From Idea to Book Deal to Stage Production..OH MY!
Posted by viviankirkfield
From Page to Stage
I didn’t intend to post on my blog today. I’ve been gearing up for the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge that opens…TOMORROW! But sometimes a window of opportunity opens…and the only thing to do is walk through it.
So, when one of my dear friends, Maryann Cocca-Leffler, shared this incredible story with me yesterday, I knew I had to share it with you.
Maryann Cocca-Leffler is the Author and Illustrator of over 60 children’s books including Princess K.I.M. and the Lie that Grew and Princess Kim and Too Much Truth from which this play is based. Inspired by her Italian-American upbringing in Boston, many of Maryann’s book ideas come from her own childhood, family and people she meets along the way. Her books include; Bus Route to Boston, Janine, Bravery Soup, A Homemade Together Christmas and the upcoming The Growing Season. She holds a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art. When not in her NH studio, Maryann often travels to elementary schools nationwide to share her beloved books with young readers and when she can- see her play performed.
PLAY, YOU SAY? Read on, and all will be revealed!
The Making of “Princess K.I.M. The Musical”
By Author-Illustrator-Playwright Maryann Cocca-Leffler
It all started in first grade. I had just started a new school and desperately wanted the kids to like me, so to impress them, I told a teeny lie. With my last name being ‘Cocca’, I informed my new classmates that my father owned the Coca Cola Company, (he didn’t). My well-intended scheme backfired and became a big problem when the kids discovered the truth. Lessoned learned.
Fast forward 40 years …I was sitting in my studio trying to conjure up an idea for my next children’s book when my first grade ruse came to mind. The idea of a tiny lie growing out of control seemed like a great concept. With some twists and imagination, the idea developed into my children’s book Princess K.I.M. and The Lie That Grew in which, Kim, my main character, tells a teeny lie to impress the kids in her new school. This time, Kim announces that she is from Royalty (she isn’t) and her lie grows into a big gigantic, sometimes comical, problem. After submitting my idea to book publishers, I sold the story to Albert Whitman & Co. in 2008. (www.albertwhitman.com)
As life would have it, about the same time, I happened to be involved in my community theater. I didn’t know it then, but soon the book world and the stage world would collide. While creating the artwork for the book I started to see the illustrations as a “stage set” and my characters as “actors”. I began to hear their voices and envision certain lines from the book being perfect lyrics for songs. On my vision board, where I post my big dreams, I wrote; “Make Princess KIM into a play”.
Princess K.I.M. And the Lie that Grew (the book) was published in 2009. A few years later, after completing the art for the sequel, Princess Kim and Too Much Truth,
I started seriously thinking about making my dream a reality. It was time to bring Princess KIM to the stage in the form of a Children’s Musical. In late 2010 I began my path from Page to Stage.
Confession- I cannot play a note of music. I am a writer, an artist with vision and a dreamer, but I’m also practical enough to know that I needed a creative team. I am also a believer that there are no coincidences. I can’t tell you how many times a conversation or an introduction led me to the person I was meant to meet. I also knew that if I wanted something, I’d have to have the courage to ASK!
With my mind open and my eyes on my goal, my path led me to my creative team; Theater professional, Toby Tarnow and two wonderful musicians, Andrew Cass and Premik Russell Tubbs, who, thankfully, where equally excited about my idea. (That’s the ‘Ask ‘part!) We worked together for 16 months, writing the script and developing the music. We spent many hours either sitting around my piano with my children’s books and script in hand, or sending music and script files back and forth over the Internet. Through it all, this solitary author-Illustrator found a love and respect for the collaboration process, which in turn, resulted in a wonderful script and score…Princess K.I.M. The Musical.
Photo courtesy: Beekay Theater, Tehachapi, CA
Education & Mentors-
Having published over 60 children’s books, I knew a lot about the Book Publishing world, but not so much about the Theater Industry. I had to educate myself. During the early stages of creating the script and score, I joined the Dramatists’ Guild of NYC and also connected with theater agents and playwrights, all of whom graciously and generously gave me guidance and advice, which were instrumental in moving my project forward.
One thing I learned was in order to land a theatrical agent the play must have several productions. But how? Through the Dramatist Guild I discovered New Play contests. I submitted Princess K.I.M. The Musical to a New Play Festival at the Carol Crane Youth Theater, Ohio in 2012. Out of 180 plays, we made the top 5. My team and I traveled to Ohio for the Festival readings…and at the end of the day- we won! The prize- A Full production in Spring of 2013! We did it! Our first production.
I then decided in order to gain more exposure I would produce Princess K.I.M. The Musical myself at a local theater. I started a Kickstarter campaign, gathered a production team, rented a 450-seat theater and had open auditions. This time I asked my NH community and they said YES…YES to being actors, set builders, musicians, sound engineers and everything in between. Our October 2013 local debut was a success with all five shows selling out.
One benefit of producing our own show was the work-shopping factor. My team could now clearly see how we could improve the play. We got to work again tweaking the script and the music as well as creating a Junior version. At this point, word got out about Princess K.I.M. The Musical. We licensed the Junior version show to the Interlakes Summer Theater in Meredith, NH (2014) www.interlakestheatre.com and a Full Version Production to the BeeKay Theater in Tehachpi, CA. (2015) (www.tctonstage.com)
At the same time, I was contacted by Artistic Director, Chase Leyner of Hoboken Children’s Theater (http://www.hobokenchildrenstheater.com) who was looking for a 50 minute TYA version of Princess KIM. Chase and I and our teams put our heads together and the TYA version was born. Princess K.I.M. The Musical TYA had a successful 8-week run at the Hoboken Children’s Theater, New Jersey in 2015.
The stars aliened once again when an agent from Stagerights, after attending our California show, offered to represent Princess K.I.M. The Musical.
So- the path from Page to Stage has brought us here, with hopes that the road will continue with many productions across the nation.
…And to think, it all started with a teeny tiny lie I told in first grade.
Photo courtesy: Amato Center for the Arts, Milford, NH
.What a story! Kudos and many thanks, Maryann!
My takeaway: you can make your dreams into your reality.
What’s your takeaway?
To find out more about this author/illustrator/playwright/all-around-incredible-creative or to contact her:, please click here.
And for anyone interested in using this play for their theatre, please contact Maryann or click here https://www.stagerights.com/allshows/princesskimjunior
About viviankirkfieldWriter for children - Reader forever Mom of 3, educator, author of FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (Pomegranate Press, 2019), PIPPA'S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY WE MOVE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), picture book junkie, lover of travel, hiking, fly-fishing, cooking, and playing Monopoly with my 9-year old grandson.
Posted on March 1, 2017, in Author-illustrator interviews, Uncategorized and tagged Albert Whitman, Author Tips, Children's Theatre, Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Princess K.I.M - The Musical, Writing Plays. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.