An Interview with DSM Academy Creative Team

Eldridge Publishing Interviews the Dallas team of
Kevin Cook and Denis Kashoid

By Nancy Vorhis
President of Eldridge Publishing

Many of Eldridge’s most popular playwrights and composers live and work in the great state of Texas. Often they are fixtures in their local community and school theatres, and you’ve probably enjoyed their work, either in development or in productions. This month meet Kevin Cook and Denis Kashoid, the well-known creative team at the Dallas Summer Musical Academy.

Tell us a little about yourselves.
KEVIN: I moved to Texas 6 years ago for Dallas Summer Musicals. I have a Master’s degree in Theatre and have spent most of my postgraduate life involved in the theatre as an actor, director, manager, producer, teacher and writer in the U.S. and abroad. When not running the DSM Academy, I enjoy my home located in the hills south of Dallas.

DENIS: I loved my years in Moscow at the Music Conservatory. Being immersed in the creative atmosphere of fellow musicians and being in a city that pulses with art and fashion charged me with creativity that forever changed my world.

How did you get to be a team?
KEVIN: As Director of Education for DSM, I hired Denis for the position of Musical Director 5 years ago. Denis teaches voice and music to students ages 6 to 20, and I teach acting for the Academy. Several years ago we decided to try our hand at creating musicals for our students which began our writing partnership. We also write non-theatrical works, most recently the city song for Grand Prairie, Texas.

Tell us about the process and challenges of writing with a partner. What makes it easier or more satisfying to have a creative partner…or what makes it harder?
KEVIN: Usually the story, characters, plot and dialogue are written first before deciding the positions and styles of the songs.  The next step is to write the lyrics for each song which are then sent to Denis with tempo, mood and style guidelines. Usually several variations of each song are created before finalizing the music. As writing partners, we take each other’s notes and suggestions openly with the hope of conveying a clear and entertaining story. Egos are dropped. Writing with a partner is a joy as the process of creating a script and score can be a lonely journey. The challenge of working with a partner is clarity of thought. What a word means to one person is not necessarily what it means to the other person. I think Denis and I have both learned to put up with each other’s pace of writing. It’s not always done when the other thinks it should be!

How many musicals have you written together?
DENIS: We are working on our fifth musical together. The first one was staged in Dallas in December 2009. Eldridge Publishing was the first company to publish our work with our children’s musical, The Pied Piper of Possum Kingdom. We do not always write for children, however. We are currently working on an adult musical with the working title Forbidden which is comedy/drama about forbidden love.

What comment do you hear most often from others…from family and friends, from directors, from actors or audience members?
KEVIN: Most people comment on the funny and often unusual approach we use to tell a story. Along with the script and score, this approach also includes the style of choreography and acting.

Many writers are hardly “overnight success” stories. How long did it take to get where you are today?
KEVIN: I’ve written on and off over the last 20 years, mostly as a show doctor. The horror story is giving up on a project. It’s so final. How do I avoid that? I write a minimum of two pages a day. Before long, you have a novel or a musical. Then, you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.

If you could somehow choose another talent, what would it be?
KEVIN: Medicine. It always gets my curiosity going.

DENIS: Since my parents are artists I still paint a little and do some graphic design work as a freelancer. So if I could choose another talent it’d probably be dancing! Ballroom, ethnic, hip hop, all of it!

Do you have a bucket list and if so, what’s on it?
KEVIN: To finish what I start today. I try to live in day-tight compartments. So, each day has a bucket list.

DENIS: Oh I do! It’s long! I started fulfilling it last summer with skydiving, went on to shaving my head bald, bungee jumping, taking karate lessons, getting a motorcycle, learning new instrument (got an accordion), visiting Europe (this summer) and the list goes on!

How would you describe perfect happiness?
KEVIN: Perfect happiness is removing expectation from your life.

DENIS: Loving the life you live and living the life you love.

What is your motto or maxim?
KEVIN: Begin.

DENIS: Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching.

How would you like to be remembered?
KEVIN: As one who cared.

DENIS: I want to be remembered for being a kind, compassionate person, and to be remembered for helping and inspiring others.

You can read a Freeview (opening pages) and hear a music demo of “The Pied Piper of Possum Creek” at http://www.histage.com/playdetails.asp?PID=2457.

Nancy Vorhis is president of Eldridge Publishing Co., Tallahassee Fl. The family-owned company has offered quality plays since 1906. Visit them at http://www.hiStage.com.

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About dallassummermusicals

Bringing the best of Broadway to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for over 75 years! Visit www.dallassummermusicals.org to purchase tickets and for more information!
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