It all started in first grade. I had just started a new school and desperately wanted the kids to like me, so to impress them, I told a teeny lie. With my last name being ‘Cocca,’ I informed my new classmates that my father owned the Coca Cola Company, (he didn’t). My well-intended scheme backfired and became a big problem when the kids discovered the truth. Lesson learned.
Hoboken Children's Theatre, Hoboken, NJ
Fast forward 40 years… I was sitting in my studio trying to conjure up an idea for my next children’s book when my first grade ruse came to mind. The idea of a tiny lie growing out of control seemed like a great concept. With some twists and imagination, the idea developed into my children’s book Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew in which Kim, my main character, tells a teeny lie to impress the kids in her new school. This time, Kim announces that she is from royalty (she isn’t) and her lie grows into a gigantic, sometimes comical, problem. After submitting my idea to book publishers, I sold the story to Albert Whitman & Co. in 2008. (www.albertwhitman.com)
As life would have it, at about the same time, I happened to be involved in my community theater. I didn’t know it then, but soon the book world and the stage world would collide. While creating the artwork for the book, I started to see the illustrations as a stage set and my characters as actors. I began to hear their voices and envision certain lines from the book being perfect lyrics for songs. On my vision board, where I post my big dreams, I wrote, “Make Princess KIM into a play”.
Princess K.I.M. And the Lie That Grew (the book) was published in 2009. A few years later, after completing the art for the sequel, Princess Kim and Too Much Truth, I started seriously thinking about making my dream a reality. It was time to bring Princess KIM to the stage in the form of a Children’s Musical. In late 2010, I began my path from page to stage.
Confession—I cannot play a note of music. I am a writer, an artist with vision and a dreamer, but I’m also practical enough to know that I needed a creative team. I am also a believer that there are no coincidences. I can’t tell you how many times a conversation or an introduction led me to the person I was meant to meet. I also knew that if I wanted something, I’d have to have the courage to ASK!
BeeBay Theater, Tehachapi, CA
With my mind open and my eyes on my goal, my path led me to my creative team— theater professional Toby Tarnow, and two wonderful musicians, Andrew Cass and Premik Russell Tubbs, who, thankfully, were equally excited about my idea. (That’s the “Ask” part!) We worked together for 16 months, writing the script and developing the music. We spent many hours either sitting around my piano with my children’s books and script in hand, or sending music and script files back and forth over the internet. Through it all, this solitary author-illustrator found a love and respect for the collaboration process, which in turn, resulted in a wonderful script and score… Princess K.I.M. The Musical.
Education & Mentors
Having published over 60 children’s books, I knew a lot about the book publishing world, but not so much about the theater industry. I had to educate myself. During the early stages of creating the script and score, I joined the Dramatists’ Guild of NYC and also connected with theater agents and playwrights, all of whom graciously and generously gave me guidance and advice, which were instrumental in moving my project forward.
One thing I learned was in order to land a theatrical agent, the play must have several productions. But how? Through the Dramatist Guild, I discovered new play contests. I submitted Princess K.I.M. The Musical to a new play festival at the Carol Crane Youth Theater, Ohio, in 2012. Out of 180 plays, we made the top 5. My team and I traveled to Ohio for the Festival readings… and at the end of the day— we won! The prize— A full production in spring of 2013! We did it! Our first production.
Amato Center for the Arts, Milford, NH
I then decided, in order to gain more exposure, I would produce Princess K.I.M. The Musical myself at a local theater. I launched a Kickstarter campaign, gathered a production team, rented a 450-seat theater and had open auditions. This time I asked my NH community and they said YES… YES to being actors, set builders, musicians, sound engineers, and everything in between. Our October 2013 local debut was a success, with all five shows selling out.
One benefit of producing our own show was the work shopping factor. My team could now clearly see how we could improve the play. We got to work again tweaking the script and the music as well as creating a junior version. At this point, word got out about Princess K.I.M. The Musical. We licensed the junior version show to the Interlakes Summer Theater in Meredith, NH (2014) www.interlakestheatre.com and a full version production to the BeeKay Theater in Tehachpi, CA. (2015) (www.tctonstage.com)
At the same time, I was contacted by artistic director Chase Leyner of Hoboken Children’s Theater (http://www.hobokenchildrenstheater.com), who was looking for a 50 minute TYA version of Princess KIM. Chase and I and our teams put our heads together and the TYA version was born. Princess K.I.M. The Musical (TYA) had a successful 8-week run at the Hoboken Children’s Theater, New Jersey, in 2015.
The stars aligned once again when an agent from Stage Rights offered to represent Princess K.I.M. The Musical after attending our California show. So, the path from page to stage has brought us here, with hopes that the road will continue with many productions across the nation. …And to think, it all started with a teeny tiny lie I told in first grade.
Maryann Cocca-Leffler is the author and illustrator of over sixty children's books, including Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew and Princess Kim and Too Much Truth, from which this play is based. Inspired by her Italian-American upbringing in Boston, many of Maryann’s book ideas come from her own childhood, family and people she meets along the way. Her books include Bus Route to Boston, Janine, Bravery Soup, A Homemade Together Christmas, and the upcoming The Growing Season. She holds a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art. When not in her NH studio, Maryann often travels to elementary schools nationwide to share her beloved books with young readers, and when she can, see her play performed.
FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Apply for a quote for Princess K.I.M. The Musical, Princess K.I.M. The Musical (Junior), or Princess K.I.M. The Musical (TYA) for your chance to win an autographed copy of Maryann's book Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew. Available to the first five theaters!