We landed in balmy 17 degree weather, and the first item on the agenda was a visit with my brilliant marketing professor at Kellogg (Northwestern’s MBA program). I wanted to tell him about our passion project, and get his advice on the best way to market a musical. Mohan Sawhney, also my favorite professor in graduate school, had invited Karen and me to his home in Evanston for tea the first morning we were in Chicago. He was delighted to reconnect after all these years, he told me, but was especially pleased to meet with us about what he termed “a very exciting endeavor.” He was impressed with the marketing package that we had put together, with our script, and with the people and theatres we were scheduled to meet over the next week. We told him that the wonderful thing about this project is that there exists an incredibly large group of passionate individuals who are going to be just as excited as we are to see the evolution and incarnation of this Broadway musical, using the music & lyrics of one of the best musicians and lyricists to ever grace our lives. Sahwney impressed upon us how important it was to build a web presence, to start blogging, and “crowd sourcing” – which essentially meant to embrace those individuals – Dan Fogelberg’s fans – on our journey. I knew that when I returned home to LA from Chicago, I would teach myself “html” and build the best website I could in order to reach out to those who would truly understand what we wanted to accomplish…DanFans, musical theatre fans, and fans of Kate & Karen ;-). I happened to get a rotten cold upon my return from Chicago, so it was a perfect excuse to stay in bed, drink hot soup, and build the Dan Fogelberg Musical website that is now the host to this very blog! But I digress…
Back to our Chicago trip. We next met with Michael Weber from the Porchlight Musical Theatre, BJ Jones from the Northlight, and Steve Scott at the Goodman. In between, we would call other local venues and were often invited to “drop by and check out our space.” People were extremely open and interested. One night we went to see “Million Dollar Quartet” because the next day we were meeting with the woman who had developed and produced this International hit, Gigi Pritzker. Gigi, like us, has her producer’s fingers in many pies… film and Broadway musicals among them. Gigi told us that her very first concert experience as a young girl was when her brother took her to see Dan Fogelberg in Chicago! It was certainly fate that brought us to her.
We knew we were in rarefied air, and we left each meeting walking on clouds. We were told our project was very special and that it needed to be carefully nurtured because we had something very big. Gigi offered to introduce us to her producing partner in Los Angeles. BJ took out his cell phone and started reeling off the names of “must meets” and “have-to-calls,” including a Broadway director that we indeed connected with on our next trip to New York (but that’s the next blog posting)! And everyone said that they wanted to come to our workshop, wherever we decided to mount it.
Speaking of our workshop, we got turned on to a wonderful opportunity at Northwestern’s theatre department called the American Musical Theatre Project (AMTP). Every year, the AMTP sponsors full workshops for four or five new musicals. Heather Schmucker, who heads the program explained that they fund the three-week development process in full, including transportation and housing for the creators, hiring the director, choreographer, actors, musicians, etc., utilizing all the wonderful amenities at their disposal. It’s a fantastic program. As we wrapped up, Heather told us that our meeting with her was the highlight of her week! (Really, were we getting puffed up, or what?!) Heather felt this was exactly the kind of project, and at the right stage of development, for the AMTP to develop, but the slots for 2013 were already taken (they pick their projects well in advance). Heather assured us that if a slot opened up for any reason, she’d be in touch. She also let us know that 2014 was an option. Since Karen and I are anxious to workshop our show this year (or right after the first of the year) we decided to move forward with our own plan, but keep AMTP in mind if we decide to do another workshop in Chicago. The workshopping process is critical to making sure that every element of the show fits seamlessly, and it’s important to work in a supportive, highly professional atmosphere. What we experienced in Chicago fits that bill.
Of course, having gone to business school in Chicago, there were former classmates to reconnect with as well. It was a heap of fun having the time to catch up with old friends, introduce Karen around, and again, hear from all of them that if they would be happy to help with Part of the Plan in any way they could. We also looked up the son of a friend of mine, Jeff Parker, one of the busiest musical theatre actors in Chicago, and met him for drinks between performances in “Chicago.” In the ‘small world’ department, his terrific wife, Lynn Baber, is BJ Jones’ associate, and Lynn was in our meeting with BJ. It also turns out we have two different friends who are either on the Board of the Goodman Theatre or have close friends on the Board. Karen and I left Chicago much wiser, more committed, and in agreement that when Part of the Plan is ready for a regional stage, the Goodman in Chicago would be an awesome place to land. With our new connections, and Dan obviously clearing the path for us, anything is possible.
- Kate Atkinson