Maggie-Kate Coleman reflects on success of "Pop!"

April 22, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Hagerstown native Maggie-Kate Coleman who wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Pop! is in Pittsburgh getting ready to stage the show in Andy Warhols hometown. The show was nominated for seven Helen Hayes Awards for its Washington, D.C., production.
Herald-Mail file photo

 Several meanings can be found in the title of the musical "Pop!" by Hagerstown native Maggie-Kate Coleman.

It references the show's subject — Andy Warhol, the artist who gave us pop art.

It is also the sound that nearly ended his life.

But "Pop!" can also aptly describe how the musical seemed to have quickly appeared on the theater scene and how it has been swiftly gaining both audiences and critical acclaim.

The show is being recognized at Monday's Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, D.C., for its seven nominations, including Outstanding Resident Musical for its Studio Theatre production.

"We're so lucky to have been a part of that," Coleman said during a telephone interview from Pittsburgh where she's gearing up for another run of "Pop!" "And it's also just great to see the people who have worked so hard to bring the show to life be recognized for their talent and their work."

Coleman, who wrote the show's book and lyrics, was paired with the show's composer, Anna Jacobs, while they were students at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The show "Pop!" came out of Coleman's thesis project.

"Pop!" is based on the hours after Warhol's shooting with members of The Factory acting as detectives to track down the suspect.

After a stage reading of the show at NYU in 2008, Coleman and Jacobs workshopped at Penn State New Music Theatre Festival. The show was then staged at Yale Institute of Music Theatre, which is part of Yale School of Drama and Yale School of Music. And by 2010, the pair were contacted for "Pop!" to be produced at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Last July, "Pop!" opened at Studio Theatre's Studio 2ndStage.

"I felt a little sick to my stomach," she said of opening night. "It's such a strange feeling — it's a wonderful feeling — but it's sort of surreal that something that started as a small idea in your head that all of these people have brought it to life. And in some ways, it's not yours anymore, it kind of belongs to everybody else."

From a thesis project to being staged at an equity theater is a quick gestational period for such a new play. Where most shows take normally five to 10 years to stage, "Pop!" only took four.

"In some ways it seems really quick, like we're getting so much attention," she said. "We've had one (production) a year and we had time in between to reflect on that and make changes from the script. From each experience we've learned so much, not so much about the show but how to work in this industry."

"Pop!" closed at Studio Theatre in August — after being extended three times. Now Coleman and her musical partner, Jacobs, are in Warhol's hometown of Pittsburgh to stage "Pop!" at City Theatre.

 "There's a real connection I feel from the Pittsburgh community to Warhol," Coleman said. "They're really proud that he's from Pittsburgh. It's really exciting we're having an audience who's already invested in the story but at the same time, we have a little responsibility to get it right."

The New York-based Coleman said the City Theatre production is such a different show from the one produced in Washington. So different that Coleman said she and Jacobs did significant rewrites and promises anyone who saw the D.C. production that this will be a new experience.

Coleman said they started rewriting "Pop!" before the Studio production, but the theater didn't take on the script as a developmental production. She said in that case she emailed off the script and they weren't involved in the production.

She said not being involved allowed them to sit in the audience and watch a fresh take on the show without having her or Jacobs' input. Seeing it staged in Washington, Coleman said they were able to see that some elements of the show weren't clear.

"It's a complicated world that Warhol and The Factory (lived in)," she said. "There were so many stories going on that we were really lucky to have this opportunity in Pittsburgh to rework it and make sure we were telling the story we wanted to tell."

Coleman, the daughter of Herald-Mail columnist Kate Coleman of Hagerstown and William Coleman of Kensington, Md., said she plans to attend the Helen Hayes Awards, but it depends on how the show is progressing in Pittsburgh.

The ceremony is only two weeks before the show goes into tech week. But Coleman said she would love to attend what she's been told is called "theater prom."

"I've never been to anything like that and it could really be a fun experience," she said.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Pop!"

WHEN: Saturday, May 5, through Sunday, May 27. Various times.

WHERE: City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., Pittsburgh

COST: Tickets start at $30

CONTACT: Call 412-431-2489 or go to

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