Gays Reading

Books, Broadway, & Beyond feat. Kait Kerrigan, Merri Sugarman, & Matthew Chisling

December 12, 2023 Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Matthew Chisling, Kait Kerrigan, Merri Sugarman Season 1 Episode 31
Books, Broadway, & Beyond feat. Kait Kerrigan, Merri Sugarman, & Matthew Chisling
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Books, Broadway, & Beyond feat. Kait Kerrigan, Merri Sugarman, & Matthew Chisling
Dec 12, 2023 Season 1 Episode 31
Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Matthew Chisling, Kait Kerrigan, Merri Sugarman

Jason and Brett's love for books and Broadway come together in this exciting episode!  They talk to musical book writer and lyricist Kait Kerrigan about adapting The Great Gatsby for the stage, Merri Sugarman about the casting process and her new book From Craft to Career, and Matthew Chisling (aka @mattyandthebooks) about book adaptations coming to Broadway. A behind-the-scenes conversation you won't want to miss!

Kait Kerrigan
is an award-winning lyricist, book writer, and playwright. She is an alumnus of Barnard College and the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop and a member of the Dramatists Guild. Off Broadway: book and lyrics for The Mad Ones, and Henry & Mudge. Regional: The Great Gatsby (Paper Mill Playhouse), plays (Father/Daughter and Imaginary Love) and musicals (Justice, Earthrise, and Rosie Revere, Engineer & Friends). Digital credits include: A Killer Party. Her immersive house party The Bad Years (book and lyrics) had two sold-out pop-up productions in Brooklyn. Awards include: Kleban Award for libretto, Jonathan Larson Award for lyric-writing, Most Promising Lyricist Award from the Theatre Hall of Fame, Edgerton Award, and residencies at Page 73, Dramatists Guild Fellows, Rhinebeck, Goodspeed’s Johnnie Mercer Project, and MacDowell.

Initially an actress (Les Misérables, Aspects of Love), Merri Sugarman found herself in L.A. where she quickly made a name for herself at Liberman/Hirschfeld Casting working on such shows as Seinfeld, HBO's Band of Brothers, and the feature film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, to name a few. Following that, at Dreamworks Studios, Merri was the Casting Executive in charge of TV Pilots and Series. She is a Senior Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting. Credits: Ain't Too Proud, Jersey Boys, Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables, School of Rock, Miss Saigon and A Bronx Tale. Off Broadway: Clueless and Trevor.

Matthew Chisling has worked for a decade in the professional theatre space as a marketer, producer, ticketing manager and strategist. He is currently a senior director of campaign marketing at TodayTix Group, a technology company in the performing arts space. Matt is an avid reader and runs an instagram account called @mattyandthebooks

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett's love for books and Broadway come together in this exciting episode!  They talk to musical book writer and lyricist Kait Kerrigan about adapting The Great Gatsby for the stage, Merri Sugarman about the casting process and her new book From Craft to Career, and Matthew Chisling (aka @mattyandthebooks) about book adaptations coming to Broadway. A behind-the-scenes conversation you won't want to miss!

Kait Kerrigan
is an award-winning lyricist, book writer, and playwright. She is an alumnus of Barnard College and the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop and a member of the Dramatists Guild. Off Broadway: book and lyrics for The Mad Ones, and Henry & Mudge. Regional: The Great Gatsby (Paper Mill Playhouse), plays (Father/Daughter and Imaginary Love) and musicals (Justice, Earthrise, and Rosie Revere, Engineer & Friends). Digital credits include: A Killer Party. Her immersive house party The Bad Years (book and lyrics) had two sold-out pop-up productions in Brooklyn. Awards include: Kleban Award for libretto, Jonathan Larson Award for lyric-writing, Most Promising Lyricist Award from the Theatre Hall of Fame, Edgerton Award, and residencies at Page 73, Dramatists Guild Fellows, Rhinebeck, Goodspeed’s Johnnie Mercer Project, and MacDowell.

Initially an actress (Les Misérables, Aspects of Love), Merri Sugarman found herself in L.A. where she quickly made a name for herself at Liberman/Hirschfeld Casting working on such shows as Seinfeld, HBO's Band of Brothers, and the feature film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, to name a few. Following that, at Dreamworks Studios, Merri was the Casting Executive in charge of TV Pilots and Series. She is a Senior Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting. Credits: Ain't Too Proud, Jersey Boys, Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables, School of Rock, Miss Saigon and A Bronx Tale. Off Broadway: Clueless and Trevor.

Matthew Chisling has worked for a decade in the professional theatre space as a marketer, producer, ticketing manager and strategist. He is currently a senior director of campaign marketing at TodayTix Group, a technology company in the performing arts space. Matt is an avid reader and runs an instagram account called @mattyandthebooks

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Brett Benner:

Do you ever that thing where, just apropos of nothing, it's like the detritus in your mind, you get a Broadway song stuck in your head? Because I woke up the other day, the entire day, and I all I kept having in my head was chief cook and bottle washer from the rink. And I, I kept hearing Chita Rivera on my head. And I wanted to post it so somebody else would hear it and have it stuck in their head all day and I wouldn't be alone.

Jason Blitman:

Today we talk about Broadway. I'm so excited. It was like 10 years ago, almost to the day that I was working at the public theater and Fun Home playing at the public. We talk about adaptations of books to Broadway. And Fun Home is among my faves.

Brett Benner:

was your

Jason Blitman:

10 year anniversary of that. My very first Broadway show was Aida.

Brett Benner:

Oh the gods love Nubia

Jason Blitman:

That's the one! What was your first Broadway show?

Brett Benner:

cats

Jason Blitman:

Oh. Yeah.

Brett Benner:

with Betty Buckley and Ken Page and at intermission you got to go up on stage and talk to Ken Page

Jason Blitman:

Oh, my God. Amazing.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, that's how long ago and it was in previews

Jason Blitman:

tOday, I feel is where all of our loves and worlds collide because we have Merri Sugarman, who is, an acclaimed Broadway casting director. We have Kait Kerrigan, who is a lyricist and book writer. And we have Matthew Chisling, aka Matty and the Books. And Matt, we both know from Instagram and Bookstagram. Kait, I know from my work at TheatreWorksUSA. And Merri,

Brett Benner:

My job. Merri Sugarman and I used to work together in casting at Lieberman Hirschfeld casting back in the day when I started.

Jason Blitman:

So right, it's just like intersection of all of our worlds coming together in one place to talk about books and Broadway. Merri wrote a book. Kait is working on musicals.

Brett Benner:

Books for musicals.

Jason Blitman:

and Matt's at TodayTix As always, if you like what you're hearing, share us with your friends.

Brett Benner:

Like and Subscribe.

Jason Blitman:

and subscribe. This is our 30th episode.

Brett Benner:

Amazing.

Jason Blitman:

I can't believe it. Thank you to everyone who's been listening along I'm Jason

Brett Benner:

And I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this extra special Broadway episode of

Brett Benner:

Gays Reading

Be a listener, not a screen reader.

Jason Blitman:

So first we're going to start off with Kait Kerrigan, because this is the beginning of the journey of the process. She's a book writer and a lyricist, and that is how shows start. I was having some zoom slash internet issues when we were talking to Kate. And so my audio quality is less than stellar, but we still have a really terrific conversation with her. So just wanted to make a note of that. Kait is an award winning lyricist, book writer, and playwright. She is an alumnus of of Barnard College and the BMI Musical Theater Workshop and a member of the Dramatists. guild. Off Broadway credits include book and lyrics for The Mad Ones and Henry and Mudge. Regional credits include Father and Daughter and Imaginary Love, and the musicals Justice, Earthrise, and Rosie Revere, Engineer and Friends. She also wrote A Killer Party, which happened digitally during COVID. Her immersive house party, the Bad Years, which she wrote the book in lyrics for, had two sold out Pop-Up Productions in Brooklyn. She also just worked on The Great Gatsby that had its world premier at Paper Mill Playhouse. She won the Cleban Award for Libretto, Jonathan Larson Award for Lyric Writing, Most Promising Lyricist Award from the Theatre Hall of Fame. She's just like, endless, and has written a ton of musicals. She and I worked together at TheatreWorks USA on her adaptation of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Friends, and so one of the reasons why we wanted to talk to her is because she has I have a vast experience doing adaptations of books to musicals. Here's Kait Kerrigan. How are you doing?

Kait Kerrigan:

I'm good!

Jason Blitman:

like The busiest musical theater gal at the moment. I can't

Kait Kerrigan:

I don't know if that's true, but it's we're in a little lull right now. So it's not too crazy. We'll see what happens.

Jason Blitman:

for joining us. I was like, Oh, we should talk to, you're like the queen of Adaptations from books.

Kait Kerrigan:

I don't know if I'm that, but I've gotten through a couple.

Jason Blitman:

well, currently, and I

Brett Benner:

Current season.

Jason Blitman:

about. Not even just current season, but like you won an award for your adaptation of Henry and Mudge. We work together on your adaptation of Rosie would be your engineer. And Iggy Peck architect and Ada Twist scientist. And now, of course, you just did the adaptation of The Great Gatsby,

Kait Kerrigan:

I'm doing two other, I am doing two other novels.

Jason Blitman:

Yes, of course!

Kait Kerrigan:

one is the lyricist.

Jason Blitman:

Time

Brett Benner:

Time travelers.

Kait Kerrigan:

Oh yeah, that one too. That was a

Jason Blitman:

Wait, that wasn't what

Brett Benner:

Wait. So what are the other?

Kait Kerrigan:

on that.

Brett Benner:

So what are the

Jason Blitman:

so what are you working on?

Kait Kerrigan:

One of them, I don't think I'm allowed to say it out loud yet because it's like pretty early, it's pretty early in the process and the rights are they are happening, but they're like, dealing.

Jason Blitman:

Sure,

Kait Kerrigan:

And and then the other one, and that's, I'm writing lyrics for that, but the other one is based on a French novel that the English title of it is called the heart, but it's it's the French novel is the translation is um, And it's about it's about a transplant that it's like a 24 hour, very fast paced story about a kid who gets killed in a car accident a surfer who gets killed in a car accident. And then there's this race to move his organs to other bodies.

Brett Benner:

Wow. That's amazing.

Jason Blitman:

love that I just called you the queen of adaptations and you were like, no way. And you're like, oh wait, so I'm doing this adaptation and

Kait Kerrigan:

It's funny because I didn't start out doing adaptations. I started out definitely doing the originals. And so

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, super

Kait Kerrigan:

to have discovered. But it is, it's much easier in terms of writing a musical. To write a musical with other people and have it be an adaptation. Because you just have somewhere to start from.

Jason Blitman:

Can you talk a little bit more about

Kait Kerrigan:

I think it's. It's really challenging to start from a completely original idea because you have multiple people working on it. And so if you start from a novel in particular, it puts the composer and the lyricist and the book writer in a place where there's something to start from. There's something to talk about. You can also get a director involved more earlier because you can have conversations about what is this thing and how are we adapting it as opposed to. Let's make something from scratch. So I think it's a really, it's a really exciting way to get other people excited about a project. It also helps to get producers on board because everybody can coalesce, even if it's not famous, they can coalesce around this very simple trajectory of we're trying to do this thing and this has been done in this form. And here are things that here are ways in which it feels like theater. And so you can have a conversation about why. You should adapt it and why it works on stage. That often means like completely changing certain things about it. In that beginning part of the conversation, you can you're being able to say it's like this. And it's not like this in these ways, and you can enumerate them and figure out what the overarching plan of it is. Whereas if you're starting from scratch, you have to make the whole thing first before anybody's going to get involved with you and try to help you make it.

Brett Benner:

Do you have to remove the audience for a moment? And you have an audience built in for the book say, but suddenly you're looking at something as a piece of how do you turn this into another kind of thing while still honoring the book, is there also those fears of could you alienate your audience if they're not seeing what they remember the book being?

Jason Blitman:

Can we use Great Gatsby to talk about that?'cause I think that's a really interesting example.'cause I think it's, it just went into the public domain that in and of itself means it's been around a very long time. People have certain sort of expectations um, feelings, etc. So the process of adapting.

Kait Kerrigan:

Adapting the Great Gatsby has been really interesting and exciting and there's lots of opinions and there's lots of there's lots of People who, it's their favorite book and but at the same time, most people, when you dive a little bit deeper into that, the last time they read it was in college or it was maybe in high school.

Jason Blitman:

I read it in high school.

Kait Kerrigan:

yeah, and, maybe you read the entire thing, but I have a theory that most people who say they love The Great Gatsby read the first two thirds. And things happen in the last third of the book that are pretty shocking. And it was really wild to experience audiences with the piece and hear their expectations of what the piece was going to be that had very little to do with the novel and very much to do with Our love of the jazz era and our love of the Roaring Twenties,

Jason Blitman:

More about

Kait Kerrigan:

generalized feelings about it, and then also these very specific lines and images that matter, that you have to get right. But to actually honor the trajectory and the game of the story, you have to do these other things that surprise the hell out of them. That are, that happen mostly in the last 25 minutes of the show. And the last 40 pages of the book. I don't think a lot of people read. I think they read the last paragraph. But I think that there's some details that get lost. So I think that there's, it's a really interesting line that you're walking. I also think that the job of adapting something is to make something that works in the genre that you're in. And so the rules are different than the rules of a novel. I know we definitely have gotten, and we're trying to figure out how to make, do a better job of it. We've gotten some critique that what we're doing is not as quite as lyrical as the novel is, or as Deep as what the novel is, but I don't know how we could do that because we're not in a novel. I can't think of a single movie or show that is as deep as a novel because novels. Thrive in nuance and musicals do not musicals are not good at nuance. And so as much as something that actually

Brett Benner:

I don't know. When that helicopter came in on Saigon, that was subtle.

Kait Kerrigan:

Yeah, so it's something that I'm obsessed with the idea of ambivalence, the idea of can you create a situation where somebody wants something desperately and then wants the opposite exact opposite thing, but you can't have. both at the same time on stage. It's not possible for an actor to portray. On the other hand, you can give round three dimensional characters in a way that a novel that's in someone's voice does not have. And so we've been able to mine the characters of, honestly, Gadsby, but also especially for me, Daisy and Jordan and Myrtle, these characters that I think are given a little bit of short shrift and they don't quite make sense in the book. I think we're able to go deeper with those. And that was something that felt really important to me in doing this adaptation. So especially when you're doing something that is in public domain, you have to have a lens, you have to have a goal, you have to have something that you want out of it and that you think is relevant to 2023. And for me, It's connected to talking about class, which was true then and is true now. And it's also talking about that, that like grappling with the American dream. And then the other thing for me was about taking these characters that I felt like Fitzgerald kind of understood but had some really iconic, really beautiful lines and trying to explicate them and make them feel richer and deeper and make you understand what those things. Meant for them as opposed to for Nick as a narrator, because theater isn't very good at I don't enjoy it very much when there's a narrator on stage. I find it to be hard

Brett Benner:

Unless it's into the woods.

Kait Kerrigan:

But then we get to throw him off the bus, like

Brett Benner:

That's exactly right. That's exactly right,

Kait Kerrigan:

Yes.

Brett Benner:

an interesting thing too, because, reading a book is such an intimate experience and your feeling of it, which is theater. It's such a communal experience and you're feeling all of these things together. And it's a much more kind of immediate emotional response where I feel like certainly people love a book and feel passionate about it, but it's because of their feeling within that intimacy. And then suddenly you're sharing this with 600 other people at once and the 30 to 50 people that are on stage or however many,

Kait Kerrigan:

yeah, I felt, I do think that it means that you're talking in much broader, more symbolic, ways and the characters I think on stage often act as chess pieces. They have to each stand for something in a way that's a bit more, again, like less nuanced than in a novel.

Jason Blitman:

I say all the time on this podcast and otherwise, whenever I finish a book, I immediately forget every detail about it. But I don't forget. How it made me feel. And I've been recommending books from the beginning of this year. I couldn't tell you specific details, but I know that they were my favorite because there are nuggets that I'm still thinking about. So it is very interesting that, one could have read The Great Gatsby in high school, remember this deep Um, frankly, probably because it was a piece of literature that we read as young people that just we were able to connect to, and that was, an initial entree to, to the form. But coming to the table of watching something on stage, maybe they did finish the book, but that's not even what they certainly don't remember. So that's very interesting.

Kait Kerrigan:

I had a professor in college who was wonderful, and actually it was my modernism professor, and she described all novels as different kinds of food. I I vividly remember that that Henry James, we were reading What Maisie Knew, and she said, she told us that if we ate, if we read Henry James, we tried to cram it down our throats and read it too quickly over the course of the week, and read it in one day, which was what we did. And I was like, Columbia, this is what we did at Barnard. And, she said if we tried to read it in one sitting, we would hate it and feel. Very ill. Because it was like a very rich chocolate cake. And then she said Ford Maddox Ford was an arugula salad. And I totally, I don't actually remember what food she said the Great Gatsby was, but we did read that in that class. And she was just, it was just a really wonderful way to think of how you read books because you and also how you consume theater. You want it to be consumable in some way. And you want to take it in a certain way.

Jason Blitman:

that's such a fantastic way of thinking about it because at the end of the day it's all edible. It doesn't mean it's at every, it's to everybody's taste. It doesn't mean that it's something you want to eat every day. It doesn't mean you want it. And so

Brett Benner:

Let's be honest. Some of the things should never have been cooked, but go ahead.

Jason Blitman:

well but it's still edible, that's, and so whether or not you should have made it, that's irrelevant because someone wanted to cook it, right? It's such a weird way to put it, but and someone took the time to cook it, so you, there's something to appreciate in the work behind it. I think that's a really fun way to look at it, rather. And then even, a star rating or writing reviews. It's is this something I want to consume all the time or never or whatever? Anyway, it's super fun.

Kait Kerrigan:

I hadn't thought about this connection, but when I think about writing a play specifically or a musical I think about it as a recipe Because you aren't, I don't actually do any of the things. I'm giving you a recipe for how to make it. And then the actors and the director and the designers and everybody are, they're all collaborating on building the thing that actually turns into the edible thing. But I, it's interesting to like, think about those two things as being correlated.

Brett Benner:

I would have a hard time pulling back and being like, yeah, but that's not how I imagined it as I'm constructing. As I'm writing my recipe down, I think that it should be, salted brown butter and not just. Unsalted farm raised

Kait Kerrigan:

Then you should write that into your recipe. You have to, if you want something to happen, you have to write it down.

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Kait Kerrigan:

a really important part of writing recipes. I definitely, I actually have a memory of there, there was when I was doing Henry and Mudge back in the day, I was the book writer and the lyricist, and it was a song I felt very strongly about, and it was a bit of a charm song. It was not necessary in the plot. You could cut it out and Barbara Pasternak, who runs TheatreWorksUSA and is a wonderful dramaturg, was trying to cut the song, which she thought did not have a place in the plot. And the show's an hour long, so I stand by her as a veteran theater maker. But what I did, because I felt very strongly that it was supposed to be there, was that I forced it into the plot. And I made it become An enormous part of the second and like the second half of the show and it was better. But if you want something to be in your show, if it's really important to you, you have to force you have to make it be essential. If you don't have the brown buttered sugar and it's just butter, it's going to taste bad. It's not going to taste right. And the actors and the director are going to have to figure, they might have to figure it out on their own. They might experiment with it. And then you'll be like, I told you, you should put the brown butter in it. Like you gotta brown it. But you have to let them do that experimentation too. And there's moments where they're like, I see why you wanted that. And you're like, yes. And then the other moment. Yeah. but then there's other moments where they do something and you're like No, that's better. Good. Thank you. And I think that specifically being a musical theater writer unless you're somebody who writes all of it and directs all of it and you, I don't know, you're doing one, one person shows, I think the job requires a personality that, or I personally believe that the job requires a personality that does believe that the best idea is on the table and not inside your own brain. I throw out an idea, you throw out an idea, and then we're going to find something else. And that it's always bigger than the thing that you imagined, because It must be because you're only making one portion of it and all of those other influences as long as you can hold on to the things that were important to you and matter to you and you know that you know the things that you have to do, you can come up with something that's much bigger and more magical with a group of people than you can.

Brett Benner:

That's amazing and generous and collaborative and incredible and what it should be. But yeah, great.

Jason Blitman:

Before we let you go, just, you, we were talking about Great Gatsby, you mentioned Henry and Mudge, the vast difference between adapting something based on a novel versus adapting something based on a picture book is so dramatically different, right? You have so much nuance in Multiple hundreds of pages versus, we worked together on an adaptation of Rosie Revere Engineer, which is what 15 pages, something like that with like very little on the page. Can you talk a little bit about the difference and what adapting something from less is more? Maybe

Kait Kerrigan:

In both cases, you're trying to get at the essence of something and that's the thing that you're trying to deliver. But the, with the Great Gatsby, you have a plot that you have to deliver on. And with something that's honestly something that's based on a series. Which is both Rosie Revere Ada Twist, Iggy Peck. There's now Lila Greer, Teacher of the

Jason Blitman:

so many more. Yes,

Kait Kerrigan:

out to Ada Greer Beatty. But but Henry and Mudge especially. It's it's a vibe that you're trying to capture. You're trying to capture a way of communicating a feeling.

Jason Blitman:

Kait, thank you for letting us take up so much of your time. Is there anything that you're looking forward to this coming Broadway season that you should shout out to our people or books that you've read that you loved?

Kait Kerrigan:

know, A book that I'm thinking about a lot that I keep coming back to because it actually is related to The Great Gatsby, but it's new. There's actually two books that are connected to The Great Gatsby that are both They're not exactly adaptations but they're both living in the world of, there's a book by I think his name is Hernan Diaz called Trust, came out I think last year, and

Jason Blitman:

the Pulitzer Prize.

Brett Benner:

Yeah,

Kait Kerrigan:

yes, and it's Really cool and really inventive and surprising and I loved the way that it played with structure and expectation and I had an inkling that it might actually make me understand the bond market in the 1920s because it's really confusing and I was right. And another one that is, I think, a little less well known but you can also find it in an airport bookstore often. I love an airport bookstore. Is called The Chosen

Brett Benner:

chosen and the beautiful.

Kait Kerrigan:

So good! And that's that's from the perspective of Jordan Baker. And Jordan Baker is my own personal I'm, I am the Jordan Baker champion in our adaptation. And it's been really thrilling to watch the number of reviews that call out that character and the number of people who identify with that character, because she is always the character that I've identified with the most. And so to read an entire novel from her perspective that has Passing glances at Gadsby, but is actually focused on a much different world than he is and that book is, it's She is an orphan, but she's also, she's from Vietnam and it's so plausible and interesting, but has its own lens and is not the great Gadsby. But I think that book is really beautiful.

Jason Blitman:

Thank you for being here. It'd be great to be able to tell someone to go buy tickets to something that you're working on, but I assume there's nothing that's

Kait Kerrigan:

You know, there's

Jason Blitman:

right now.

Kait Kerrigan:

Nothing concrete yet where everything's, I had a very busy 2023 and there's no concrete thing to do in 2024 yet but if people are curious, they can they can follow BWAYGatsby on Instagram or I think on TikTok, I'm not on TikTok, but we are, it's a pretty, it's a pretty fun, it's a pretty fun follow and there's definitely that's where any new information will come out.

Jason Blitman:

Congrats on that. Congrats on Time Traveler's Wife. Congrats on the projects that you're not really supposed to be talking about yet.

Kait Kerrigan:

people can, buy tickets to the Time Traveller's Wife if they're British or they're going to the UK.

Jason Blitman:

Amazing! So go see The Time Traveler's Wife if you're in the UK and we'll, everyone will keep a lookout on social media for any, anything else that we should know about.

Kait Kerrigan:

Awesome.

Brett Benner:

Have a good rest of your

Jason Blitman:

of your day. You too.

Brett Benner:

All right.

Kait Kerrigan:

Bye.

Jason Blitman:

Thanks so much, Kait.

Brett Benner:

Merri Sugarman, she's a casting director, which is the next part of this process. She wrote a book called from craft to career, a casting director's guide for the actor. Merri was initially an actress from Les Mis, Aspects of Love. She found herself in LA, where she quickly made a name for herself at Lieberman Hirschfeld Casting, where we met. Working on set shows as Seinfeld, HBO's Band of Brothers, and the feature film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, to name a few. Following that, at DreamWorks Studio, Merri was the casting executive in charge of TV pilots and series, after her years in L. A., Merri moved back to New York City to coach one on one with actors, something she loves and still does as time permits. It was then that Tara Rubin offered her a senior casting director position, in which she cast the Broadway and touring companies of Ain't Too Proud, Jersey Boys, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, School of Rock, Miss Saigon, and A Bronx Tale. Off Broadway work includes the musicals Clueless and Trevor, the lyric opera Chicago, The Goodman, and The Old Globe are among the many regional theaters Merri works with. She is a very proud casting director of the web series Submissions Only and is currently casting the new production of The Who's Tommy. Here's Merri.

Jason Blitman:

Here's Merri.

Brett Benner:

Hello, Merri.

Merri Sugarman:

May I just say, you're actually, I put some lipstick on, and I might have given my hair a little attention first time in about two weeks

Brett Benner:

Wow. For people who don't know, for our audience who don't know, can you give a little what is your log line of your book? And also what made you decide to write it?

Merri Sugarman:

So the book is called From Craft to Career, and I've been thinking about writing it for years maybe a solid decade. I started when I was 22, thinking about it. And Really, what happened is, two years before the pandemic, it was New Year's Eve. I woke up very hungover the next day and I met up with a bunch of friends here in New York for brunch and I was on some sort of a rant about all of the things that actors could control that they did not know that they could control. And my writing partner, Tracy Moss. Was there and she was like, maybe you should write that down. It seems like it's valuable information and that people would pay good money to have it like from somebody who actually has some experience. And I thought Oh, it's three pages, you can control this and I didn't really think much of it. And she pressed it and ultimately said, I just said I don't. I'm not a writer. And she, who has an English lit degree, and by the way, who I know because she was Andrew Harrison Leeds guardian on the Les Mis tour when I was still acting and he was playing little Gavroche said to me, I know you. We've been friends for almost 25 years. I know your voice. Why don't you speak it and I'll write it. So I started talking and I talked and talked and then we did write obviously together. But once I realized that she was actually interpreting my voice. where it actually sounded like me when you read it. I thought, oh, because I felt like that would be the only way that the book would work. Like it couldn't be too dry and it couldn't be too educational. And it had to have just the right amount of things sprinkled in that would keep people interested, not just information, but stories and. Mostly because I wanted to make sure that they trusted me, that they actually felt like I knew what I was talking about. And so we started writing it and honestly it's what is it like 72 pages? We're not talking. It's not like cancer research here, but like it took me, almost five and a half years to finish it because I have, two other full time jobs with teaching and casting. When the pandemic came, one of the only upsides to it was that we had time to write, and that's how it happened, and the logline for the book, when people ask me what it's about, I say that it's About demystifying the casting process all across like film, television and theater. And, we also talk a lot about self taping and my own philosophies about certain things about work ethic there's a whole chapter for parents who have, children who are interested in pursuing the arts. Saying what I think people don't know and also answering questions that they don't know to ask

Jason Blitman:

Sure. It's surprising to me to hear you say you needed to make sure people trust you, because anyone who looks at your bio would think, oh, this person knows what they're talking about. So I frankly appreciate the modesty because I think so many people think that they don't have anything to say. And so for you, who has. Pages of a resume. I think one would think, Oh, she knows what she's talking about,

Merri Sugarman:

You know what it is, I never questioned that I knew whether I knew what I was talking about. What I questioned was, there's a lot of product out there, and there are frankly a lot of people who know what they're talking about. But, And frankly, a lot of casting directors who started as actors. So I don't feel like I'm particularly special in that regard. But I will say that when I'm casting, I feel like something that I bring to the room is almost PTSD about the vulnerability of auditioning. That's like it was yesterday. So I feel like I do know what you gotta tap into to make a person comfortable enough to do good work, right?

Jason Blitman:

Our demographic isn't necessarily performers but I do think the sort of big picture casting process, how you quote unquote walk into a room, literally, metaphorically, etc. I think can really help shape your day to day life. And I think your story, the story in general A, I think can really translate into being a human. But B, I think a lot of folks don't actually know what happens between the germination of a project to the final product. So if you could, so

Merri Sugarman:

It's

Jason Blitman:

share with us what that journey is

Merri Sugarman:

yeah, I once said to an actor you don't think like that. I like sprung to life, fully formed, like sitting behind this table. Like I didn't just get in the shower and come sit here. Like I actually prepared for this audition. But anyway i'd like to say that it's like this amazing special job that I do But in the same way that I talk about in the book like your audition is an interview if you are asking yourself a question about your Actions and reactions and how you should dress and how you should prepare you might want to ask yourself what you would do in a regular interview situation and a lot of that will translate, it is a job interview and there are ways to lead with the stuff that's going to make people want to work with you and that's very separate right philosophically anyway from the actual work at hand.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, sure. I always said I want to work with the people who I like, not necessarily the most talented person in the room.

Merri Sugarman:

And even more so now.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. So can you tell us like, okay, there's a new Broadway show coming to town and they're looking for, like, how does it start? What is the very beginning? And you get a phone call saying, Hey, we want you to cast this show. How does, what does that process like?

Merri Sugarman:

So basically, you know, I'm offer only now. That's not true if I want something and I just go after it. But yeah, we got a call and we'll make a deal right with the producers to do the job. The first thing that I do is read the script, if there is a script, listen to the music, if there's music, if we're at the point where I'm doing it, there's something, like whether it's going to be for the regions or it's going to be a tour and then it's going to come to Broadway or it's going straight to Broadway and I will send a quick email just to say, do you have any prototypes? Are there any absolutes that are non negotiable for these characters? And I'll talk to the music director if it's a musical and just say, can we talk about ranges for these characters? And that's really it. And then,

Jason Blitman:

Can you, unpack what you mean by prototypes?

Merri Sugarman:

Oh, sure. A prototype is yeah, I want this to be a a Merri Sugarman type, not Merri Sugarman.

Jason Blitman:

Sure.

Brett Benner:

Right.

Merri Sugarman:

Or I want this to be, I want her to be, have the feel of Jessica Chastain and the voice of Patti LuPone, like that. And then I sit down and I make lists, right? I go through all of my files that I have historically of people that I keep track of. I have that digitally as well as touchy, feely, in file cabinets, pictures and resumes. I just brainstorm with myself and everybody else in the office and I Put together lists that also come with pictures and resumes and clips That I can find of people and the next thing I do is I go to a concept meeting which is very much the same as you do, you know in film and television and everybody talks about what it is ideally that they're hoping for that has actually turned into a much bigger conversation now because the net is being cast so much wider, we're in this amazing moment for different shapes and sizes and colors and ages and then there's also the layer of conversation about, does this actor have to have a lived experience in order to play this part?

Brett Benner:

And

Merri Sugarman:

a lot of talking. Yeah, and gender. And so there's a lot of talking about that. And then I talked to equity about what kind of a contract this is going to be and discuss what their requirements are. I'm not actually allowed to set up any appointments for auditions, not even pre screens, whether it's via videotape or in person until I've done equity required calls.

Jason Blitman:

The actors union.

Merri Sugarman:

That's right. The theater actors union. And we set those up and we get those notices out. Those notices go out over a thing called breakdown services, and they are placed as ads in trade papers and actors, especially actors who don't have representation. Can go to those auditions, whether they're equity or non equity, although I might not have time to see the non equity people, but they can drop off or they can maybe slide into an empty slot or a canceled slot. Once

Brett Benner:

the requirement? what is the requirement? for how many days or how long do you have to do that to fulfill their?

Merri Sugarman:

on the type of contract. For a Broadway show, it's usually three days of equity principal auditions, which is where people will come in and either do a monologue or sing a song. They are allowed three minutes in the room and just casting has to be there for that. Most people prefer to sign in and try and get a slot for that because they get more time in the room. Although, I am a believer, and I did put this in my book, that it might be better, even though you have less time in the room, to show up to a chorus call for singers and or a chorus call for dancers, because in those required calls, you must have certain people with certain titles from the creative team, who might have a little more casting power than I have later on. So we do those. Now this doesn't mean I'm not already setting up for my appointments, which will happen later. And usually I do a day of prescreens from people. I kept in mind from the chorus calls and the EPAs, the equity required calls and then we do callbacks from those usually just with me, but this time with material from the show, then we do callbacks from those with what we call like the B team or the associate team. Associate Director, Associate Music Director, Associate Choreographer, and then we bring the full team in, and then we have final callbacks. Before the final callbacks, we usually do what we call, you do it too, a work session whether it's musically or choreographically, or just with the scene work. And then we have our callbacks, but you know in the midst of all of that I need to hire studios and accompanists and readers and We need to have special rooms if there are fancier people coming in so that they're not in the same situation with other people and sometimes i'm just doing a general so the director and I will go have a cup of coffee with somebody who might be able to do the show, but wouldn't be somebody who would be auditioning.

Jason Blitman:

casting experience was brief, but for four and a half years, I was at TheatreWorksUSA, and prior to that, never understood why a casting director would be thanked. In a bio. And now I'm like, I pushed for you. I got you that job. I started your career, and not to be that dramatic about it, but I don't think people realize.

Brett Benner:

Every casting director feels that inside, by the way.

Jason Blitman:

No, of course. Now I

Brett Benner:

Whether they admit it or not, they do. And more often than

Merri Sugarman:

our existence,

Brett Benner:

And more often than not, people don't acknowledge it, especially in the West Coast of things. I see it much more in theater. They're always thanking their casting directors. I think there's more of a, there's a different kind of relationship that happens. I think because you're in the room and because of what they're doing, versus television, you're never, you're almost never thanked.

Jason Blitman:

Merri, you talked about these pre screens, you talked about work sessions. And I think what the sort of general audience doesn't necessarily realize or understand is the casting director is teeing these actors up for success. to be put in front of the creative team for a final callback. And so the idea of somebody coming in and singing eight bars of a musical theater song because they were, they showed up at five o'clock and that was the, they like walked in to do their thing. And you're like, Oh wow, this person is incredible. And you see something in them because you have X number of years of experience. And then you bring them in for a pre screen where it's one on one with you and you really work with them. And you're like, okay, my instinct was right. They have something in them, nobody knows who this person is, they're fresh off a TheaterWorks USA tour, and

Merri Sugarman:

Yeah. I think also what I'm finding and what a lot of people are talking about that has resonated with them in the book, which is so interesting to me is that one thing that I that is important to know is that I would also like to work again. So I want my sessions. to be packed with like amazing talent and people and be able to go to my creatives and say I'm so excited for today's session. I do not get hired again if I keep showing the same people over and over again and I do not get hired again if I don't have, I mean look, we all have crap sessions, but I mean I'm not getting hired again if I'm not consistently thinking outside the box, but also tuning into, I call it ugly sweater syndrome. Like when you have to buy your sister in law, like a really ugly sweater for Christmas, but it's going to make her happy, even though it pains you. Not like I'm bringing in people who I think are untalented, but look, we all have different tastes. But what I was saying is I think when people realize that I have something at stake as well, Of course, I, I, it seems very cliche when actors hear the casting directors are pulling for you and they only want you to do good and they're, but there's a re, we, that's true. And it's selfish because I want it to be a huge success for me.

Jason Blitman:

And you also don't want to sit through a bad

Brett Benner:

That's exactly right. And you want to move on and go to the next thing and the next rule. And it's a lot of shit to accomplish and you've got to accomplish that in a timely manner there is nothing better than to hear after a session. That was a great. Group of people, even if somebody, that group of people didn't necessarily, and the answer was there or whatever, still to hear that means, okay, I'm doing this correctly. I have the, I have good taste. I have, that's what you want.

Merri Sugarman:

It's everything. You're so right.

Jason Blitman:

You said something about not bringing in the same actors over and over again, but there is something to be said about championing actors who you do see something in and you know the right fit will come eventually. And so it is navigating to, okay, come in for this project and don't sing that song you've been singing, sing this other thing instead, because this is what they're looking for. And it's really sort of that granular that I don't think people quite realize. It's not dissimilar from recommending books, frankly. That's, it's such a silly way to boil it down.

Merri Sugarman:

it's totally true.

Jason Blitman:

But you're talking about reputation, and I think Brett and I, while we're doing this, it's we have people who are listening to our recommendations, and if they read a book that they don't like, that reflects back on us. That said, we don't like every book that other people like. We don't like every book that each other likes.

Merri Sugarman:

Oh, and that's like the best point ever. I was just talking to Julie Benko, who's the standby for leah. Oh, and she has been the standby For Fanny Bryce, since the very, very beginning. And I saw her the other night and she's like, Oh my God, in my cabaret show., I'm talking about how you basically dressed me for my final callback for Les Mis with Cameron McIntosh. And I was like, Oh yeah, I think I literally was like, you can't wear that. Now would never do that. Different climate. It's a different I would never. But I only bring it up because we do have our fingers and little, quiet corners that actually make a difference. It's like when somebody says, We can't make a deal with LaChanze, we have to move on. And I'm like, you can make a deal with her, and they'll be like, we don't have any more money, we just I was like, so you could even maybe go a little bit lower if you throw in two round trip tickets so her kids can visit her during the run. Do you know what I mean? That's kind of stuff that casting directors may or may not, but may know that we are really involved from soup to nuts.

Jason Blitman:

Because there is this intimate experience with the performer in the room that is not the same as the creative team.

Merri Sugarman:

Which is why it's so traumatizing when people have to approve a cast or an actor via videotape or via a digital link, same thing, when they haven't actually seen what I've seen, which is the actor go through the audition process and see how much they've grown and get to know them as a human being and make a decision on three minutes when I'm making my decisions on 10 hours of work.

Jason Blitman:

And you know they sound so differently in the room versus on a tape,

Brett Benner:

10 hours of work preceded by five years of a relationship, seeing them do another 10 hours of work.

Jason Blitman:

So what's it like casting what continuing to cast a long running show? A show like Phantom of the Opera. a required audition every six months for 35 years. That's crazy.

Merri Sugarman:

that's right. And also that was a different animal because there's a whole world of ballet that like you don't have in other shows, there are ballet calls. I'm looking in places like ABT and ballet Hispanico. And that was a whole different thing. But yeah, there's never really not something to do on a long running show. And that's also where you realize Oh, if I had. a full rehearsal process to put this person in, they'd get the job, but I only have 10 days because this person broke their leg and they just had to give their notice and we don't know if they're coming back and this person will be able to learn it faster. Or I'm casting a reading and it's I know this person's better for the part, but I have to have somebody who sight reads.

Brett Benner:

Knowing all this. So then realistically, how many projects can you handle at once without wanting to blow your brains out?

Merri Sugarman:

I'm the point person on five projects, and that those are my regional shows, or my Broadway shows that has nothing to do with the readings and the workshops and the labs and all of that. But. There are 11 people at my office so I have an associate and an assistant on everything and sometimes I'm like, you're gonna have to run the room at Les Mis today because I have to be at Ain't Too Proud

Brett Benner:

the fact that you're still in it while giving this information is amazing because you're out there and you're a part of it. So you can speak firsthand versus some of these things, which were written 20 years ago

Merri Sugarman:

it's nice to hear that because there's a part of me that's a little bit worried. You know what I mean? I am a person of a certain age. Yes. Of a certain, a modicum. of experience, of course, of course, I want to be relevant. Of course, I'm thinking in two years, I might need to do a revised version or a book too because of things that have changed. And also I really wanted to make sure that it was practical, and I There are certain topics that I chose to stay away from because I felt like it was not ever going to be a win situation, things that are really subjective, but I talked about everything and anything that could possibly come up. And again, I also realized like, it's not war and peace, right? Not going to be able to find in there if you have a question as far as guidance and that's what I'm really proud about.

Brett Benner:

that's

Jason Blitman:

and that totally comes across, from craft to career, a casting director's guide for the actor by Merri Sugarman. This has been so fun.

Brett Benner:

Mayor, I'm so proud of you and I'm so happy that you came on with us today. I really appreciate it. I love you too.

Jason Blitman:

And now we have the fantastic Matthew chiseling. Uh, Matt has worked for a decade in the professional theater space as a marketer producer, ticketing manager and strategist. He is currently a senior director of campaign marketing at today. Ticks group, a technology company in the performing arts space. Matt is an avid reader and runs an Instagram account called. mattyandthebooks. And we are so excited to partner with him and today techs on today's episode. So if you go to todaytix.com/gaysreading, you can get a discount on top of the already incredibly discounted tickets over at today, techs. So go check it out, download the app and check out todaytix.com/gaysreading. Here is Matty in the books. M Matty in the books.

Brett Benner:

Well Matty

Jason Blitman:

us today. Do you prefer Matty?

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

It's my pen name, no I don't mind, whatever,

Jason Blitman:

Very secret.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

It made it made great sense when I was trying to come up with a, an Instagram handle name. I was like, what will be a fun kind of a hook, a name that people will forget? And I, of course,

Jason Blitman:

That people will forget or that people

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

and people will not forget, excuse, no, people will forget, please, like this face no, I I must have been recently listening to Benny and the Jets because I was like, oh, Matty in the books.

Brett Benner:

Matty and the books.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

right? And I was like, and everyone will totally know what this means. And of course, over the last three, whatever years, four people are like, Oh, like Benny and the Jets. And I'm like, I did it for you. I did it for the four of you.

Brett Benner:

I love. So no, I was going to say, we're so happy you're here today because we wanted to talk to you because this whole episode around surrounding books and Broadway And it's just fortuitous that, tell us a little bit about Matty. You work for today's ticks.

Jason Blitman:

Tix.

Brett Benner:

today ticks. Thank you. We'll cut that matter. You work for today ticks. Tell us a little about today. Ticks. We'd love to know more about it.

Jason Blitman:

Are you sponsoring this episode?

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Apparently

Brett Benner:

going to. Yes

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Um,

Jason Blitman:

of kickback do we get?

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

yeah use code gaze reading in bio or whatever it might be. Yeah, I TodayTix is an amazing, it's an amazing app and website that it serves as a cultural concierge in a whole bunch of cities all over the globe primarily focused on bringing you the best of, Broadway, the West End anything beyond that, dance, opera unforgettable experiences we sell all kinds of events, really and really focus on high value opportunities we have a lot of Our signature access programs, like our Russian Lottery programs, which allow people to get into high profile shows at a very low price. For example, Rush

Jason Blitman:

lottery. Not Russian lottery.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Doesn't Russian Lottery sound like the great name of a National Book Award winning novel, like Russian

Brett Benner:

Yes. The Russian lottery

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

all over the airport, in every airport kiosk.

Brett Benner:

Or Broadway show with Josh Groban.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

there you go. We, we for example currently run a ticket lottery for every performance of Merrily Roll Along with Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groth, Lindsey Mendez. We host an annual lottery for free Shakespeare in the Park which we do with the Public Theater. It's a really, it's a really fun place to work. It's I like to brag, really, that my job that my hobby is professionally, recommending books, but that in my work life, I get to recommend theater and cultural events.

Jason Blitman:

And on today's episode of Gay's Reading, you get to do both!

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

hey! Yeah, baby!

Brett Benner:

But I'm bump.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Yeah so do, shameless plug because they do pay my bills, but please do go download the TodayTix app and go check out what's in your local market that you didn't know you needed to experience. But what do we want to talk about today?

Jason Blitman:

There, it's not uncommon for there to be film Adaptations, or musical adaptations from films, or even musical adaptations, play adaptations from books, but I feel like this year we're seeing a crazy treasure trove of them. Some off the top of my head are The Notebook, The Outsiders, Water for Elephants, Cabaret, which of course is based on a book that a lot of people don't necessarily think about, and a film. There are also so many adaptations of The Great Gatsby right now because it's recently in the public domain. Which I don't think we've really seen since The Wild Party. In a high profile.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

A true competitive race to the main stage

Jason Blitman:

yes, exactly. So it's just like a really interesting sort of year for big titles, right? Like the notebook, huge brand, the outsiders, huge brand, water for elephants, huge brand, great Gatsby, huge brand, and like cabaret, obviously. A time tested revival, it's something that people are very familiar with. If you could maybe talk, A, if there's anything that I missed, or B, things that you're, like, excited about, or inside scoop, or, whatever.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Yeah, I think there's a good reason for that, right? It's been a, it's been an interesting couple of years on Broadway and in commercial theater, trying to get audiences back. People are being really thoughtful about how they spend their money. And they want to make sure they're having high entertainment, high, high quality entertainment experiences. And there's something very comforting about familiar source material, right? There's a reason why we watch the same sitcoms on a loop and I'm doing my 30 Rock rewatch right now. There's a, you want to know that at a certain base level there, you're going to. You're going to enjoy some elements of it. And I think when we look at these adaptations, whether they're film to stage or or book novel to stage or whatever it might be, there's a commercial appeal to that fact that people will inherently know something about it and have some sort of tie. Not just when they go and see it, but also when they recommend it to their friends and family, that they have a clear hook on why they liked it and why they valued it. I think it's something that we don't often talk about when we think through, like why. Why certain things that have commercial or adaptation kind of backgrounds tend to work in, in, on the main stage. And, it's funny, I was doing, I was scrolling through today, Tix, Shameless Club 2. 0. Before this chat, just to pull kind of the list of everything that's happening. And Jason, you're so right. There's, this spring in particular, there's a whole bunch, there's a whole bunch of them. Water for Elephants, which I know was just playing in Atlanta to great acclaim. And I'm personally really excited about given the circus elements that they're bringing to the stage. I think for those who've read that book and love that book, you're going to really see that come to life. When it makes it to Broadway in the spring. Of course, The Outsiders, total classic, as you pointed out. And who could possibly forget The Notebook with the music by Ingrid Michelson for the main stage. I did not see that when it was in Chicago, but people absolutely adored it. And I'm highly confident it will do very well in New York. But this fall there's some stuff too, Teresa Rebeck who is both a playwright and a novelist she has a new play opening this fall on Broadway called I Need That, starring Danny DeVito and you may think of her as a singer songwriter first, but Melissa Etheridge also just published a new memoir essay collection. She's got a residency on Broadway this fall. That I think is a companion to that work.

Brett Benner:

Don't cry out loud,

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

that's Melissa Manchester.

Brett Benner:

that's it. Oh my God. Wow. What a

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

about, we're talking about Come to My Window.

Brett Benner:

Oh no. Melissa Etheridge. Yes. Yes.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

So she's on Broadway this fall. And then also in the spring, just saying we're on the subject of adaptations in the public domain.

Jason Blitman:

Wait, but back to Melissa Manchester for one second, because she's relevant, too, because she is currently starring in the national tour of Funny Girl.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

yes, she is. Yes, she is. You were, she was like channeled in your

Jason Blitman:

Exactly.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

All the Melissa's in the theater space. I was just gonna, I was gonna just say the one for the spring that we know that's coming in on the subject of important adaptations in the public domain is that The Wiz is returning to Broadway, which

Jason Blitman:

the Wiz, that's the one I forgot.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Deborah Cox, baby! Deborah Cox, Wayne Brady! There's some big stuff happening. But yes it is a big season for the Blockbuster titles and it's not so common that you have all the musicals rallying in that same time period. I did also, I was pulling out other stuff. That has bookish inspiration, of course, and did not want to forget about Gutenberg, which is the the new musical starring Andrew Rannells and Josh Gaddory.

Jason Blitman:

The

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

But, call that out, because without a, of course, self referential musical about Gutenberg without a Gutenberg himself, we would not have a printing press. After all he is the book daddy we didn't know we needed and there is a wild musical about his about his life that is on Broadway with some very funny folks involved.

Jason Blitman:

Daddy, we didn't know we needed.

Brett Benner:

thought that was me.

Jason Blitman:

just going to say, Brett is suddenly disappointed.

Brett Benner:

SUddenly my screen goes black.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

You are the book daddy we knew we needed, but Gutenberg is the one we didn't

Brett Benner:

my God. Oh, my God. The save is so brilliant. the save was so brilliant.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Thank you. Thank

Jason Blitman:

I was going to say the book. I was going to say the book, Grandpa.

Brett Benner:

Oh, my. I know at this rate. Yes. Yes, exactly. Exactly. With all the twinks of

Jason Blitman:

Though, it's interesting, Matt, that you bring up Teresa Rebeck and Melissa Etheridge as people who have written books who are either going to be on Broadway or have plays on Broadway, because I wasn't really thinking about that, right? Jen Silverman is an author and a playwright and like she has a new book coming out in the spring and hasn't had a Broadway show but like still someone in the theater world who crosses over into the book world and who we should have on our radar in the zeitgeist right now.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

And let us not forget one R. Eric Thomas.

Jason Blitman:

Our Eric Thomas!

Brett Benner:

love him so much. Love him so much.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

plays. Not only is he, I mean he's just great at everything he does, isn't he? But, yeah, he's also got great stage work. Yeah, it happens a lot. Oh my god, why am I Julia May Jonas, of course, of Vladimir fame, infamy, whatever you want to call

Jason Blitman:

Is she a playwright?

Brett Benner:

I didn't know that. Wow. I love that book. I love that book. One of the most iconic covers from the last couple of years, I have to say.

Jason Blitman:

speaking of cover I know, it just was it was at Brad's nightstand for about three weeks. cause he was reading it.

Brett Benner:

Trying to reproduce the cover.

Jason Blitman:

speaking of cover,

Brett Benner:

since we are a book podcast, ultimately, do you have any books that you're reading or you want to shout out that you've stuff that you've loved lately or looking forward to?

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Yeah. So I just finished the paleontologist by

Brett Benner:

can't wait.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

I Absolutely adored it. Luke wrote A History of Fear that was published last year. It

Brett Benner:

So

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

very, yeah, very dark, Scottish murder thriller. Very queer. The Paleontologist is giving it gives all the Simone St. James vibes. It's a thriller with strong supernatural elements about a a gay man. He is a he's a director of paleontology at a museum in the town he grew up in and it happens to be the same location as where his younger sister was kidnapped 30 years earlier, uh, just like a really It was genuinely scary there are dinosaur ghosts for those craving that in your lives but also just an

Jason Blitman:

know you were craving that in

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

or didn't know you were craving dinosaurs uh, but just a very it wrapped up as a very beautiful story about the power of family in Chosen Family, especially those who grew up in situations that are a little rougher than the rest just really caught me off guard at the end, but was like wildly entertaining and a well layered mystery. I think it it's really special and it's like great for, all the Halloween vibes. Just read that, love that. I will never miss a chance to shout out Sarah Flannery Murphy. I also recently that's her new one that came out this past July,

Jason Blitman:

What's her book called?

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Wonder State.

Jason Blitman:

Wonder State. The one you cut out on, so I wanted to make sure I heard it correctly.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Let's try this again. I will never miss a chance to shout out Sarah Flannery Murphy and her new novel, The Wonder State. Which is it's out now. That's a really beautiful story about almost weirdly thinking about the outsiders, about the communities we build as young adults, and how we hold those really dear as we grow up it's a great supernatural mystery about a group of friends in a hometown and one of them goes missing in adulthood, uh, and navigating that that relationship as they all return home and there's some, messed up shit that happens. But I love that. And then,

Brett Benner:

I will say I read Girl One because of you, her previous book, because you loved that. And it was so good. It's also great on audio.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

everyone listening to this who has not read Girl 1 go, go make that happen. It is, it's my favorite book. It was my favorite book of the year. The year I read it, which of course was 2021. I am staring at my copy, which is a forward cover facing on my bookshelf. But

Jason Blitman:

cover facing. You gotta love a book to make it forward cover

Brett Benner:

really, that's a lot of retail space.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

a lot of retail space.

Jason Blitman:

Anyway, this is all fun. Is there anything else like Broadway adaptation related that I feel like we should talk about? Do you have a favorite book to musical, book to play adaptation?

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Do I have a favorite book to stage adaptation?

Jason Blitman:

This comes

Brett Benner:

Jellicle cats.

Jason Blitman:

one. It doesn't

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

you know what? Help me out for being the kind of girly I am. But there's something about Wicked for me. Always has, always will be. And even though the novel is not my favorite, the, I actually really appreciated the perspective. I read the, I saw the show and then read the novel and really. Really appreciated what Gregg and McGuire did with the novel even if that wasn't what I,

Brett Benner:

Sure.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

even if the things I actually loved more are what they, glossed up for the um, yes I don't pick favorites, but yeah, there's something about Wicked. I've seen Wicked a

Jason Blitman:

have to be a favorite. It could be something that meant something to you and that's okay too.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

and Wicked's about to celebrate their 20th anniversary which just speaks to the legacy of that it's really exciting

Jason Blitman:

It'll be fun to have Wicked and The Wiz on Broadway at the same time.

Matthew Chisling aka mattyandthebooks:

Yes, indeed. Indeed. The ultimate, it's Barbenheimer, but for Bommenheimer, L. Frank Bommenheimer, and you go and see Wicked and the Wiz. Okay, that's what we're doing. The three of us are gonna meet up in New York, and we're gonna have L. Frank Bommenheimer, Wicked and the Wiz.

I don't know if I'm upset that I didn't think of that first or upset because that's going to be the best day of our life. That is genius. Um, Matt, thank you so much for being here. All of our guests today, really? I mean, Kait Kerrigan Merri Sugarman Matt Chisling. an embarrassment of riches.

Jason Blitman:

You're rock stars. We adore you. Thank you for joining us today. Go check out a Broadway show. go listen to a Broadway show, read a book, and imagine what it would be like as a musical follow us on Instagram, go find us on Patreon, you can order the books that we talked about on our bookshop. org page, and as I said earlier in the episode, get discounted tickets and an additional discount because you are a gaze reading listener at todaytix. com slash gaze reading. And

Brett Benner:

Next week is our last episode

Jason Blitman:

next week for our final episode of the season. Have a great rest of your day, everyone. Bye. Broadway.

Brett Benner:

I'm sorry that you're going to have to cut all that together,

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