Interview by Jen Bush
Justin Daniel Giachetti is a professional actor, Dramatist Guild Playwright and Lyricist, Artistic Director, and arts educator. Some of his previous creative/performance credits have been The Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet”, Wayne Hopkins in “Puffs” Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, Harry in “Company”, the book writer and lyricist of “Relapse The Musical” (Best of The Fest NJ Fringe 2019), Playwright of critically acclaimed “Faith in Shackles” (Best of the Fest in NY Summerfest 2019), and director of “She Kills Monsters” (2022), “Dog Sees God” (2021), “Laramie Project” (2019), “How I Learned to Drive” (2019), and “Rabbit Hole” (2018). Some of his previous Stage Managing and Costume credits are Timon of Athens (costumes), Faith In Shackles (costumes), How I Learned to Drive (costumes), Doctor Shepherd (SM and costumes) and The Sunken Living Room (SM and costumes). He is also the Community Engagement Manager, as well as a performing and teaching artist, with Staten Island educational theater company, Illuminart Productions. Coming up, he will be directing “Lions of Illyria” with IlluminArt Productions on Staten Island island.
Justin Giachetti is the book writer and lyricist of an exciting new work about to premiere called Relapse. Mr. Giachetti is the whole package. He is well versed and experienced in multiple realms of theater. Not only are the arts in his wheelhouse, he owns the wheelhouse! “Being a performer, writer, director, and more, I consider myself kind of a Jack of All Trades. Anything and any role I can do to create theatre means the world to me. I have had multiple original plays produced in the past, one even getting a three-week run at The Flea Theatre in NYC. Regardless of the role I take on, I’m always drawn to stories that strive to both entertain but also challenge the audience, making them question ideas they had before entering the space. Using live theatre as a way to spark needed conversations and reinvent old forms excites and inspires me.”
Relapse is a very personal piece to Mr. Giachetti. It has been nurtured and cultivated for the past 7 years. “The inspiration for Relapse really came from a time where both Louis and I were starting our own journeys navigating mental health. When we started writing this show in 2015, we wanted to write a musical that would have an impact, and shed light on certain conversations within mental illness that aren’t always discussed. As we grew, our own experiences, and the experiences of those close to us, influenced these characters and the story’s trajectory.”
Mr. Giachetti’s attraction to create this project was very cathartic and self-introspective in nature. “I have had a long journey of self-acceptance when it came to mental health, and I think writing this show has really helped me through some challenging times. Being able to live vicariously through these characters and look at potential issues in my own life through a fictional lens really helped me see myself and the world so much clearer. I want the same kind of cathartic and positive experience I had writing it to be comparable to the audiences’ experience watching it.”
Mr. Giachetti’s creative process is highly collaborative. For this project he worked closely with the composer, Louis A. Josephson. He also values input from other people and through readings to ensure a solid piece of work. “Louis and I usually map out the whole show, plot point by plot point, and then write a few numbers to start. When it comes to writing songs, Louis and I interchange who starts off the process, often times with a lyric inspiring melody or his music inspiring words within me. Once we have a few numbers, then I go back and look at our plot breakdown and start crafting the script, and then we become a well oiled machine. This show has been in development for over 6 years, so we’ve really learned a groove with each other. Louis is honestly one of the easiest collaborators to have because he sees the whole picture with you rather than just his contribution. It’s why this show is equally our passion project, and we really balance each other creatively while writing. Then we had a workshop production at NJ Fringe in 2019 that was the Best of The Fest and highest earner of all the productions. For me, a lot of my process also comes from doing small readings or asking for feedback so I can make sure the script and lyrics are evolving and becoming stronger and stronger.”
Mr. Giachetti recognizes that shows with sensitive subject matter sometimes require an added sense of responsibility on the part of the artists. This is especially true with this production because Mr. Giachetti has been entrusted with stories that are based on true accounts and he does not take this lightly. “I personally feel a certain weight of responsibility because the majority of the stories in this show are based upon real patients’ firsthand accounts. I would say almost 90% of this show, while fictionalized, is someone’s direct experience. So, for me, a big part of the rewriting process has been “How do I continue to develop this story while making sure I’m taking the upmost care with the stories and trust others have given us?” I think we found a really beautiful way of honoring everyone’s voice while also allowing this show to grow and evolve.”
Mr. Giachetti is going to lighten his load a little bit with some upcoming comedy projects including an exciting TV pilot. He’ll be entering an MFA program and continuing his important work with a non-profit theatre company. Mr. Giachetti wears many artistic hats and he wears them all well. “As a writer, among other projects, I am currently working on a new original comedic play that dissects fatherhood and the idea of being a man, with plans of a 2023 premiere. Additionally, my television pilot (a contemporary workplace comedy adaptation of Shakespeare’s catalogue called Messina Inc.) is in preproduction for pilot season, planning to film late this fall. I will also be starting a MFA program in directing next year. Otherwise, when I am not auditioning and creating theatrical experiences, I am the Director of Community Engagement for an educational non-profit theatre company, IlluminArt Production.”