Sunday, June 3, 2012

Planet Connections Interview - Abigail Taylor of "Pageant Princess: The Musical"

By Byrne Harrison

Abigail Taylor is a New York City playwright, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee.  Her work has been presented at:  the Sandbox Series at The PlayGround Theatre (FL), OnStage Atlanta (GA), Flush Ink (ON, Canada), Manhattan Repertory Theatre (NYC), Georgetown Theatre Company (DC), City Theatre of Independence (MO), Altruistic Theater Company (NYC), and others.  Her play “Pageant Princess the Musical, (which she co-wrote with Lorelei Mackenzie, Kristen Penner, and Joni Ernst) is being performed at 45 Bleecker as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I started out as an actor (didn’t everyone?) and started writing after seeing a lot of bad Off-Off Broadway plays and thinking maybe I could write something better.

Who are your biggest influences?

For “Pageant Princess,” we got our inspiration from a lot of non-theatrical sources.  The show has a mockumentary kind of feel, so we borrowed many stylistic elements from reality TV (“Real Housewives”) and pseudo-reality TV (“The Office”).

What is your show about?

“Pageant Princess: The Musical” is about the wild and crazy world of child beauty pageants.  We like to think of it as “Waiting for Guffman” meets “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

What inspired you to write/ it?

The project was the brainchild of two of my co-writers, Lorelei Mackenzie and Kristen Penner.  When I heard their idea, I couldn’t wait to get started!  What could be more enjoyable to write than a musical romp into the weirdness of the child pageant circuit?  I mean, our tag line is: “It’s what’s on the outside that counts.”  How fun is that?

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

I love working with my co-writers, Lorelei, Kristen, and Joni.  We first collaborated when I helped revise the book and lyrics for their musical “Pieces,” which was performed as a staged reading at Planet Connections last year.   The director of “Pageant Princess,” Shaun Peknic, also directed that reading and directed a one-act of mine, “Hard to Get,” at the Altruistic Theater Company earlier this year.  The wonderful cast of “Pageant Princess” includes:  Mary Orzano, Jara Jones, Stacy Keele, Emily Billig, Alie B Gorrie, Jonathan Pearson, Lorelei Mackenzie, Susanna Merrick, Kristen Penner, and Rockford Sansom.  And our great production team includes:  Katie Schmidt (costume designer), Michelle Tobias (lighting designer), Bethany Clark (stage manager), Mollie Flanagan (artistic director), Joni Ernst (musical director), and Brian Gordon (assistant musical director).

Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?

We really wanted to give something back.  Theater is often perceived as an industry of self-serving people, so I think it’s great to do something that challenges that stereotype.

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?

We are donating proceeds to the Adam R. Spector Foundation, which helps raise money for research on Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Several of us on the creative team have friends and relatives that are dealing with various forms of cancer, so we felt this was a worthy cause.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

My play “Fine Art” will be published by Heuer Publishing in the late summer.  I’m very excited!  I’ll also be finishing my play, “Won’t Quit,” which is loosely based on the story of Ashley Kirilow.  Kirilow was a Canadian woman who caused headlines by faking terminal cancer and then soliciting thousands of dollars in donations.  So definitely a change of pace from “Pageant Princess”…

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?

More wishes?  Or is that not allowed?

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