From the show’s writers – Claire LaZebnik

About six years ago, I decided to try my hand at writing an essay for the Modern Love column of the New York Times. I wrote about my hope that my teenaged son would one day find romantic happiness and my fear that, because he was on the autistic spectrum, it might be a struggle for him.

I wrote it, edited it, and emailed it to the editor of the Modern Love column. After a day or two had gone by, I panicked that the email hadn’t gone through and sent another (pathetic) one, asking if he had received it. And he wrote back something along the lines of, “Yes, and I’ll be in touch shortly . . .”

He did get in touch. He had some edits, I did some rewriting, and the essay appeared in the paper a few weeks later. It was subsequently included in a book anthology of Modern Love columns.

Cut to last winter when I get a phone call out of the blue from someone who identifies herself as Joan Stein and asks me if I remember her. How could I forget Joan Stein? Her daughter went to preschool with my son!

We chatted for a while and at some point during the course of our conversation, it dawned on me that maybe this wasn’t the Joan Stein I thought it was. And that’s when I remembered that another Joan Stein had worked with my husband on a television pilot many years ago and was a well known theatrical producer. (I had never before realized that I knew two Joan Steins.)

Eventually I recovered from my confusion enough to pay attention to what Joan was saying. She explained that she and Susan Rose (who joined her on the phone call) had pulled together an impressive and diverse collection of playwrights to contribute different pieces to a play about motherhood. It had already premiered on the east coast, but now they were heading to the Geffen Theater in Los Angeles and were thinking they’d like to include a monologue about the mother of a teenager with autism.

Susan had picked up a copy of the Modern Love book somewhere and come across my essay in it. She had mentioned it to Joan, who said, “I know Claire! I worked with her husband!” Happy coincidence.

So then, on the phone, they asked me: had I ever written for the theater?

Nope, never.

Fortunately, they were still willing to give me a shot at it.

I was unbelievably lucky: I got a crash course in theater 101 from two masters. My first attempt at the monologue was stiff and formal. Joan and Susan patiently explained to me that it needed to be rougher, more immediate, more personal, more direct. I took their notes and tried again.

More notes, more drafts, a few meetings . . . and, to my great relief and delight, “Michael’s Date” became a part of the exciting and wonderful collaboration that is Motherhood Out Loud.

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