I recently spent a fruitful and exciting week at Berkeley Rep’s “Ground Floor”, their new summer development residency program, to begin work on a new music theatre project. I’m working with longtime collaborator Kathryn Keats and newfound buddy Michael Levalley in bringing Kathryn’s life story to the stage.
Why Kathryn’s life story and not mine? Well, while there’s plenty of inner turgid emotional material to dig into in my life, in outward respects my story is a bit vanilla and drama-less. I’ll tell you about it sometime when you need to get to sleep…
Whereas Kathryn’s story is overflowing with drama. She had studied since age 5 to sing, dance and perform, arrived in New York at the age of 17, landed a role in a racy nude musical, and moved in with the music director, Ken, a talented guru 15 years older than herself. Their time together started out starry-eyed and lovely, but by the end he had turned psychotic and made her his prisoner. When she escaped, he swore to find her and kill her. She went into the victim witness protection program with a new name, cut off from all her former friends, and had to give up performing or anything else that might attract the attention of the still at-large Ken. Over the years life took on a semblance of normalcy, as she eventually fell in love, married, had children. Her family knew nothing about her former life, and she lived in constant fear that Ken might find her. When Ken died recently, she was finally free to tell her family, her story – but how do you tell your husband and children that you’re not who they think you are?
Drama a-plenty, yes?
I met Kathryn years ago in acting class (I knew nothing of her hidden life story), and we became pals and co-wrote and shopped around a marvelous screenplay that bears an uncanny resemblance to the holiday film “Elf”. We thought maybe we were ripped off, and attempted to sue the producers of “Elf”, New Line Cinema, but their legal team convinced us that they came up with the exact same story by incredible coincidence. So, that’s all water under the bridge, we’re totally over that… I don’t even know why I brought it up 🙂 Now, a few years down the road, we’re excited to be working together again. This time, on a story not quite so fanciful or funny, but every bit as amazing.
A thousand thanks to Berkeley Rep for hosting us, for providing so much support (including some very tasty dinners), and for the chance to hang out with so many great playwrights, composers and performers from around the U.S. It has been the highlight of my summer!