Michael Roberts and Charlie Schulman are the two award-winning writers and theatrical producers currently represented Off-Broadway with their new musical "Goldstein." This show about family begins performances at the Actors Temple Theatre in NYC on March 26th.

Roberts and Schulman are also co-owners of the production company The Schulberts. Together, the two have produced successful musical theater by working directly with investors to mount shows that are artistically thrilling and also viable from a financial standpoint.

Recently, they produced and created "The Fartiste," which won Best Musical at the NYC International Fringe Festival, then moved to enjoy a theater on London’s West End.

Their newest production, "Goldstein," is a musical about a young man named Louis Goldstein who writes a tell-all memoir. The book accuses his family of a multitude of sins. But his family says the accusations aren’t true. While the book tops the best-seller list, we travel back in time to discover what really happened. In the process, loves are lost and found, secrets are uncovered and the challenges and triumphs in 90 years of an immigrant American family come to light.

The Schulberts recently discussed their experiences working on "Goldstein" via an exclusive interview.

Plays, theater, and 'Goldstein'

Meagan Meehan (MM): So, how did the two of you find your way into the theater?

Charlie Schulman (CS): I took a playwriting class in high school with the playwright Nancy Fales Garrett at St Ann's School in Brooklyn Heights.

She taught us to write plays and then produce them ourselves. One of the plays I wrote in her class got produced by Stephen Sondheim's Young Playwrights Festival. At YPF my play, "The Birthday Present," about the last fertile man in the world, starred Christopher Durang. A.R. Gurney was my dramaturg.

Michael Roberts (MR): My background is in classical music, but I worked in every style other than classical.

I toured as a pianist and conductor for Lesley Gore, Hermans Hermits, and Bobby Sherman. Then, for three years, I wrote music for a TV series on AMC. I always wanted to write lyrics in addition to music, so I decided to start over in musical theater. I was lucky enough that my first show, “Golf: The Musical” was a hit, and played all over the country and in something like seven countries.

After that, I was hooked!

MM: How did you two come to work together and how and why did you come up with the name The Schulberts?

CS: I'm SCHULman. He's RoBERTS. We figure that makes us The Schulberts.

MR: I'm hoping the Shuberts aren't too upset…

CS: I had a screenplay called "The Fartiste" that I thought should be a musical for the stage. I sought out several composer/lyricist teams whose work I admired and who I thought might return my phone call. Michael responded to the material, and we've been working together ever since.

MR: I had just come off the success of "Golf," and I was wondering what I wanted to do next. Charlie asked if I wanted to do a show about a professional farter. How could I say no?

MM: How do you find the subjects that you want to write and produce musicals about?

CS: I pitch ideas to Michael, and he tells me if the idea “sings" or not. Usually, the answer is not. We just know when it's something we both want to do.

MR: None the shows I've ever had produced were originally my idea--someone's always bringing the subject to me. Charlie tends to bring me the more off-center and challenging subjects. I love that he presents me such interesting ideas.

MM: How does the creative process work between you both?

CS: It's like there are three people in the room. There's him.There's me. And then there's him and me. Even though I don't write lyrics or read music, I make musical and lyric suggestions.

And Michael is very involved with the book. We have different skills that make us critical without being competitive. We both want to hold up our end of the bargain for the good of the show. It makes us both better. I get energy and ideas from Michael's music and lyrics, and nothing makes a scene better than a great song. Sometimes we write apart, but eventually, we have to figure it out together and then endlessly revise and tweak.

MR: We frequently "spot" the story to see where the songs would go. Surprisingly, that's not as difficult or mysterious as it sounds. It comes pretty naturally. I write many more songs for a show that we use. I wrote five entirely different opening songs for "Goldstein" until I got one that we were both happy with.

MM: What do you most enjoy about the "Goldstein" plot and characters?

CS: I experience the show as a beautiful and coherent telling of a million of my own random recollections--some real and others imagined. It's gratifying for me to have the story be told. The generational conflicts feel fresh and relevant--timeless as well as from a very specific time.

MR: I love their complexity. Often in musicals, you have the "good" characters, and you have the "bad" characters. That works for musicals, of course, but it's far from how real people are. The characters in "Goldstein" are recognizable as people you may know.

Audiences, shows, and upcoming events

MM: What would you like audiences to take away from the show?

CS: I would like audiences to leave the theater thinking about their own families. They’re our own fractured narratives. What are the stories we tell ourselves? I want audiences to be able to trace their family stories over the "Goldstein" narrative and see themselves in it, to reconcile themselves with their past and move on. Unless that's asking for too much.

MR: Since this is largely a show about coming to understand why parents make the decision they do for their children, I hope that the audience will walk away with the idea that they perhaps should soften their anger or resentment towards their parents.

MM: What is it like to work directly with investors and what are some of the challenges and rewards of being producers?

CS: The material has to impact the investor on a gut emotional level. We work directly with mostly non-traditional theater investors. We also have some Broadway investors. All of the investors have responded to the material and are interested in following the progress and evolution of the show. Some of the investors in "Goldstein" have been going to readings, workshops and various incarnations of the show for years. We hear their feedback, and we include them in as much of the process that they want to be involved in.

The challenges of producing are that it can be stressful and relentless. You have to get out in front of problems before they happen and correct mistakes as quickly as possible.

This is the second Off-Broadway show that we've written and produced, and the learning curve is high. But we're really starting to enjoy the creativity involved in the producing end of it... especially the part where you get to hire incredibly talented people and watch them bring the show to life.

MR: There's conventional wisdom that producers are the enemy of the creative department--money versus art. I never felt that way about the producers who have done my work. But I’ve only recently fully come to understand that they are two different but equally necessary parts of any commercial endeavor. That happened the day I became a producer.

MM: What other shows and/or events are coming up that you would like to mention or discuss?

CS: Michael and I will be teaching a Musical Theater Workshop at the end of May at Spalding University's MFA in Creative Writing in Louisville, Kentucky.

MR: Throughout the “Goldstein” process, I've been traveling-- performing as a pianist. I'll continue doing that, but first I'm taking a long vacation!