ANSWER: Artists are notoriously misunderstood. My methods, my motives, my program and my aspirations were no exception to that and I don't know if I was so much treated unfairly as just misunderstood. I am not one to cry foul, complain bitterly, get angry or point fingers over spilt milk. What is done is done. We will all learn from it and rise above the challenge stronger.
Q: You are in development with your own production “Beautiful.” What is its status now?
A: The status is we are working out the details for our next phase of development, which is a lot of work. A lot of talking with people and brainstorming. We are potentially doing it in Chicago, Los Angeles or Sarasota. They are basically places interested in doing what are called enhancement deals.
Q: What are enhancement deals?
A: They put it in as part of their season. We put together the production. And later down the road it's a profit-sharing deal. Basically, you're using their space, their resources, their season subscribers. They bring something to the table. We bring something to the table. In the commercial producing world, that's how it has to be done now. It's the only way they can survive. Almost every show has an out-of-town tryout or two or three at a nonprofit theater, regional theater, something.
Q: How close are you to opening your trial run?
A: If we do the Sarasota one, we are potentially talking about opening in December, which is kind of exciting.
Q: When did you come up with the concept for “Beautiful?”
A: I think you were the first one I told about it (Look Who's Talking, July 29, 2010). Mind-blowing. That was not even a year ago. It was completely conceptual at that time. You were the first one, no one ever asked me: What are your visions, what are your thoughts? So I thought, well, I guess I'll tell him. (Laughs).
Q: What is “Beautiful” about?
A: At the time, the story was about an illicit love affair between the caterpillar, Beautiful, and the moth man, Ronin. Really, it was a biracial couple in nature, a moth and a caterpillar. It's a universal love story. And they had an illegitimate child and it was about their son. Somewhere in the process in the summer, my team said to me, this is her story. Stick to her story. This is about “Beautiful.” So we went back to the drawing board and started meshing out the story about her.
Q: This story comes solely from your fertile imagination?
A: It's not a book story. So I have to have manipulatives to play with. I really need to have the performers and the actors and the space and the flying so I can say OK, that's not matching my crazy imagination. They called this the acid trip show while we were developing it. (Laughs). It's kind of out there when you try to explain it to people. But it works.
Q: How did you start to sell your show “Beautiful” to Broadway producers?
A: In January I went out to New York and met with some people I had known through the years. My partner, who I've written a show with, we just went out and met people and took them to lunch and said this is what we're doing and what we're thinking.
Q: You've assembled an impressive production team for a neophyte producer. Who's on it?
A: Randall Wreghitt, executive producer, (“Grey Gardens,” “Miracle Worker.”) He won a Tony for Grey Gardens. Hal Luftig, my mentor and producer, (“Catch Me If You Can,” now on Broadway), “Legally Blonde” on Broadway and London stages, a “West Side Story” revival and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which won three Tony's. Randall basically offered to be our executive producer on the show. You try to be all calm but inside it's like whew! You're freaking out. It was really exciting. I was beyond myself. Ecstatic.
Q: Do you give up your production ownership when such heavy hitters come onboard?
A: Randall had a lot of ideas. I really thought I would be intimidated. If you would have told me I was meeting with these people a year ago, I would have been like, no way! But now, it's like, it was incredibly flattering.
Editor's note: For more on Jennifer Kelly and “Beautiful,” watch for the July issue of Gasparilla Magazine.
Fact BoxJennifer Kelly at a glance
Family: Single with one son and two daughters.
Occupation: Director, playwright.
Career: Former director of Lemon Bay High School Theater for 10 years and executive director of Lemon Bay Performing Arts Academy, which she founded in 2001.
Education: Master’s degree in curriculum instruction at Colorado Christian University.
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