CMA Awards 2018

A Producer's Pre-Tonys Diary, Week 2: Sauntering & Selling Scripts

Courtesy of Caitlin Clements
Steven Levenson signs copies of the "Dear Evan Hansen" script for fans at the Drama Book Shop. 

Saturday, May 6

As a weekend diversion from the post-nominations happenings, I’ve decided to sign up for The Great Saunter, an annual 32-mile hike around the perimeter of Manhattan. I’m embarking on the “Saunter” solo, as most of my friends are wisely less masochistic than I am about a 6 a.m. wake-up call for this 13-hour adventure. I soon realize, though, that this endeavor won’t be as solitary as I might’ve thought. I’ve worn my Dear Evan Hansen ball cap, and every mile or so, a fellow saunterer stops me to share their experience of having seen the show -- or that of a friend or relative who has avidly recommended it. I adore these serendipitous encounters. Even if you’re chatting with someone who doesn’t necessarily grasp what “producing” means (it’s an admittedly fluid concept), you’re likely to come across plenty of people who deeply understand and connect to the work that you’re playing a small role in helping bring to the stage.

Sunday, May 7

Sunday evening, and I'm catching a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 at Alamo Drafthouse with one of our interns, Mariana. Simultaneously, the Lucille Lortel Awards are underway at the Skirball Center downtown, where Dear Evan Hansen has received several nominations for the off-Broadway production at Second Stage Theatre. I steal away for a mid-movie break to check in on the news. Turns out DEH cast members Rachel Bay Jones and Ben Platt have both won in their respective categories!

Monday, May 8

We’re prepping the next videos in the “We’re Evan Hansen” series that’s been rolling out for the past month - with installments highlighting each member of the cast and creative team, and their contributions to the show. I’m tasked with helping provide supplementary visuals, requiring a trip into the “Evan Archives” — revisiting old photos, sketches, and blueprints in our office files from the show’s 8-year evolution, not to mention a little good old-fashioned Facebook stalking — I’m told (affectionately, I hope) that I have a near-encyclopedic memory of the tweets/posts/pics chronicling the show, and I’m on a mission to track down a few gems. As a former film major who then “went rogue” in the theater community, it’s always a particularly enjoyable task to pitch in with these video efforts.

Tuesday, May 9

Tonight, Dear Evan Hansen will receive the Change Maker Award from one of the show’s not-for-profit partners, The Child Mind Institute (a national organization dedicated to transforming mental health care for children), which lead producer Stacey Mindich and book writer Steven Levenson will accept. At the office, Stacey runs through the remarks they’ve prepared for the event, and I have the honor of temporarily playing the coveted role of Steven Levenson, getting to revel in his general eloquence.

Later, I attend a dress rehearsal for the new Encores! show, The Golden Apple, at New York City Center.   These dress rehearsals are always particularly fun since so many friends and colleagues from the industry are in attendance, and tonight is no exception. I run into an actress pal who I met during an early workshop of Dear Evan Hansen. She was in the ensemble that the creative team once experimented with, before finalizing their vision for how the online world would be depicted in the show as an inventive chorus of “virtual voices.” It’s great to catch up with her, and hear tidbits of her recent adventures on tour with the musical If/Then, also directed by DEH’s own Michael Greif.  It’s “The Circle of Greif.”

Wednesday, May 10

The recently published Dear Evan Hansen script hits shelves this week at the Drama Book Shop, and they’re hosting a Q&A and signing with Levenson. PSA: It’s worth paying them a visit, not only for the resident bookstore pup Chester, but also for their comprehensive collection of scripts and theatre-centric literature. I’ve spent way too much time and money there over the years… and I’m entirely ok with that. But I digress.

Fans of every generation have gathered, some proudly sporting DEH merch, others clutching an impressively comprehensive assortment of Steven’s published plays. There’s a lively moderated discussion ranging from the collaborative process with [composers] Pasek & Paul, to Steven’s connection to the character of Evan ("Even though Evan is 17, I certainly understand what that feels like, to be looking through the window and wondering if people will wave back”) to the origins of the show’s opening number, “Anybody Have a Map,” which was re-imagined for the off-Broadway run last spring.

Post-matinee, members of the cast and stage management team make their way over to the store to lend their support as well. We gladly wait our turn in the lengthy signing line, and Steven chuckles at the sight of familiar faces when we make our way to the front. Helping score me some major Mother’s Day points, he personalizes a script for my mom, who’s quite possibly his #1 fan.

Thursday, May 11

This afternoon we’re prepping for a luncheon hosted by PureWow, saluting the “Moms of Evan Hansen.”  A busy morning is spent stuffing gift bags and finalizing seating charts. The luncheon is hosted to toast the extraordinary ladies in our cast, who portray richly nuanced mothers within the show, while simultaneously excelling at the same role of “mom” offstage.  Other notable “Broadway moms” in attendance include Judy Kuhn and Celia Keenan-Bolger, and the room is lively as they share tales of being pregnant while in production, toddlers tagging along for rehearsal and everything in between. Shortly thereafter, we’ll celebrate the release of the inaugural “Moms of Evan Hansen” video, the brainchild of the DEH’s own Rachel Bay Jones and Jennifer Laura Thompson — featuring a number of cameo appearances by familiar faces from the theater community.  

Meanwhile, DEH patriarch Michael Park is leading the team to victory on the softball field: we beat Blue Man Group 8-3 in this week’s Broadway Show League game!

This past week may have been all about the moms, but next week’s attention will shift to the man we often consider to be the father of Dear Evan Hansen: our director, Michael Greif. There are several upcoming events honoring Michael and his body of work – which means I’ll have guest lists to finalize, RSVPs to track down, and tribute ads to submit.


 

Tony Awards 2017