It’s not every day one gets to mingle with Ken Ludwig, but since Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol premiered, Adventure Theatre MTC (ATMTC) has been buzzing with the energy of the show’s internationally-acclaimed playwright and all-star cast.
This is Ludwig’s second piece for young audiences and his second collaboration with Michael Bobbitt, Producing Artistic Director for ATMTC. Their first was 2013’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, also a world premiere. ‘Twas was such a blast that when Bobbitt invited him back to write ATMTC’s 2014 holiday show, Ludwig readily accepted. But this time, he enlisted the help of someone he’d wanted to work with for a long time – his 18-year-old son Jack, and their script gave life to a beautifully cast and directed version of Dickens’ classic that resonates with audiences of all ages.
Once the show opened, I was able to snag some time with father and son, and each in his own way shed light on the genuine collaboration that was born from this project.
Mia: What is different about your thought process when sitting down to write a play for children?
Ken: It’s different in two senses. It’s a short, one-hour play. I have to choose a subject matter that I think will appeal to children and their parents, and write it in a way they find enjoyable.
Then, it’s keeping the laughs challenging. I do not try to pitch it down to kids; I pitch it up and keeping it at a level that anyone would enjoy.
Jack: It’s as much a play for the parents as it is for the children. It was written with the idea that it was for children, but Dickens is such a hefty writer, it’s pretty dark in a lot of places – extreme poverty and the way Scrooge treats people, but I think we managed to bring out the good sides in Dickens’ imagery and really brighten it up.
If the final script is any indication, it seems you two worked really well together.
Ken: We did, and we had a great time doing it – we spent lots of time together. Jack is very literary and artistic in many ways. He’s a world-class oboist, a singer, and now he’s getting into the visual arts. We have always wanted to write something together – at least since he was old enough to think seriously about it (the past two to three years). There’s a certain rollicking fun about this kind of experience, and it made the playwriting a blast.
Jack: The camaraderie was great; I’d do it again! He and I just get along really well, especially when we’re talking about things like this – Shakespeare, plays that I study in school, books that I’m reading. Writing Tiny Tim was like those types of discussions but for an extended period of time. It was a great thing for me and my dad – an experience we can share for a long time.
How long did the writing process take?
Ken: We started on it over the summer, and we sort of finished writing it the day it went to rehearsal.
Jack: The question of time was perhaps the most challenging part. I’m a senior in high school, in the early application process for college, so time was a big factor.
Jack, being that you were in school during rehearsals, what was your reaction on opening day?
Jack: I was quite surprised! While I had seen some of the original set designs, I hadn’t seen the set. The colors were a lot brighter – seemed more like a children’s play to me. That final ghost was also a surprise to me – I wasn’t expecting it to be so big!
Ken, what is your advice to aspiring writers?
Ken: Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. If you don’t read well, you won’t write well. That’s absolutely it – I’ve read thousands of plays in my time, you can’t read enough. Keep your nose to the ground and keep at it; hard work pays off.
Running Time: Approximately one hour, without an intermission.
Julia L. Exline’s review on DCMetroTheaterArts.