BWW Interview: WICKED Author Gregory Maguire on Creating the Elphaba Fund, Celebrating the 10th Anniversary & More
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, on this tenth anniversary of Wicked on Broadway, Gregory Maguire, author of the novel Wicked, and his husband, the painter Andy Newman, have announced the establishment of The Elphaba Fund. The nonprofit family foundation is dedicated to issues of women's and children's health and education, particularly in the third world; to arts and literacy education; and to environmental causes. A family organization, and unstaffed, The Elphaba Fund will not be able to respond to queries or to read proposals; still, it will aim to make good out of making Wicked.
Maguire, who just arrived in New York City to participate in the 10th Anniversary festivities, chatted with BroadwayWorld about the creation of the fund, and you can check out what he had to say below!
What inspired you to create the Elphaba Fund?
One of the things that inspired me, in fact, was seeing that Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs had done something with their energies and their assets by creating A Broader Way. I have been a contributor to that for as long as it's been open I think! And I think that's a great model to follow. If you are lucky enough to have a following of some sort, then it behooves you to pay attention to that luck and to give back where you can.
They're both doing such great work with that organization...
They really are- I so admire them. I went to a couple of the fundraising events, including one where Idina sang in somebody's living room as electrifyingly as usual! (Laughs)
What are your goals for the fund for the future?
My husband, Andy Newman, and I have for some time been supporting the places where our adoptive children have come from- the orphanages in Cambodia and Guatemala. Because I'm a writer more than I am a theatre person, I have always had a great interest in literacy projects. I joke that, although I was raised in an orphanage when I was a very young child, that I had a stepmother, a father and a library to raise me. I am a very big booster of literacy, especially for children, and immigrants, and people who grow up in families where literacy, and being able to speak and read well, is taken for granted.
I will admit that, at the rate Wicked is going, it's quite possible that it will be around longer than I am. So it's nice to have a pool in which any money that might arise down the road can drip, and then flood out to do good for someone else.
The show is celebrating its 10th Anniversary tonight- you must be so proud...
I'm so thrilled. I remember when I first arrived in San Francisco ten years ago, I made my own decision that I did not want to come into the theatre and see the stage as it was being built. I didn't watch rehearsals. I did sit in on a couple of auditions and I was there for a staged reading for backers and investors, but I didn't want to know what they were planning in terms of costumes or lighting design, because I wanted it to hit me the way it would someone who wouldn't know what they were getting. I knew the story and I knew the characterizations, but I wanted the theatre experience to be a juvenile one. I wanted it to be as if I was going into the Emerald City for myself the first time.
I remember how electrifying that was. It was as if all of the chairs in the theatre were attached to some circuit that was being powered by Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel! They gave off so much, thrilling energy.
The show has become such a phenomenon. To what do you attribute its endurance?
I think that is a great deal due to the music and the actors and actresses. But I also believe that one of the reasons that the show has lasted these ten years is because it places the deep issue of 'How do we choose to live our lives?' as a central issue and not a peripheral one.
I think that we have become mature as a society to such an extent that its not something that we like to talk about, its embarrassing to admit, but we DO care if our lives have meaning or not. I think we nonetheless do, and I think that certainly the young do. And the young are willing to admit it- they haven't been trained to think it's embarrassing. I think that's why the show is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, because it's a deep and abiding strand of human character.
Broadway's No. 1 show for an unprecedented nine consecutive years, Wicked is currently represented in North America with two concurrent national tours as well as the open-ended Broadway production. In its 10-year history, the musical has also enjoyed extended, record-breaking sit-down engagements in Chicago, where it ran for 3 ½ years; Los Angeles, where it ran for 2 years; and San Francisco, where it ran for 1 ½ years. Wicked has cumulatively grossed over $3.1 billion worldwide, with nearly $2.3 billion coming from its North American companies alone.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and a book by Winnie Holzman. The production is directed by Joe Mantello with musical staging by Wayne Cilento. Wicked is produced byMarc Platt, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt and David Stone.