A Walk Through Williamstown with Michael Friedman

A Walk Through Williamstown is our weekly series celebrating the town that supports WTF every summer, and the artists who return year after year. Every Sunday, join one of our artists as they chat with us at their favorite local spot.

MICHAEL FRIEDMAN [11th WTF Season] Favorite Williamstown Spot: Hill behind The Clark Art Institute
Current WTF Show: Unknown Soldier (Composer & Co-Lyricst) playing July 30 – August 9

friedman11. Why are we in this spot? What does it mean to you?
My first summer at Williamstown was in 1999. I was an intern of something – I wasn’t entirely sure what I was the intern of – but they let me come, sit and be in a room. And that’s when I met Danny [Goldstein, book & co-lyric writer of Unknown Soldier]. One of the first days I was here I was going to go to The Clark but for some reason it was closed. Then I saw this hill, walked up to the top, and stood overlooking everything. That view is something that’s always stuck with me. I’d gotten to Williamstown and didn’t really know anybody, and when I saw that view, I knew the summer was gonna be okay. So, it has always been very calming to me when I come to the festival. A place to by yourself, you know, to… survey your land.

2. What keeps you coming back to WTF?
You don’t a get a lot of artistic homes. Williamstown was unbelievably generous to me when I was young and inexperienced, and let me do things that I really wasn’t qualified to do. I think it’s always been a place for that – for giving opportunities to young folks that they might not otherwise have, and having faith in them artistically. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in the Festival under various artistic leaders, and what’s been wonderful is in the fifteen years since I first came here, that’s remained true. WTF has always been an artistic home an artistic family to me. You’re very lucky if you find places like this.

3. Describe Unknown Soldier in five words or less.
Oh my god that’s so hard. I can do this. Musical about history and family. I wish I didn’t have to use “and.” It seems like such a waste of a word. What did Danny say? Did Danny actually say “Michael and me wrote show?” He said that he was gonna do that.

4. If you could own a famous piece of art, what would it be?
Oh my gosh. There is one little Cezanne still-life of apples that’s in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia? I’ve been going to the Barnes since I was a kid, and I’ve always just coveted it. I have to restrain myself from just removing it from the wall and running off. It’s not that big and when I see it, I think “that would look so nice just, you know, above my chair…”

5. If you weren’t a writer/composer, what other job at the Festival would you like to have?
Jessica Hecht. I would choose to be a Baker but I don’t know if I could choose between Becky Ann and Dylan so I’ll just choose to be Jessica Hecht, which makes it simpler. Who on Earth wouldn’t want to be Jessica Hecht? That person’s crazy.

[Photos: Paul Fox]