Elin Hampton's full-length plays, short plays, and musicals have been produced at The Greenway Arts Alliance, The Road Theatre Company, The Hollywood Fringe Festival, InterAct, ALAP, The Hudson Backstage, New York’s The Duplex, and at the York Theatre Company amongst others. She spent many years as a television writer and producer, penning numerous shows, including "Mad About You," "Pinky and the Brain," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and "The Wild Thornberries."
We had the pleasure of talking with Elin about amother musical and what inspired her writing of this theatrical tribute to the cheerleaders, health care providers, transportation supervisors, and therapists otherwise known as "mom".
Q: What inspired you to become a writer and to write this musical in particular?
A: In New York, I was an actress always looking for work. Eventually it dawned on me that it would be in my best interest to make my own opportunities. I started writing cabaret shows for myself and became a member of several comedy troupes. I discovered that I had a knack for comedy and a passion for writing lyrics. When I moved to California, I was pretty quickly staffed on several television shows. Although my confidence as a writer was boosted, I missed theater desperately, specifically musicals. I joined a musical writers’ workshop in Los Angeles and had to write a one-line “pitch” for a musical. I wrote several, but when I got to the one about four mothers bonding over “the roller coaster of first time mothering” my teacher said, “Write that one.” By that time, I had three babies under the age of three. It was a no brainer.
Q: So you have three kids?
A: Yup. I have one girl and two boys... including a set of twins. My children are all “gifted,” of course.
Q: You gave each character such distinct differences and yet, they become great friends as the story unfolds. Can you talk about that sentiment of commonality in parenthood?
A: When my first child was about 3 months old, my husband and I joined a Saturday morning kids’ gym group for moms and dads. It was a diverse group of parents, whose careers ranged from teachers to nurses, from stockbrokers to small business retail, from finance to entertainment. Our ages ranged fifteen years. Yet, through the common denominator of first-time parenting, we all became dear friends and remain so, even though our kids are now in their 20s! We still celebrate holidays, life events and even travel together occasionally, as families and as couples. We are a phone call away for one another’s emergencies, siblings and parents’ illnesses and deaths, a divorce and two remarriages. When my twins were born, I needed a different kind of support as well, and joined a “mommy of multiples” group. Likewise, I remained friends with those “twin moms” through their ups and downs over the last 18 years. As a result, my sons have many friends who are twins.
Q: Do you have a favorite character in the show or one that you most related to as you wrote this piece?
A: Although I may have started out most resembling Yvette, I think I am a combination of all of the ladies. Like Cydney, Yvette and Bess, as my nest empties, I am readying myself to go back to work full-time. I am artsy like Yvette, but pragmatic like Mare. Before I had children, I worked many hours and was fairly successful, like Bess. And because I continued to work when my kids were babies, and I was an “older” mother with three babies under the age of three, I kept them all on pretty tight schedules.
Q: There are some interesting points you make in the show, about what’s perceived as “normal” and about modern parenting philosophies. Were you ultimately trying to make a particular point about parenting in today’s culture?
A: It may be better than it was 10 years ago, but doctors and teachers are still very quick to label our kids with all sorts of three-letter “syndromes.” Medication, special schools, therapy and support groups are encouraged for all kinds of childhood “issues,” another word that I think is overused. What is normal?
Because first-time mothers are older than previous generations of first-time moms, many of them are well educated and already have successful careers. In truth, many make more money than their partners. Many of today’s mothers approach motherhood like a job...they do lots of research, they over schedule, over stimulate and they’re very competitive. A positive change is that fathers are expected to be parenting partners. Another wonderful trend is that gay couples are adopting children and proving to be wonderful parents.
I don’t think there’s a mother alive who doesn’t think her kid is gifted, in some way. That’s a double-edged sword. It’s great to give kids confidence, but we don’t want them to be headed for a nosedive when they realize they’re merely average good people.
Q: You have the pick of the litter, anyone dead or alive, what would be your ideal casting for this show?
A: There are so many people who I would love in this show... some are now too old, or dead but it’s open to being a wonderfully diverse cast. Of course, Meryl Streep could play every role.
BESS: A 45-year-old version of Bette Midler, Lillias White, Patty Lapone. A way younger and living Elaine Stritch. A brassy belt... a large personality.
MARE: Idina Menzel, Barbra Streisand 20 years ago.
YVETTE: Kristen Bell or Zooey Deschanel.
CYDNEY: A 20-year-old Kristin Chenoweth, Anna Kendrick, or Jordin Sparks
THE MAN: Danny Burstein, Stanley Tucci, or John Leguizamo
Q: Part of the writing process is editing. Are there scenes that hit the editing room floor that you wish you could have kept in? Can you tell us about any of these deleted scenes?
A: Gerry and I wrote a song about traveling with children that I wish was still in the show. Maybe we’ll add it back someday.
Q: What was the most challenging part of constructing this show?
A: Telling the story of four different women through 18 years of motherhood in under two hours was no easy feat. We could easily have written another hour or two of material. Giving each of the women her own arc and each of the children, although unseen, their own arcs was something that was very important to me. I didn’t want to follow the business model of other shows. I like that amother musical falls somewhere between a book musical and a review. I think of it as a “tapestry.”
Q: What is you favorite moment in the show?
A: I always look forward to the scene with Yvette in the supermarket. What mother hasn’t had the experience of her child embarrassing her in public? Whether you’re in a supermarket, a restaurant, or even a birthday party, a cranky or energetic 2-year-old isn’t predictable. A more fond memory is the stage when my daughter wouldn’t go out of the house without her tutu, or my sons without their superheroes costumes.
I also love the over the top birthday... especially when the birthday kid won’t come out of his room. Who are these parties really for? The parents, of course.
Q: One of the most touching parts of the show was when Mare’s mother dies that line, “I’m no one’s little girl.” And continuing with “LeeMah wants her mother,” was that a particularly emotional moment to write for you?
A: I wrote that song quickly, in one sitting. The images flooded my brain and I cried the entire time, as I typed. My mom tells me that she still wants to pick up the phone to call her mother, even now, 42 years after her death. That has always stuck with me. My mother and I, although living on separate coasts, still talk to one another almost every day, sharing notes on books we’ve read and recipes we’ve discovered. My mom always tells me that I’m still her “little girl” and will always be so, until the day she dies. I dread the inevitable.
Q: Many people assume that once you’re a mom, you’ve grown up. The women in this show seem to do plenty of “growing up” right alongside their children. Is this something you wanted to emphasize, or was it something that happened as your characters formed in your process?
A: As the years go by, I have come to realize that life is a constant “work in process.” As we grow, we adapt to changing circumstances, whether they be financial, marital, or physical. As our children get older and discover themselves, we also continue to grow. Throughout the development of amother musical I kept changing, and hopefully became a little more insightful so my characters grew too. Thanks for noticing.
Q: What advice do you want to give to young playwrights?
A: Join a writers’ group, or take a class... wherever you can become part of your region’s theater community. It’s also important that you hear your work read by (hopefully good) actors as you develop the piece. If you’re writing a musical and you are not skilled enough to write the music or lyrics, find a collaborator that shares your sensibility. If you discover that you keep butting heads, find someone else.
Visit the amother musical page of our website to listen to samples of the music, see photos, and more!