Joe Iconis (STEINHARDT ’03, TSOA ’05)
A Cohort of Broadway Trailblazers
By Eleni Gage
Group portrait by Joseph DiGiovanna
In Be More Chill, the Broadway high school musical sensation, the geeky main character and his stoner best friend sing “Two-Player Game,” an ode to friendship—and video games—that includes a hopeful chorus about how guys like them will be “cool in college.”
For Long Island native Joe Iconis, who wrote the show’s music and lyrics, that promise was about four years late in coming true. As an undergraduate studying musical composition in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, “I was quiet,” he recalls. “I definitely did not have the classic undergrad ‘Oh, I’m going to go to parties and have the time of my life and have crazy, Lady Bird-esque experiences.’”
But he never questioned his decision. “NYU felt correct to me,” Iconis recalls. “I don’t know why. My most significant exposure to it was The Freshman, a 1990s Matthew Broderick film that made me think, NYU is cool!”
Over the course of his six consecutive years on the Washington Square campus (four at Steinhardt, two at the Tisch School of the Arts), Iconis met not only his life partner (wife Lauren Marcus) but also several creative partners, a fact that doesn’t surprise him at all. “I feel like there’s an NYU type I would refer to as specific, passionate weirdos who like New York City,” he says. “Those are just the people I gravitate towards.”
So much so that Be More Chill is the product of eight NYU graduates besides Iconis (we photographed Iconis and six of his fellow alumni collaborators backstage in the show's green room). And his next show, Broadway Bounty Hunter—which Iconis describes as “an action-adventure musical about a talented musical theater actress of a certain age on a bounty-hunting adventure to South America”—features a slew of Violet talent as well.
Despite being called “the future of musical theater” by the New York Times, Iconis is quick to point out that he’s still getting by with a little help from his friends. “People have described ‘Iconis and Family’ as a cult, but I wouldn’t go that far,” he says. “It’s like a hint of Mafia, a hint of [cult]—but with show tunes!”
“People have described ‘Iconis and Family’ as a cult, but I wouldn’t go that far ... “It’s like a hint of Mafia, a hint of [cult]—but with show tunes!”
In Other Theater News ...
The Great White Way turned violet during the Broadway’s Rising Stars showcase, held in July at Town Hall. Four newly minted alumni earned a coveted performance spot: Jack Brinsmaid (TSOA ’19), Mara Friedman (STEINHARDT ’19), Jonathan Heller (STEINHARDT ’19), and Luana Psaros (TSOA ’19). It’s the event’s 12th year running, and every year NYU has been well represented.