should be, what this should be. At first I was deeply offended. But he was
right about everything. It was amazing how considerate he was. He wasn't
taking apart my work to fit a Playboy point of view. He was trying to make the
point of my cartoons stronger.
Q: But theater-wise, you also got started here, right?
A: I did in a way. I was in Chicago for the publication of "Passionella," my second book, and got a call from this woman, Barbara Siegel, who later started Barbara's Bookstore. She picked me up and started driving me around and introduced me to Studs Terkel, took me to Second City, which I had never heard of. They had heard of me, though. I became friendly with Second City. At one point, Paul Sills (Second City's first director) was in New York and told me they were going to open a place in Old Town called Playwrights at Second City and wanted me to be the first playwright represented. I told him I had never written a play. He said he wanted a play based around my cartoons. It was the first attempt at theatricalizing my work. Del Close was in it, Hamilton Camp. It got pretty good reviews, and the audience loved it. I wasn't that crazy about it. I thought my comics didn't play well on stage. I said if I ever did it again, I would write original work.
Q: Did you feel you've been treated fairly by the theater world, considering how many works you wrote and had success with, and works that are fairly obscure now and rarely produced?
A: Overall, I think I was treated exactly as I should have been. "Little Murders," if it hadn't been a hit in London, it would not have played in New York later. With Alan Arkin directing, no less. That was full of Second City actors, actually. I hope my plays will someday be recognized for what they are, because I do think my reputation as a cartoonist hurt my reputation as a playwright. Early on, my plays were kind of greeted as an example of loftiness -- like, "Who does this cartoonist think he is?" But I still have people who tell me how much they liked "Elliott Loves," which Mike Nichols first directed at the Goodman Theatre. And Frank Rich (former theater critic of the New York Times) also killed. But others, I can't blame on critics.
Q: What's happening with the Broadway adaptation of your children's book "The Man in the Ceiling"? Seems like it was announced a long, long time ago, then nothing.
A: I've written about three drafts and (composer) Andrew Lippa did a score. We had two readings for Disney. The first went like gangbusters. The second one didn't. I started getting more and more notes from people and it started to feel less like a theater experience and more like a Hollywood experience. This took so long the option (bought by Disney) lapsed. So now Andrew and I trying to put it back together again.
Q: How did the death of Maurice Sendak affect you?
A: When you said his name my heart sank. I loved him. We rarely saw each other because he was in Connecticut. But we had deep affection for each other. When he had his first heart attack, he was in London and I happened to be in London, so I spent time with him. But we were very different in temperament. He was much more of a Russian Jew than I was, much more given to doubts of depression and grimness, and I never entirely lost some of the giddy boy-cartoonist traits I've always had. We would sit for hours and talk.
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