Michigan native Eric Gelb is not your typical teenager. His resume lists an impressive number of accomplishments including producing, writing, performing, marketing and designing. In 2011, Eric co-wrote and co-produced the high-school musical 'Project X' which toured across venues in his home state. He also worked with playwright Maggie Kennan-Bolger on her play 'Queering History' and interned for the 2012 Broadway for Obama campaign. Did we mention he's only 14 years old?
Working remotely from his home in Detroit, Eric's latest foray into the theater world is that of marketing assistant for Off-Broadway's HONESTLY ABE, the Robert L. Hecker-penned musical which looks at the earlier years of Abraham Lincoln. BroadwayWorld's Student Centre sits down with Eric to get a glimpse into this busy teenager's life, his thoughts on arts in the schools, and what he's learned from President Lincoln.
You're no stranger to readers of BWW Student Center. Your blog series 'Dear Journal' was a hit last year. How did you make the transition from co-writing and producing a touring high-school show in your state to being a marketing intern for an Off-Broadway show?
Yeah, I LOVED blogging for BWW. That was awesome! To answer your question, it was quite a long journey. After Dear Journal ended I was able to do some on-stage work, which was wonderful, but for me, there were so many more opportunities backstage. I'm sure you're aware of the Keenan-Bolger's (who isn't?). Andrew was in Newsies, Celia was in PATSC and Maggie was producing (in collaboration with Green Chimneys) a workshop of a show about LGBTQ history. I quickly became a part of that, and that was just such a big stepping stone to New York theatre from there. I did some more NY projects and then applied for 'Abe'.
Can you give us an update on how 'Project X' is doing now? Any more tour dates planned?
I'm still close with some of the people in the cast! Yeah, it's on hiatus right now. With High School, it's a lot. We want to re-tool the show and re-work it to bring a fresher approach and something that maybe is more relevant to the youth today. So it's definitely something I am always thinking about. We've talked about doing it this summer. We'll definitely see!
You've worked in so many different roles: from backstage to administration support to performing. Is there one area specifically that you'd like to focus on as you evolve in the industry?
At one point I know I would really like to work in the Disney Parks for their imagineering department (as well as being a castmember.) It's such a great blend of theatricality and making that theatricality happen, you know? I've also thought about cruise lines as an option, so basically, working on Theatre Projects that have me interact directly with "guests". I also know I like writing, that's why I had so much fun blogging for BWW! So we'll see what that can do for me. I'm just really excited to be working with such great people.
What does your job at HONESTLY ABE consist of? Can you describe a typical day?
Honestly Abe is starting a few different things here and there to make it more accessible to kids and the city. So I send out press releases, I play a role on the Facebook page, lots of marketing stuff. The show is relatively new, so getting the world out is crucial.
HONESTLY ABE gives the audience a factual and rare look into President Lincoln's childhood. Have you learned anything about the former President that inspired or touched you?
Yeah, I loved the script. The script is great. Abe was a different kid, he loved to read. He wanted to learn and grow as a person, thriving off of adventure. He longs to learn what lies beyond his town, but uses books to take his imagination elsewhere. I really connect with that theme; the reason I do theatre is because of that reason ... it can take me away. A lot of mainstream entertainment about Abe mainly focuses on his time as president, but learning about his personal life is so fulfilling. It's looking at a topic that's so well known is such a different light.
The play recently announced a Community Partnership that will see the show travel to schools in New York. Why do you feel such initiatives are crucial to students' development?