Songwriter: ‘Three Hots’ and eight songs
Originally, Greg Hintermeister was to write “a couple of” songs for a play to have its world premiere Friday at the Rochester Repertory Theatre.
When that play, “Two Hots and a Cot,” opens, it will instead include eight songs written by Hintermeister.
“I wrote a couple they really liked, and they kept adding songs,” Hintermeister said. “They” are co-playwrights Debbie Fuehrer and Theo St. Mane, who developed “Two Hots and a Cot” with inmates at Rochester’s Federal Medical Center.
The play depicts the experience of inmates at the prison, a topic that attracted Hintermeister right off the bat. “I had done some volunteer work there some years ago,” he said.
Hintermeister will be on stage during the run of the play, dressed in prison garb and playing his guitar. “We’ll see when the audience shows up whether we did well,” he said.
Where do you start in writing songs for a new play?
I got a version of the script, and got the mood of the show. What are the characters feeling? What do we want the audience to feel at the end of the song? We went through several iterations of lyrics. Deb was the primary lyric writer.
What style of music did you choose? Did you assume it would have to be gritty because of the prison setting?
I did have some assumptions early on. Pretty quickly it became clear that the show is in a wide range of emotions. Some doubt and fear we tried to get into the songs. There are also some uptempo songs. “Three Hots” is in essence a barroom singalong song.
Did you keep in mind the music would have to be performed live on stage?
Absolutely. We talked about what the instrumentation would be. A guitar is the most organic-sounding instrument. The intention was to write the songs so someone with average guitar-playing skills could play them, but they would still be interesting.
At its core, we wanted the songs to stand on their own. A few of the songs everyone on stage sings. But every main character does get their own solo piece.
What’s it been like to work on this project?
The experience was wonderful. The thematic content was a nice challenge to wrap your hands around.