University of Rochester

EVENT: Student Creates a Stage Musical about Life after College

April 22, 2005

What better person to muse about the adjustment to life after college than a soon-to-be-graduate?

University of Rochester senior Dan Israel has done that, exploring and expressing his thoughts in music. For his senior honors project, Israel composed a 50-minute, one-act musical that examines the growing tensions among three college graduates of different social spheres who share an apartment in New York City.

Titled Killing Time, the musical will receive its premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28, and Friday, April 29, in lower Strong Auditorium on the River Campus. Admission is free and open to the general public.

“I have had a passion for musical theater for the past four years, and I’ve gotten increasingly interested in songwriting,” says Israel, a music major in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. “During my freshman year I took a course on Stephen Sondheim and the musical theater. I guess I fell in love with the art and wanted to try it myself.”

Israel started his project two years ago. He enrolled in a graduate musical theater writing course at New York University after his sophomore year. Picking his theme—“I thought it would be interesting to write a musical dealing with societal differences in recently graduated students”—Israel sought out and did a lot of readings. He composed the music and lyrics for his play, turning to his sister Sara, a professional writer for theater, film, and television who lives in Hollywood, for the dialogue. The finished musical has eight songs performed over 12 scenes.

The four-member cast for Killing Time has been rehearsing for almost two months. The musical is directed and co-produced by Ben Thorburn, another senior majoring in music.

Killing Time is not Israel’s first effort at writing and producing musical theater. Last year, he presented another original musical, Oh Deer—also directed by Thorburn—for the University of Rochester International Theatre Program’s one-act play competition.

Israel, a Delmar, N.Y., native, has a broad musical background. He plays piano and saxophone. As a student at Bethlehem Central High School, he started taking voice lessons and performed in two musicals. He continued taking voice and saxophone lessons at the University’s Eastman School of Music, where he also plays with the renowned Eastman Wind Ensemble. He’s a member and director of the a cappella group the Midnight Ramblers; the group is heading to New York City on Saturday, April 30, to compete in the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

In addition, Israel is a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity and is a Meridian tour guide on campus. He also was selected to participate in the University’s Kauffman Take Five Entrepreneurial Year program, which provides a tuition-free fifth year of study.

After that, Israel isn’t sure of his post-graduation plans; he’s looking into both music business and musical theater writing programs. But for now, following several busy and pressure-filled months, “I’m going to try to catch up on some sleep,” he laughs.