A Chat with Composer Deborah Wicks La Puma

Imagination Stage was delighted to talk with long-time friend and collaborator Deborah Wicks La Puma about her work on Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience and her storied (or should we say tuneful…?) history at IStage. 

IStage: What was a fun/memorable thing about collaborating with with Mo Willems on Naked Mole Rat… (NMR)?

Deborah Wicks La Puma: When Mo and I sat down to brainstorm the sound of NMR, we knew we wanted to create something that celebrated rock and that drew on its raw dramatic energy to ground our fun and subversive (subterranean) story.   We had a blast creating a playlist of songs we loved, and soon had a long list of tunes by Queen, Jimmy Hendricks, The Who, Heart, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, David Bowie and Aerosmith.  Much head banging and laughter ensued.  We used these icons as touchstones to start conversations around what each musical moment should feel like.

IStage: What was your first show at Imagination Stage?

Deborah: I believe the first show was Androcles and the Lion (perhaps as far back as 1994???) where I wrote incidental music, and played live for the show in the old White Flint Mall space.   One of my best friends was the stage manager, and we had a grand old time in the back of the room watching the kids reactions.  I was hooked!

IStage: What was your favorite commissioned show at Imagination Stage?

Deborah: This is like asking me to name my favorite child :)  Each one is very special to me for different firsts - The Magical Piñata was my first musical with Karen Zacarias, Ferdinand the Bull was our first adaptation of a beloved children’s book, Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans was the first show in the Lerner Family Theatre, and Looking for Roberto Clemente was our first show to feature live music.   

IStage: Does it feel like a “full circle” moment now that NMR… is being produced at Imagination Stage?

Deborah:Absolutely.  Having enjoyed being friends with Janet Stanford and Kate Bryer, and having worked with them for more than 20 years, having NMR... at Imagination Stage is a gift of coming home.  I know it will be an incredible production, and I can’t wait to see it in person!

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