has asked me to read a note that was sent to Rusty by a woman
who had watched him perform on several occasions at Moonwork:
It's a quiet autumn night in New York City. And I sense that
there are symphonies to be heard in the simple wrinkles that
make up this quotidian fabric when I choose to listen. I somehow
know, or maybe I remember . . . that listening makes you sensitive.
It shakes you awake, it allows everything that came before you
and everything that will follow, to infuse your life with color,
meaning, texture, and permanence . . . because I think when
you are brave enough to listen to the quietly insistent beauty
of things, you become connected . . . to all the music makers,
dreamers, wanderers, poets, and lovers . . . and then you become
part of the symphony . . . with your own music, and words, and
thoughts: the beauty becomes a part of you and you a part of
that beauty. an infinite Ferris wheel of light. Rusty, I saw
you waving to me from that Ferris wheel the moment I first saw
you -- it is there for you always, because you have made yourself
a part of it. I can't wait to hear you sing again.
is Mason Pettit, and Im one of the founders of Moonwork,
a theater company that joyfully bears the unmistakable imprint
of Rusty Magee.
In 1999, following our first major New York show, my partners
and I had a meeting to figure out what we should do as a follow
We were making lists of who we could call to hang lights, who
owned a sewing machine, or who could make program copies at
their office. We then tried to shape the idea that would become
our next show. And the question was posed, So, What have
we got? The answer was, simply, Well, we got Rusty.
Rusty had, after like 30 seconds of his first performance with
us, become the reason to see our weird Saturday night comedy
show, descriptions of his f-minor song odyssey and
The Lick, or his deconstruction of Jim Steinman
songs drew so many people our way. He was our draw and our closer.
And he made the chorus of Brown Eyed Girl our Saturday
So we asked. And we got Rusty. We asked him to take the play
within a play of Pyramus and Thisbe, from A Midsummer Nights
Dream, and set it to music. What he came up with served as a
gorgeous exclamation point on a show that at its core is a love
song about magic as it exists around us. The New York Times
praised that show, specifically, when the company gives
giddy voice to the composer Rusty Magee's witty and surprisingly
melodious score. And who better to dream up the music
for a play about magic than a man who for us, consistently delivered
For these last weeks Ive been sitting with these memories;
songs from three musicals, thirty minute sets to close any given
Saturday night comedy show, his whispered play-by-play of Knicks
playoff basketball from his walkman backstage, his time working
with our actors to get their songs just right, and of course,
his Brown Eyed Girl.
And then I realized it wasnt that we got Rusty.
It was that Rusty got us. He saw what we were striving
for before we did, he knew what our downtown version of his
West Bank free show
could be, he knew what our Shakespeare was ready to become,
he lived in the world we were desperate to join.
We will miss his extreme talent, his enthusiasm and passion
for his time on our stage, his good humor, and most of all his
friendship. He gave us all the company of someone who could
do something we couldn't, someone who took a beat-up piano and
made a small show seem huge, and, for far too short a time,
set our Saturday nights to music.
Thank you for the beautiful soundtrack of these past years.
Thanks, joyful thanks. And our sweetest appreciation.
We consider ourselves lucky, that even for a short while, we
Rebecca Luker will sing a song that Rusty wrote for the Moonwork
show, Voices From The Hill, adapted from the Walt
Whitman Poem Thanks in Old Age, entitled Sweet Appreciation.
here to return to Speaker List