Ferndale’s Ringwald Theatre knows a thing or two about making one’s dreams come true. So it’s not surprising that the hit Broadway musical “[title of show]” should make its Michigan premiere at the relatively young, but increasingly popular theater. A charming story about “two nobodies in New York” who write a play about two young authors writing a play, co-creator Jeff Bowen recently spoke with Between The Lines about the show’s unique genesis and how it got its name.
The project got its start, I understand, when you and collaborator Hunter Bell decided to enter a play into the New York Musical Theatre Festival – but had only about three and a half weeks to create the script. So how did the concept come about? And what ideas did it beat out?
Hunter and I initially wanted to use the submission date as a deadline to get us to write something…anything. We had been sitting on our duffs and not creating, and so we thought of this as a writing exercise. We would go into separate rooms and write scenes/lyrics/songs and come back to one another after a half hour or so and share what we had written.
Practically everything we wrote on that first day was an exploration of what we were actually doing: trying to make up a musical in three and a half weeks. We went with the idea and it kept the pen moving and so we stuck with the idea of creating a musical about the two of us creating a musical. We didn’t have any other ideas for it to beat out, so it won.
How long did it take you to get the first draft done? And how many pots of coffee?
Hunter and I only drink decaf. The first draft was done in the initial three-and-a-half weeks. Because we had to submit, if memory serves, the first act of the show and our show was only one act, we had to have a completed script by that deadline.
And by the way, have you been told that the show’s title – all lower case letters enclosed by brackets – drives us editor-types crazy?
Yes, we’ve been told that lots of time. But you editor-types need something to keep you on your toes, so…you’re welcome.
So how did the show get its title?
The idea for the title came from the festival submission form. The field asked for the “[title of show]” and we just filled it in with exactly that: “[title of show].” We stuck with the title because we truly felt ridiculous trying to assign a name to this show that was about the process of discovering what and who it was.
We always felt like the audience should be allowed to name it whatever they want. “Li’l Dreamers” is one that we always joke would’ve made a great title – especially when we were ready to develop it into a cartoon for Nickelodeon.
The show’s director is your life partner, Michael Berresse. At what point in the process did he become involved in the show? And how easy was it to work so closely with him on it – and then go home at night together?
Because Hunter and I were in the show, we were never able to sit outside of the play and watch it, so we had to find someone whom we could trust to be completely honest about what was happening. We often refer to Michael as “the secret weapon,” because he really has this unbelievable brain that can simultaneously problem-solve, create and execute. And he sits quietly in the dark in the back of the house and no one knows he’s the one pulling all the strings.
So, I guess because he was such an amazing director, it made working closely with him very easy. We usually had a rule, though, that we kept “[title of show]” conversations to a minimum when we were at home. We were always so exhausted from a full day of “[title of show]” that we usually just wanted to lay on the couch and watch a TiVoed episode of “The Biggest Loser” or “Ace of Cakes.”
(FOR “REVIEW BOX”)
[title of show]
The Ringwald, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Friday through Monday, Feb. 19-March 15, $10-$20. 248-545-5545. http://www.whowantscaketheatre.com