 59E59 Theatre until Nov. 29. (PHOTO BY LYDIA BENNER/THE OBSERVER)

Michael Kimmel, former student and current professor at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), is the playwright of the new Off-Broadway play with music, “Songbird,” which opened Oct. 20 at 59E59 Theater A.

The play is a twist on Anton Chekov’s “The Seagull” and follows the lives and careers of singer-songwriters in Nashville, Tennessee. It debuted in the summer of 2014 in a “concert-version” setting, as Kimmel explained, with the goal of getting audience feedback.

“People had a really visceral response to some of it,” Kimmel said. “The last two years have been about making sure it stood on its own as its own piece so you didn’t have to rely on the source material to fully engage with [it].”

The overall aim of the play is to analyze the lives of artists in all fields. In “Songbird,” the characters can effectively express themselves through music and art, but they are unable to navigate their own lives as eloquently as they appear to do through their work.

“It’s really sort of my love letter to creative people,” Kimmel said.

He noted that during rehearsal, the outside issues of each person melt away, and for eight hours a day everyone comes together to create. After rehearsal, they each go back to their normal, yet complicated lives.

“I think when you start out…you have this idea of somebody who’s successful as sort of a paradigm of put-togetherness…the reality is that’s not true. Nobody has it figured out,” Kimmel said.

In 2008, Matthew Maguire, the theatre program director at FCLC, reached out to Kimmel and offered him the chance to teach a theatre class.

Maguire and Elizabeth Margid, the head of the directing program at FCLC, were two very influential professors to Kimmel.

“The idea of coming back and doing for other kids what was done for me was very exciting,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel has taught Acting for Non-Majors, Invitation to Theatre and Performance and Art but is presently only teaching Invitation to Theatre. He teaches based on his real-world experiences.

“I think that’s what makes this place unique. [Faculty members] are working on [projects] all the time outside and at the university, and I think that makes for setting people up to succeed if a career in the theatre is what they’re looking for,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel also feels he was directly influenced by his four years at Fordham and attributes his time here as an important role in the development of his career. This is because of the way he approaches and sees his work through.

To theatre majors, Kimmel’s advice is to learn an array of jobs in the theatre and experience the challenges each position brings so that one is able to fully appreciate collaboration.

He added, “You have to be your biggest advocate…if you’re allowing other people to tell you what you can and can’t do, then this might not be the career for you.”

“Songbird” will continue to run until Nov. 29 at 59E59 Theater A. Tickets are available at