Lisa Condit spoke with Seth Greenleaf from Menopause The Musical® about the show, Broadway and his career. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Thank you all for listening to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. This is Lisa Condit and it is my extreme pleasure to introduce you all to Seth Greenleaf. He is a Tony® Award-winning director who is bringing us Menopause The Musical® Saturday, June 25. Welcome, Seth.
Seth: Hi! Thank you. Nice to be here, Lisa.
Lisa: It’s fantastic to have you here. I was saying right before we started recording that I’m a little starstruck. I’m a little starstruck by your credits and all of the fantastic accomplishments that you’ve had. I just don’t even know which one would be my favorite, whether it would be working with Dolly Parton on “9 to 5” or the fact that you’ve had so much to do with The Play That Goes Wrong and The Book of Mormon. What do you think Seth? What would be the top three?
Seth: The top three for me? Well, what’s funny is I think one of my favorite experiences was American Psycho the Musical and was probably the worst received, yet still my favorite. It’s a funny thing in our business; you don’t know for sure how an audience is going to receive or be ready for what you present. I’m proud that of all the shows that I’ve worked on and been a part of, some are obviously more successful than others, but you love them all like you love your children. Dolly Parton and “9 to 5,” that was a very exciting time. I was in awe of her and she turned out to be just an incredibly down-to-earth human being. Another Menopause The Musical®, believe it or not. It continues to delight after all these years. One of the things I was saying before we got on is, I never would have in a million years believed that I would have dedicated this amount of time and energy to something called Menopause The Musical® when I was a young college student, but it aspires and accomplishes what all shows aspire to do, which is to affect an audience and to have them leave a theater different than when they came in. It does it as well, if not better than almost any show I’ve ever worked on.
Lisa: Absolutely. Menopause The Musical® has been a fan favorite here in Worcester at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. It has come through our doors many times and audiences are equally, if not even more, enthusiastic each time. What was the hook? Tell us how you got involved.
Seth: The hook for me was seeing an early incarnation of the show in Los Angeles. I think it was the second or third production and the author, Jeanie Linders, had reached out to us as a production company about maybe helping her expand her reach and doing more productions in more places. This was in its very early years. I went and I don’t even remember what my initial thoughts were, but they were probably resistant. I don’t know if the magic of the show was completely clear to me on the first view, I don’t remember. One thing I definitely remembered was how that audience reacted to it. I came away from that saying, “Wow, there’s absolutely something here.”
What I came to realize over the years was, if you can take something that is dark, shrouded, uncomfortable and untouchable and you can bring it into the light and give people permission to examine it in a compassionate way and in a way that’s filled with laughter and release, then you do an incredible service to an audience.Seth Greenleaf
Seth: That’s what Menopause® does and that’s what it does about something that, up until that point in time in this country, was a very taboo and very, very, very uncomfortable subject for women. That was 20 years ago, and you see the way the conversation happens now, the way it is mainstream and it’s used in a very comedic and celebratory way. I think that the show has a lot to do with changing those attitudes over the last two decades. I really credit Jeanne with striking a nerve with so many women who needed to examine this topic from a gentle, comedic and a supportive way, and that’s what it does when you see it with a roomful of other people that are experiencing this breakthrough with you.
Lisa: There is definitely a lot of laughter. You can tell much of the audience recognizes what the characters are talking about and if they don’t, they know it’s coming. It’s only a matter of time for most of us. What are some of those reactions and are there any pinnacle moments of the show where you really feel it and you know somebody who may not have experienced the magic of Menopause The Musical®? Are there are there any iconic scenes that you know are just going to get somebody in the experience?
Seth: Yeah, there’s lots. I think that the show does a good job of touching on a lot of the main subjects, topics and dreads of Menopause The Musical® whether it’s hot flashes, night sweats, husbands not understanding, you not understanding, mood swings and a hunger. It finds a way to kind of lightly touch on all of them. One of the narrative spines of it is the Iowa housewife who’s naive and protected in her environment. She comes to New York City and she runs in with these three more cosmopolitan women. Her journey is kind of meant to take the audience through the naivete of embracing the relationship with yourself and the change, and then breaking through and celebrating by the end. I think some of her breakthroughs are definitely moments that really grab the audience, especially towards the end of the show. There’s a couple of tributes to very famous recording artists in the show, and those always really delight audiences. In general, I think it’s the tone set really early, that this is a place where you can laugh and celebrate and not feel terminally unique in your experience of menopause.
Lisa: I am looking forward to seeing it again, when it returns by very popular demand, Saturday, June 25. We do have some great seats still available on our website at TheHanoverTheatre.org. I’m looking at what you do, Seth, and you’re a very busy person. It’s not just this that you’re involved with, but you have some current shows on Broadway and you’re part of the Broadway Green Alliance. How do you balance all of that?
Seth: It’s a compounding interest, so it happens over time. I’m lucky that so many things have continued to run for so long. It’s certainly not like I was doing them all at once, but it is exciting. I love theater, and I love what it can do for people. The fact that a bunch of the shows that we’ve worked on have had this kind of longevity is great, because it’s the same amount of work that goes into a show that closes in one day or a couple of months, as compared to one that’s run for 20 years. You go through all the same anxieties and all the same sort of challenges to get a show up. It’s the same amount of work, but when it’s received by an audience and when you strike that nerve and it runs, it’s a wonderful feeling. I think I’m just lucky with that.
Lisa: What’s exciting is obviously you have a lot of Broadway experience right there in New York City. You’ve seen the shows on Broadway and then going on tour and how they’re received in all the different touring markets. That’s got to be a really unique perspective, too.
Seth: Yeah, it’s interesting. There’s something about people coming to New York, because a huge amount of Broadway business is tourists. There is something about them coming to New York that I think makes them more accessible and open minded to what they’re going to see than when they’re in their own comfort and their own environment. Plus, the same people who are seeing shows locally may not be the same people who are going to New York to see them. What’s really exciting is when people come to New York, I think that they’re naturally out of their element, naturally more open to having their thoughts and their ideas challenged. With a show like RENT, you might come as a tourist to New York City and see a show like RENT because it won the Tony® Award, not knowing much about it. That could be very challenging material for someone 25 or 30 years ago. I think that’s kind of the magic of tourists coming to Broadway. In terms of shows going out onto the road, I think to a lesser degree, it’s the same thing. They come from Broadway, they come with a reputation, and in their best incarnation, they challenge audiences to think a little bit differently. Maybe the topics that could be trending on Broadway may not be the same topics that might be trending in the Midwest or other more conservative places. Those who are open minded to theater go and get to taste the great art and the great conversation pieces that come from a place like Broadway that is a cauldron for these kinds of discussions. I think there’s something really wonderful about that. I think it’d be able to influence people around the country and to introduce people to different points of views and different topics. I think that’s kind of the magic and with tourism, it kind of works both ways. People come here and they see stuff and take away; we go out on the road. I would just say I’m really happy that theater and Broadway is flourishing around the country. It’s challenged, obviously, by COVID and those things over the last few years. In general, it’s really great. It wasn’t always like that.
Lisa: Yes, it’s an exciting time to be in the business as they say. You’re also a founding member of the Broadway Green Alliance, helping to green the Great White Way. Tell our listeners just a little bit about that and how they can get more information.
Seth: Yeah, it’s just the sweetest organization of do-gooders you will ever see in your entire life. Nobody is in it for any reason other than just a genuine care for the planet and the desire to do better within our own industry. Now, if we happen to, as theater creators, be in a relatively neutral business; the same costumes are used every night and the same set is used every night, but we use it as a jumping-off point for awareness and to help make people aware of practices they could be doing at home, while also checking ourselves and saying, “How can we be more green as an industry every chance that we get?” Listeners can go to BroadwayGreen.com, they can find us on Facebook and it’s very easy to become a member where you can access some of our articles and some of our general practices. Anyone who’s a young theatre creator can absolutely sign up and it puts you in touch with some really interesting people in our industry who are always very willing to talk about best green practices. It’s a very good group of people that I’m proud to be associated with.
Lisa: Thank you so much. Again, that’s BroadwayGreen.com. We’re talking here with Seth Greenleaf and he’s the Tony® Award-winning director of Menopause The Musical® coming to The Hanover Theatre Saturday, June 25. It has been such a pleasure talking to you, Seth. I hope you remain well. Thank you for joining us here at Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre.