Alexander Sage Oyen is a composer and lyricist. We met at the Broadway Flea Market and bonded over our love for the state of Minnesota as well as musicals. He is about to release his third album and is working on a few projects. Here’s a little insight into his life…
The Playbill Collector (TPC): How did you get your start?
Alexander Sage Oyen (ASO): When I was 12 years old I was on a reality show called “In Search of the Partridge Family”. For my eighth grade birthday I saw my first musical, which was “Wicked” in Tampa Bay (Stephanie J Block was my Elphaba!). My mom is friends with Stephen Schwartz. He hooked us up with house seats fifth row center seats and that was it for me. After that, I also went into a theater magnet program when I was in ninth grade and performed as a child.
TPC: Have you worked or been mentored by Stephen Schwartz?
ASO: I’d say I’m most mentored by John Bucchino. John has a special way of communicating with me. He tells me when things are good or bad. When they are bad (which is all too often), he tells me how they can get better and explains how to do that. Stephen has been so generous and I’m so grateful. He came to a reading of one of my shows. It was terrible! The book was in shambles! The score was a mess! He sat there, took out a notepad and pen and took notes. Of course I was nervous. One of my heroes was taking notes on my dinky little musical! Afterwards, he brought me to breakfast, gave me his honest notes which really helped me grow. I learned so much in that meeting. I can honestly say that in that hour and half I learned things about songwriting and writing musicals that I will always apply in my work.
TPC: Tell me about your experience in the theater department at the Guthrie in Minnesota.
ASO: I loved that place so much and love Minnesota. Growing up as a kid in Orlando, Florida, this may sound weird but I love the cold. Weather envy, I guess!
TPC: Your mom is a singer, right?
ASO: Yes, my mom is a performer and my dad works at Disneyworld. When they first met, he was a comedian and one of the founders of Chicago City Limits. You can actually hear my mom singing on John Bucchino’s “Grateful” album. She sings one of my favorite songs called “Temporary.”
TPC: What is your area of expertise?
ASO: I prefer to write both music and lyrics for shows. They are both so connected and I have a hard time separating them while I work. I usually work with a bookwriter and we shape the shows together. I’ve been fortunate to find a lovely guy that I love working with, James Presson.
TPC: Word on the street is you are part of the Dramatists Guild Fellowship. What is that about?
ASO: Yes, I am a fellow along with James Presson! It’s a nine month program where we are asked to come up with new work. We meet as a group a few times a month to share and give feedback. It’s so great. James and I are actually writing a musical that we set in Minnesota!
TPC: Do you have a schedule for when you write?
ASO: No, I don’t like to treat it like a job and I try to avoid it as often as possible. I often find that if you let your work come out of you instead of saying “I have to write at 4pm” then you get a better result. At the end of the day, I would rather write something I am proud of.
TPC: Your new CD is coming out soon with lots of incredibly talented people singing on it. Tell me about that.
ASO: Drafts (Volume Two) is my new CD. Two summers ago, I wrote around thirty-three songs (I had a lot of feelings) so I decided to split them up over two recording projects. For this half of it, I went to Charlie Rosen (composer, performer, musical director extraordinaire) for some production and orchestration help. I’m constantly working to make things better and he makes everything I do sound a thousand times better. He’s truly one of the best musicians and creators out there and I’m honored to have worked with him. This new CD has some incredible performers such as Corey Cott, Ben Fankhauser, Jason Gotay, Remy Zaken and more!
TPC: Congrats on being featured on Playbill.com for your new CD!
ASO: Michael Gioia at Playbill.com is consistently the one who I have seen looking for new things to happen, looking for new theater and excited about it. He makes the world go round!
TPC: If you were to make Drafts (Volume Three), who are a few people you would die to have on it? If you could have anyone?
ASO: Norbert Leo Butz for sure. Also, Brian D’ Arcy James. If he were to ever sing one of my songs I would probably poop my pants. Don’t put that in the article. (Laugh) Audra McDonald and Kelli O’Hara. Basically the entire cast of “the Light in the Piazza”.
TPC: Alright, time for some rapid fire questions. What if you could only write the music for a show and someone else was writing lyrics. Who would you like to collaborate with?
ASO: I’d love to set for classic composers such as Cole Porter lyrics or Comden and Green.
TPC: Give me some of your favorite songs.
ASO: “Casual Affair” by Panic at the Disco. “It Feels Like Home” by John Bucchino. I grew up listening to my mom singing it. Also “Hero and Leander” and “Awaiting You” from Myths and Hymns by Adam Guettel. That guy REALLY knows what he’s doing!
TPC: What are your favorite musicals?
ASO: Wicked, Floyd Collins, The Light in the Piazza, Sweeney Todd. Interestingly enough, when I was in high school I did “Sweeney Todd” and played Toby. My Mrs. Lovett was Faith Prince (who was in the first musical I ever saw on Broadway- A Catered Affair [by John Bucchino]).
Be on the lookout for Alexander! His new CD comes out on October 22nd and there is a lot more up his sleeve that you will have to wait and see.