Hershey Felder


A Conversation with Hershey Felder

By Rachel Alderman and Theresa MacNaughton

Hershey FelderWe are so pleased that you are returning to Hartford Stage after your successful runs here of George Gershwin Alone and Monsieur Chopin. As a virtuoso musician-actor-writer, what drew you to create solo work based on the lives of some of the world’s most famous composers? 

A human requirement – paying rent. Joking aside, it was always the need to set great works of music – and their stories that have deeply affected me – in their historical context so that we come to a better understanding of where the pieces come from. Then, there is the time travel element – the fantasy of being, for a few minutes, in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries – at a time where the most remarkable works of musical art were being created.  

Our audiences will remember you as Gershwin and Chopin, but you have also portrayed Beethoven, Liszt, Bernstein and Berlin. How do you find your way into the storytelling and the music with each new portrayal?

It always begins with the music in these kinds of pieces.  And then one must know whatever there is to know about the composer so that the story can be distilled in order to create a veritable illusion of what it may have been like to be in the presence of the composer.

You have also worked with Mona Golabek, as the adaptor and director of The Pianist of Willesden Lane, which performed here in 2015. How was your creative process different when working with Mona as compared to when you perform a solo work yourself?

Mona is primarily a pianist; and in the case of this particular piece, it was about using her piano repertoire as it related to her personal story. It was always imperative not to create big “acting” moments but just allow Mona, the pianist, to tell an honest story in the most direct fashion. In my own performances, as I am not telling my own true story, I have varied and more theatrical techniques to draw on.

You mentioned that you find Tchaikovsky especially relevant. What drew you to him now, and how do you feel his story resonates today?

Tchaikovsky’s story is relevant today because our world – as was his – is threatened by the rewriting of truth and, without truth, there is no humanity.