Family Album - Closed

Family Album

  • July 1 - August 31, 2014
  • Book & lyrics by Stew | Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald
  • Created with & Directed by Joanna Settle | World Premiere
Run Time:About two hours and 55 minutes, with one intermission.

Does settling down mean selling your soul?

Singer/songwriter Heimvey and his band have been on the road for years, living their middle-aged version of the rock 'n' roll dream. But when they stop to visit old friends -- a former bandmate, along with an ex-girlfriend who has created a new kind of life that blends art and family -- they all begin to question the choices they made. This rollicking, irreverent musical by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, the team behind the Tony Award–winning hit "Passing Strange," takes wicked aim at the tradeoffs and dilemmas facing anyone trying reconcile the dreams of youth with the practical realities of grown-up life.

more information+

The Story

In this play told with music, middle-aged rocker Heimvey and his hip, influential, but relatively low-income band, The Putney Swopes, are on the road to New York City to be the opening act for a popular young group at Madison Square Garden. Their crash pad for the week happens to be the artsy, immaculate Brooklyn home where Cleo, Heimvey’s ex-girlfriend and former muse, and her art dealer/stockbroker husband, Norman, live with their precocious child. As each sees how the “other half” lives, everyone starts to itch for what someone else seems to have: a creative outlet, financial security or good water pressure. In the process of forming and fraying alliances, and a jam session or two, the boundaries between the seemingly exciting artist’s life and the supposedly boring homeowners’ lot are shuffled and shattered.


Music Is Theatre Is Music

In the original Passing Strange, which premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2006, Stew narrated, sang and led an onstage band that included Heidi Rodewald, while a cast of six performers enacted the story of Youth, a black musician from South Los Angeles who defies his churchgoing mother’s expectations and finds his way first to Amsterdam, then Berlin.

The show went on to play Off-Broadway at The Public Theater and then transferred to Broadway. Since then, it has since been performed at regional theatres throughout the country without Stew and Heidi, while they have moved on with their hybrid careers as pop musicians and theatre makers. After Spike Lee’s film of Passing Strange was released in 2009, they made two shows in 2010: Making It, a song cycle about their personal breakup, which also became an album; and Brooklyn Omnibus, another song cycle about their adopted city.

When Passing Strange closed on Broadway, the pair was constantly asked what theatre projects were next.

“We were like, ‘Actually, we want to take some time off, play some shows, play some dive bars, see if we really want to do this theatre thing,’ ” Stew recalled. “I remember doing a workshop of a new play shortly after we closed, and I wasn’t even into it—I was just doin’ it ’cause I was supposed to. It was like, ‘I’m a successful Broadway playwright now and I’m supposed to do this,’ and I wasn’t really feelin’ it. I was like, ‘I just think I wanna play some shows.’ ”

In Family Album, which doesn’t feature Stew or Heidi, most of the characters are musicians who play the score as well as act out the story, and the bandleader, Heimvey, has some asides to the audience. But, as with Passing Strange, the germs of the material came from songs they’d been writing for years.

 “We’ve always been doing this, in a sense—we’ve been writing songs for musicals that didn’t exist, and now we’re writing the musicals to match them up with the songs,” Stew said. “I don’t know that I became a playwright, even still. I still feel like I’m a musician that makes theatre. I’m trying to make the plays do what music does.”

Director Joanna Settle put it another way, “Stew and Heidi approach music in a theatre like it’s music, for people, in a theatre. I really think Stew is one of the great linguists working in the theatre today. His dialogue is killer.” The music the duo makes, Settle said, has drama in it: “The way that Heidi and Stew wrap their melodies around the language, you just don’t see the punches coming. And the punches are deeply soulful, deeply personal. Something happens in the story and it lands deep inside you. The music kicks you up one way, the music’s got you there—and then the text takes you over here.”

Said Stew, “We’ve been living this divide between what is theatre and what is music. And I pay theatre the highest compliment: As much as I worship music, I think music is theatre. All music. I think any time you’re doing it in front of somebody, it’s theatre. 

An edited version reprinted from OSF’s 2014 Illuminations, a 64-page guide to the season’s plays. For more information, or to buy the full Illuminations, click here. Members at the Patron level and above and teachers who bring a school groups to OSF receive a free copy of Illuminations.

Creative Team

Book and lyrics
Heidi Rodewald
Joanna Settle
David Neumann
Co-Music Director
Co-Music Director
Dana Lyn
Scenic Designer
Andrew Lieberman
Costume Designer
Tilly Grimes
Lighting Designer
Jane Cox
Sound Designer
 ACME Sound Partners
Lue Morgan Douthit
Associate Scenic Designer
Eric Southern
Voice and Text Director
David Carey
Fight Director
U. Jonathan Toppo*


Luqman Brown
Casey Scott
Christian Gibbs
Charles Andy
Vinnie Sperrazza
Alex Emanuel*
Miriam A. Laube*
Lawrence Stallings*
The Kid
Daniel T. Parker*
Dana Lyn
Marika Hughes
* Member of Actors' Equity Association (AEA)
**AEA Professional Theatre Intern
  • FAmily Album image


    Check out the new rock musical...running through August 31 only!

  • Image of Lue Morgan Douthit

    Dramaturgical Snapshot

    Lue Morgan Douthit talks about autobiography and creating stories.

  • Settle and Stew image

    The music

    In this segment, the director and writer talk about the music in this world premiere rock musical.

  • Settle and Stew image

    The story

    Director Joanna Settle and writer/musician Stew talk about the inspiration for this play.

  • Portland Observer logo

    "...a ride worth taking..."

    "...the music, the piercing lyrics...are funny and often surprisingly deep."
    Click the logo to read the complete review.

  • Mail Tribune logo

    "...highly theatrical..."

    "...straddles the sensibilities of pop music and theater."
    Click the logo to read the complete review.