FOGG Theatre is so proud to have commissioned Kirsten Guenther to write the book for The Cable Car Nymphomaniac. In this brief interview, Kirsten talks about being a Bay Area who native currently makes her living writing musical theatre in New York City, and how she has never forgotten her beloved Bay Area.
–How did you get started writing musicals?
I was a BFA acting major at USC (University of Southern California), and one day at the drama center there was a message on the board for me from a BA drama major named Lauren Larken. She was putting together an underground original new spoof musical called, “Not Another College Musical” and she wanted to know if I would be in the new musical along with a few of my fellow BFAs.
I grew up in Marin County doing a lot of youth community theater with Marilyn Izdebski— I had always had a huge passion for musicals. So
I said, “Of course! That sounds awesome!” Then she said, “Great! Will you write your own song?” And I said, “Absolutely not. I have no idea how to do that. It would be terrible.” Lauren assured me that if it was indeed terrible, she wouldn’t put it in the show. So I called up the two smartest, funniest, people I knew – my dear friends (and fellow BFAs) Heather Weeks and Michael Anthony-Nalepa, and said, “Okay guys, WE are going to write a song.” They came over, as did Lauren, and the producer/friend/roommate Kristina Sorensen, and together we all wrote a song. It was the best night of my life. Laughing, collaborating—the best idea wins. The next year, Kristina directed the show and Heather, Mike and I wrote most of it. I was hooked. After that I couldn’t imagine not writing. So when I graduated I accepted a job as a Paris correspondant. I moved to Paris to see what this whole writing thing was really about. But as much as I enjoyed journalism and Paris, in my heart, I wanted to get back to collaboration and musicals. So I applied to the NYU graduate musical theater writing program and got in. And now, I write musicals. What makes me smile about the collaboration that started in my apartment in LA on Oak Street is that Lauren is now an artistic director, Kristina is a producer and Heather, Mike and I are all writers.–How do you describe bookwriting for musical theatre?
That’s a tricky one! For awhile it was incredibly hard because when I would tell people, “I’m a bookwriter” they would think I meant I write novels. But now I can say, “Have you seen SMASH?” I would describe bookwriting as being the spine of the musical. The blue prints of a show. It’s the story, the theme, the plot, the characters—even the songs are part of the book. It’s not as simple as saying, “the dialogue.” Because it’s more than that. It’s the people who say the words, and the action the songs are born out of.–What excites you about The Cable Car Nymphomaniac?
When I first heard this idea, I thought, “Only in San Francisco!” And I love that. I love that San Francisco, the city itself, is a character. The Cable Car Nymphomaniac excites me because it’s fascinating that in one of the most liberal cities in the world a woman still felt more comfortable blaming her sexual appetite on an accident as opposed to embracing it. What’s more is—she won the lawsuit.
–What does being a “Bay Area artist” mean to you?
I think my general perspective is largely drawn from the environment I grew up in which is the Bay Area. I grew up in southern San Rafael with a hippy mom who had hippy friends whom I loved. My mom went to UC Berkeley. She’s a Tibetan Buddhist. When my brother and I were kids, she used to take us out on a boat in Loch Lomond (San Rafael—not Scotland) Saturday mornings on fish liberations. You know where you release the fish from the bait shop back into the water? There’s a lot of comedy to be mined from my childhood, and the adventures my mom took me around the bay area. To Chinatown, to the Egyptian museum, Muir Woods. She’s a documentary photographer so everything was a subject. San Francisco is her favorite city in the world, and I inherited that. But most importantly, she taught me the power of empathy—which is why I think I have such a deep passion for creating characters.
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