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, â€œWhat Iâ€™m Failing to Learn,â€ which originated from life-inspired songs written by Schuyler herself.
â€œThe theme really evolved out of Schuylerâ€™s songs,â€ says Fraser, co-director of the play and mother of the starring actress. â€œIt 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 donâ€™t feel right.â€
She explains that she and her husband Darren, created the story based on the issues addressed in Schuylerâ€™s songs, as the plot takes place on a walking tour in New York City.
â€œI think I have a good understanding of Schuyler and where she is coming from,â€ Fraser says. â€œBut there are things that naturally – because I am her mom – obviously, that I probably donâ€™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.â€
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. â€œWhat Iâ€™m Failing to Learnâ€ is her first musical.
â€œDid I know I wanted to do this with my family? The answer is no, I had no idea,â€ she laughs. â€œIt just naturally happened. Itâ€™s something that weâ€™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.â€
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.
â€œIâ€™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,â€ Schuyler says. â€œItâ€™s been a lot of fun. I definitely practice a lot.â€
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 â€œTeresa is a Mother.â€ All three sisters show a great interest for music and performance.
â€œMy parents are very good because they donâ€™t force us to do things like that. They just let us naturally find our own way and I think that thatâ€™s very important,â€ Schuyler says. â€œI remember, before I could even write or spell anything, I would tell my poems to my father and he would write them down.â€
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 â€œPlayground Museum,â€ whose music video the couple directed.
â€œThe video premiered at the International Film Festival in Manhattan,â€ he explains. â€œShe won a pretty big international peace award for the work on the video. Itâ€™s an acoustic version of the song and she played the guitar in it.â€
â€œWhat Iâ€™m Failing to Learnâ€ premiered on Wednesday, May 22 and ran through June 15 at the 13 Street Rep Theater.
â€œThis project was definitely the first time there was a real feeling of collaboration between Schuyler and ourselves,â€ says Fraser. â€œThereâ€™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.â€
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