[Editor's Note: Once a month we hear from one of Broadway's Next's Producers to give a peak into the process of creating, performing, and maintaining our show. This week it's with author and producer Greg Triggs.]
I'm in the process of bringing my first novel, The Next Happiest Place on Earth to market. It used to frustrate me that it took eight years to write but now I kind of love that it did. The book evolved as I did. When I reread it I notice old feelings and perceptions, characters inspired by new friends and other things that are more engrained and certain because I had longer to sit with the thoughts. That’s a luxury improvisers don’t normally have.
My friend Budge Threlkeld with whom I worked at Disney’s Comedy Warehouse was one of the funniest men I’ve ever known. He was in the original Broadway production of Miss Firecracker Contest by Beth Henley. He performed stand-up at Carnegie Hall. His best friend was Stephen Stucker the outrageous comedian from Airplane!. Budge helped nurse him as Stephen battled and ultimately passed away from AIDS in 1986.
We lost Budge a few years back. He had struggled with emphysema for a long time. People who’ve spent years creating shows from nothing the way you do in improv are very loyal to each other – the ensemble was good about checking in on him during his convalescence. When he and I would talk it was very often about the book. I remember a day when I was struggling with the novel. He told me to relax adding, “The story will tell you where to go.” It was one of the most important and last things he’d ever share with me.
I’m thankful that he said that, but for the life of me I don’t know why I had to be reminded. The process of writing a novel is very much like improv, at least for me. Perhaps mysteries or legal dramas require a mathematical sense of plotting but a romantic comedy such as, The Next Happiest Place on Earth has a more natural and spontaneous flow. One choice leads to another as the scenes unfold and build.
There are certain moments in the book I love because they remind me of people I’ve performed with over the years – a turn of phrase I could hear Rob choose, a character Debbie would play or a scene that would make Budge laugh out loud.
As an improviser I’m not used to having a permanent record of my work. Years from now I’ll reread my book and see only what I wish I had done differently – but that’s all in an imagined future. For today I’m simply proud and grateful. I hope the response to The Next Happiest Place on Earth will provide encouragement to write another novel – a story that will tell me where it wants to go.
Perhaps there will even be a character named Budge.