As part of my LIST series (which is officially a series now because this is my third LIST article) I caught up with Robin Rothstein, playwright and producer/writer/lyricist for MAD LIBS LIVE, a new musical for families off Broadway. I have been friends with Robin since we worked together in a sketch comedy group in NYC in the 1990s. It was Robin’s idea several years ago to turn the popular Mad Libs game into a musical, which just goes to show you what a bold and creative thinker she is. But can she make a list?
Robin: I do make lists, I hand write them. I never type them, and I use a Sharpie in black or blue. Then I’ll add red stars, or highlighting … then I cross things off so it gets so messy, then I transfer the things that haven’t been done to a new list, but some things need to be done again even if I already did them once, so I transfer them too.
Pam: You sent me his list 10 days ago. When I finally called you for the interview, I suggested that list might be too old and you said, no, that list was still good. The same list is good for 10 days? Do you ever actually do anything on your list?
Robin: It’s not actually a daily list – not a one day thing. If I feel like I’m procrastinating, then transferring it to another fresh paper feels like I’m trying to make it happen, because I have prioritized it to a new piece of paper …
Pam: (laughing) I do the same thing! Now, on this list, discount codes are highlighted and starred. Have you taken care of them?
Robin: Sort of. That’s an ongoing thing … discount codes always need to be added if we get a new discount group, for example a youth group. I have the producer credit, in addition to be the book writer/lyricist on Mad Libs Live, so it’s my job to do these other things.
Pam: And I should point out that you are also a Director of Operations at Broadway Across America, so you are fitting in your writing/producing of Mad Libs Live! around a pretty busy full time job. What about the Mad Libs Live! website? Do you write any of the content for that?
Robin: Well, right now for that I have to write bios of the four characters in the play. I need the right kind of mental space for that task, though. It’s not something I can just squeeze in the middle of a busy day. I have been working on it but it’s not finished.
Pam: This is a list for work stuff, do you have a personal list? Like “buy rain boots” or “get teeth cleaned”?
Robin: Doctor appointments go on my calendar, then I’ll use a calendar reminder because I have so many pieces of paper and post-its for the show that I don’t want to commingle them …
Pam: Mm hm.
Robin: I do have one-day lists. I usually use a piece of paper - recycled paper –
Pam: Of course …
Robin: Sometimes just a half even - and then put it my back pocket. If I have a real urgency, like I am almost out of clean clothes - I will leave a piece of paper on the floor of my apartment with a note written in Sharpie like LAUNDRY - so I will see it when I walk home.
Pam: So, then you just walk in and see the note on the floor.
Pam: So, you have the note on the floor … you have calendar reminders. And a handwritten work list. And post its. And that piece of paper in your back pocket.
Robin: Yes, I guess I do.
Pam: But it’s working for you! Let’s talk about Mad Libs Live! The title seems to say it all – the audience gets to give words to the actors! It sounds like a blast. Is it improvised?
Robin: The story line stays the same – four teens enter a singing contest – but their songs are missing words and so they need the audience's help to fill in all the blanks. The target age for the kids in this audience are 7-10 years – they give words which are placed in buckets onstage and the actors draw from them and incorporate them into their songs. Sometimes the performers call out the names of the kids who gave the suggested words. The kids love it when they use their words, but they really love it when their names are called out. You can find out more on Mad Libs Live!
Pam: So, what is next for Mad Libs Live! after its off-Broadway run at New World Stages?"
Robin: Well, my team and I are hoping the show will tour, or get picked up by a licensing house. We've already had some strong interest, so that's a great sign. It's a really good show for school groups because we incorporate grammar in a fun, educational way, so I'm hoping lots and lots of kids around the country get to see Mad Libs Live!
Then Robin and I incorporated a little grammar of our own. I asked her for an adjective, a noun and an emotion and did my own Mad Libs. Robin’s sentence was this:
My list is smelly and I carry it in my cable box . I would feel desperation without it.
Pam: I feel exactly the same way. Thank you, Robin!
Mad Libs Live runs weekends through January 4. The show is at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street) on Saturdays at 11:00 and 4:30 and Sundays at 12:00 and 3:00. Click here for tickets.