Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saturday Special - An Interview with Robin Rothstein: The Creator of Mad Libs Live


Robin Rothstein (RR) is the producer, book writer and lyricist of Mad Libs Live

How did you come up with the idea for the show?

RR: had the good fortune to meet one of the co-creators of the original Mad Libs books, Leonard Stern at my sister’s wedding some years ago, which was also the exact same time that I had a children’s musical running in New York. About six months later, trying to come up with my next project, a light bulb went off in my head that Mad Libs would be a great idea to adapt into a children’s musical, so I reached out to Leonard, and the journey of MAD LIBS LIVE! began.

Who in the show is your favorite character?

RRI like all of the characters for different reasons, but Merrily is probably my favorite. She’s an underdog who doesn’t believe she’s got the goods, but she pushes herself to go forward anyway. I think a lot of people can identify with someone like her. 

What is your favorite song in the show? 

RR: I have two. “How It’s Going Down” and “Disaster!” These were the most challenging songs for me to write, and I also like how the characters are in one place at the beginning of both of the songs and are then in a new frame of mind by the end.

How long have you been doing what you do?

RR:Years! Lol. I started as an actor, and then began writing plays and sketch comedy while still acting. After I earned my Equity card, I decided I wanted to spend more of my time writing. I’ve primarily written plays, but have now written two kids musicals that I have been fortunate to get produced in New York, so I look forward to continuing working on both straight plays and musicals going forward. They each challenge and thrill me in different ways.

Did you get any kind of training to do what you do?

RR: I studied playwriting in college with the acclaimed playwright, Romulus Linney. After college I took a few classes here and there, but I would say my primary education was simply going to see a LOT of theatre, reading plays, and writing, writing, writing!

Have you done other shows? If so, what were they?

RR: The other kids musical I wrote was called “The Game Boy.” I came up with the original idea for that, and wrote the book and co-wrote the lyrics. Vital Theatre Company produced that show. And then over the years I’ve had numerous productions and readings of my short plays here in New York, around the U.S. and in several other countries.

What is your favorite show that you wish you had created?

RR: Ooo, really good question! Hmm. I don’t know that I wish I created it, but one of my favorite shows in recent years has been “Here Lies Love.” The music is intoxicating, the way they tell the story of the Marcos’s rise and fall is fascinating, and I love how the show incorporates the audience. I’m not normally someone who likes going to shows where the audience participates, but the audience’s involvement is an inherent component of the storytelling and makes the experience of the show that much more exhilarating and meaningful.

What is your favorite show that you've ever seen if different than the above?

RR: I love “Book of Mormon.” It’s a really smart, funny and well structured show. As far as plays, many years ago I saw the first production of “Wit” at MCC back when they were producing at a small 99 seat theatre in the West 20’s, and I was blown away. I lived in the East 90’s at the time and had to walk all the way home afterwards because the play affected me so much. It really burrowed into me. An experience like that is what I love so much about the theatre.

Who inspires you?

RR: The theatre is a tough field, and other writers and artists who plug away despite the same sorts of challenges and rejections that I have also faced for many years, constantly inspire me.

What is the best advice you were ever given?

RR: I’m a pretty competitive person, so probably the best advice I’ve received is to just concentrate on my own path and not compare myself to others. It’s hard, though, especially in this age of social media where all you do is hear about everyone’s triumphs, and you think “Wow, everyone else is doing well and I SO have nothing going on!” but not only is this belief a fallacy, it’s also counter-productive. Everyone has their own journey and their own moments. 

What advice would you give people who want to do what you do?

RR: Find balance and a sense of groundedness. That’s advice that I think everyone needs to take seriously. If you know how to be balanced and grounded, then you will always have that constant to go to in a field that can be filled with super high highs and oftentimes some really low lows. And then, from a practical standpoint, I’d say get into the theatre business in some sort of way if at all possible, whether that means interning or taking on an assistant job at a commercial theatre company, or with an independent producer, or at a non-profit, joining industry groups that connect you with other theatre artists, as well as people in the business, etc. I think it’s valuable to see the theatre from a variety of angles, and it’s also important to network, network, network. Also, be patient. Success, whatever that means, does not happen overnight. Enjoy and appreciate all your little successes along the way, and then one day you’ll stop and realize, wow, look how far I’ve come!   
We thank Robin for taking the time to answer our questions. Tune in tomorrow for this week's Sunday Scoop.

photo credit: Mad Libs Live photo supplied by Mad Libs Live

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