INTERVIEW: “Lulu the Broadway Mouse” Author Jenna Gavigan Returns with Sequel “The Show Must Go On”!

Jenna Gavigan is returning to bookshelves on March 31st with Lulu, the singing, dancing mouse she introduced to us in 2018! Jenna made her Broadway debut at age 16 in the Broadway revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. She then expanded her career with work on TV in shows like “Madam Secretary” and “The Knick” and movies like “Deliver Us From Evil”. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Creative Writing, she published her first novel Lulu the Broadway Mouse, which was met with a great amount of praise from theatre fans and professionals alike. Now she’s back with a sequel called Lulu the Broadway Mouse: The Show Must Go On! We spoke with her about writing a sequel, showing readers the realities of working on Broadway, and meeting today’s Broadway kids. Read on for a super fun interview with great nuggets of advice for kids and adults alike:

You’re back for a sequel after a highly successful debut! Take us through the process to create the plot of the second book.
I knew I wanted to throw Lulu & company an immediate curveball. I have experience with a show that was given its closing notice surprisingly soon—and it happens to almost every performer, at one time or another—so I decided that would be the main “problem” of this book. In my pitch for the book, I wrote a summary and the first few chapters, but also a beat sheet, which is very common in the early stages of television writing—no reason it can’t be used in book writing as well! Basically: A,B,C,D storylines, in one short, sentence. So, I, and my editor and publisher, were able to very clearly see my planned plot points, with the show’s closing notice being the A plot.

What’s the most rewarding and most challenging thing about writing a sequel?
I basically spent all of 2019 writing and editing this book. On January 1 I had a few chapters written, and by Christmas, the finished copies of the book were in a box in my apartment. It was a really joyful and fulfilling way to spend a year. Challenging? Hmmm…well, writing and editing a book in one year was also challenging! And I needed to make sure the second book stayed consistent with the first book as far as characters and their behaviors and relationships, but that it also felt fresh and was able to stand on its own.

The book starts out by delivering the bad news and introducing a major plot point within the first couple of pages before catching us up on the backstage life of this show, which I appreciated as it creates some heartbreak on the reader’s behalf as they keep reading while knowing what’s to come. What was the reason behind that decision?
I thought starting off exactly where we ended the first book lacked energy and urgency. Things would be too sunny and easy. Letting the readers know right at the top of the book that the show is closing will, I hope, keep readers engaged in and committed to the fate of Lulu & company.

What I enjoy the most about the first and second books is that they not only celebrate the wonderful parts about working on Broadway, but they also delve a bit more into the not-so-wonderful parts of the business (i.e. rejections, growing out of a role, etc.). How do you balance out what to include in the book that’s age appropriate and accurate enough for the reader but also keeps the wonder of Broadway intact?
I have been in this business for 20 + years, but I still find the theatre magical, and the wonder of Broadway remains very much intact for me. That said, I have experienced a lot of rejection, horrible auditions, moments of wondering if I should keep doing this…and a lot of that happened while I was still a kid! It’s just the reality of show business and life as an artist. I never want to dissuade a kid from pursuing their dream; I very much want to encourage them. But I also think that knowing the reality of what you’re entering into can actually be really helpful. It’s not all perfect and dreamy all the time, but when it is, it really is. I am writing from a place of experience while also honoring the kid I was: the kid who just wanted to be on Broadway. I try to just find a gentle, honest balance between the two.

Another aspect of the books I love so much is how you treated the gossip columnist T. Mason in the sequel (as well as Amanda in the first book). Both are essentially the “antagonists” of the respective books, but at one point you organically gave them these real human characteristics that we all have. They’re not just dramatic characters thrown in to advance the plot and create conflict (the way T. Mason’s storyline wraps up is beautiful). What was the process behind developing T. Mason’s character and her subplot?
A story without an antagonist can often be a boring and unrealistic story, so like it or not, we need our antagonists! That said, I truly believe no one is cruel or mean for no reason. We learn by the end of the first book why Amanda behaves the way she behaves, so I knew it was important to do the same with T. Mason, who takes over as this book’s antagonist, since Amanda has changed her ways. As actors (and authors!) we deal with critics and reviews—and we also deal with gossip and lies. Introducing the character of an anonymous theatre critic felt like a dramatic yet realistic plot point for Lulu’s story. I also think it’s important to show kids that adults struggle with bullies and bullying, just as kids do. And that adults are often the bullies themselves! But, as with Amanda, we learn what motivates T. Mason’s behavior, making the character more human and less of a generic big bad wolf.

Now as an adult, which character do you relate to the most and why?
Hmmm…I don’t know if I can choose! There are bits of myself and my experiences in so many of these characters. I relate to H.H. in one way, and Amanda in another. Lulu in one way, and her mom in another!

You mention in the Acknowledgements section that you recently performed with Growing Up Broadway, which produces a series of (fantastic) cabarets with current Broadway kids and with Broadway kids who are now grownups. Tell us a bit more about getting involved in that. What was it like connecting (or re-connecting) with the all-grown-up Broadway kids who share a similar experience? What was it like meeting the current Broadway kids? And has any of that experience informed what we will eventually see in the sequel?
Dara, who runs the series, asked me to participate and I was happy to do it! She and I were child actors at the same time, though we never knew each other. (Good odds we sat nervously in an audition waiting room together, though.) It’s so nice to see the that all-grown-up kids still enjoying rehearsing and performing, and it was really a treat to meet this generation’s young performers. They are so talented and hard working. I think what makes things harder for this generation is social media. Everyone knows everything, everything is posted, it’s hard to get away from things. For those of us who got started in the late 90s, there was none of that. You were able to escape and take a break and just forget about the rejection or who got what job and all that. These kids, it seems to be in their faces at all times. Though they seem to handle it well. One of the young performers mentioned how bullying is very real—especially when going back to regular school—so I was glad bullying was already a plot point in the sequel. Not glad she was experiencing that, but glad that I was able to put it in the book to shine a light on it, and hopefully help these kids deal with it.

What do you hope kids will take away from this book both as a person but also as maybe someone who wants to pursue a career in professional theatre?
Please, please, please, be grateful when you work. Be humble. Know it can all go away in the blink of an eye, and maybe never come back. Know that you are a part of a TEAM. While it is hard not to focus solely on yourself, your track, your career, you must try. Every person who is involved in the show—onstage and off—they are all equally important. People will remember your offstage behavior as much as your onstage performance. Be the person who is remembered as kind, hardworking and easy to work with.

What advice do you have for anyone (child or adult) who wants to become a writer (especially if they’re already an actor and not sure if they want to take the leap and pursue both)?
Read!! Reading will make you a better writer. Also, just give it a shot. Journal, write short stories, write plays, write a full novel…just have fun with it! Writing is another way to exercise your creative tendencies; it is another way of playing make-believe. And much like with show business: be prepared for notes, be prepared for criticism, be prepared for rejection. None of this means you’re not meant to be doing what you’re doing. It’s all just a part of the work. (Also: “write what you know” is real. It’s not cheating—it’s a really helpful jumping off point.)

SPEED ROUND

Favorite thing to do in NYC?
Go to the theatre, obviously! Actually: perform on stage at a theatre! That said, I also love a sunny spring or fall day that’s spent walking around a beautiful neighborhood like the West Village.
Favorite place to eat in NYC?
This is a really tough question. We’re so lucky to have so many wonderful restaurants! I’ll say I Sodi on Christopher Street. Delish. Small. Great drinks and pasta. And it’s already really tough to get into so I’m not outing an unknown gem.
Broadway dream role
Can anyone really pick one?? Ok: I’d love to jump on the “two performers trade places every other show” train and say both Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.
If you could swap roles with anyone on Broadway (male or female) right now for one night only, who would it be?
I think playing King George in Hamilton would be a blast.
If someone wrote a musical about your life, what would it be called and what would be the name of its show-stopping number?
Title of Musical: So Many Hats
Title of Song: “Balance”


Huge thanks to Jenna and the people at Running Press Kids for making this interview happen! Pick up your copy of Lulu the Broadway Mouse: The Show Must Go On HERE, which is set to arrive on March 31st. If you haven’t ready Lulu the Broadway Mouse yet, you can also order it HERE.

Interview: 13 Wishes Founders Maya Jade and Tehya Rose Frank On Giving Everyone Access to the Arts

Maya Jade and Tehya Rose Frank

Maya Jade and Tehya Rose Frank

Two teenage sisters are using their talents to bring the arts to communities who lack access otherwise through their organization, 13 Wishes. Maya Jade Frank (whose Broadway credits include Evita and Mary Poppins) as well as Tehya Rose Frank (a professional dancer and singer/songwriter who has performed with NYCB and at The Bitter End) will bring together other young artists on March 13th for their LA cabaret to provide creative outlets and to spark children’s creativity. I (Lindsay) got to chat with the accomplished young women to talk about their organization’s beginnings and their own beginnings in the arts.

1) How did you two first get started in the arts?
Maya: When I was little, Tehya used to take me out of my crib and make me dance and sing. I auditioned accidentally and got my first professional role in Hurricane: The Musical. I remember being at the first rehearsal and having the biggest smile on my face. That was when I knew the arts was going to have a strong impact on the rest of my life.
Tehya: I started at the School of American Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, both at Lincoln Center when I was 8. I remember my audition for both, they were the fastest auditions I had ever had! SAB made me do a grand battement, and the MET had me sing Happy Birthday. I will never forget how special it is to have the opportunities to be on the stages at Lincoln Center. It constantly reminds me that no matter what stage I’m on, I must treat them all with the same amount of respect and appreciation.

2) Outside of the performing arts and running 13 Wishes, what’s a hobby of yours?
Maya: Eating ice-cream. No, really..I love hanging out with my friends, my dog, riding my bike around the neighborhood, and boxing with Tehya.
Tehya: I love anything to do with learning something new, I do a lot of yoga and boxing. I think it’s so important to challenge yourself to do something out of your comfort zone! I also eat way too much ice-cream.

3) Describe each other in one sentence.
Maya: Tehya is unique, passionate, and blonde (sometimes).
Tehya: Maya is super fun and outgoing, but at her core she is a passionate human being who cares for everything and everyone.

4) For those who are not familiar already, tell us about your organization 13 Wishes
Tehya: 13 Wishes was founded in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. We were trying to figure out a way to help out, living in NYC at the time and seeing the devastation that it caused our community.
Maya: We created 13 Wishes initially to bring the arts to a school in Rockaway Beach where their arts budget had been shifted to pay for repairs caused by the hurricane. We figured that the arts were something we knew well, so it would be the best way to contribute to our community.
Tehya: Art definitely heals, and that’s what we were trying to achieve after these amazing kids had suffered such a devastating experience.
Maya: We have created a group of super kids on the East coast who help with the bracelets and now on the West coast with this cabaret, spreading the message of 13 Wishes and promoting the need for the arts in communities and for kids.
Tehya: We have been lucky to have really talented performing arts kids who are willing to help and want to help be a part of this message.
Maya: It is so easy to reach out and help by doing something we love, and now that Tehya and I have created a platform for so many talented kids’ creativity, we are excited to see where it leads and how much we can help!

5) I know that 13 Wishes was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. What specifically about the aftermath prompted you two to begin thinking about 13 Wishes?
Tehya: Our neighborhood in New York City had a blackout and no running water. We had to leave the apartment and go to our grandmother’s house on Long Island for a few days, but we were lucky. We didn’t have any flooding or damage like what happened to so many others.
Maya: I was in Mary Poppins at the time, and they closed the theatre. I remember going “trick or treating” in a neighborhood I didn’t know, without my friends. This is when we both realized we wanted to do something.

6) For Maya: I know you toured around the country with “Les Miserables”. How has traveling across the country changed your perspective on arts communities throughout the U.S.?
Maya: I realized that not everyone has the same opportunities that I had at such a young age. Different cities and states offer different opportunities. My #1 slogin is: CARPE DIEM everything, for you never know what you miss until it is gone.

7) What are your duties as founders of a foundation such as this?
Tehya: We have so many responsibilities to keep 13 Wishes running in a way that is constantly innovative and creative! Right now we are working on putting together this cabaret in Venice, so we are running rehearsals, advertising campaigns, social media — actually I’m not very good with technology!
Maya: Haha that is my part! I’m in charge of putting together all of the information you see posted on the internet, and reaching out to possible local sponsors. We are really trying to make the cabaret a local community event, and create a space where all the talented kids out here can create a platform together to inspire change in the arts in places where it is limited or non-existent.
Tehya: We have been running around like crazy recently, putting flyers in mailboxes, and finding new ways to spread the word. We want every aspect of the show to be run by ideas from kids and teens so we are finding everything from the Stage Managers to the Tech Director, who are teens! Of course we are in charge of the creative part: musical direction and putting together the band.
Maya: But, we are really letting the show fall into place by using whatever it is the performers want to do, and trying to make as much of it happen as possible!

8) What’s the most enjoyable part of running a do-good business?
Maya: The outcome of all the hard work we put into the process. We work with such talented people, collaborating on different projects, and when they come together and we are able to make a difference in a child’s life, there is something really special about that feeling.
Tehya: I love the process! I actually really love all of the work that needs to be put into creating something to help people. You truly learn so much from mistakes, and there is always more to learn, because we are constantly trying out new, totally out of our comfort zone ideas!

9) 13 Wishes aims to bring artistic opportunities to neighborhoods. These opportunities would (I’m sure) bring role models and teachers to communities to lead and guide these communities. Talk a little bit about how your arts teachers influenced you both as artists and as individuals.
Maya: My arts teachers prepared me for something I had no way of anticipating. But most of all, the teachers that I was comfortable with, were the ones that ended up instilling confidence and never changed who I am and who I was. To this day, knowing who I am, is part of what makes me, well, me!
Tehya: Two of my favorite, most inspiring teachers came from SAB and the MET, Garielle Whittle and Elena Doria. They both pushed me to find what I was most passionate about, and taught me to never stop learning and never stop training. If I wanted to do something, I had to put 110% effort into it, I had to make every step and every note, the best I could do. Every time I do something special in the arts, I think of those two teachers, and every time I can thank them, I will. I think as artists we all have one person that makes a difference in our lives, ignites the spark so to speak, these two were definitely those people for me. They taught me that art was beautiful because it was passionate, and in order to get there I needed discipline and respect for what I was/am pursuing. I guess that was how I got started. That was when the fire was lit.

10) This interview is in honor of your upcoming cabaret in the LA area on March 13th. What can you tell us about the event?
Tehya: I am a singer-songwriter, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunities to play at places such as The Bitter End (NYC) and Sunset (LA), but the best part of being an artist for me is to be able to share my stories. I’m able to collaborate with the most incredible artists, who inspire me to want to be better. This event on March 13th is about bringing together a community of super talented, kind, kids, who love the arts and want to use that passion towards something good.
Maya: We have curated a show with about 20 artists, singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, dancers, who all love what they do and are selflessly sharing their art with the world to hopefully bring recognition to this concept that the arts are so important to a child’s development. Unfortunately, we have seen all too many times, the arts being cut from budgets at schools around the United States. We want to bring back the idea that the arts matter, and are crucial to a child’s development. I grew up surrounded by the arts, I was 7 years old when I did my first show, and since then I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by artists. It’s a huge part of who I am, and I would have never known how much the arts meant to me if I hadn’t been exposed to the arts at a young age. We can’t take that opportunity away from kids. It’s not right, and we need more people to join us in spreading that message.

11) For those who aren’t able to attend the cabaret, what are other ways they can contribute to 13 Wishes?
Maya: We have had many local sponsors on the west coast contribute to creating this cabaret, so donations through the link on 13wishes.net would help this journey a lot.
Tehya: Besides that, we are always looking for creative, innovative ways to spread this message, as well as possible mentors that can give us new ideas and a broader perspective! The cabaret is only one of the projects we have had. We still have bracelets being sold in schools on the East coast by our amazing group of Ambassadors, and are always looking for new ideas! Feel free to email us at our13wishes@yahoo.com to bring ideas to our attention! After all, we are all in this together, and we all love what we do. If we can use what we love to help other kids, our message will be spread by kids for kids! We are excited to continue on this journey and see who it leads us to meet, and what it leads us all to accomplish as a professional community.
Maya: Maybe you can be a part of the next cabaret!
Tehya: Or our next project! We are always coming up with random, interesting, artistic ways to spread the message, and in order for it to happen we need kids like you to share your ideas! We create the platform, we all create the ideas!

For more information on the lineup and to order tickets, visit 13Wishes.net.