Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Follow-up: ‘The Tin Woman’ premiere


PHOTO: Playwright Sean Grennan, right, posed with the cast of “The Tin Woman,” which premiered at Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County. Peninsula Players Theatre photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – In June, “The Tin Woman” was given its world premiere by the professional Peninsula Players Theatre near Fish Creek. Playwright Sean Grennan was on hand to tweak his script through rehearsals. The play is about the new life of a woman who received what she wished – like The Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” – a heart. “The Tin Woman” was received warmly from many quarters, and talk about the sensitive/comic play bubbled through the rest of the Players’ season. Sean Grennan went on during the Players season to switch hats and act – he’s an Equity actor – in the productions of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” and Charles Ludlam’s two-man/many-character comedy romp, “The Mystery of Irma Vep.”

Today, Sean Grennan is back home in New York City. He lives there with his wife, actress Kathy Senten, who is currently performing in the Broadway production of the hit musical, “Wicked.”

Early on in summer, curiosity kicked in for me. I felt a need to follow up on “The Tin Woman” and Sean Grennan. So here we go as Sean Grennan answers email questions.

Q. What’s next for “The Tin Woman”?

A. There has been some interest in it for a commercial production in Chicago. I’m working with a producer now to raise money and get an LLC formed. (Limited liability companies blend partnership and corporate structures and are flexible).  He – and I – feel it couldn’t have gone better than it did at the Peninsula Players but that it needs to plant a flag in a bigger, more nationally visible market if we’re going to get Meryl Streep on board. Not that she wouldn’t love Door County. (My observation: The big city take is the worth of plays is not real unless they are produced where TRUTH prevails, in a Big City. It’s a kind of glass ceiling).

Q. What are the priorities ahead for Sean Grennan?
A. I’m very much torn; I always want to be working on the next thing as a writer but right now, I have to spend a lot of time and energy on the promotion of my shows if I’m going to continue to eat and live indoors. (Sean Grennan’s plays include “Making God Laugh” and “Beer for Breakfast,” and his musicals include “Married Alive!” and “Another Night Before Christmas.” “Making God Laugh” premiered at the Peninsula Players in 2011). I have to get a website up, do mailings, have a few meetings with my publisher, etc. I have preached again and again to other writers that you have to get out there and sell your work if you expect to have a career in this game – that we can’t expect to be discovered in a drugstore window wearing a tight sweater. So, this fall will be a lot of that. However, I have a few new things I’ve already begun, so I will sneak in some creative time as well. My biggest priority, though, is to keep moving forward, to learn from this and try to do better next time. I’m approaching 60 now but oddly enough, my voice as a writer is still changing, perhaps growing. Go figure.

Q. Was the experience of “The Tin Woman” at the Players much different than your first premiere go-around with “Making God Laugh”?
A. They were pretty comparable. This had a lot to do with the fact that many of the same key people were in place: (Peninsula Players artistic director) Greg Vinkler oversaw things, (veteran actor/director) Tom Mula had directed “Making God Laugh” as well, my sister, Erin Noel Grennan, was an actor in both shows, like that. Also, two of my oldest, dearest friends, Joel Hatch and his real life wife, Carol Kuykendall, were in the piece, so I felt pretty safe. I was delighted to have (actor/director/playwright) Kristine Thatcher as the mother, Alice. I’ve known her for years and think she’s terrific, but this was the first time we got to do anything together. The whole cast was wonderful and did exactly what they were supposed to do: make me seem like a better writer than I am. I was most impressed, however, with the audience response. As a writer, I’ve mostly written full-on comedies. It’s easier to tell if you’re succeeding with one because they’re either laughing or they’re not.  With “The Tin Woman,” while there is a fair amount of humor, I kind of backed off the funny switch, even cutting things that I knew would get laughs. For that reason, this was a little unnerving for me at first. But, the audiences responded well, and that’s taught me something going forward. I’ll still be writing comedy into all my shows, as I believe in it, unashamedly – shamelessly?  I was just struck and thrilled by how well the more dramatic things played.

Q. Perspective, please: Many plays premiere in tiny, experimental theater-type houses. Peninsula Players is large by comparison. A bigger deal for a playwright?
A. It is a big deal but a good one. Peninsula Players (which builds productions from the ground up) gave the show the quality of physical production that it may never have again. I was knocked out by set designer Sarah Ross’s work. The show on the page moves more like a film, and that can be a problem in smaller spaces. However, Sarah Ross made it all work and elegantly. In the future, some other genius set designer will have to re-conceive things for the different spaces it will live in. Right now, there are already two theaters that want it right away as well as that commercial one I mentioned so, good luck folks! 

Q. Any other thoughts you think pertinent, please add.
A. I’m delighted to have made this connection as a writer and actor, and I hope it continues. I feel I can do a variety of things at the Peninsula Players as long as I’m being as truthful as I can be, even if it’s wacky truth. And as a Midwestern boy who finds himself in NYC and wonders how that happened, it’s great to be back closer to family and friends.  

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air segments on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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