“There’s nothing like sitting in an audition room when the right actor walks in, reads the scene, and knocks it out of the ballpark” – Tony Winning Writer Joe DiPietro
Tony winner Joe DiPietro is back on Broadway with Living On Love, a new comedy (with music!) that stars Opera diva Renee Fleming.
The show, directed by Tony winner Katheleen Marshall, opens tonight at The Longacre Theatre and tells the story of a demanding opera star (Fleming) who finds out that her maestro husband (Tony nominee Douglas Sills) has developed feelings for a young woman (Anna Chlumsky) he’s hired to ghostwrite his biography. In turn, she hires her own handsome writer (Jerry O’Connell) and as they say in the synopsis, “sparks fly, silverware is thrown and romance blossoms in the most unexpected ways.”
DiPietro, who I talked to after his last show, Nice Work If You Can Get It, received 10 Tony Nominations, chats about Living On Love, the casting process and, with 3 other project in development (including the big screen version of Memphis), how he stays so productive!
Living On Love is based on an old Garson Kanin play. How did you first get involved in the project?
Joe DiPietro: The old-fashioned way — I was commissioned. Renee Fleming and director Kathleen Marshall had already committed to doing the play at Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer. Then they did a reading of the original play and realized that it, well, needed lots of work. So I came on board and, in a very short time, overhauled it. I took the germ of the plot and tried to make it relevant and entertaining for a modern audience.
When writing, do you have a self-imposed date to finish the project?
Joe DiPietro: Whether I have a real deadline or not (such as an rapidly approaching production at Williamstown,) I always create a fake deadline for myself. And then I somehow convince myself that deadline is real. And then I work my ass off to meet the fake-real deadline. If I didn’t do that, i would’ve written approximately one play in the last twenty years.
Renee Fleming stars in the show. When writing, did you spend time with her and incorporate bits of her into her character?
Joe DiPietro: Renee plays an over-the-top, narcissistic diva. To my great disappointment, Renee is actually nothing like that. She’s smart and self-effacing and hard working. So though there’s little actual Renee in the character, all of the opera references in the show have been Renee-approved. She was our opera guru.
The cast of the show is great. Were you there during the casting process?
Joe DiPietro: Absolutely. Writers love writing for the theatre because directors listen to our opinions (they actually have to because playwrights own the copyright to their plays, thanks to the Dramatists Guild.) And there’s nothing like sitting in an audition room when the right actor walks in, reads the scene, and knocks it out of the ballpark.
You have this show, two other shows that are soon to open and you’re also working on the Memphis screenplay. First, how are you awake right now and second, how do you remain so productive? How do you schedule your time?
Joe DiPietro: My boyfriend and Ambien keep me sane and on schedule. And I find that in this business, everything happens at the exact same time, and if you say no to a production, it gets delayed for at least a year.
Also, I constantly worry that if I say no once, no one will ever ask me to do anything ever again. So fear of failure keeps me going. It’s a fantastic motivator.