Author, editor, and Spring 2015 Sponsored Artist Emma Morris is the co-creator (with musician David Safran) of The Hotwife of Hyde Park, a comedy horror musical in development this summer. Maul Tirade, the “Hotwife,” is a one-woman review committee traveling to an administrative housing project for washed-up, obsolete, and deranged Chicago artists. These characters, along with Maul’s unraveling romantic life, hasten her mental breakdown.
Read on as Emma answers her own questions about the musical, involving editing erotica, collective solipsism, and binge-watching the X-Files.
The Hotwife of Hyde Park is set locally in Chicago. Why did you decide to have a satirical musical about romantic and professional failures take place here? What is your connection to Hyde Park?
For the better part of my twenties I have been working in Hyde Park, where, to paraphrase Bellow, what we have is a cultureless wasteland saturated by the mind; the student population prides itself on being undateable, suicide rates are rumored to be among the most staggering within the realm of academia, and the sheer isolation of its campus has cultivated a heritage of shut-ins who can’t make eye contact or leave their quarters without at least 72 hours of meticulous planning. All hardly surprising given the pervasive deformity which thrives on the collective solipsism of the university’s population.
With maybe three or four exceptions, Hyde Park is a hotbed of failure.
So it followed to have our Hotwife hail from that particular ghastly microcosm.
An interview you gave with Oy!Chicago mentioned you are a librarian at the University of Chicago. I’m curious if you have you benefited from this work. Has the library provided a good structure for a writer?
I’m at war with myself: my sun sign is Leo, my moon is in Aries, but my rising sign’s Virgo. So aside from an aptitude for organization, combined with the love of a good turn of phrase and the mystical qualities permeating historical artifacts, I never gave more than a passing thought to data curation or analytics or community informatics. I’ve pretty much convinced myself that reference is a culturally legitimate tarot reading with only slightly better compensation.
You are the managing editor of Jewrotica. Has your experience overseeing a website worked itself into writing a musical?
There are many permutations of Jewrotica. The website caters to a specific group of people, but that niche has many sub-niches. Our readership has wildly varying experiences, beliefs, strictures, interpretations, and vocabularies. What’s fascinating is how these communities filter and join forces through erotica. But without the right angle or presentation, even the wildest things can become mundane. In The Hotwife of Hyde Park we’ve elevated madcap ideas, pitches, and kinks only to kick them back down to your everyday flat-falling eye-rolls.
You have written a novella, horoscopes, food reviews, and essays. Yet, as far as I know, you haven’t written songs up until now. Has it been difficult or refreshing to transition from prose to lyrics?
I’m also a prolific limericist. You must have missed that in your Google search. David and I met in September 2013 when I interviewed him on Jewrotica. Shortly thereafter we co-interviewed the great writer, Larry “Ratso” Sloman. He, among many other things, has ghostwritten several biographies as well as composed song lyrics. Though Mr. Sloman prefers to be thought of as a “medium,” to channel rather than haunt, I wanted to do both. I wanted to be the Girl Ratso! So I enacted a thoroughly unscrupulous strategy to put words into David’s mouth.
How has the co-writing process been? Can you describe how you two collaborate on both the story and the music?
David and I have similar prodding self-deprecating-cum-aggrandizing senses of humor and a needling inclination to provoke. He’s focused—an impresario—while I’m somewhat peripatetic. It’s a good—though maybe clichéd—balance. We’re also marathon-watching “The X-Files.” The true secret to collaborative success lies in the epistemological analysis of Flukeman.
You started working on Hotwife prior to receiving the High Concept Labs sponsorship. Has the musical changed since becoming affiliated with an arts organization?
We initially intended the love-triangle structure of The Hotwife of Hyde Park to provide a context to explore the highs and lows, the jealousies and torment, the vicissitudes of both empowerment and arousal that develop when different sides of one woman are expressed in two different relationships. But, after receiving our sponsorship, neither David nor I were particularly interested in sustaining a musical entirely about a love affair of any kind, so we decided to juxtapose a misguided romantic experiment with artistic failure. Hotwife is alive with characters who’ve long assumed their direct line to the divine was inviolable only to find they’ve pissed away their best (whether occupational and spousal) on nonsense. Whether in love, lust, or life’s work, the ways to fall apart are boundless.
David and Emma have been developing The Hotwife of Hyde Park in residency with hcl this season—performance dates for the musical will be announced soon.