By Jessica Vanek Marketing Intern
The CONCERTO staged reading is presented by playwright Alan Olejniczak, Lyric’s producing artistic director Michael Baron and Maestro Alexander Mickelthwate of the OKC Philharmonic.
Concerto tells the story of the composition of Tchaikovsky’s infamous violin concerto. The story follows “Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,” “Iosif Kotek” and “Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck.”
“It’s a play about how art is created. So often you look at The Nutcracker and think ‘how did that happen?’ and well, somebody paid for that. Somebody worked on that and refined it, but all you see is the finished product 120 years later,” Olejniczak said.
Olejniczak began writing the play about Tchaikovsky, but the work ended up evolving into something different.
“I was doing more research, and I discovered that Von Meck was a far more interesting character than Tchaikovsky and even Iosif is far more interesting, too,” he said. “I did a lot of writing and narrowed it down to the core, which was about this concerto and how there was so much turmoil that went into creating the piece.”
Playwriting is not Olejniczak’s first career path.
“This is actually my third career,” he said. “In college I used to study theatre, sang in opera and became a sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton-Buckhead in Atlanta. Then I got my master’s in special education and did that for 16 years, and then got into playwrighting. I eventually retired from teaching, and now I do this full time.”
Olejniczak is an alumnus of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received a degree in interdisciplinary arts with a focus in theatre.
“I never thought of myself as a writer at all,” he said. “I saw an early reading of Lauren Gunderson’s play, and I thought it was incredible. How did I get a degree in theatre and not know how theatre was created? So, I was like ‘oh I can write a play, how hard can this be?’ … it was so hard. But then I fell in love with it.”
Olejniczak now holds the position of playwright in residence for the Proscenium Theatre. He previously was the Artist in Residence for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the first playwright selected by the National Parks Arts Foundation.
In addition to playwriting, Olejniczak is also a librettist.
“I wanted to do a play with music. I also write opera. I wanted a way to combine the two without singing and just leaving room for the music. in music there’s drama and storytelling,” Olejniczak said.
Olejniczak started writing Concerto in 2016 with the intention to self-produce the work.
“I actually wrote the roles of Tchaikovsky and Von Meck for some actors I knew who could play piano. It called for three actors who could play instruments,” he said. “Apparently the music is so hard that I could not find a violinist who looked young enough and could play the music. So, I wrote a play about an unplayable concerto and then I couldn’t find people to play it.”
Due to the casting complications, Olejniczak temporarily shelved the play.
“I figured it would sit on my computer forever,” he said. “Then I met Michael at the William Inge Festival in 2018. He gave me feedback for one of my plays, and he asked me to send him some of my other plays. I sent him this one, and he was particularly drawn to this piece because it seemed like a great collaboration with the OKC Philharmonic.”
Olejniczak said he is grateful that the play has found its home for a workshop.
I can’t express my level of gratitude for being able to come to Oklahoma and see this piece come alive and actually dig back into it,” he said. “Drama with music is kind of the direction I’m going.”
The CONCERTO staged reading will be presented Tuesday, September 28, at 7:30 p.m. on the Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage. Admission is FREE! Arts Collaboration: Lyric Partnering with OKC Philharmonic on World Premiere.
Click here for more information on CONCERTO!