Monday morning we had to hit the ground running. The main reason for the trip was to meet with potential directors for our staged reading and workshop. We had meetings set with two directors, recommended by the wonderful Warren Adams, the man who is involved with Motown, The Musical.
Kate had to be on a plane to Florida two days later, so we were set to spend 48 hours cramming in as much as we could. We had been introduced (via e-mail) to a Broadway producer named John O’Boyle (a producer of two of the biggest shows currently on Broadway) by an associate in Los Angeles. We arranged to meet John at The City Diner on Broadway and 90th. We had a lovely, helpful meeting with him, never imagining that in two weeks time, he’d be receiving a Tony Award for Best Play! What a way to start our trip.
Our 10am breakfast segued into a 12noon lunch with another stage producer named Craig Saveedra, whom we’d already met with in L.A. Craig wanted to get caught up with us in New York, about our progress, the people we were meeting, etc. He was able to give us the lay of the land, other folks he wanted us to meet, what shows to see, etc… He also filled us in on his current productions – several hot shows in London, and a recent off-Broadway show. He told us that he couldn’t wait to see our staged reading. Craig’s been very supportive of “Part of the Plan.” His business partner was returning to New York a few days later, and he wanted him to meet us.
By now it was mid-day, and it was a good time to settle into the apartment and continue arranging meetings. We had a great recommendation from BJ Jones, in Chicago, for a director who was based in NYC. So we called him and set a meeting for the following day. Because we met with several directors -- and can only bring on one -- decorum and professional respect demands we refrain from using names. But we will tell you that we very much enjoyed all of them.
Late afternoon, we met with a wonderful director at Pigalle, a place I’d discovered during my October trip, on 8th Street near Times Square. Something Kate and I continued to discover about ourselves is that we’re very collaborative. Not only do we write well together, but also, we are always open to hearing other people’s thoughts and ideas. We don’t always agree, but we listen. You never know where inspiration will come from. We had a lively discussion with the director, who had read our book several times and had very specific thoughts. We also had a lot of laughs. When we left Pigalle, Kate and I got on the subway downtown and met one of Kate’s closest friends at Arturo’s in the Village (one of the best pizza joints in the city). We rolled home to my apartment, after a fun-packed first day in the city.
Tuesday morning began with…you guessed it, breakfast. However, this was just a quick bite and a cup of coffee in the apartment and then onto a bus down Broadway to Times Square again. This time we were meeting a female director, who is also a respected choreographer. As it turns out, Kate’s Broadway attorney also represents her, and he made his office conference room available to us. It was so interesting to hear her notes from a dance and movement perspective. It’s a whole different visual art that got us thinking in an unexpected way.
We left that meeting for a quick walk to Caffe Bene, a very cool coffee shop on 49th and Broadway. There we met the director BJ recommended, who was completely different from the other two. He was musically inclined, and had in fact conceived and directed a number of productions that were autobiographical pieces about musicians or singers – some one-person shows, other small productions. Even though our show is a bit more ambitious in scope, it occurred to us that he might be able to help us streamline it. All three directors had so much to offer.
After a wonderful lunch at Dishes, on 45th, we were meeting an old friend of mine at a charming little restaurant in the Time Warner Center. Mike is now a dramaturge who I hadn’t seen since we worked together on a series at ABC. A dramaturge, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is someone who is 1) a dramatist or 2) a literary editor on the staff of a theater who consults with authors and edits texts. Dramaturges can read a play and know where it’s weak, where it’s strong, and how to improve it. Kate and I wanted to rewrite based on our own instincts and the notes we were given by the directors we met, and then after that, if needed, a dramaturge could come in to work with us – maybe even my friend, Mike.
We found we were getting the same advice from pretty much every one of the professionals who had read the book – not just in New York, but in Chicago, and back home in LA. If you recall, “Part of the Plan” tells the story of an adopted boy and the young girl of privilege who falls in love with the “wrong” guy and gets pregnant in 1950. The show follows the baby boy and the girl who is forced to give him up. The repeated note we kept getting was that by having two protagonists, the reader did not know which one to “root for.” Kate and I sat together and talked it over. I used one of my favorite phrases – if enough people tell us we’re drunk, we’d better sit down. We knew we had to make a change. We decided that the primary hero of our piece was the boy. "Part of the Plan" was really Sean’s journey. And so while Rebecca’s arc is important as well (a strong "B" story), our rewriting would be focused on making Sean the center of our show.
The other note we got from EVERYONE in New York, Chicago and L.A. was to avoid developing “Part of the Plan” in New York City until it was ready. If we brought the show to NY and it still needed work, we might not get a second chance. This meant our first Staged Reading and Workshop would not be in NY, since those events were essential to knowing if our rewrites were working. So as much as we enjoyed meeting talented New York directors, and big-name, Tony-winning producers, we would be smart to hold our work close until the time was right. Everything we needed was back home in Los Angeles: theatres, directors, actors, singers and dancers. Kate and I had both been involved in LA theatre on some level. Now it was time to take advantage of our experience.
Kate and I left Mike, and headed over to PJ Clarks to meet Craig and his business partner, Michael, who is as much fun and almost as handsome as Craig. We had a great time and told them all about our plans for rewriting and developing the show in LA, and they both confirmed that what we planned to do was spot on. After that, Kate left to go back to her sister’s in Armonk, and I took my friends’ daughter, Amy Shaughnessy, to dinner nearby. Amy just graduated from NYU with a degree in Musical Theatre, and she now works as assistant to a director named Richard Jay Alexander, who produces all the one-woman shows for Kristen Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters, and Barbra Streisand! She and I gabbed for hours (and of course she offered to get “Part of the Plan” to Richard Jay). And because New York is actually a small town inside a big city, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Craig and Michael had hired Amy for a role in a pilot they produced!
Now that Kate was gone, I figured things would calm down. Yeah, right. I went to see Bette Midler in “I’ll Eat You Later,” a one-woman show in which she plays the famous Hollywood agent, Sue Mengers. Bette was brilliant, and funny, and smart. Next, I sat 5th row center (thank you, Warren) to watch Motown, the Musical! It was pure entertainment! The music, the acting, especially the choreography, were so much fun! The following day, I was invited to see a Staged Reading of a play one of our potential directors was directing. It was a sweet story of a boy and girl who meet for the first time and each imagines what their future holds. The music was particularly good, and the two had real chemistry. That night, I went to see John O’Boyle’s show, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike on Broadway. I honestly don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. David Hyde Pierce was outstanding, and almost all the actors had been nominated for Tonys. I have to admit, I enjoyed every outing to the theatre. It makes me very happy to sit in the audience and watch the magic. And I’ll confess, more than once I could imagine Kate and myself watching “Part of the Plan” performed on stage.
In between, I had some wonderful meals and margaritas with friends. I met my lovely friend Dawn Saturday morning at the Standard… I had brunch with my cousin, Alexis, who had just been relocated to New York and actually lives one block from where I was staying! And I took a dear friend, who had just beaten cancer, out to lunch to celebrate. Then I said goodbye to my wonderful little home in New York, and eight hours later, I was greeted by my husband in my real home. Kate and I met up the very next day. We were exhausted, but satisfied. Our path was clear. It was time to incorporate our latest notes into the rewrite, and figure out how we were ever going to get a staged reading and a workshop going in Los Angeles. It was time for our own plan.
- Karen Harris