This month we caught up with Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, the writers of 2016 Festival show The Mad Ones (formerly known as The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown). This November The Mad Ones will receive an off-Broadway run with new NAMT member The Prospect Theater Company, preceded by a concert with NAMT member Philadelphia Theatre Company. We talked with Kait and Brian about what’s been happening with the show since the Festival and how they’re preparing for this next exciting step.
What was the post Festival response to The Mad Ones like?
We had a powerful response to the piece. It’s a show that people in the industry have heard songs from for a long time so I think there was a lot of interest in seeing what the show was about. It was exciting for us to have the songs seen in context and have the piece feel like more than the sum of its parts. We were able to make connections with lots of theaters that might be interested in doing the show down the line as well as develop a few new relationships with champions of the piece.
Did presenting The Mad Ones at the Festival help you discover anything new about the show? What work have you done on it since then?
We learned so much from putting together our 45-minute presentation. For us, it was an opportunity to strip away aspects of the show that had felt a little off to us in previous drafts. We stripped out everything that didn’t feel essential and tapped into the clearest through-line of our main character’s arc. In some ways, it was the most successful version of the show we had made to date. When we got into the NAMT Festival, we were already in conversations with The Prospect Theater Company about doing an off-Broadway production in 2017 at 59E59, so we were able to formally commit to that a few months later and move directly into a table read and then a full reading of the piece in the spring. We worked from our NAMT Festival draft and began adding in new elements to the piece that we felt were missing. Rather than going back to any old material, we dove deeper into the central friendship that is the heartbeat of our show. We wrote two new songs for the main girls, cut one of our five characters, and gave the mom a new song. I’m proud to say that I think the new material is some of the strongest in the show. I don’t know that we would have had that kind of clarity without doing NAMT’s Festival.
The Mad Ones is about to have its New York premiere with The Prospect Theater Company. Can you tell us about the creative team that you’ve assembled and how they’re helping you prepare for the production?
We’ve been working closely with our director Stephen Brackett, who we’ve worked with before on a few projects. We love how he approaches dramaturgy. He’s hands-off at first. He lets you really dive into the direction you want to go and then once you’ve brought in your new ideas, he asks great incisive questions. I also love hearing him talk to actors. I find myself writing down notes for myself on “truths” he says to the actors about the characters so that I can dig into them and make them even truer when I’m rewriting. Cara Reichel has also been an incredible force. It’s wonderful to be working with an artistic director who’s such a good bookwriter and dramaturg. She stays out of the room for most of the process but then comes in for the runs and gives the most clear-headed smart notes. We feel really lucky.
What are you most excited to share with New York audiences, many of whom have been fans of the music for some time?
We get emails from people all the time asking to read the script to this show or to produce it in their community or college theater. We’ve been dying to let people do that but we weren’t willing to let it go until we were able to see the production that we want people to see.
What do you hope is next for The Mad Ones?
We’re taking this one step at a time. We’re focused right now on getting our rewrites done post-reading and leading up to the production in November. And then, we hope that the show’s life will continue to grow. We don’t know what form that will take. Ultimately, we’ve always known that the greatest joy for this show will be to have small productions of it in high schools and colleges. We set out to write a story about a young woman that would feel timeless and authentic to her experience, and it’s most gratifying when high school or college students come to us and tell us how much it’s meant to them.
Why should everyone make sure to buy their tickets now for the upcoming production?
This is a show about the intense experience of letting go of your first most powerful relationships—especially the bonds of female friendship. It’s engaged in the dark and funny struggle of trying to crack out of the chrysalis of childhood and emerge as an independent young woman. We think that story is more necessary to tell than it even was when we first started writing it. Having had this long gestation, I think we’ve managed to make the show feel larger and more universal because we have grown up with it as writers. The themes we’re hitting now are themes we just hinted at when we first started writing it. We set out to write something that feels like Our Town or The Fantasticks—sad, funny, beautiful and eternal. Who knows if we’ve succeeded but we think we’re making a worthy attempt.
For more information about The Mad Ones, and to get tickets to the New York premiere, visit the Prospect Theater Company’s website. To purchase tickets to the Philadelphia concert, visit Philadelphia Theatre Company’s website.