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Adelphi’s Larson Legacy Concert Features Christie Baugher

By Joanna Reid

Each year the Jonathan Larson grant is awarded to up-and-coming theater writers by the American Theatre Wing. The grant honors the late composer, Jonathan Larson ‘82, an Adelphi alum. The purpose of the grant is to support new talent and the creation of art. This year the annual Larson Legacy Concert was held on Saturday, Sept. 9, featuring Christie Baugher, the 2022 Larson Grant recipient. The staged reading of Baugher’s musical, “The Fitzgeralds of St. Paul” was put on in the Olmstead Theatre with about 50 people in the audience. The show was directed by Danny Mefford and featured a four-piece band, as well as singer/actor Tiffany Topol portraying Zelda Fitzgerald and Jewell Wilson Bridges as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Photo by Riley Oberting From left to right: Ken Barnett (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Tiffany Topol (Zelda Fitzgerald), Danny Mefford (director), Christie Baugher (composer), and Matt Castle (conductor)

Mefford described the show as “a two-person memory musical that follows the famous F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald through their love affair through meeting, through wrecking cars through Paris, and getting drunk in New York City, and having a baby.” The show also highlights Zelda and F. Scott’s struggle with mental health and their nuanced relationship.

In an interview with Baugher before the show, she explained that she had both a love for composing and “The Great Gatsby” since she was young. However, she got the idea for “The Fitzgeralds of St. Paul” after her brother sent her an article on the history of the 1925 novel.

Photo By Riley Oberting

“So, I went from there. I started reading about him [F. Scott Fitzgerald] and then I started reading about Zelda,” she said. “I started reading things where I was like, ‘oh, that's a song and that's a song and that's a song.’ And I just started writing and it started taking shape.”

Mefford and Baugher met each other in high school. Mefford said, “We’ve been collaborating since basically the moment we met, actually.”

Baugher sent some of her ideas to Mefford and that’s when he joined the project. “I knew from the moment she sent me a couple songs. Some of it I was like, oh, this is special. Like this is really, really, really special,” Mefford said.

“The Fitzgeralds of St. Paul” highlights the misogyny that Zelda Fitzgerald faces and sides with the theory that F. Scott plagiarized her work.

“As a female artist, I found a lot of parallels in Zelda’s story, too,” Baugher said. “And felt a lot of empathy for the things that she went through, especially not only as a woman making art, but also a woman dealing with mental health issues and how that colored how people received her art.”

As a Larson Grant recipient, Baugher hopes she is able to carry on Larson’s legacy through her work “by telling stories that are meaningful to me, that ask questions that people carry with them for days, and weeks and years outside of the theater. By writing melodies that people love to hear and love to sing and lyrics that delight people.”

When asked what advice she has for upcoming writers, Baugher said that people should always keep writing. It was never certain to her that anything would come out of “The Fitzgeralds of St Paul,” but she kept writing for herself.

“Write for you and make friends. Everything that I've gotten to do, and the most joyful things I've gotten to do, and the best things I’ve gotten to do have been things that I’ve gotten to do with my friends.”

Some of the music from “The Fitzgeralds of St. Paul” can be found on Baugher’s soundcloud and website

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