Without seeing "JIB" for yourself, it's hard to get a feel for the full experience. Aside from being a rock musical, it will stretch beyond the stage to become a live one-take film and album as well — reaching out to an audience beyond the confines of the physical theater.
Created by Michael McQuilken with music by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley, the production is a team effort that also includes the ensemble group Old Sound Room and creative collective The Windmill Factory.
"The entire story justifies a camera being in the scene," says McQuilken of the shapeshifting new musical.
Aside from filming the action onstage, even the audience will become apart of its narrative:
"Since they’re being filmed, I want them to confront their own relationship with the camera," he adds.
And what is the story of "JIB" about exactly? It follows three central characters who are unknowingly linked by inspiration: Ben, the obsessive music composer; Marris, the industrious news reporter; and Jib, the indie musician who achieves the dream of "making it."
While the team behind "JIB" is largely based in New York, they decided to debut the show in Philadelphia at Neighborhood House.
Creative director Jon Morris says, “I’ve always been fascinated with Philly. It seems like a city that supports the arts and experimenting.”
McQuilken adds that their team is good friends with Philly-based theater companies New Paradise and Pig Iron.
The beginnings of "JIB" go all the way back to 2011, when McQuilken created the play as his thesis for the Yale School of Drama.
"They brought me in without an undergrad degree,” he says. "I didn't know the things I was supposed to know, like Shakespeare or Chekhov, before going to Yale. I wanted to use 'JIB' to show what I've learned from the canon."
Key elements incorporated into the musical include a causal plot and interesting characters, who share traits most creatives can relate to.
"Ben is unable to see outside of himself and many of my peers share that battle. Jib keeps herself protected as an artist and doesn't want to get caught up in crafting an image for the media,” he notes.
Powerhouse singer-songwriter Leah Siegel was cast as Jib and shares more than just musical skills with her character.
“She’s an earth-shatteringly good singer,” says McQuilken and “doesn’t lose touch with what moves her as an artist.”
When it comes to the music behind “JIB,” McQuilken tapped longtime friend and indie music superheroAmanda Palmerto recreate his original score. “I’ve known Amanda since 2005,” says McQuilken. “Full disclosure, we dated the eight months prior to me going to grad school.”
Palmer had been supportive of “JIB” from the beginning and committed to working on the score but recently brought in musicianJason Webleyas a co-writer. “Jason and I push each other well,” she says.
Creating the soundtrack for the musical, Palmer and Webley put themselves in Jib’s shoes, listening to music they imagined she would have listened to growing up. “We decided that a lot of female-fronted '90s bands would be her palette — Alanis Morrisesette, Hole ... It was fun having a second teenagehood,” Palmer adds.
Before "JIB" hits the stage on Dec. 1, there is one more challenge to tackle and that is funding. A Kickstarted has been set up to raise $50,000 by Sept. 22.
“We’re going to do the show no matter what,” says Morris. “Even if we have to do a stripped-down version.”
You can listen to some of the music from "JIB" below.