Looking Back at our 2013-2014 season….NERDS at Philadelphia Theatre Company

By Carrie Chapter, PTC dramaturg

Philadelphia Theatre Company welcomed back a revitalized version of the musical, NERDS, this season. The show comically re-imagines the early days of tech titans Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in Silicon Valley. Here is an excerpt of an interview we conducted with the creators.

A Very NERD-y Homecoming: Downloading with the Creators of NERDS

Jordan Allen-Dutton, Book & Lyrics; Erik Weiner, Book & Lyrics; Hal Goldberg, Composer

Questions compiled by Carrie Chapter, PTC dramaturg

From left to right: Matt Bradley and Benny Elledge in the PTC production of the musical NERDS. Photo credit: Mark Garvin.

CC: A previous version of NERDS was produced by Philadelphia Theatre Company in 2007 at the Plays and Players Theatre. Now, it arrives at the Suzanne Roberts theatre in 2013. What are your expectations this time around? JAD: I expect to be surprised. Returning to Philly is thrilling. We were blown away by the response the first time around and it’s a joy to share this next incarnation with the same audience. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeve and I can’t wait to see how they land. We’re super excited to be working with new producers and a new director. It’s hard to express in words the feeling of seeing all our years of hard work put on its feet by dedicated actors, director, musicians, designers and technicians. EW: Our last experience in Philadelphia was so amazing, I’m just really looking forward to this opportunity to bring Nerds to life once again, in a place where it was well loved and supported by PTC and the audience. HG: When I think about how technology has advanced since we first did Nerds at PTC back in 2007, I’m hoping that audiences will also see how our show has evolved and matured in that same time.  I’m looking forward to seeing how audience members who have seen both productions will respond to the new updated version of this show.  There are so many new songs in the show for people who have seen it before, that I’m hoping people will feel like they are seeing it for the first time all over again.

CC: What makes the creative vision of the musical different for you? JAD: Steve Jobs has passed away since our last trip to Philly. We feel an even greater responsibility to do justice to this American genius. I’m excited to see how audiences react to our new and more complete portrayal of Steve Jobs. It occurred to me the other day that we haven’t really been writing one play for all these years, we’ve been writing a new play every couple of years. Writing a musical about technology is like Shakespeare trying to write Henry IV during the Battle of Agincourt. The story is a moving target. When we first began: Gates was known, Jobs was not. Then Gates went from a monopolist to a philanthropist. Then Jobs went from the underdog to the top dog. Then Jobs got sick. Then ultimately Jobs passed away. EW: A lot has changed since 2007 – technology seems to advance every few months, and with Steve Jobs’ passing and his biography being released, he’s become as prominent a social figure as Gates, if not more so. Our show needs to install “software updates” as it evolves to stay up-to-date. HG: When we first did Nerds at PTC back in 2007, Steve Jobs was still alive and our story was in need of a proper ending.  While the first Act continues to capture much of the action that took place in the technology world between the 1970’s and 1990’s, we want to make sure this production has a second Act that takes us up to present day (and beyond) so that our story can continue to be told for years to come.