The journey of Mexican-Philadelphia writer, actor, director and composer Robi Hager has taken many twists throughout his career.
Along with being a commissioned artist-playwright at the Arden Theatre Company, currently writing a new children’s musical, ‘Arturo’, Hager is producing a workshop in New York City of his traditional folk Mexican musical, ‘Little Duende,’ on Oct. 3. Hager’s other self-written musical, ‘Siluetas,’ was accepted at this year’s National Music Theatre Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Center in Connecticut. Written with Erlina Ortiz, the musical is a commission from North Philly’s Power Street Theatre Company with a goal of a 2024 production.
All this follows his very recent appearance in HBO’s documentary, ‘Those You’ve Known,’ about the creation and impact of the beloved ‘Spring Awakening’ musical with Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff.
“I’m lucky. I get to live in different perspectives. As a composer, I get to elevate what I had when I started in theater,” says Hager. “There weren’t many Mexican stories then. Still aren’t. Now that I am writing, I am finding more Mexican artists. We do exist and need to put ourselves out there. All this solidifies why I see theater as the only place where I truly belong.”
Hager thrives on complexity in his work with many ideas coming at his actors and audiences at once.
“Even ‘Arturo’, the King Arthur musical I’m writing for the Arden, I’m hearing this epic movie-like score influenced by Philip Glass and James Newton Howard, but with a rock-ish feel, and that ‘Spring Awakening-style writing,” Hager says.
Currently focused on ‘Little Duende’ and ‘Siluetas’, Hager is preparing to stage the former by September’s beginning and honing that which he’ll present, visually and musically. This should be a simple task, knowing Hager’s credentials.
“With its ups-and-downs, sometimes I wonder why I didn’t go into something secure like banking,” says Hager with a laugh. “But I’m a social person who loves ideas, loves collaboration, loves teamwork. There’s something about releasing words, voices and volume to get any stuck emotions out… not everyone has that.”