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"It's Superman" Director Kevin Moriarty Interviewed

The Superman Homepage was able to catch up with Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty, who sat down to discuss his latest effort, a "reboot" of the '60s Broadway musical It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman.
In explaining the approach to the material, Moriarty says:

"I have been a life-long Superman fan from my earliest childhood. And the importance Superman has had in my own life, first as I kid and now as an adult who still reads comic books: That impact has been immense. Superman stands for his unfailing optimism, his belief in service to others above personal gratification. His constant successful struggle to live up to the best ideals of America and to inspire others to do the same thing. That's something that resonated with me as a kid and still very much does today in this modern world that we live in.

"And the other thing that has always been important to me is his own sense of identity and his place in the world as an outsider, as an immigrant from another planet, as an orphan, as an adopted son, he exhibits so many traits that have been an essential part of the American character in different ways that almost anybody can relate to. How do you integrate those parts of yourself to be a meaningful part of a broader community? That's one strand of this story of how we came to this moment in time. From the life-long love of Superman from comic books to movies to TV shows.

"I had a chance when I became a professional theater director to read the [original] script for the play. Which is not widely available, but I managed to get a copy and I read it eagerly and discovered that in fact it would have been exactly in tune with the times in 1966. It defiantly is not in tune with our relationship with superheroes and our need for truth and justice and an American way that is inclusive of everybody. It felt like the script was doing something differently entirely. It was situating Superman in the middle of a pop culture 1960s America that was defiantly moving away from earnestness and heroism and moving toward one of the most important social revolutions in American history. The musical was I think right for its time, but the time has changed so much. In fact the time we live in now reminds me more of the time in which Superman was created than it does of the mid 1960s.

"1938 when Superman was created was depression like we had never seen before in America and we were on the eve of a major war that will bring the entire world into conflict. I think Superman was created in that crucible of where we were as a country by a young Siegel and Shuster. And I think actually the times we live in now, though not as dire as it was in 1938, non the less, economic crises, a nation that is at war and is struggling to keep up with the best of it's ideals, I think that it feels more like 1938 than 1966.

"...Two years ago I had a meeting with Charles Strouse and we were talking about a variety of projects. Just in conversation in passing, I said: 'The piece of yours that I have always loved the most for all these years and the piece I wish would have a greater life because it hasn't been heard of in so long in any major professional production is It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman.' Charles said: "I love that piece it's one of the most joyful experiences I ever had writing a piece and Lee and I wish that it would have a future life. Why don't you think about doing it?" I said: "Charles, the truth is that I think there are parts of the book that aren't right for our time anymore." I thought that would be the end of the conversation since this is an established piece and that typically is the way these things work. Instead he said: "Well what kind of things would you like us to think anew about?" I said: "The love story needs to be at the center of the piece, I think we should make the time period go back in time so it's set in 1939 (one year after Superman has arrived in Metropolis) instead of 1966, and I think we really want to look at the character with joy, with humor with singing and dancing, but nonetheless with an earnestness. We don't think it's funny that Superman fights for truth, justice, and the American way even though obviously there are great opportunities for humor when you have someone flying around and evil villains trying to fight him."

"Much to my surprise Charles said: "This sounds exactly like something we could get behind. It sounds like we would need a new writer of your generation to come in and work with us on re-looking at the book. Do you know anyone who could be appropriate for that?"

Instantly I thought of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a friend of mine, a collaborator of mine, and a fellow comic book fan, and indeed a comic book writer, but I had not talked to him about the Superman musical. We had only talked about other projects, but right then and there to Charles I said: "I have this friend, he is a really exciting writer, he also is a comic book writer, he also is a fan and I think he'd be perfect for this." Charles said: "Great! Let's move these conversations forward." In a week we had everyone signed off and signed up and suddenly launched ahead with the project. That is unbelievably rare. Usually these things take years to put into motion. But as soon as I called Roberto he was instantly thrilled and like me had known the material for years and had desperately wanted to work on it.

"Charles and Lee have been fabulous through the process. We found a couple of trunk songs, songs they had written in 1966, that were performed out of town but then didn't actually make it into the show. They didn't use them in the Broadway production. We've put them into the show. They have written a couple of new songs. Then we created this fabulous new revised script that puts the characters and the plot into some new contexts."

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