W*rk Lab Finalist Spotlight: Bela & Janey
We received an unprecedented 59 applications for The W*rk Lab, leaving us hopelessly in love with 59 profound writing teams. Because we were only able to support the development of four new musicals, but were so moved by the w*rk, we’ll be shining a light on our finalists for the next few weeks on Sappho Small Talk.
Here is our chat with Bela & Janey; a writing team that is, no doubt, changing the musical theater landscape.
To begin, Sappho is our “muse.” Would you say you have a writing muse? If so, who?
Before this we didn’t have a muse, and now reading about Sappho, the poet, we may have to borrow her, she sounds amazing!
For us, inspiration usually comes from real experiences we’ve had or been close to. We like to walk through life with our hearts wide open, taking in experiences and trying to capture how they make us feel, for better or for worse, then using that catalogue of feelings for inspiration.
How are you finding your voice as a new writer within the musical theater landscape?
We write A LOT of songs. Most of them no one will ever hear, but for us, it’s important to try a bunch of things and then hold on to the work that excites us the most. The more we explore, the more we learn what we like. We think it’s important to be fans of your own work. Like if we are writing a piece that we get really excited about, we know our audience is going to get excited about it too... or at least we hope they will. One challenge for us is just trusting that our sound is “Musical Theater," because, well, we both grew up rocking out to Phantom Of The Opera in our bedrooms and the stuff we write has a very different feel. We are constantly having to remind ourselves to not compare our work to what came before us, that we can pave our own way, and what we do is important because it’s what we do. This would be easier if we both weren’t huge musical theater nerds!
What are the themes and ideas you're most excited about exploring within your writing?
Content wise: We are obsessed with feelings. Good feelings, bad feelings, confused feelings, all of it. We want to highlight issues surrounding mental health, body image, self perception, relationship complications and all of the juicy, messy, realistic elements of being human. Right now we are working on a project that holds a giant magnifying glass up to the nuanced experience of meeting someone, falling in love with them, and how our characters have to get over their own emotional blocks in order to explore this new opportunity. It’s simple and complicated all at the same time.
On a more technical level: We’re really interested in pulling off a pop/singer-songwriter sound in a way that is theatrical.
Who is your target audience and how are you hoping to impact them?
Our target audience is anyone who has ever gotten their heart broken. Our target audience is anyone who has ever overthought a romantic encounter. Our target audience are fans of singer-songwriter music who never found their way into Musical Theater.
We are two millennials who usually write about authentic millennial experiences; but Gen - Z is right there behind us and we want to create fresh accessible material that Gen-Z will sing in their bedrooms the way we did to classic broadway hits when we were younger (just kidding, we still do that).
Is there a song that encapsulates your artistic identity?
Wow. Tough question. We are sort of are obsessed with Julia Michaels. Especially her songs ISSUES, ANXIETY and IF THE WORLD WAS ENDING.
Where can we see some of your work?!
Janey Feingold is a writer, director, lyricist best known for creating the viral musical teen series Chicken Girls for the Brat network. Chicken Girls was nominated for 2018 and 2019 Streamy awards and is now in its 7th season. As a self proclaimed "social anthropologist of teen culture", Janey has written and developed many projects for the teen space, including podcasts, music videos and episodic work, as well as an original 20 Minute Musical LAZERTAG about the fun of going through puberty. Recently her musical theater piece STRANGE was featured in the ON HOPE global Musical Theater Song Cycle, and next month she’ll have original work in a Digital Song Cycle event called “Creativity Isn’t Canceled”. She’s a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is currently pursuing an MFA in Musical Theater Writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. For samples of her work, check out JaneyMilesFeingold.com and musical work @KonstancjaMiles
Bela’s musical education began at an early age, in fact, while pregnant with Bela, her mom conducted a production of MY FAIR LADY in Holland, so really it began in the Womb. A self taught guitarist, Bela began writing songs at age 14. After completing a degree in business at Williamson College in Nashville, Bela began immersing herself in Nashville’s culture of musicians by becoming a local fixture at the Bluebird Cafe, appearing on MUSIC CITY ROOTS and reaching the final rounds of UNSIGNED ONLY. Bela attended The Fold Songwriter Retreat and is currently pursuing an MFA in Musical Theater Writing from the NYU TISCH school of the arts. @KonstancjaMiles