"Call Me Adam" once again chats with writer and performer Ashley Griffin! We revisit her musical Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody which will be making it's re-vamped debut at 54 Below on Tuesday, December 16 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets!
Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody is a hilarious, intelligent pop rock musical that lovingly takes a bite out of everyones favorite vampire series (and a few other pop culture icons along the way).
1. On December 16, you will be presenting a new reading of Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody at 54 Below. I saw a previous incarnation 2 years ago. What made now the right time to present this new version? It was a huge honor to have the show become such a success when it premiered at New World Stages. The show surpassed all of our wildest dreams, and ended up becoming a bit of a pop culture phenomenon, so we wanted to make sure we had all our ducks in a row before moving forward with a commercial production. We’ve been working with an incredible team of lawyers and are so excited to finally be able to bring the piece back. We have an amazing group of fans who have been waiting very patiently, so I’m excited that, especially since we sold out so quickly at New World, those who haven’t had a chance to see the show will finally get to! (And it’s even better then it was last time!)
2. The last reading was at New World Stages. Why did you choose 54 Below as the venue to present this incarnation of Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody? I’m a huge fan of 54 Below. It’s been described as "Broadway’s living room" and, I think, provides the perfect blend of intimate, classy, and "cool" in which to experience the show. The performance at New World was a very large benefit concert - this time we wanted to do something more intimate as a sort of "welcome back" for the show. And we’re so honored by all the love we’ve gotten from 54 Below, and their excitement at hosting the piece.
3. At the time I saw the previous reading, it had a different name. What made you want to change it to Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody? Well, one of the big reasons is we wanted to make it very clear that this is a (loving) parody show – and I think this title much better encapsulates the essence of what the piece is all about. And it has a fun double meaning (our leading man’s name is Deadward Cologne).
4. How did the feedback from the previous reading influence this version of the show? What changes did you make? What was it like to rework the show for what it is now? What was the most challenging part about the revising process? I may be one of the few writers who feels this way, but I love the rewriting process. The whole development process in general. Some people do Sudoku, I rewrite shows. The New World Stages reading was hugely beneficial – it was the first time Gabriel Barre (the director) and I got to be in a rehearsal room together actively working on the show, the first time we were hearing that draft of the script up on its feet, even the first time I heard some of the songs with a band, and not just as a piano demo. It very much helped us figure out what was working, and what needed to be changed. We made some great adjustments during the rehearsal process, but there’s only so much you can do in a week, so this time has been invaluable to go back and really do all the rewrites that needed to be done. Some songs have been cut, some new songs have been written (including one of my now favorite songs in the show "We Can Give You Everything (Just Give Us Everything)," written by the incomparable Jeremy Ezell and performed with sheer brilliance by Martin Landry as "Arrow" and the rest of the Vampire Capital (yes, another change – we now have an additional pop culture franchise we’re poking fun at). The show is also now a one act, and has even more of the heightened parody everyone already loves. But ultimately the thing I was most happy to have gotten out of the New World reading was to see how much of the show really did work very effectively. And now it’s even better!
The process of reworking a piece can be a long one. I’m actually a very fast writer – I’m known to have fully rewritten drafts to my creative team a matter of hours after a production meeting. But the process doesn’t end there. Everyone needs to read the rewrites, sit with them for a bit, then give feedback, possibly have a casual table read with members of the creative team to hear how the changes sound out loud, wait for sheet music to be finished, record demos, and then do it all again. Probably the most difficult part of the process is coming to terms with the fact that a script and score will never be finished (at least until the producers force you to "freeze" the show on opening night). I think all writers have a secret fantasy that they’ll turn in a new draft and it will be so fantastically solid and brilliant that no one will think a word or a note needs to be changed. But you’re always going to be tweaking things. You just have to enjoy the process. I think it’s also difficult for me in that there are three other composers on the show in addition to myself– I’m not precious at all about my work, but I always feel terrible having to call one of the other composers to talk about potentially changing, or even cutting one of their numbers.
5. Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody will feature the Broadway talents of Colin Hanlon (Modern Family, Submissions Only), Cortney Wolfson (Kinky Boots), Jenna Leigh Green (Wicked), Jared Zirilli (Lysistrata Jones), Sara Jean Ford (The Phantom Of The Opera), Stephen Anthony (Book of Mormon), Tyler Maynard (Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid), Michael Padgett (Upright Citizens Brigade) and featuring Martin Landry (Dear Edwina) as "Arrow." What excites you about having this cast perform your work? This is an incredible cast and I’m so fortunate to get to work with them Colin, Jared, Jenna and Martin were all a part of the show at New World, and it’s been so exciting to have them continue with the piece. We also have some wonderful new additions Tyler, Sara, Stephen, Cortney and Michael. It’s been great to see all the wonderful new things they bring to the show. I’m especially excited in that some of the cast are not typically known for doing this kind of work – Sara for example is most well known for her fantastic portrayals of ingénues like "Christine Daae" in Phantom of the Opera or "Lusia" in The Fantasticks. But Sara is hilarious, smart and beautifully quirky and I’m so excited for people to see that side of her onstage! I’ve admired all the folks in this wonderful cast for a long time, and it’s such a joy to get to work with them.
And I do have to especially say, Martin Landry has literally been a part of this show since day one, rehearsing in my living room. He’s a very dear friend of mine and it’s very special that we’re still able to work on the show together all these years later. Such a thing is very rare, especially when a show moves into a more commercial realm, and I’m so so excited for people to see his hilarious performance.
6. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Forever Deadward: The Vampire Musical Parody? First and foremost I hope that everyone has a really fun time, enjoys some great music, and laughs a lot. But there is a deeper message behind all the comedy of Forever Deadward and I hope people walk away thinking about the things that we as a culture take a bit too seriously, and on a more personal level, the things that we as individuals tend to obsess over, to "make into gods." Hopefully "Ella Fawn" can be a bit of a cautionary, albeit really entertaining, tale for us all.
7. How do you feel you've grown with this piece over the past 2 years? I’ve grown a lot with this piece. As an artist, I’m a much better writer now (and I’m sure I’ll be better still two years from now). I’ve had my first (minor) taste of "commercial" success and have learned a lot from the whole process. I think the piece, and I, have matured together.
8. Since this show centers around Vampires, what was your favorite vampire movie growing up? I wasn’t a big Vampire girl growing up, although I do have two odd connections to well known Vampire projects –
I was a child actor growing up in L.A. and almost played the role of Claudia in Interview With The Vampire. (I was the youngest girl seriously up for the role – at all of eight years old). I remember some very funny discussions with the director when she broached the subject of my kissing Brad Pitt.
I was very often compared to "Buffy" (a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the TV show) in high school – I looked like I could be Sara Michelle Gellar’s little sister, and have a bit of a Buffy vibe – (to this day one of my good friends calls me "Buffy.") But in an odd series of coincidences the high school gym where they filmed the prom episode of Buffy was the gym of my high school, and my address when I was younger was shockingly close to the "Summer’s" address (minus the "Sunnydale" of course.) Nowadays I’d probably say that Buffy (the TV show) is my favorite Vampire "thing." (Yes, I’m apparently "Buffy" AND "Hermione Granger" (see previous interview).
But when I was a kid I probably would have answered The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t. It’s on youtube. Check it out. Brilliance.
- The ability to survive in any element (i.e. breathe under water, stand in fire, etc. In my mind this includes flying…)
- The ability to create things (even just in the mind) a la "Ariadne" in Inception (but in waking life,) or "Mastermind" from X-Men (but used in a creative way, not a bad way J)
- I’ve always thought that "Door" from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere had an awesome power – to create doors anywhere that lead exactly where you want them to.
10. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? This is terrible, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a Life Saver! Being a true nerd I looked them up online and based on the list they provided (though with no actual experience of the taste) I’d have to go with pineapple. It may be my favorite fruit. And… (see next question).
11. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would you put in it? I actually have a (non alcoholic) drink that’s on the menu at Green Symphony in Times Square. It’s a juiced drink I invented, and I love it! It has kale, parsley, lemon, ginger, green apple, and pineapple juice. Tastes like vegetable soup. So good! (It’s called the "Ashley Special" – go get it!)
But, I have worked as a bartender in the past and invented a drink for a customer which quickly became very popular, and I guess is my signature alcoholic drink now in a way, (though ironically I’ve never tasted it – I mean, you can’t drink on the job! But I hear it’s very good.) It’s also been called the "Ashley Special" by pure default, but it needs a better name (maybe "The Griffin?" LOL. When we were doing Broadway themed drinks it was called "The Ingénue" for a bit…) Tweet me at @ashleyjgriffin with your suggestions! It has: Malibu, pineapple juice, sprite, and a dash of cranberry to turn it pink. Very fruity, and very girly.
Though my default alcoholic drink on the rare occasions I do indulge is a Chocolate Martini. I mean, come on.
Ashley is most well known as the creator of the pop culture phenomenon Forever Deadward (New World Stages.) As a writer, Ashley’s plays have been produced off-Broadway in New York, as well as in Los Angeles, and Chicago. Highlights include: Theater: Changed For Good (for which she also wrote the book, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz which had its premier in 2006, and is currently in development at the York Theater Company, Trial, Fairy Tales, The Death of Emily Webster, Subtext, Twilight: The Unauthorized Musical Parody, as well as Alice...in Wonderland (in collaboration with Joel Jeske) and Lyra: A Dark Fairy Tale (both currently in development.) Film/TV/Web: The 8th Square (currently in preproduction: Doug Jones and Pat Carroll attached), Blank Paige. Music: Ashley has contributed music and lyrics to several musicals including Forever Deadward, and has written and performed many original pieces as a singer/songwriter. Three of her songs were featured at the Comix Comedy Club’s Epic Fail: Broadways Future Flops concert in NYC.
Ashley was the recipient of 2007 outstanding playwriting commendation from the NY International Fringe Festival, and a Grand Prize winner in the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival's Literary Competition. Ashley has taught Musical Theater History at NYU (Tisch,) and was the 2011/2012 Artist in Residence at Dreamcatcher Entertainment. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. As a performer, Ashley has performed on Broadway and is a proud member of AEA.