This time I mean it . . . my next project is . . .

Ten years ago I had an idea for a show.  I knew what the concept would be.  And I knew who the characters would be.  And that’s about it.

I put about 20 actors in a room and met once a week for three months.  And at the end of that period, we had . . . The Awesome 80s Prom.  The Prom opened a year later, and is now in its 9th year Off Broadway at Webster Hall.

Four years ago I had another idea.

I knew what the story would be.  And I knew who the characters would be.

This time, I started looking for a conventional writing team to put it together.

And to paraphrase Bono (and why wouldn’t I), I just never found what I was looking for.  (An A-list playwright once told me that unlike Hollywood, theater writers rarely wrote someone else’s ideas.)

After a couple of years of searching, I was faced with a decision.  Kill the show.  Or find another way.

Guess which one I did?

The other way that I found was going back to those Awesome 80s roots.  It worked out ok the first time, right?

I cast 13 actor/writers/awesome people in the roles of the “characters” that I had roughed out in my mind.  And we met in a rehearsal room once a month for three months.  We created character histories.  We improvised potential scenes.  We talked structure.  We even went on a field trip to the town in New Jersey where we set the show (we shot some footage of that crazy day – which we will not be showing here for the sake of all involved).

And at the end of the period, out popped:

Garage Band:  The Musical.

And two years later, George Street Playhouse in New Jersey just put Garage Band on their 2013-’14 season!  Yahoo!!!

What’s it about?

Well, about two hours.  (Insert cymbal crash.)

Here’s a quick blurb:

When Mitch Shapiro gets fired from his Wall Street job on his 40th Birthday, he has no choice but to move back in with his mom . . . in New Jersey.  On his first day back, his best friend from high school suggests that they “put the band back together!”  Mitch thinks his buddy is crazy.  But when Tygen Billows, a local real estate mogul and the town d-bag threatens to foreclose on Mitch’s mom unless Mitch agrees to a re-match of their infamous battle of the bands, Mitch realizes he may have no choice.

In other words, it’s a Will Ferrell movie, live on stage.  🙂  (We did a reading of it last year – click here to read the release.)

It’s got a book by me and those 13 other actors (who we refer to as The Grundleshotz – which is a name that derived from a super competitive game of Name Volleyball), and a fantastic rock score by Larson Award winner, Mark Allen.   The rest of the cool creative team will be announced soon.

And it starts performances on September 24th!   Sign up on the starter website to get more info as it comes.

And in the Fall (which ain’t so far away), come and see what 14 of us came up with!  Here’s the article that tells you how to get tickets.

Oh, and by the way, obviously I’m a huge believer in this form of creative collaboration – sometimes it amazes me that one person can come up with distinct and unique characters in a multi-person play/musical.  Hollywood uses multiple writers for a reason – why can’t we?

So if you’ve got an idea and you can’t find anyone else to run with it?

Find people to run with you instead.

– – – – –

Want to hear tunes from the show?  Get the Gettin’ The Band Back Together cast recording!  Download it on iTunes here or order it from Amazon here.

And here’s a quick video clip of the production!

  • Kevin Lambert says:

    Congrats. I remember hearing about this from you a while ago. Can’t wait to see what develops.

  • Malini says:

    YAY! I can’t wait to see what you and Mark have created. It’s great to hear about a project as it develops.

  • Sue says:

    I love it. Except for the use of “d-bag”. Really?? Please get rid of it.

  • Laura says:

    Brilliant! I’d love to know how you found your running mates…

  • Nkiru says:

    Love it! Motivation to keep creating. I have had an idea for a while and just can’t seem to ge tit out. I’ll definitely be applying your tips! THANKS!
    And I definitely can’t wait to see this piece of creative art.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    Ken, it would really helpful to know the collaboration basics – how the rights are divided up? At a guess: Book+Concept 50% KenD’, other 50% of Book The Grundleshotz 13 writers, All Music & Lyrics Mark Allan. But where does (additional material by) Sarah Saltzberg’s cut come from?

    • Solange De Santis says:

      I had some experience with “devised” work in my NYU master’s course and in creating plays with groups of children. It’s a wonderful way to work, but I’m also wondering how the rights work out.

  • Alan Langguth says:

    It always amazes me that two people who don’t even know each other can develop ideas or products that are somewhat similar to each other (although your “battle of the bands” sounds a lot more interesting than mine). I wish you the greatest success with your musical!

  • We have been working on LATTER-DAY (Mormons take note) LITANY for over 10 years, w/shows in Asbury Pk, Bickford Theatre, Morris Museum, Paterson, and 1 night in Manhattan. We are still hoping to get more backers to open it on Nov 1, 2013 (All Saints Day).
    Noted poet and performer John J Trause wrote it, under my direction. Daniel P Quinn, Member, SDC, NYC.

  • Elisa Christina Clayton says:

    I really like your writing strategy! I’m currently writing an original musical and I’ve teamed up with three songwriters. So, I think your strategy also works well for lyric writing and composing in order to achieve character uniqueness and distinction.

  • As someone in the room during the birth of both The Awesome 80s Prom and Garage Band, I can attest to the power of creative collaboration. We did not always agree, but we always laughed, and that was part of the magic-the journey was the destination. Reserve your tickets now!

  • If you want a creative designer/team call!!!!!!!
    Was in a garage band!!!!It can be done great!

  • allen weg says:

    Ken- Saw Gett’n the Band Back Together earlier tonight. I loved it- I mean, really, really loved it- I haven’t had that much fun at the theater in a long time. It was so funny and clever, the songs were GREAT, the voices of all the principles were GREAT, the band (the real one in the back) was GREAT, the choreography was GREAT- are you getting that I liked it? Oh, and I really loved the characters- I cannot imagine any one of the central characters being played any differently. Jay Klaitz and Manu Narayan in particular just swept me away with their performances. Congratulations on this wonderful production. Broadway quality all the way. Thanks for a great (quite surprisingly great for a local theater) evening out!

  • Richard Benjamin says:

    We have been season ticket subscribers to the GSP for many years and have always been pleased with the productions there. We saw the play (musical) last night and feel what we saw is in the top 5 we have ever seen there. Score, music, costume, lighting, color, sound, timing, quality of performance by each person, cleverness of “in” jokes and one use of “meta” theater. Two hours and 10 minutes went by in a flash. Don’t have to be from NJ to enjoy this. The production has “legs” value and I predict it will eventually be produced in other venues. Definately has Broadway/Off Broadway potential. Enjoyed it so much I actually took the playbill home and read it again this morning to reflect upon the various performers and how well they did. Won’t give it away but that one special song in which one friend makes an admission to the other is amazing as was the opening number after the intermission. Very creative use of space throughout.

  • Elie Rosenfeld says:

    Also saw the play last night and *loved* it! Wonderful job!

    Question: Are the song lyrics available anywhere on-line?

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