Two San Diego State University (SDSU) alumni will premiere their new musical next month at the prestigious New York Musical Festival.
Nearly a decade ago, Composer Thomas Hodges (then a student) met Patricia Loughrey at the university.
At the time, Loughrey was his teacher.
Now, after a years-long collaboration, Hodges' and Loughrey's new musical, "Sonata 1962," which explores the effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), will open next week on Wednesday, Aug. 1 at New York Musical Festival - and the two couldn't be more excited.
The pair were sitting at DZ Atkins in San Diego four years ago when Loughrey brought up an interview from Gay American History about a man who talked about his experience getting ECT therapy.
In the interview, the man could not remember his life in New York or his lover at the time.
Yet, he said, after ECT therapy, he thought his mom was doing the best she could at the time.
That's how the idea for "Sonata 1962" first sparked, Hodges said.
"That resonated with us because I think many of us who come out of the closet, we don't have a great experience with our parents," Hodges said.
So began the process of shaping their musical, which received its first reading in San Diego. Hodges said it was Loughrey's idea to tell the story of a mother and her gay daughter, Laura, a musically gifted young woman who undergoes ECT.
"We wanted to explore the mother's choice, we wanted to explore ECT and homosexuality at the time, because there wasn't a lot of language for it, and what drives us to do such horrible things for each other, unforgivable things," Hodges said.
The musical received its first reading in 2016 in San Diego with Breakthrough Workshop Theater. The following year, they had an invited reading at Celebration Theater in August.
As he wrote the music, Hodges said, he was drawn to Laura's gaps in memory. Much like plays, he said, he wanted each song to work something out for the character.
One of Hodges' initial inspirations for the tone of the musical came early on in the process, as he sat in his car while it rained.
"The sound of rain really affected me, musically, this tap-tap motion," Hodges said. "We have this idea of rain hitting the windshield, and this idea of spiritual rain, these things that wash us clean of our sins."
He drew from the color of storms for much of his music in the musical, he said: hues of dark purple and dark blue. It's a color that reflects the show's underlying themes.
"I think we all have guilt for what we've done to people in our lives, and it's hard to navigate," Hodges explained. "And I think in some ways, it's part of what connects us and it's part of where healing begins."
"Sonata 1962" is a chamber musical, Hodges said. It's a smaller show with half a dozen actors. The orchestrations are all piano, guitar, cello and viola - string instruments.
The structure of the play is much like a classical sonata, Hodges said, but the name has a deeper story attached to it.
"There's a line in the piece that says, 'if I forget, how will I know what hasn't happened yet? How can I know who I must become if I can't remember where I'm coming from?'" Hodges said.
The musical's name comes from the structure, yes, Hodges said, but it also reflects the music and the stories Laura will never be able to tell because of the effects of ECT therapy.
"We have a right to remember, we have a right to our memories, and when that was taken away, what stuck with me was, what was the music she would never write?" Hodges explained.
"This is her sonata," Hodges added. "It's the piece that was taken from her, it's the piece that is."
When audiences leave the theater, Hodges said, he hopes they leave feeling open to discussing topics they may not have wanted to approach in their own lives.
"I hope forgiveness comes out of this, for unforgivable acts," Hodges said. "I hope people talk to each other and find those deep places of love and find in their pain a way to learn from each other. We have to coexist, and sometimes we have to coexist with the people that have harmed us irreparably. And how can we do that if we don't try to investigate who they are?"