Alumnus composes music for fall production

    Professional actor, composer and Palo Alto High School alumnus Jonathan Shue, Class of 2001, is collaborating with students to create original music for the theater department’s fall show, “The Odyssey”.

    Students are working with the framework of previous music composed for a production of the Odyssey at Monta Vista High School to create a contemporary musical accompaniment, according to Shue.

    “When I compose music for plays like this, where we have actors who aren’t necessarily trained musicians, it’s important to me that the music comes from their heart and soul and that they have a hand in the creative process,” Shue said.

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    Actors rehearse for the Odyssey, Paly Theater’s fall production, outside the Haymarket. “The Odyssey” will begin showing at the Haymarket Theatre August 25-27. Photo: Emilia Diaz-Magaloni

    According to Shue, music is central to “The Odyssey,” but the author of the play, Mary Zimmerman, doesn’t specify in what way. This means every production is extremely different, and each musical director can add his or her own creative spin to tell the story.

    “We’re creating music that’s completely unique to this production, and comes directly from the talent in the room,” Shue said.

    The musical composition incorporates an assortment of different instruments, including piano, violin, saxophone and bajo sexto, a Mexican twelve-stringed instrument, as well as singing.

    “The music for this production doesn’t fit nicely into a genre because it uses anything and everything to tell the story,” Shue said.

    Junior Music Director Edward Park is incorporating Shue’s compositions into the sound design and overseeing how the music fits together.

    “I’m taking Jonathan [Shue’s] music and transcribing it and arranging it to suit the needs of the show,” Park said. “I’m not doing this on my own, but I have the most contact with Jonathan [Shue] at this point.”

    The process takes place over email and text because Shue is working long distance, according to theater teacher and director Kathleen Woods.

    “It’s a very cooperative process,” Woods said.

    According to Park, on a day-to-day basis, he observes the show, takes notes on what cues are needed and sees how each musical piece will fit into each scene.

    “I’ll adapt what music we have and potentially write a couple of lines to suit the scene,” Park said.

    Shue grew up doing theater and music in Palo Alto and was involved in Paly theater for all four years of high school.

    He now works as a professional actor and composer in Seattle, Washington. Shue recently finished a production of “Indian Ink,” a unique drama which follows an English poet though her adventure in India, written by Tom Stoppard. The company that he performed the show with was started by Paly graduates as well, according to Shue.

    Shue currently plays the drums for “Brecht Fest in Pikes Place Market” in Seattle.

    Next, he will work on a project with the University of Washington for its Drama School’s 75th Anniversary.

    “I’m humbled to be part of it,” Shue said.

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