Jack and Louisa and Andrew and Kate
By Annie Schiffmann
Early on, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead achieved the theater kid dream of being on Broadway. Keenan-Bolger had success with Newsies and Wetherhead with Legally Blonde. And then... they got a little restless. “It was really incredibly exciting. You sort of live in this dream state for a little bit” says Keenan-Bolger, "And you realize it’s probably going to be hard to recreate that. One way to feel that sort of newness and that kind of danger is to forge into new territory and add a hyphenate to our job title.”
There’s also the anxiety-inducing not-knowing what is coming next. Wetherhead didn’t have the common actor fear that she would never work again. Instead, it hit her that she would never know when she would work again. “I thought, I’m looking at decades more of this constant uncertainty. Can I live with that?” It led her to the understanding that "I need to be at the wheel of something."
Taking the Wheel
That something was Submissions Only. Wetherhead and Keenan-Bolger created, directed, wrote, and produced the web series about the world of Broadway casting. They had met in Dallas working on a show together and knew they were a good match. The series went viral and shortly afterwards the duo were trying to decide how many books they wanted in their book deal.
Enter Jack and Louisa. A three book series for 8-12 year olds about best friends and theater kids doing the things that their authors have done millions of times before - or never. Inexplicably, the two actors have never played Jack (like the beanstalk) or Little Red (like the riding hood) in Into the Woods. So they had Jack and Louisa play those parts in their book. It's their unique character types that also propel them to keep working on their own projects. “There are only a certain number of shows every season. And there’s likely not going to be space for our character actor selves. If we want to stay busy and creative and sane we might have to create some of those opportunities for ourselves.”
For Wetherhead and Keenan-Bolger their writing projects were born out of frustration with the acting world which in turn have helped them appreciate the it again. Wetherhead points out that earlier in her career if she was working on a new play, she would clearly - she thinks arrogantly - see what was wrong and needed to be fixed. Now, with a web series and three books in her rearview mirror, she and Keenan-Bolger realize that one small change can create a domino effect on a plot. Says Wetherhead, "My respect for what it takes to write something or create something has grown.”
With all of that being said, according to both author-actor hyphenates, the theater is their true love. Keenan-Bolger says, “It’s no mistake that our books are about the joy of getting to perform.” Smiles Wetherhead, “Being in a room full of people working on a show is top for me. It’s hard for me to think of anything I’d rather do.” Of course, there is nothing like walking into an audition room knowing that whether or not they get the part, they have plenty of other stuff going on.
Watch their Broadway-themed web series, Submissions Only
Check out Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead's book series