Podcast Episode 52 Transcript – Lynn Ahrens

Ken: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I am Ken Davenport. You are listening to The Producer’s Perspective podcast and today, well, I’m thrilled today to have one of the best lyricists on the planet as my guest. Welcome, Lynn Ahrens!

Lynn: Wow, how can I go on?

Ken: Lynn is a Tony Award-winning, Oscar-nominated lyricist and book writer, with credits like some of my favorite shows, including, way back, My Favorite Year, that’s one of my favorites, Once On This Island, of course, one of my most joyous nights at the theater when I was in school here at NYU, Ragtime, of course, where I first met Lynn because I was the associate company manager, Seussical, Rocky and a whole bunch of beautiful, adventuresome work at Lincoln Center, including Man of No Importance, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones, and just last night she and Stephen Flaherty were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame!

Lynn: And we’re paying for it this morning!

Ken: So let’s just start at the very beginning. Where did you get the theater bug?

Lynn: You know, I can’t really say there was a specific moment. I didn’t see theater as a kid, I didn’t grow up with Playbills, I didn’t grow up with show tunes playing in my house. I was exposed to a lot of concert stuff through my parents and that sort of thing, and reading and all that, but we didn’t go to the theater for some reason and my guess is that they could not afford it, even then. When I came to New York I was working in a number of different fields. I was a jingle writer for a while, a copywriter for a while, I was a television producer, and they all involved music and lyrics in some form and somebody said to me, “You know, you would enjoy writing something for musical theater. There’s a workshop that you might enjoy going to,” and that was the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop which Lehman Engel began years before. And so I thought, “What the heck,” and I just did it as a lark, really, and, lo and behold, I wrote my first song with another songwriter in this room and I thought, “Oh my God, this is sort of what I was born to do!” It really was that kind of a moment but it didn’t come from seeing a lot of theater, it came from writing my first character song, basically, and that was the year that I met Stephen Flaherty, that was 1983, so I was a late starter in a way but that’s sort of how it came about.

Ken: Was he the person that you wrote that first song with?

Lynn: No, actually. I started in the workshop in 1982, that was the first year, and so I sort of “dated” around the room with a lot of different composers. Stephen was a self-contained entity. He wrote his own lyrics and his own music and, at the time, was very shy, a very withdrawn young man and we really had never exchanged any words at all. And in that first year they give you assignments and so we had one last assignment to do for the year and I was casting about for who I might write it with and I was standing out on the sidewalk on West 57th Street where the workshop used to be held and this young guy that I had never said two words to went scuttling by me, heading east, and he stopped mid-walk and he turned around and shouted over his shoulder, “Hey, Lynn, you want to do that song together? The last assignment?” and I was so shocked and kind of flattered because I always thought of him as a wonderful lyricist and a wonderful song writer and I thought, “He doesn’t need anybody,” but he invited me to work with him and we did one song. That was 32 years ago.

Ken: Wow, those poor other people that didn’t make it with you before.

Lynn: They were all great but, you know, when that little bit of lightning strikes, it really was kind of palpable. He just had such a feel for words because he was a lyricist and I had written a lot of music, for Schoolhouse Rock and jingles and stuff like that. I’m a good melodist, I’m a good music person, even though I wouldn’t dare to consider myself a theatrical composer. I’m not trained in that way, but I have a good sense of music and he has a good sense of words, so there’s a meeting of minds.

Ken: Well we’ll get to Stephen in a second but I want to go back to that first song you wrote. Do you remember it?

Lynn: Let’s see, the very first song was with, gosh, I’m trying to remember the composer’s name. I don’t want to misspeak because I might name the wrong person, it was so long ago, but I remember the song because the assignment was “a happy good bye or a sad hello.” I chose a happy goodbye and it was basically hosts, owners of the home, who had had a guest who had way overstayed their welcome and they were sort of saying, “Goodbye! We will miss the hair in the drains!” and all of these disgusting images, but it was really quite fun to write. That was the first one. I do also remember the first song I wrote with Stephen, which was the last assignment of that year, and it was two people singing together but they’re in different places, so stage left, stage right, they were in different places, and we were two people placing personal ads in The Village Voice.

Ken: And you talk about that lightning strike . . . it sounds like there should be a plaque on 57th Street where you guys might.

Lynn: Right? I know.

Ken: Did you really know when you were writing together, “This is something special?”

Lynn: Yes.

Ken: What was it?

Lynn: Well that assignment, that Village Voice assignment, I wrote a set of words first and now the way we work is very different than that. Sometimes I’ll write a lyric first, sometimes he’ll write a piece of music first, but usually we work together and it’s more bits and pieces and a bit of ping-ponging back and forth, but I had given him a lyric and he put it up on the piano and he looked at it and then he put his hands on the keys and he just started making up a little tune on the spot, which he was uncomfortable doing because he comes from a very classically trained background and he’s used to composing by himself in a serous way and I was saying, “Well, come on, let’s write a song!” I came from a very improvisational background. He put his hands down and he began to set the words exactly the way they should have been said. That’s the only way to describe it. And I just said “Aha!” It just was an “aha” kind of feeling.

Ken: And that was 32 years ago? Is that what you said?

Lynn: Yes, 1983.

Ken: Have you dated around since then? Have you ever written anything else with other people?

Lynn: I did A Christmas Carol with Alan Menken, which ran for ten years at Madison Square Garden, so it’s kind of like doing ten shows with Alan Menken because every year we revised it, but that’s pretty much the only thing. I’ve written a couple of songs here and there for a movie or something like that with some other composers, but basically it’s all been Stephen. He’s done a couple. He did one show with Gertrude Stein. I knew he’d come running back to me, though. He just did another show out in San Diego that’s all his music and it’s a wonderful piece called In Your Arms and he wrote all the music to that without me, except I wrote one little lyric for a theme song, but basically we’ve been in partnership all that time.

Ken: Well it’s obviously one of the most successful collaborations in musical theater history now, but it takes more than just talent to keep a collaboration like this together. Obviously you two are incredibly talented and incredibly in tune, if you’ll excuse the pun, but what else do you need to have that kind of collaboration over so long?

Lynn: Well, when you begin I think everybody walks on eggs a little bit, and if your collaborator writes something that you don’t like or strikes you as not right you have to find very delicate ways to express that, as opposed to. “That really stinks.” But as you go on in a relationship, the longer on it goes, I think the more direct you can be and you don’t need to waste time being all that polite, although I think you always have to be kind and just explain why you think that that might not be right, but just cut to the chase and not dance around something that you’re unhappy with. I don’t know, I think we just found our rhythms over the years. Stephen used to be a night person, because he always worked nights, and I was always a morning person because I had a full time job, so he’d be sleeping when I’d be ready to go and I’d be falling asleep when he would be ready to go, so we ended up working right in the middle of the day and now we’ve just kind of figured it out. We start around 11 if we’re going to get together and we usually have had enough of one another by about 2 o’clock, but we have a good time. We drink coffee and we dish the dirt and get all that out of our systems and then we settle down to work so it’s become a comfortable and obviously pretty fruitful relationship. I don’t know how everybody else does it, I have no idea. His kindness, his sense of humor, that’s it.

Ken: You mention how you wrote character songs earlier, that it was rooted in that. What’s your process when you sit down? “Okay, I’m going to write a lyric. I’m going to write ‘Your Daddy’s Son,’ I’m going to write ‘Waiting for Life.’” What’s the first thing you do, even before you put pen to paper or fingers to keys?

Lynn: Well, usually Stephen and I talk a lot about what the character is feeling, what they’re thinking, what we’re seeing on stage. Is she lonely and all by herself or is she surrounded by people who don’t hear what she’s thinking? Is she upset, is she exuberant, is she frustrated? Sometimes a song is inspired but an actor, as in the case of “Your Daddy’s Son,” actually, which was sort of interesting because we were doing Ragtime in Toronto and it was one of the workshops that we did and we had Audra McDonald and we had a big sing-through of all of the material that we had written to date and Audra was just sitting there and I’m thinking, “Why is Audra McDonald just sitting there?” And we realized she didn’t have a song to sing because the character in the novel has nothing to say. It’s a mute character, and she does this very dramatic act of burying her child in the ground but we never hear from her. I started to think, well, number one, we have to write a song for Audra McDonald, we just have to, and number two, why would that character do that thing? I was the only woman on the team, which I often am, and I thought, “I can’t identify with that character and I won’t know why Coalhouse loves her so much until I understand why she did that terrible thing to her baby,” and so that’s how the song evolved. So it was partly getting into the character’s head and partly being inspired to write something that’s very difficult to sing because we had Audra McDonald in the room. It’s usually trying to figure out, trying to sort of become the character in a strange way and just to kind of think, “What are they feeling? How would they express themselves? What kind of language do they use?” That’s sort of where it begins for me.

Ken: I was going to ask you what’s your favorite lyric of your own, but I’m going to phrase it in a different way, which is one of my James Lipton questions. I want you to imagine that the Smithsonian calls you, even though you got into the Theater Hall of Fame last night, but now the Smithsonian is calling so it’s really important, and they say, “We have room for one of your songs in our institute, just one.”

Lynn: I’d say, “You’ve got the wrong number!”

Ken: Which one would you pick?

Lynn: Oh my gosh, that’s a really, really hard question. I’m very proud of some of my work just for the beauty of the words on the page and to the ear and then others, I think, express something very important to me that might not be my best lyric but it expresses something important to me. And sometimes it’s not even the whole lyric, it’s just a little portion of a lyric. So that’s an almost impossible question. Just tell the Smithsonian to call me in two years when I’ve had a chance to think about it. I can tell you a few of my favorites. I love the lines from Once On This Island, “Out of what we live and we believe, our lives become the stories that we weave.” I love that little couplet because I feel it just sort of sums up my life, in a weird way, and it sort of sums up the nature of storytelling that theater people love to do, so I love that couplet. There’s a little lyric from Lucky Stiff that I enjoy because it has all of these lovely little internal rhymes, if you will, or sounds. Let me see if I can get it right . . . “From now on I’ll have no one to ruin my day, a room won’t be a view without you in my way,” and it’s all As and Os and Es, I just love that little bit. Then there’s “Back to Before” from Ragtime which I think is one of the best songs we’ve ever written. I love that one a lot, and that was a first draft lyric that I wrote one morning, complete from head to tail, and faxed it – in those days we faxed – over to Stephen at about 7 o’clock in the morning or something and he set it and not one word of it ever changed again, so that was just one of those moments of, for me, inspiration.

Ken: Wow, a first draft like that, that’s pretty good.

Lynn: It was pretty good.

Ken: Let’s flip it around now. Because you’re a wordsmith, you’re a craftsman, so I imagine there’s a perfectionist quality to lyrics in terms of the rhymes, etc. Is there anything that you listen to now where you’re like, “Uh, that’s not as good as it should be?” What about your least favorite lyric of yours?

Lynn: Well I can’t answer that. Not that they’re all great, and if you ask anybody else they will certainly have their least favorites, but I’m sort of fond of them all. Part of it is because I will remember what I was doing at the time or how I felt in writing that particular lyric. There are moments where the lyrics are a little bit beast of burden-ish. They’re carrying a lot of exposition on their little shoulders and I’m trying to get a lot of facts and information into a lyric. Those don’t tend to be the most beautiful lyrics or the most wonderful but that’s sometimes the function of lyrics, they just have to push the plot forward somewhere and carry exposition.

Ken: Do you have a favorite song of someone else’s, in the theater or out, where you just sit back and go, “Now that’s a beautiful song, or a beautiful lyric?”

Lynn: Oh, so many. Oh my gosh. Actually, I was asked by Playbill Online a while ago to write, I forget how many, I think it was ten of my favorite lyrics and why, just very short little things, and it was so hard to choose things and I had to leave things out. Like there’s a song called “Walking in Memphis” which was written by Marc Cohn. It’s a pop song, but I just love that song every time I hear it. It’s partly the melody and it’s almost like a little play, in a way. I love that song. I love so much from A Chorus Line that Ed Kleban wrote. “Nothing” is a brilliant, brilliant song, just so many of those are great. There are just too many to say. “Send in the Clowns.” I don’t know, I could go on and on and on, you’d have to shut me up.

Ken: You mentioned being often one of the only women on the team. Are we not being as inclusive as we should for female writers? Did you find it harder as a female writer, coming up?

Lynn: Speaking only for myself, I never felt anything but welcomed and encouraged and I had some great mentors and I never had that feeling. But that being said, I think that it is harder for women in all areas of theater, and in fact the Dramatists Guild just did a survey of American theaters, just in light of that, to see how many plays by women are produced, how many plays by men are produced, theater by theater by theater, and the results are fascinating. If anybody’s interested, the last issue of the Dramatists magazine, The Dramatist it’s called, details The Count, which is what the survey is called and, yeah, women are much, much, much less likely to be produced than men, as playwrights, as musical theater writers. You can look in any theater pit and you’ll most likely see a guy. There are less musicians, there are less music directors, there are less women all over the place in the creative areas of the business and I think that will change. I can see it starting to change and I can see it changing, for example, in the Dramatists Guild Fellows, which is a program that Stephen and I started at the Dramatists Guild for emerging writers. Every year the proportion of women gets higher. Now I think it’s about 50%, which is great. You have to make an effort to achieve that as well, so that’s kind of where it is, I think. Speaking for myself, I don’t know why but I sort of held Betty Comden up as a shining example, and it just never occurred to me that anybody would say no and nobody did.

Ken: So if it’s starting to change now, anything we can do to throw some gas on that fire to make it change a little faster?

Lynn: Yeah, hire women. Read their plays, produce their plays. Yeah, absolutely. Keep it in mind as something that is a goal. Obviously you go for the best work but there is something to be said, especially as a male producer . . . you may not be as interested in subjects that women writers are interested in and have a certain propensity not to choose those because they don’t speak to you, but they may speak to women. I think you have to just be aware of that when choosing projects.

Ken: It’s a fascinating suggestion to me especially, of course, because I am a male producer and of course we are attracted to issues that affect us personally, but we also, from a commercial standpoint, forget that women are the ones that buy the tickets.

Lynn: Hello! Yes, that’s right.

Ken: So it would make a lot of sense that we would want to produce plays that are about the issues that they deal with so that they relate to their audience. I also find it very odd that the majority of our critics are men.

Lynn: Yes, how about that? I’ll say no more.

Ken: You know I run a website called DidHeLikeIt.com, which is what the New York Times critic thinks of shows, and often I wonder . . . we own the name DidSheLikeIt.com in case they ever make that change, but many people have said, “Oh no, it will be a guy forever.”

Lynn: Yeah, think about that. It’s upsetting, to be honest with you, and it’s unfair because there is an inherent prejudice or bias or interest, any of those words would apply, and you don’t think about it, you just don’t think about it. But if you do think about it for a minute you might want to deal with it.

Ken: Now I’m worried that I haven’t had enough females on this podcast so I’m going to go back and check my ratio. We’ll make sure we even that up if it’s not even already. Okay, let’s get off that topic a bit. You’ve had incredible commercial success but, as I’ve mentioned, you’ve produced a number of these beautiful musicals and gone to Lincoln Center with them. Why? If you told me you wanted to write Podcast: The Musical or Business Card: The Musical I would produce it, but here you take these properties which are very beautiful and you produce them there. Why that choice?

Lynn: Well Lincoln Center mainly because our very first Off-Broadway show was at Playwrights Horizons when André Bishop and Ira Weitzman were still there and they gave us our first opportunity at Playwrights. And then André moved over to Lincoln Center with Ira and they were like our parents or something, you know, we just sort of gravitated over there and we would bring them ideas that we thought they might like. They did Lucky Stiff first at Playwrights, then they did Once on this Island, which moved to Broadway, of course, then they went to Lincoln Center and that’s where they did My Favorite Year, which was the first musical done at Lincoln Center with the new pit and the whole new renovation of the Beaumont. Thereafter, they made it very clear that we were very welcome to bring shows there, and when you have a facility and an artistic directorship such as that and they welcome you, that’s where you go, and they’ve been wonderful to us. We did Dessa Rose there, My Favorite Year, A Man of No Importance, The Glorious Ones, and each of those was an adventurous and not immediately commercial show and they were willing to take the chance on each of them so that was quite exciting.

Ken: What’s the difference between working in the commercial environment and the non-profit for you?

Lynn: Well in commercial there is, obviously, a lot higher pressure and there are a lot more people whose voices have to be heard in one way or another. There are investors, there are co-producers, there’s the critical reaction at the end of the line which can make or break the show and lose a lot of people a lot of money. It’s much scarier. You feel much more protected and sheltered and loved, really, at a not-for-profit, I think. At least I do. We just did a show at the Kennedy Center called Little Dancer with Susan Stroman and it was, honestly, I think one of the best shows we’ve written and one of the most extraordinary productions we’ve ever had and nobody said a word to us except, “Oh my God, it’s so wonderful!” It was just the most joyous and free flowing experience. We always felt that way at Lincoln Center too. At Lincoln Center, André Bishop would occasionally see a run-through or something and then he would say one of two sentences and they would be so acute and so clear about his thoughts and what he thought we needed to do. In fact one of his phrases I hold dear, which is, “Well, Lynn, it’s just wonderful but it’s like a pudding with too many raisins.” I just have that in my head and I sort of think about that one when we have too many songs or whatever. I think that’s the main difference. One is very high stress, high pressure, lots of notes, lots of end result thinking going on, and the other one is much more nurturing and much more about your creative process and what it is you would like to say.

Ken: Speaking of ideas like Podcast: The Musical or Business Card: The Musical, for you, what attracts you to an idea and says, “This can be a musical,” and do you come up with ideas more than Stephen? Where do those come from?

Lynn: I would say that I do, generally. Sometimes a producer will come to us with an idea but most of the time I’m out their browsing the bookstores – when there were bookstores. I read a ton. We both come up with ideas, it’s just that for some reason they seem to have been found by me, for one reason or another. But we never do anything unless we both think it’s a fabulous idea. Sometimes I’m a bit of Chinese water torture . . . Dessa Rose, for instance. It took almost ten years to get him to feel ready to write that show, but I knew I loved it and we really wanted to do that one eventually, together, but it took a while to convince him.

Ken: And what is that thing that you look for that screams out, “Oh, this could be a musical. This should be a musical.”

Lynn: I think it’s great characters. Great, juicy, emotional characters and a wonderful story and something where all of the blanks are not filled in. Like with Ragtime, for instance. It’s a dense novel, it’s a big, fat, juicy, dense novel, but yeah, it’s very cool and there’s no emotion, really, it’s in between the lines. It’s not written out and we thought, “Songs could go here and flesh this out, in a way,” and Doctorow agreed with that eventually. He understood why the songs fitted in. He was very thrilled with the whole thing. I miss him, actually. His birthday’s coming up. I miss him.

Ken: You’ve worked with a lot of different producers on your shows, from, of course, the famed or infamous Garth Drabinsky when I first met you, to Barry Weissler, to big corporations and small mom-and-pop shops. What type pf producer do you like to work with? Without, of course, naming names, unless you want to. What are the characteristics that go into a producer that you want to work with?

Lynn: I would say artistic passion. That is the number one for me. If I know that somebody just cares so much about this project that they will kill to do it and it’s their baby and they put their heart and their love into it, they’re for me. You know, I honestly can say this, we have not had a single producer that we’ve hated or anything. We’ve loved a lot of them. I loved Garth, I saw him not too long ago.

Ken: He’s back in the game, I hear.

Lynn: He’s back in the game and we had a bit of a reunion with him. I have a fond spot for every one of them. Even on the worst of experiences you could say, “Well, they really screwed that one up but, boy, did they have passion.” You just sort of go forward. At a certain point you take your project, your love, this project that you’ve worked on for two or three or four years, whatever it’s been, and you offer it up to somebody and hope that they will nurture it, so that’s what I think I would look for always in somebody, that they just loved what I wrote and wanted to keep its integrity and do whatever they could for it.

Ken: I did an infographic a long time ago that showed that the majority of Broadway shows, and musicals especially, are adaptions of other source material, and certainly you’ve adapted a lot of things, including Ragtime and Rocky. Movies, books, stories, how do you go about that process? I’ve heard some writers say, “Oh, I read the book or watch the movie once and that’s it, I put it away and I just create my own thing,” or others say, “I study every single word, I try to get those words in.” Do you have a specific rule or process about how you adapt?

Lynn: No, I don’t, I can’t say that I do. Interestingly, Little Dancer is an original and it was inspired by a sculpture that inspired me and I thought, “There’s a story in this young girl who has posed once upon a time for Degas. Who was she? We all know the sculpture, we all know Degas but we don’t know this young girl,” and that became the story and that was such an interesting and difficult thing to do because there’s no structure. You have to create a story, you have to do some historical research and try to figure out what the story was and that was a really wonderful challenge for me. But when I adapt something . . . and most of our shows, if not all of them, besides that have been adaptations . . . really what I first respond to is the language. Let’s say it’s a novel. “There is an island where rivers run deep, where the sea sparkling in the sun earns it the name ‘Jewel of the Antilles.’” That’s the first bit of writing in the novel that we adapted and that inspired me and I thought, “I see the island,” just the way it started racing towards me, it was amazing. There were certain bits of language in that book that I wanted to retain, but basically we threw the story out the window there. I think I am one of those people who reads it once or watches the movie once and then goes my own way. On Ragtime we referred . . . I referred, anyway . . . a lot back to the novel because there were little clues in it to things, like there’s a couple of lines about this wealthy neighborhood where the maids arrive and Mother is watching these women and suddenly, because she has taken this African American child into her care, she suddenly looks at the hired help in a different way in that moment. It inspired a lyric, “Each day the maids trudge up the hill, the hired help arrive, I never stop to think they might have lives beyond our lives,” and I found that in the novel. But it wasn’t written there, I just found that moment. So the source material can be very inspiring for words or for characterizations and it can also be harmful because you don’t want to recreate anything slavishly onto the stage. I think that’s why a lot of the shows that adapt movies, for instance, they just put the scenes up as they are in the movie and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s stage worthy. You have to free your mind of that a bit. We’re doing that now on Anastasia. We’re editing that and we’re trying not to be slavish to that movie. We’re trying to make it something of its own for the stage.

Ken: I want to go back to the adaptation question real quick, because we’ve talked a lot about lyrics, but you’re a book writer as well. What’s the process for you as a book writer when you decide you want to adapt something? Are you an outline person, do you just start writing?

Lynn: I’m a beginning, middle and end person, meaning structure for me. I try to find the key structural points, that’s how I usually start. How is it going to open? How is act one going to end? In three act structure. Then how is act two going to end? What is the big old crisis in act two? And then act three, which is technically the end of the second act of the thing, how do all the ends tie up? If you have those moments you can kind of plot out a story pretty easily. I use three act structure, that’s what I do. It’s funny, nobody thinks of me as a book writer, but I’ve written the book to seven musicals, seven of ours. I think it’s seven. Maybe it’s six, I forget. But anyway it’s somewhere up there and yet nobody thinks of me as a book writer and I think that’s because I do a good job at it, and I’m sort of invisible and they think of me as a lyricist. But most of the shows I’ve written the book for I’m pretty proud of the structure. I think Once on This Island has a perfect structure, I think Little Dancer is pretty perfect, structurally. I’m a better lyricist than I am a dialogue writer but I’m getting better at dialogue. I’m starting to enjoy it more. I used to write a dialogue scene and then I would say, “No, no, I have to write a song! I can’t stand writing the dialogue, I’ll just musicalize it, I’ll turn it into lyrics,” but I don’t do that so much anymore.

Ken: Advice for young writers out there, just starting today, that don’t meet Stephen Flaherty in their first year?

Lynn: Just meet as many people who have your common interests as you possibly can. Join workshops, find actor friends who can help you present your work, see as much theater as you can, even if it means standing room. Just get into theaters and see stuff and learn from stuff, listen to show albums, join the Dramatists Guild. That would almost be my number one. Join the Dramatists Guild because there’s so much information to be had from their magazines and on the website. They have seminars, they have a fellows’ program, they have all sorts of resource information, legal information, everything for beginner writers, so it’s a wonderful place for them to start. And it’s a fellowship of writers. It gives you a sense that you belong somewhere and that you have places to turn. That would be my number one, but then just get out there and meet people and tell them you want to write and make opportunities for yourself.

Ken: Okay, our last question. It’s another one of my James Lipton questions so get ready for it.

Lynn: I love this, you’re the best interviewer!

Ken: I want you to imagine that the genie from Aladdin comes to see you and says, “Lynn, you have written such incredible lyrics and books. Your contributions to the American musical theater are magnificent. You’re now in the Theater Hall of Fame but that’s nothing like the honor I’m going to bestow on you. I’m going to grant you one wish, just one though, to change whatever you want about Broadway that drives you absolutely insane. What’s the one thing that keeps you up at night, that makes you mad?” What I love about you is you’re so joyous, you obviously love what you do so much, so I want to know what really gets under your skin and makes you mad about this industry. What would you wish that the genie could change?

Lynn: I wish that we had ten influential newspapers in New York and ten totally different opinions, each one extremely powerful, that could be used to promote a show, because to have a show rise and fall on the opinion of one person, and that one person seems to have a forever tenure, isn’t fair. That’s what my wish would be. Give us ten powerful newspapers and ten brilliant critics and let them duke it out for the hearts and minds of the public, as opposed to one person who stays forever. There you have it.

Ken: It’s a good answer. Thank you so much for spending this time with us and congratulations on the Hall of Fame and of course all the other honors. Good luck with Little Dancer and Anastasia and whatever else is coming next. Just keep writing.

Lynn: Thanks, Ken! This is so fun because I knew you when and look at you now! It’s just great, I love it. Thank you so much.

Ken: My pleasure. Thanks to all of you for listening and we will see you on the next one!

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.