As fate would play out then and now… Richard played me one of my Fogelberg favorites, a song I hadn’t heard in a while. And as we listened to MAKE LOVE STAY, we discussed the age old question that inspired Dan to write that song over 30 years ago - how do you make love stay?
The very next day, I bought THE VERY BEST OF DAN FOGELBERG CD and a copy of Tom Robbins’ STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER for our road trip to Las Vegas that weekend. We listened to Dan all the way up to Vegas, singing every lyric and wondering how one man could have been so prolific.
It was on the way home from Las Vegas when the opening bars of NETHER LANDS, in its full orchestral bloom, prompted me to blurt out, “This song… it’s the OVERTURE of a Broadway Musical!” We giddily talked about that inspiration the entire way home. We’d have to come up with a fictional story that would be powerful enough to complement Dan’s music. Was that even possible? And how would we get in touch with Jean Fogelberg? And even if we did, would she be open to such an idea?
Over that summer, I was producing a couple of independent film projects, and tutoring students in math and science, but I couldn’t get the idea of telling a story using Dan Fogelberg’s music out of my head. Out of this obsessed brain-strain came the idea of an adoption story.
I began composing a heartfelt letter to Jean Fogelberg, and within days of putting pen to paper and tracking down Jean’s email address, fate reared up again and again. The many means to moving this project forward seemed to fall out of the sky. First, Richard and I met with one of his best friends, Victor Vanacore – who happened to be a Grammy award-winning composer/arranger – to run the concept by him. Victor immediately jumped on board, believing it to be a wonderful idea, and knew he wanted to work on it with us. I then learned that one of my old friends, who had invested in a film of mine, had become a musical theatre investor. I knew I could and would approach him when the time was right. And then, over lunch with a few girlfriends, I found my writing partner!
Karen Harris – who happened to be an Emmy award-winning writer – was leaving her job in television after a 30-year career. Karen casually mentioned that she’d have more time to work on her own projects, get more involved in the Writer’s Guild, and do what she’s always wanted to do…“Write a play,” she mused over lunch. My heart skipped a beat, I waited for the other gals to leave, and I asked Karen to stay for a few minutes so we could talk privately. Would she consider writing a musical with me and did she know Dan Fogelberg? Yes, she loved Dan Fogelberg, yes, she was dying to write a musical, and yes, she’d be delighted to work with me.
That was the beginning of the best collaboration I have ever known. I had the bones of a story I wanted to tell – a story about adoption, an issue that has emotional resonance with so many of us. Karen and I spent a week or two expounding and expanding, using index cards to label scenes and Post-it notes to label Dan’s songs (as we decided what song would go with what scene). Our lives became immersed with fleshing out a TREATMENT, which is basically a scene-by-scene outline detailing our story, including the songs used to support the telling of it. Every day, as we wrote the treatment, we laughed and got writer’s chills, grateful for how easily our ideas blended into each other’s. We were clearly on the same page and loving every minute of it.
The way Dan’s songs melded into our work, it felt as if Dan had written these songs especially for this project. For those of you who believe in something greater than yourselves, both Karen and I felt that Dan was right there, guiding us. As if it were all Part of the Plan.
In December of 2010, I added the news of my various collaborators to the email to Jean. And with a dream and a prayer, I hit send!
- Kate Atkinson