What I’m Failing To Learn: A Family Production

Not many teenagers can say that their parents understand their problems. But singer, songwriter and actress Schuyler Iona Press is lucky enough to have parents who go ahead and produce a play about what she goes through. Co-directors Darren and C. Fraser Press and their 14-year-old daughter talk about their upcoming production, “What I’m Failing to Learn,” which originated from life-inspired songs written by Schuyler herself.

“The theme really evolved out of Schuyler’s songs,” says Fraser, co-director of the play and mother of the starring actress. “It is very much about a young girl who is entering adolescence and trying to find a sense of belonging. Also, trying to answer some questions for herself about things that just don’t feel right.”

She explains that she and her husband Darren, created the story based on the issues addressed in Schuyler’s songs, as the plot takes place on a walking tour in New York City.

“I think I have a good understanding of Schuyler and where she is coming from,” Fraser says. “But there are things that naturally – because I am her mom – obviously, that I probably don’t understand. I think that makes a nice dramatic thing there. The stuff that I wrote touches those things, but never goes as deep as she goes, which I think is nice, actually.”

Fraser was involved in theater since childhood. As an adult, she had a career as a stand-up comedian and did several one person shows on her own. “What I’m Failing to Learn” is her first musical.

“Did I know I wanted to do this with my family? The answer is no, I had no idea,” she laughs. “It just naturally happened. It’s something that we’ve all really enjoyed. Little did we know, we would have a child who would be a singer-songwriter. I think we will always love doing projects as a family.”

Schuyler, who is mostly a self-taught musician, has recently taken some vocal lessons and mastered the guitar. She became a hit on YouTube when her 9/11 tribute video Playground Museum hit 27, 000 views. Now she spends most of her days in practice for the upcoming production.

“I’ve done a lot of music festivals in cafes, but I think that my songs are more interesting when they are put in a theatrical play,” Schuyler says. “It’s been a lot of fun. I definitely practice a lot.”

She mentions that she has two younger sisters, 5 and 10, who were also involved in a movie that the Press family made in 2012, called “Teresa is a Mother.” All three sisters show a great interest for music and performance.

“My parents are very good because they don’t force us to do things like that. They just let us naturally find our own way and I think that that’s very important,” Schuyler says. “I remember, before I could even write or spell anything, I would tell my poems to my father and he would write them down.”

At age nine, she wrote her first song with a melody and structure, called I Am Today, which is available for download on iTunes. Her father, Darren Press, is very proud of her songs, especially “Playground Museum,” whose music video the couple directed.

“The video premiered at the International Film Festival in Manhattan,” he explains. “She won a pretty big international peace award for the work on the video. It’s an acoustic version of the song and she played the guitar in it.”

“What I’m Failing to Learn” premiered on Wednesday, May 22 and ran through June 15 at the 13 Street Rep Theater.

“This project was definitely the first time there was a real feeling of collaboration between Schuyler and ourselves,” says Fraser. “There’s a lot of mutual respect between all of us and an understanding that we all bring something different to the table. The differences are what ultimately makes the project interesting.”

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