Wednesday 7 March 2018

Interview with Tami Stronach

Tami Stronach might be best known as the ‘Childlike Empress’ in ‘80’s hit THE NEVER-ENDING STORY but give it a couple of years and the actress and entrepreneur might be the next big thing in family entertainment. Stronach talks to us about the projects she’s developing at her company Paper Canoe Company, and her memories of working with Wolfgang Peterson on NES.

You’ve been working on a production of Jack & The Beanstalk in recent times?

Yes- through my company Paper Canoe. My husband, Greg Steinbruner, is one of those hyper creative kind of people, with an essentially endless list of stories he wants to tell. He grew up really idolizing the American folk scene of Pete Seeger and Arlo and Woodie Guthrie that had a lot of story in the music and a strong political point of view. He wanted to create a folk rock album around the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

He had a song or two that he’d shared with me, but he’s a lyricist not a musician, and he was kind of stuck for a while with it. I put him in touch with my friend, Jacob Silver, and the two of them just clicked. Jacob totally got what Greg was going for. He had actually played bass once for Pete Seeger on Letterman! So it was kind of a perfect creative match. Jake brought in some of the best Brooklyn indie-folk musicians to sit in and after the first studio session it was pretty clear this was not going to sound like ‘cute’ kids songs. This was going to tell a story and the musician-ship and production were going to be far beyond what we had originally hoped for.  And I’d get to do some singing which is always fun.

Is it fun ‘creating’ and being in charge of your own production?

Definitely! I love behind the scenes work!. There is so much creativity to be found in making choices about the style and tone of a project .

Do you also write and perform all the music in it?

No--I did not write the music--save for the chorus of the title song.And I don't play on the album. But I did have the great pleasure of performing vocals on it. Greg and Jake were the musical masterminds. My role was to produce the project—to bring together the best musicians possible and oversee how we would give the story a twist so that it would make sense for modern audiences. . I also enjoy visuals so I supervised the album art and created our Hey Wow Video from the album.

And how different is the story to the real Jack & The Beanstalk?

Very different. I turned it into a love story, of course! Jack and the Beanstalk with a girl-meets-boy twist. There are so many great themes in the classic story. Taking down a greedy giant when you’re the underdog. Getting a reward for having the courage to climb high and venture into unknown. But somehow telling my daughter that Jack defeats the bad guy by stealing his stuff and then killing him seemed sort of weird. So, we made sure that our giant was truly bad—an arrogant big shot who thinks he can steal everybody’s stuff a get away with it.

We asked ourselves what would be the best revenge that Jack could inflict upon someone like that? So, we gave the giant a daughter, instead of a wife. Her name is Harmony. She is kind of a rock star in waiting, a singer in need of a band. In our version, Jack is a little bit country, and Harmony is a little bit rock and roll, and they steal away together, breaking her obnoxious father’s heart. We like to imagine they become a legendary touring band called “Beanstalk Jack.” Isn't happiness always the best revenge?

Where has it toured? Considering taking it overseas at any time?

We’d like to take it everywhere! At this stage we’ve performed it to very excited crowds in New York and surrounds.

How many productions has your company put on now?

We’ve produced two stage shows and released our album ‘Beanstalk Jack’ last year.

What was the motivation with Paper Canoe? 

With Paper Canoe, I’m putting all the things I’m passionate about under a single umbrella. I had this diverse life that included acting, dancing and singing—even doing a POP single when I was 11. Now I want to create family content that connects with kids, families and people who loved Never Ending Story, so that parents will have something magical to enrich their kids’ childhood.

Is there a built-in audience with it all, because of your association with Never-Ending Story? 

Definitely! The fans of The Never-Ending Story are very loyal and I do find that there’s a lot of crossover appeal with the projects we’re doing at Paper Canoe.

Tell us about your partner in the company – has a legendary background in playwrighting and theatre, I believe?

He’s my husband, Greg Steinbruner. We met on the New York theatre scene – where he had done a lot of amazing work and continues to do so.

You’ve worked with so many talented people – but we’d be remiss not to ask about Wolfgang Peterson. How was that experience?

Wolfgang was amazing. What I loved about him was that – besides being a visionary – he treated us not as kids but as his equals, adults even.  I have nothing but wonderful things to say about working with him.