BWW Interviews: Nathan Gardner Discusses MY MOTHER'S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING
When producer Nathan Gardner saw the original Toronto production of the new musical, MY MOTHER'S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING, he knew immediately that he wanted to bring it to the U.S. Set against the backdrop of the legalization of same sex marriage in Canada, this true story musical was the complete package: funny, heartwarming, original, AND boasted a strong message of love and acceptance. It's a cause and a show that he fully believes in, and it was enough to get us excited about it when we heard he was bringing it to Los Angeles for two concert performances on August 19 and 20.
Nathan recently gave us the scoop on the show and I think you'll agree that it couldn't come to L.A. at a better time.
You’ve said that MMLJWW is based on a true story. Would you go into a little more detail?
Yes! Written by David Hein and his wife Irene Sankoff, the show follows David's teenage years through adulthood as his mother moves to Ottawa, meets a wonderful woman, and falls in love. Meanwhile, we also see David's own relationship with Irene develop as well. It's a wonderful, heartwarming story about love, acceptance, and "hot lesbian action" of course! And because it deals with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada, it really makes the piece timely, especially in California as we continue to fight for Equality in the continuing aftermath of Prop 8.
Why do you think you had such an immediate response to the musical initially?
I'm a sap. Seriously. The first time I saw it, when Claire (the mother) came out to David I started sobbing. Then came the "Short History of Gay Marriage" bit, which energized me and made me want to go out there and do something to make a difference. And at the end of the show, you really just want to call your mom and say ‘I love you.’ I was completely moved, and I had an absolute ball because it really is one of the funniest little shows you could ever hope to see. It's full of wit and the laughs almost don't stop. Neither does the sobbing. It was the just the right mix.
Is that the reason you decided to get behind the show?
As a producer, I'm very much attracted to shows that I think can be successful, and entertaining, but also make a difference and give back to the community. With MMLJWW I had really found the show I'd been dreaming of. It's immensely entertaining, and it has a wonderful message to share of acceptance and love. I instantly knew I wanted to present this piece to American audiences, especially in California. I really do believe that we can make a difference through theatre.
It may be a silly question but what else do you love about the show?
Everything! I know that seems like the obvious answer. What I really love is the intimacy. It's a simple story, simply told. David is a singer-songwriter and the show really reflects that. It's a fresh concept. And I love the effect it has on theatre-goers. They leave on cloud nine, but one woman saw the show in Toronto and said that it changed her outlook on her gay son in a very positive way. I think that's remarkable. That's the kind of show I want to produce.
Where are you presenting it in Los Angeles?
We've been blessed to be set up with the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. It's just intimate enough, and I think it's going to be a great fit for the show as we're conceiving it for this workshop. It'll be concert driven and semi-staged, like a hybrid of sorts that will really play off the singer-songwriter concept. We're bringing down the writers to star (since it is their life story after all!), which makes it even more exciting.
How did you get involved with the LA Festival?
From the very beginning we knew we wanted to workshop MMLJWW in L.A. The Festival producers had been in touch with David and Irene previously and discussed how the show would be a great fit for their First Look program. When I became involved, I reached out to the Festival and they welcomed us with wide open arms. They've been fantastic and I'm thrilled to be working with them! I'd encourage any producers who want to test the L.A. waters with a show to look them up. I think L.A. has such potential to be a 'new off-Broadway,' and that excites me.
We'd love to see more musicals workshop their shows here. Are you working on anything else for L.A.?
Yes, we've got a fantastic concert version of Spring Awakening in rehearsals that runs in July. Following that up with MMLJWW is, we hope, the beginning of a great trend to bring mid-sized theatre like this to L.A. on a very high profile. We’ve got a Kickstarter campaign up to help cover the costs of workshopping the piece and we'd love to have people join us on the journey!