Tiz the season for new musical plays and events. The advent of Stonewall at 50 brings exciting projects: The Fresh Fruit Festival will present the new HARVEY MILK musical, HERE TO RECRUIT YOU, as part of their summer fest. Robert Hofmann comes to America for the first time with his hilarious tour-de-force WHAT THE FANDANGO as a benefit performance in the West Village. AND … opening the fall 2019 season is the much-heralded musical reminiscent of “Merrily We Roll Along” but tempered and fashioned for the 21st century millennial artist and audience. THE GREEN ROOM brings good old musical comedy into a more mature and mindful light. It’s the story of four friends who want to NOT be on Broadway – but want to take the more intellectual OFF-Broadway by storm.
THE GREEN ROOM make its New York Premiere SEPTEMBER 25th – OCTOBER 27th at one of the original theaters that brought about the storied off-off Broadway movement, THE AMERICAN THEATRE OF ACTORS (314 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019). Director Jessica Jennings brings a new level of clever staging and character chemistry to this long-awaited piece that scored mondo-kudos in California. THE GREEN ROOM premiered in Los Angeles to standing ovations, shortly after the show’s premiere at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse as part of their Civic Light Opera Season. Since this production, the show has played around the United States, Canada and as far as Ireland.
The visionary Miller-Coffman Productions serves as producer of the NY bow. Ai had the good fortune to speak with producer, Stephen Miller, about guiding this musical ship into New York.
Tell us about you and M-C Prod.
Miller-Coffman Productions exists to produce professional theater works in New York City, and to share the joys of theater with everyone, including but not limited to atypical students who may be excluded from mainstream outings and theatre opportunities. The vision is to deeply impact our audiences in a way that cultivates empathy and fellowship for all humans. To make the world a kinder place, and more welcoming for anyone who feels they are unwelcome or relegated to the outskirts of society. To produce accessible theater works at the higher level of artistry, with incredible detail to sets, costumes, props and historical accuracy. Miller-Coffman productions is a producer of both known and new work, both plays and musical, surreal and naturalistic. We create artistic opportunities and collaborations throughout our field, from Off-Off-Broadway to Off-Broadway. The through-line is always compelling stories about a character in crisis who surmounts their circumstances; produced with highly detailed sets, props and costumes. Miller-Coffman Productions serve the general public and reach teen groups through the High 5 ticketing program. We have many new opportunities coming to fruition of creating performances for Autism-friendly performances. Our first induction into this aspect is planned for the 2019 season with The Green Room – A New Off-Broadway Musical. Our future goal is to produce on Broadway.
To date we have fulfilled upon the company vision by staging five shows that cover a range of characters and circumstances of struggle, from sexual repression, to women’s issues, to racial oppression. Three of our productions have been based on true stories: “Blood Boundary,” about racism in America; “The Cover of Life” about women left home during racism in America “The Cover of Life” about women left home during WWII; and “The Belle of Amherst” about Emily Dickinson. The NYC debut of the comedic musical The Green Room (book by C. Stephen Foster and Rod Damer, Music and Lyrics by Chuck Pelletier is going to be our sixth production and second musical. The Green Room is a comedy about the struggle of actors and socio-economic: young thespians reaching for their dreams and even questioning their sexuality.
What first drew you to GREEN ROOM?
The Green Room was a musical that had something that can be found in musicals out there, but it has so much more than the other musicals that I have seen in our existence. It explores that aspect of the millennial generation that seems to be using us into a world where sexual orientation or the questioning of one’s gender seem fluid in the exploration that is presented. Questioning future plans of life and being handed opportunities that go against your belief, and making a decision that could change the entire course of ones life. Finding love, but is this the love that one is going to be This is all set to songs that tell a story that ties into the aspect of coming together with those in our lives, and creating an accepting community that goes above the rest. This show is for everyone from theater people to people who have never been to the theater before. There is something for everyone in The Green Room. The show opens with the first day of school and ends as the four characters go to the extremes to make their dreams come true. But this is not done without acceptance from everyone, but also the close friendship of the four.
Share with us, your “process.” Meetings, funding, supervision, contracts, etc.
The process behind finding and choosing a script that we’ll sell to the world is a very detailed process. We receive many scripts, and we are very selective behind this because we want the attention to detail needs to be considered. Many shows are incredible, but there is not always that attention to detail. Once the script is chosen, we choose our director, in this case we have chosen world renowned director Jessica Jennings who has been part of our group for the past couple of years. For the purpose of a musical this entails hiring a musical director, which is a process in itself, because we want to have not only the best, but someone who’s personality who matches the musical that we are working with. This is a mistake that many people make, and it can affect the show. We were very lucky in this process when hiring David Fletcher because he is that incredible person, who not only adores the show, but brings something special to the show through his personality and expressive behavior. The casting process is another story all together, because with a show like The Green Room having only four characters, its so difficult in a city like New York City, because there are so many incredibly talented people, and we want to cast everyone, but this is simply not able to be done. With The Green Room is one of those musicals that does not have a huge chorus, huge choreography, the show is focused on the characters and the stories focused within. So, choosing a cast that is able to be able to present a show of this magnitude was a challenge, but we were very happy when we minimized it down to the four fabulous actors that will be featured — Our heart throb jock – Ryan Farnsworth as John Radford, Our princess – Sami Staitman as Anna Kearns, our geek Eli Douglas LaCroix as Cliff Kearns and our Queen Diva Ariana Valdes as Divonne Bruder. Miller-Coffman production is not a nitpicking type of producer, but we do require to have the team work together, because its very important to us that everyone is very happy. This is part of the attention to detail, because this detail is so important for having a team that is happy, makes the show happier.
You’re opening at an auspicious time… what does your show contribute to the festivities?
With the aspect of Stonewall@50, it brings up a very special piece to why we are doing The Green Room. In 1969, our executive producer’s uncle was on location during this process of the Gay Rights Movement. He was the writer of the acclaimed “The Cover of Life” that we produced last spring in honor of Woman’s History Month. R.T. Robinson (The Cover of Life) died of AIDS in 1994 after the opening of his life dream show that he wrote, which was presented by the Shubert Organization, at the American Theater of Actors. The Green Room brings to life a world of opportunity that can be found within the theater world, and the portrait of characters creating dreams, and working towards the goals of taking those dreams and turning them into reality.
Give us your take on New York theater … with a focus toward indie art.
New York Theater, specifically in the world of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway brings to life theater that is more of a “Risk taking” style which is found in London’s main stage theaters. What makes a great show in this world, is creating a show that is not completely based on tourism to survive, but rather the New York Theater Lifestyle and gives a chance for people to see the smaller budget shows that bring such a level of “chance” taking, because it allows the creators of the show the more artistic side of themselves, with limited resources, while presenting a professional piece of work, and to allow the show to be developed into a more main stream show. But in the world of Off-Broadway many shows are top notch and sometimes outdo Broadway. Because many shows don’t need a huge budget to be presented when the artistic points of view can be presented. Theater is about art and loving what you do, so taking the chance to try something new in the aspect of theater, even without a huge budget is being done for the love of the arts, while making a little bit of money along the way.
Personally, what does the show mean to you?
The Green Room is a personal show to Miller-Coffman Productions because it tells a story that many of us have lived by participating in the theater department of high school, college and beyond. But it also shows the deal love for why we do what we do to present shows, the effort that it takes as an actor to present oneself in a manner that may not match our own personality. Also, the aspect of the LGBTQ community aspect with questioning one’s sexuality and/or gender that is questioned in a tasteful way. But the most important message that this show offers, is the millennial outlook on acceptance in our lives.
Miller-Coffman Productions is currently researching and selecting options for the 2020 season for our MainStage production.. Submissions are being accepted.