Thursday, June 05, 2014

Notes toward a program note

The Last Temptation of Paula Deen starts tomorrow, y'all. Get yo'selves a ticket.

Paula Deen has been really generous to our writing process over the past few months. When I first started thinking about the concept and the writers were crafting their scenes, I was a little concerned her sell-by date was going to be past by the time we got around to opening our show. And then, when we were getting our first draft together, she made a $75-million dollar deal with Jahm Najafi, an entrepreneur who invests in damaged brands. Since then there's been no end of press releases coming out of Paula Deen Enterprises, including new restaurants and a U.S. tour. There was also one juicy bit of bad press involving the sudden closure of Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, with employees arriving for work to find the doors chained shut and receiving their final paychecks out in the parking lot. All of this became rich inspiration for our show.

We started with a simple concept: writers were assigned to draft pages about Paula, and we would try assembling them into some sort of Citizen Kane style portrait. Thankfully the pages did not cooperate with that idea. At some point the idea of temptation came on strong and Kayla Cagan, who wrote pages and offered dramaturgical support, started to feel a Faustian vibe. I felt it too and things started to take focus.

I hope you enjoy our show, but I hope you find, as we did in writing and rehearsing the piece, that Paula is a lot more than the racist laughingstock she became last year. After spending all this time with her, I find her at once more sympathetic and more menacing than I ever thought I would.

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