Jeremy Berdin, Jimmy Kohlmann, and I (Sydney Crutcher) have written a new musical called PARANOIA. It follows the lives of some stressed out high schoolers who begin playing a game of “Assassins” that slowly takes over until little else matters to them. As part of the 1st Annual Harrisburg Fringe Festival, this summer we will be performing the music from our show in a “staged-singing” format on July 8th at 9:20pm and July 9th at 5:20pm.
The opportunity to see PARANOIA performed will be a milestone in my life. Not only is it the first major creative project that I have undertaken and finished, but it’s over the last few years it is also one of the first things I was proud enough and comfortable enough to share.
I’ve been writing music since I was little. I remember writing a song about Martin Luther King Jr. for class in elementary school, making a parody of “Waiting on the World to Change” for civics class in middle school, and writing little songs on the piano that I would play for my mom when she got home. In high school, I even co-composed a piece that was performed by one of our orchestras with the help of my very talented friend Aliyah. By the time I got to college, I had hundreds of voice recordings in my phone of orchestral melodies, musical theatre songs, poems, and yet barely anything ever got past the “I have an idea” stage.
In 2020, I graduated college, and a worldwide pandemic started. My plans to jump into theatre, to hone my performance skills, to immerse myself in dance classes, had to change. Instead, I decided to once again try music—to try and finish something! In winter of 2021, I started a composer’s club with Jeremy Berdin, who I had met in college. We would use Zoom to meet from across the country, and would discuss what we liked in music recently, be it shows or sounds, and complete small writing projects to present to each other along with anything else we had worked on. It was an outlet where I felt like I had control over my art for the first time in a long time. I had already had the idea for PARANOIA, and realized that without help I would become paralyzed by the need to “do it right” and never finish. So, I asked Jeremy to be my collaborator, and he said yes.
I think it necessary to take a moment to praise Jeremy because he has DELIEVERED constantly throughout this project, in a way that has inspired and pushed me to show up myself. From being the first person to tackle a huge ensemble number, to always having sheet music and a demo recorded to present, my jaw has frequently dropped hearing how perfectly he captured the ideas we wanted to convey in any given song. Jeremy is literally a legend, and also has managed to move forward on a number of personal projects while still contributing to PARANOIA.
Within the first 3-4 months we had written the first act. It was definitely a rough draft, but I could see it coming together, and in an effort to not lose momentum, Jeremy and I agreed we were open to adding another person to the team to share some of the responsibilities of crafting the show. Surprisingly, I met the right person that summer and I started dating him.
Jimmy brings an essential skillset to our team. He is a self-taught fingerstyle guitarist with a knack for heartfelt lyric writing and a vivid imagination. As a collaborator and a partner, Jimmy has taught me to self-edit less, to trust the creative process, and to give crazy ideas a chance! For a musical about high-schoolers who are all just barely holding onto their sanity, he is the exact right person to guide us into and through the chaos. Working together with my partner on a creative project has certainly been challenging (one of the biggest arguments in our relationship was over an eighth note rest and whether it was syncopated correctly in a song) but it has pushed me even more as a collaborator to learn how to speak the truth, to be respectful of ideas, and to learn how to know when the stakes just aren’t that high.
With the completion of our writing team, we kept picking away at moment after moment. Full-time jobs, life, and writer’s block all played their part but we kept coming back to it. In the summer of 2022 Jimmy and I were cast in a production of A Winter’s Tale and heard about the potential of a Fringe Festival starting in Harrisburg. We jokingly mentioned our musical to one of the planners and were met with “You should absolutely put your musical in the Harrisburg Fringe.” The certainty of that statement was enough to convince me. In March, as soon as I saw the form go live, I called a meeting and Jimmy, Jeremy, and I decided to do it.
And that’s how we got here (and unintentionally started a theatre company “Clothespin Ensemble” along the way)! So now in addition to working full-time, and writing this show in our free-time, we are now all three of us PRODUCERS. I have relearned how to use social media for this project, I am making TikToks, Jimmy and Jeremy are making our graphic content, we are all working to finish our tracks and demos so that we can share them and have them ready for the show. PARANOIA has been a huge labor of love for the last few years, and I now once again find myself in a position where I need to accept that without help, this project will not reach its full potential.
We are seeking support in raising $2,000 for this project to go towards...
- Artist Compensation: We believe artists should be paid. We are guaranteeing $50 dollars to all our artists for their time and talents even if that means it comes out of our own pockets.
- Archival Filming: Filming the show means we not only have footage to share with our friends and families who can’t make it to Harrisburg, but we can also use it for future submissions and advertising so that this project has a life after the Fringe Festival.
- Travel Costs: Jeremy Berdin is flying to Harrisburg in July from Seattle to be here with us for this presentation, and we would like to minimize the financial burden this has on him.
- Production Elements: Having funds to purchase certain props, costumes and scenery will help make the show memorable and impactful to our audiences.
- Marketing: People need to know about this show! And the best way to do that will be handing out flyers and posting notices through Harrisburg leading up to the Festival.
If you want to learn more about the project, or are interested in additional ways to support us you can reach out directly, email us, or follow us @clothespin.ensemble on FB/Insta.