About the author:
Lyricist Marcy Heisler and her composing partner Zina Goldrich reign as queens of the family musical, thanks to a pair of charming shows, Dear Edwina (now running at off-Broadway’s DR2 Theatre) and Junie B. Jones. Heisler picked up a Drama Desk Award nomination for her work on Dear Edwina, and she and Goldrich are also in-demand songwriters for the likes of Alan Cumming, Michael Crawford, John Tartaglia and Kristin Chenoweth, who famously performed their comic number “Taylor the Latte Boy.” How did this Illinois native dream up a know-it-all advice columnist named Edwina Spoonapple? Heisler explains it all for Broadway.com.
The story of bringing Dear Edwina to the stage is quite a long and winding one. I was just out of college and had met Zina Goldrich in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. From the moment we sat next to each other and struck up a conversation, I knew I had found both my Richard Rodgers and my best friend.
Since we had written about seven songs together at that point, we thought we would go to Hollywood and explain that we were ready for our closeup and would be happy to write animated musicals or a television show. Or perhaps a short film—which, of course, we would sing in if they so desired. We were young, enthusiastic and crazy. Which, I believe, is how we were received. After our seventeenth meeting we were driving over Coldwater Canyon and looked at each other (while Zina, of course, kept her eyes on the road).
“What are we doing?” we asked each other. "We're theater girls. The best chance this project has is if we do what we do well, or at least, how shall we say...do." So we went back to New York, and I was charged with the task of writing a story around these songs about manners, which we’d written as a Schoolhouse Rock type of animated project. We tried a few story lines that were fun but didn't say what we wanted to say, exactly. I remember sitting on my bed and thinking, “What is the lesson you most need to learn (besides save your money)?” And I knew that lesson was: "Don't think about prizes. Just do what you love."
So we borrowed from our childhoods, created homages to our friends, and put the songs in the head of advice-giver extraordinaire Edwina Spoonapple, a girl who understands both the value of dreams and friendship, who takes the extra step to make things happen, who trips on her own ambition but gets great joy out of helping those she loves. It is indeed important to remember the value of the journey, not the prize. But that doesn't mean you never cry into your tire swing.
We were lucky enough to develop the show via Northwoods Theatre Institute, ASCAP, and Second Stage, where we were Artists in Residence. Nine composer Maury Yeston was a mentor and brought us to Freddie Gershon at MTI. Freddie and MTI licensed it outright, prior to ever having a professional performance. Just like that, Dear Edwina was born—and all over the country and abroad people were doing the show. A few years later it was done as a benefit for Rattlestick Theatre, and then came to the attention of Daryl Roth, who gave it its beautiful home at DR2.
It's been many, many years since that long and winding drive on Coldwater. And Zina and I are still side by side, writing and talking and talking and writing. And we never think about prizes. Except a few times. What we always think about, however, is how blessed we are to work in a field where people show us how real talent is, and take the time to build each other's dreams.
People always ask me if I based the character of Edwina on myself. Were I a character, I would be Edwina's little sister Katie, who, when losing faith in what she's doing, gets lovingly picked up, brushed off and sent back to the drawing board. As I enter my twentieth year of working in New York, I treasure that Broadway, off Broadway and off-off Broadway-adjacent drawing board more and more, and can't think of anything better to write about than the loving friends, family and colleagues who remind one another where to find it. In our show, they are from Paw Paw, Michigan. But every day I'm reminded they are right here.