Teens get off the ‘Couch’ and produce indie musical

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First Posted: 7/29/2013

You’ve been there. Curled up on a comfy couch, chatting with friends in a steady stream of impenetrable in-jokes, inconsequential debates, and fondly-held memories. And you think, “I never want to get up. I never want to leave this spot. I never want this night to end.”

For many of us, it might just be another lazy Friday night. For former Abington Heights High School students Zack Peercy, Natalie Belknap, and Maddy Belknap, it was a creative spark.

“The idea started when we were in high school drama club together. We had this prop, this brown leather couch that was in all these shows we were doing. It was the most comfortable couch in the world. We joked about doing a musical based around that couch. Then, last summer I just went ahead and wrote an entire script in the course of, like, a week.”

From the half-serious idea of three high school students to the independently produced passion project of three high school graduates, the resulting full-length play, “Couch: The Musical,” makes its debut this week in Clarks Summit. Peercy’s tale is a quirky coming-of-age comedy about “love, friendship, and an extremely comfortable couch,” with original music and lyrics by the Belknap sisters.

“The process was long and rough,” Maddy said, admitting that they never realized how much work the project would actually require.

“We thought it’d be, ‘Music? Got it. Lyrics? Got it. Orchestration? Got it.’ But it was hard to get it exactly how we wanted it. It took about a year to write all the music. We wanted to get everything perfect.”

Inspired by the success of D.I.Y. musicals like Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and Chicago-based StarKid Productions’ “A Very Potter Musical,” the trio’s decision to build something completely original from the ground up was spurred by a mutual desire to explore (and control) all aspects of production. In many ways, “Couch: The Musical” acts as an extension of its creators’ theatrical schooling.

“I was really interested in figuring out that transition from actor to director and from director to producer,” Natalie said.

“When you’ve written something, you know exactly what you want out of it, so in that sense, it’s easier to be a director. But you also want everything to be so specific, and then you’re working with actors who haven’t lived with these characters for as long as you have. Communication is important. It’s fun, though, to see what other people’s takes on things are and bring that into the mix.”

It seems appropriate that an idea born from the inviting, intimate, “I never want this to end” warmth of leisurely days spent lounging on couches would act as the final page in a chapter that’s now coming to an end for Peercy and the Belkaps. Or maybe it’s the first page of a new chapter.

The Belknaps will continue their theatrical studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., while Peercy will attend the University of Maine at Farmington. Peercy, however, is also already writing another play, which he hopes to produce next summer.

“I’m doing this, but I want people to understand is that this is not a crazy thing anymore,” he said. “We have the Internet, we have technology. We don’t need corporations or even adults to do it for us anymore. Anyone can do it.”