American Pop: A Masterpiece with a Missing Piece

Broadway Director Trip Cullman and Award-winning playwright and performer Eisa Davis lead an exploration into one of the final works of the late composer Michael Friedman. American Pop examines the history of American popular music from 1846 to 1923, from Stephen Foster composing the first American pop song to Bessie Smith as the first American pop star. The piece presents a complex and engaging inquiry into the economics, social constructs and cultural appropriation that defined early American popular entertainment. The course will include topical research and look at how an unfinished work can live on after the loss of its creator.

Student performers, writers, and creatives of all types, as well as historians, researchers and musicologists are encouraged to enroll.


MICHAEL FRIEDMAN was an Obie Award-winning composer/lyricist. He was most well-known as the co-creator of the critically-acclaimed musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” which premiered in New York at the Public Theater and subsequently transferred to Broadway.  Other credits include the musical: “Fortress of Solitude” based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Lethem; “Unknown Soldier” which premiered at The Williamstown Theatre Festival; and “Love’s Labour’s Lost” which premiered at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Michael was a founding Associate Artist of The Civilians, the acclaimed investigative theater company. His work with The Civilians included “Gone Missing”, “In the Footprint”, “The Great Immensity”, “Paris Commune” (co-written with Steve Cosson), “(I Am) Nobody’s Lunch” and “This Beautiful City” as well as the score for Anne Washburn’s critically-acclaimed “Mr. Burns.” His latest collaboration with Civilians’ Artistic Director Cosson, “The Abominables,” opened at Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis in September.

In the months leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election, Michael traveled the country creating a series of songs based on interviews he conducted.  Those songs became his “State of the Union Songbook,” which was presented by The New Yorker Radio Hour.

Michael received a MacDowell Fellowship, a Princeton Hodder Fellowship, a Meet The Composer Fellowship and was a Barron Visiting Professor at The Princeton Environmental Institute in 2009. At the time of his death, he was the Artist in Residence and Director of the Public Forum at the Public Theater and was also the Artistic Director of City Center Encores! Off-Center.



Ghostlight Records and The Civilians have joined together to release The Michael Friedman Collection, a long-term project which will comprise the premiere recordings of nine musicals from the beloved late Obie Award-winning songwriter Michael Friedman.

Digital albums available from Ghostlight Records:

The Michael Friedman Collection: This Beautiful City 
The Michael Friedman Collection: The Abominables
The Michael Friedman Collection: The Great Immensity 


S01 - Trip Cullman, Eisa Davis, and Sarah Stern

Mondays, 1:30 - 4:20 pm