Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Favorite! Poem! Ever!

This poem, from my mother's childhood poetry book, Sung Under the Silver Umbrella (1936), obviously made an impression on me. I memorized it in 6th grade, when, between doodling pictures of horses in the margins of my notebooks, I doodled pictures of shoes. (And called them "shoodles.") It would not be inappropriate to consider If the Shoe Fits an homage to ffrida Wolfe. (No, she did not capitalize her first name.) I'd love to learn more about this early-century poet/writer; all I can find online is a book she co-wrote about Oriental Rugs.

by ffrida Wolfe

New shoes, new shoes
Red and pink and blue shoes
Tell me, what would you choose,
If they let us buy?

Buckle shoes, bow shoes,
Pretty, pointy, toe shoes,
Strappy, cappy low shoes;
Let's have some to try.

Bright shoes, white shoes,
Dandy, dance-by-night shoes,
Perhaps a little tight shoes?
Like some? So would I!


Flat shoes, fat shoes,
Stump-along-like-that shoes,
Wipe-them-on-the-mat shoes,
That's the sort we'll buy!

Expression Session: 2009

Ashley, Harry, and the gang are thrilled. So am I. Michael's coming out to the Bay Area in January to work on Fountain of Youth, a new musical about old lovers who become young again...and it changes everything. Which means, for us, some time to collaborate on our NEW SHOES! A great way to start the year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"I love my new shoes!"

I just finished the rewrite of The Souls of Her Feet. It’s can I put this delicately? A BITCH!

Well, writing is always fun, but a good story takes some digging to come clear. Long story short, the rough draft fell flat with Michael and it caused a great disturbance in the force. (Oh, the agony of first drafts!) The emails we exchanged got way out of hand (you can't scan with tone) and we both nearly threw in the towel. Many brainstorms and prayers later, Ashley finally stepped up.

Yes, my heroine came across as a little weak in the staged reading, and this story is about her, so she really needed to blossom. She needed an "I Want" song. I gave her a chance to show who she is by assigning her an essay entitled “Queen for a Day.” As it turns out, Harry is now a lawyer, and I learned from Keith/Sherry that every drag queen needs a funny name, so his secret identity is “Carrie D’way.” Also, Jeff & Ashley are now friends, “just good friends” until she shows up at the prom. (“I can’t believe you’re wearing a dress!”)

So here I am at Peets, and I just wrote the last line. When it came to me, it rang bells. I wanted to stand up and applaud Ashley. Instead, I burst out laughing and crying into my hands, and when I looked up again people were politely trying not to stare. I wanted to say to the crowd, "someday, you'll understand!" I can’t wait to share….

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SMBPR Scoop #1

The SMBPR Scoop
Greetings {FIRST_NAME}, September 2008

"Well, it wasn't quite cotillion, but tonight our big debut was just a glorious beginning of all we get to do!" —Harry

NY Debut a Success!

We are so pleased to report that last month's New York debut was a great success! An exhausting week of casting paid off with a high-spirited and talented volunteer team, including drag superstar Sherry Vine to originate the roll of Harry. (You may have seen "her" on a recent Project Runway show) We hired a handful of professional musicians and an up-and-coming director to steer the show to its highest potential.
Still, we flew by the seats of our pants (I love that metaphor!), with only one rehearsal, and for everything that could have gone wrong, it all somehow went right! Can you imagine a Broadway-style chorus in a teeny, tiny room 2 blocks from Times Square? Well,
"Honey, you need to VISUALIZE!" (Click for scenes from the show.)
Seeing the audience respond to the drama and the jokes was priceless! Here is some of the feedback we got:
  • "Funny without being offensive or vulgar"
  • "The music is amazing!" "jazzy underscoring"
  • "The characters are funny and relatable, and there really is something for everyone, regardless of sex, age or gender." 
  • "Campy without being too over the top."
  • "The most entertaining Fairy Godmother in the history of fairy tales!"
We were also able to narrow down our target audience:
  • Girls between 14 and 20 and their families.
  • Anyone who liked Wicked, Legally Blond, Hairspray, or Xanadu. 
  • Fans of twisted classics
  • Gay audiences (in both senses of the word), and
  • Shoe-obsessed women.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this experience was discovering ways to make SOULS even stronger. This fall, we will beworking on a rewrite and forging ahead with the rest of the show, including act two, Mirror Imag(in)e and act three, The Number the Beast. She is also applying for grants and looking for arts partnerships to help get the show to the next phase.
In the meantime, if you'd like to help support this production (we're still paying off our credit cards), our Souls-of-Her-Feet t-shirts are a great way to show your support! (The pre-teen girls in your life can even wear the g-rated version to school.)
A very special thank you goes out to everyone who helped make our debut possible--you know who you are and we love you!!! We'll write when there's more to report.
Kristen Caven & Michael O'Dell

Show "Biz"

We are still selling t-shirts to pay for our director, band, and venue!
We still need to sell 22 shirts!
Can you help out?
If you are in the Bay Area and would like a white heart print shirt, please call 510-534-1415.
To purchase another design or color from anywhere,         CLICK HERE!

Official Links

In Other News

On 9/11/08, Michael premiered his BRAND new 10-minute musical, American Bombshell, for the U.S.-ification of America Conference Festival at Center Stage in NYC!

Forward this message to a friend

© Kristen Caven 2008 Creative Commons License

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scenes from the Show

"Imagine, if you will..."
(once upon a time!!)
(Jen Ponton)

"Too bad you can't go to pro-om!"
(Juliana Marx, Cassandra Bodzak, Dina Plotch)

(Juliana Marx, Keith Levy)

(Juliana, Keith)

(Juliana, Keith)


"Honey, you need to VISUALIZE!"
(Juliana, Keith)

"Lick my toes?!" "Yes. Lick. Your. Toes."
(Juliana, Keith)

"Shoe clip" (clip of the shoe song)

(Juliana, Cassandra, Dina, Robert Kalman, Alex McCorvey)

"You mean... we're not POPULAR?"
(Robert, Susan Neuffer, Cassandra, Dina)

"We'll have parties, showers, dare I dream..."
(Robert, Susan Neuffer, Cassandra, Dina)

"Big Finish"

Want to see the whole darn thing?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cast Party

It’s Her Story Now!

“Well, it wasn’t quite cotillion, but tonight our big debut was just a glorious beginning to all we get to do!” — Harry

Somehow we made it! We managed to squeeze in extra rehearsals, pass out all of our extra tickets, transport the t-shirts from uptown within one hour and under $35, seat our audience and start the show on time.

I sat at the side so I could watch the audience watch the show, and I loved what I saw on their faces. On some, rapture, the whole way through. On some, skepticism that turned into big laughs. Some moments caused eyelids to slide south; some moments brought everyone to the edges of their seats.

It worked. The wheels stayed on. Even with the lost lines, late entrances, missed keys and mumbled words to be expected with such a short rehearsal of such a rich little piece (they hardly mattered in the moment —unfortunately they stand out on the video!), it held together. It rocked. It soared. It twinkled. Dina as Donna and Roger as the Heckler stole the show in spots, but Sherry as Harry took control and sang the place up like only he/she could.

The audience was great. Friends coming out of the woodwork, strangers appearing off the street. There were fewer people in seats than there were on stage, but we did two performances, and 32 people seemed to think it was great. We raffled off two new pairs of Bandolino Shoes! (Thank you, Kim!)

Afterwards, a reckoning. It could be improved. Some good advice about marketing from Kevin (I’ll save you $120,000 on an education from Tisch: know the audience you are trying to reach). Some wonderful brainstorming with Michael. (“Hey, let’s let Ashley IM her friends;” “Why is Sylvia such a bitch?”) A day or two of staring at the wall. Staring at the bank account. And then the new ideas start trickling in...

What's next? Maybe a music video of the shoe song with Sherry Vine. Maybe an appearance at the national shoe conventions...Kim is out there shoe-moozing! And for me...rewrites!

Lucky Stars

On Sunday, Maura Tierney (E.R.) gave me a big smile as she passed me on the way to her own rehearsal in the next studio over (Three Changes by Nicky Silver). She’s cute! She’s tiny! I said, “Hi, we’re your neighbors today.” Her director (I assume) growled, “Don’t expect a fruit basket.” (Donald later said he heard him yelling at the cast) I laughed and said, “They didn’t even give us a key!”

On Monday, all the actors were thrilled to see Anthony Rapp (Rent) sitting upstairs from where we were gathered after the show. On his way down the stairs we hailed him, and then I noticed his companion was Tom Cavanaugh (Ed)! I longed to go say hi and ask for a photo but I’m shy about such things.

Still, they’re all our lucky stars.

Crossing the Border

I read something once about how, when we try to realize a new idea we create a cosmic clash of energy and matter as our ethereal thoughts take on a material dimension. The material world, being made of clunky atoms and taxicabs and melted cheese and fingernails and such, resists new ideas (it’s busy, thank you) fiercely when they try to break in. This is called “trouble at the border.”

I’ve pushed enough new ideas into this world to know this. So I expected trouble. I had a continent to cross (with a child in tow) in the middle of the night, a new city to navigate, a limited bank account and a pile of information to juggle, and NO EXPERIENCE doing anything like this, much less being in charge of it!

When my favorite actress and biggest helper (Kim) found out her doctors had scheduled her for surgery a few days before our rehearsal, I took that in stride and thanked myself for casting understudies. I called Cesar, our assistant to the whoever could use him, to see if he could pick up the 30 t-shirts I’d ordered and had shipped to her, he said he could work something out. When my printer failed to print out the scores, scripts, and feedback cards they had promised me (each of the three times I had called), I figured okay, we can do that in New York.

When the kid said he was feeling a little queasy, though, getting off a sleepless night on an airplane, I didn’t consider that a major roadblock… until he started throwing up (both ends, actually) when we needed to be sleeping, causing me to wonder if we’d make it to the rehearsal at all. Then I got two more phone calls from two more favorite actors: one who had a death in the family, and one whose mother had suffered a massive stroke. Good lord! More calls to understudies.

At the last possible minute, good news: my son rallied and we made our way to the subway station. We got out at Times Square, lugging our suitcases and bags at top speeds, and got a call from Michael: the box office could not locate our keys. At that point I assessed all that had happened and told the universe: KNOCK IT OFF! I expected trouble, but this was ridiculous. I stormed in with a smile (thrilled to identify all of my cast members lolling about on the floor) and didn’t take no for an answer. My contact was on vacation across the country and they couldn’t reach her. But I booked the place fair and square, and finally we found our way in the back door of the studio. (The keys had been mis-sent to the warehouse.)

There was only one last roadblock: the actors didn’t know the music!

Musical Directors (as in Musical Chairs)

I woke up last Monday determined to find a rehearsal space. (We never found the FREE rehearsal space we were hoping to find, but not for lack of trying, especially on the part of KIM.) I called to see if we could rehearse in our (not expensive but still more than we had) performance space, the North Studio of Playwright’s Horizons. While checking my email for a response, I found a message from Eric Neiman, our director, backing out of the project.

Michael, at this time, was on a flight from Florida to Vermont. I asked Eric to recommend another director, and he sent a few names. A few hours later, I was close to tears, trying to track down these new people, when I got a call from one Marc Murai. He would do it. He was delighted. I liked him. I was thrilled. Michael beeped in. He had just secured Eric Morales, a director whom he knows and holds in the highest regard. One… none… now TWO! I burst out in tears from relief. Let it be!

The Amazing Kim Chapman

It was hard selecting the cast from a remote coast and without real auditions, but I did it. I picked the people who seemed to have the strongest singing resumes, since the music will make it or break it. And I sent a really nice letter to those who I couldn’t cast.

One woman wrote back the sweetest, most enthusiastic letter, and informed me that she was obsessed with shoes and had once owned 500 pairs. A few days later it became clear we couldn’t get clearance from Equity actors (too many limitations on our production), and so I had another chance to cast Sylvia. I went straight to my new shoe buddy, Kim Chapman.

This lady is insane. In a good way. Within a few days her brain had come up with 50 ways we could approach the shoe industry and its noble members for support with and exposure to “If the Shoe Fits,” our song about choosing the right shoe for each occasion. (“When you accessorize the hemisphere below your thighs…)

To quote Ashley: “It’s good to have a friend!”

Casting the Audience

Eric Neiman, our new director (yay!), asked some good questions about who would be seeing this performance. I gulped. I just wanted to see it myself. He said, if we’re going to go all this way, and put in all this effort, we should really try to get some good buzz on it. And get some good, critical feedback. He suggested walking down to half-price tickets and giving away some passes. And inviting producers who might be interested in taking the show to the next step.

“You mean, after all that work,” I said, “I have to cast the audience, too?”

What a learning experience!

Here's a photo of our second audience -- I wanted to remember them!

Cast Complete!

Narrator.....Jen Ponton (replacing George Adamo)
Ashley.....Juliana Marx
Donna.....Dina Plotch
Debra.....Cassandra Bodzak (replacing Sarah Packard)
Sylvia.....Susan Neuffer (replacing Kim Chapman)
Harry.....Keith Levy (a.k.a. Sherry Vine)
Jeff.....Blake McCorvey
Coach.....Robert Kalman
Heckler.....Roger Wingfield

Chorus (Understudies)
Kerri Ford (Ashley), Jen Ponton (Ashley), Giancarla Boyle (Donna), Joanna Schubert (Debra), Alex Beck (Jeff), Roger Wingfield (Coach) JenMarie Pierce, Kris Doubles

“Midnight Mouse”

Piano.....Michael O’Dell, Jess Stewart
Bass.....Brian Holtz
Drums.....Rossen Nedelchev

Other Talents

Sound Effects.....Kris Doubles
Page-turning Specialist.....JenMarie Pierce
Production Assistant.....Cesar Salazar
Raffle/Fundraising.....Kristen Caven, Kim Chapman
Cashier.....Donald Caven
Music Preparation.....Blank Canvas Music

Alex Beck is an actor/director who will be playing Sylvia Plath’s daughter in the upcoming NY Fringe Fest production of Ariel View.
Cassandra Bodzak, even though she seems like a nice girl, played Coochie Snorcher in The Vagina Monologues and lots of indie films.
Giancarla Boyle recently got off tour with Seussical!, and is our resident Lucky Yoga Goddess.
Donald Caven loves cars and would rather play with Legos than attend musical theater.
Kristen Caven can’t even begin to express her surprise and pleasure at seeing her opus performed for the first time. (Her other works still languish at She would like to thank Michael for his vision and hard work, her parents, Dave for his elaborate trusswork of support, and Jenny for getting her to New York.
Kim Chapman’s first stage role was as a Japanese Sleeping Beauty. She’s worked as a shoe model, and once actually owned over 500 pairs of shoes.
Kris Doubles fell under a spell a few years back that transported him from his worn-out Broadway seat to the stage, where he went Into the Woods and to Urinetown.
Kerri Ford is famous for her talent, spirit, and sparkle, which you can soak up more of by visiting her website,
Robert Kalman learned about coaching in DiMaggio and laid down the law as Thomas Jefferson in 1776.
Juliana Marx is a singer/songwriter/poetist.who has acted in lots of things but lately has been bouncing off kids at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. Watch for her auto-semi-biography, coming out in ten years.
Blake McCorvey left the comforts of the Six Flags Fiesta Texas stage to pursue his talents in New York, like fencing, sewing, doing the splits, and “blizzard” sounds.
Kevin Morales is a famous director in San Francisco’s East Bay, who’s also written 8 staged plays. Starting this fall, he will be producing his musical hit, Let’s Go to the Movies Off-Broadway.
Susan Neuffer played a nasty red-tape bureaucrat on Law and Order, but she also sang in an all-girl rock band way back when.
Michael O’Dell arranged and conducted nearly 100 shows before trying on and breaking in SHOES. Later this month he’ll be working on Becoming Britney at the the NYCFringe Festival. Michael thanks Kristen for her patience, Eric for saying no, Kevin for saying yes, Toi Lynn Wyle and Carroll Schuller for their insights, and his family for their love and support in encouraging him to find his bliss.
JenMarie Pierce is a karaoke superstar and has played a snake, a transvestite, and a maenad. Ask JenMarie about Tupperware™!
Dina Plotch, well known in the musical fairy tale community, has always dreamed of playing the ugly stepsister. Recent credits include; a toad, a dwarf, and a dalmation. Thanks to Mom, Dad, Bro and Boyfriend for always wishing upon a star".
Jen Ponton is a working actor, and that in and of itself is a fairy tale come true!!! Hire her for your musical or high-paying film at:
Cesar Salazar A New Jersey resident with a worse attitude than a New Yorker, Cesar hopes to astonish the world and dazzle directors with his acting skills.
Joanna Schubert is barely legal, but she’s already played a prostitute, a robot, and Rizzo in Grease, as well as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Roger Wingfield played Jesus Christ and can burp on command.
Keith Levy was raised by a very nice Amish family before running away to Las Vegas to become a showgirl. Now, “Sherry Vine” is a NYC downtown darling and a world-renowned drag superstar. SEE HER SHOW!

Friday, July 18, 2008


"The Souls of Her Feet"--Staged Reading at Playwrights Horizons

There's a cast that just oozes talent. There's musicians. There's even a drag queen superstar playing Harry: Sherry Vine!

There's two seatings, back to back. 40 seats each. We're hoping to amuse, delight, and get some honest feedback from the NYC theatre community!

Check it out! Click here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Playing God

The cool thing about being a writer is playing God. You get to make up a world, put people in it, and then throw problems at them to see what they do. They ask for help, and you give them what you think they need, whether it's the butt-kicking they feared or the reward of their dreams coming true.

So, I'm in a new place right now. I stumble around in a daydream most of the time. But now it seems my dreams are coming true. Michael and I have gotten everything on our list that we've asked for, starting with an auspicious location (Playwright's Horizons).

That being said, I feel totally out of my depth. This week, I found myself knee-deep in headshots and resumes sent by various strangers, all of them incredibly beautiful, interesting, and talented, all of them totally capable, I'm sure, of reading the lines on the pages that I wrote. But creating a cast is something like creating a family, and I'm feeling not just a little pressure to put some care and consideration into this.

Not that I have time... we're taking the kid to Disneyland in a week on a family road trip planned long before THIS silliness came up...

So, at this point, we've got Ashley. And 3 completely fabulous possibilities for her understudy (I'm doubling the cast to build the chorus). We've got the Coach (but he doesn't know it yet.) We've got three possible Jeffs, four possible stepmothers, 8 great candidates for the stepsisters, and a dozen more fabulous and gorgeous women I want in the chorus (not because I need them or have room for them to stand but because I like them)!

And they're all in New York. And I'm here in Oakland.

So I'm being creative: Juliana Marx (our Ashley) is interviewing the Jeffs on the phone to do a chemistry test. I've set up a way for the stepsisters to record lines over the phone. I'm surfing the web looking for drag queens to play the central role (apparently they don't read Craigslist). I'm trying to set up a meeting with our director (who by some miracle also lives in Oakland), to help make these decisions. Because I'm not great at deciding. I want and love and am so grateful to everyone and so excited at this point that I'd rather just dance around barefoot and burst out with spontaneous hoots and giggles.

But no. I have to play God.

I have to decide the shape of this family. I have to decide the fate of all these wonderful actors (who have now all become characters in my head), without knowing if they need to have their asses kicked or their dreams come true. (Neither of which is likely to happen... it's JUST a staged reading...)

But you can see what's happening.

This is the imaginary meeting the material. This is the swirling eddy of sand, slime, and water that lies at the border of creation. This is what it's all about. There will be much more swirling, much more muck, much more confusion, and ... I'll probably forget to write someone back, or tell someone something important, or I'll say things the wrong way and piss off the best one.... or we'll get the perfect cast and sit down and read this thing and go: "Yeah, right!")

If anyone knows this, God does: creation is messy.

So if anyone is reading this (I know, you're auditioning for 17 different things and have probably forgotten you submitted), know I'm pondering your face and hope to announce your fate very soon...


p.s. not to offend those atheists and Pastafarians out there, but "playing Flying Spaghetti Monster" didn't have the right ring.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Staged Reading: August 4th, NYC

Good news!

We are planning a staged reading of the first play in this trilogy in Manhattan ("on the fringes of the Fringe Festival") on Monday, August 4th. What we will need to do this, (with no budget), are:
• A venue, whether a theater, an auditorium, a conference room or a living room. (around 7-9 Monday evening)
• A rehearsal space for Sunday afternoon (3 hours)
• A director
• 10-12 actors who can sing the following roles:
- ASHLEY, a sweet but stressed-out high-school senior (singing)
- DEBRA and DONNA, her snarky stepsisters
- SYLVIA, her bitchy stepmother
- HARRY, her "Fairy" Godfather/mother/whatever (singing/pontificating)
- JEFF PRINCE, a high-school senior (singing)
- COACH PUPKIN, the squash coach

If you know of anyone in New York Area who might like to participate in this fun project, would you please let them know about us? We are especially looking for actors who are professional but need resume experience. (i.e. are great but can do this for free.)

Also on our wishlist:
• Access to people who could potentially help us (we think Sarah Jessica Parker or Cynthia Nixon might LOOOOVE the big shoe number… or maybe corporate sponsorship from Manolo Blahnik or Nancy Ganz?)
• Producers, agents, angels, managers,—potential partners who make things happen!
• Suggestions for festivals/competitions for musical comedies/romances
• Grant funding for writing the next 2 installments in the trilogy

Please visit our website to learn more! (You can support our cause by signing up for the mailing list, commenting on this blog, and buying the t-shirt!)

Thanks for your support and encouragement!

Kristen Caven
and (the amazing, talented) Michael O'Dell

The Birth of a Musical

In 2006, I put a notice out for composers to collaborate on my three-part musical, "Shoes, a Mirror, and a Big, Pink Rose." (Which, years before, was supposed to be an opera, but that's another story.) Four composers replied, but only one of them (the amazing, talented, and ever so clever Michael O'Dell) was so taken with the material he dashed off a song instantly. The first time I heard "Can't Go to Prom Blues" (played back in the nasally clarinet voice of Finale Notepad), I went "huh?" (In my mind, it had the same tune as "Tale as Old as Time" sung by Mrs. Potts...)

Then we met, and he appeared to me burly and beast-like, but kind, with wild Beethoven hair, and the vampire-like complexion of someone who worked nights writing and directing music. We drank some coffee and compared our top fives and found we were compatible. And then we got to work.

This was early May. "I'll write a song a week," he said, "And have it done by August." I widened my eyes and nodded slowly, sincerely, supportively, but thinking of the TEN YEARS IT HAD TAKEN ME TO WRITE THE LIBRETTO!

Four months and many meetings later, he had written four songs. Four GREAT songs. The first draft of the first act was complete! But he felt discouraged for not having met his writing goal. I rolled up the manuscript and beat him about the head and shoulders for being so negative. Then we did some math: Four songs in four months. Only sixteen more songs to write. We could be done by January, 2008.

Well, that was ridiculously far off. Michael started cranking it out again. Four months later, we met at the home of a friend well-endowed with pianos, and he sketched out the next two acts while I sat there going "huh?" and "woah" and "cool." He had just returned from a long east-coast writing odyssey. (While waiting for news of songs, I'd gotten to work on the novelization... but that's another story.) For the rest of the Spring of 2007, we worked on rewrites. But then... radio silence.

In January of this year, 2008, that is, I was moping around without much hope. Michael had gotten sick, moved away, fallen off the face of the earth, etc., and the fate of my poor, peculiar princesses was once again in limbo. I was feeling like I was going through composers like tanks of gas, each one getting this project farther down the road, but never all the way home. (Michael was not the first one I'd used up. (Another story.)

I finally got back in touch with him and said (choke) "farewell...." But then, a miracle happened. Like Snow White coming back to life, or Sleeping Beauty waking up, he was better! He was back! (Although in Florida.) Plus, he was now a communicative blogger! He was ready to write some more!

We re-framed our focus towards finishing ONE act at a time. To both of our surprise, a new song emerged (thanks to the outrageous, gender-bending Harry/Godfather), and evolved more collaboratively than ever over the few months.

And then, something truly phenomenal happened: we discovered we would both be in New York at the same time. Hey, we thought, let's get together and have coffee. Cool. Hey, let's get together and do some writing. Cool. HEY. LET'S GET TOGETHER AND PUT ON A SHOW!