The iconic Lloyd J. Schwartz gives us the scoop on THE BABIES as well as a life time spent in the arts and working with a talented family.
Q: You have had a very impressive career thus far, what would you say has been the greatest contributor to your success?
A: I have a compulsion to get to the words “the end.” I don’t know how to do that unless I write the whole script or stage a whole play or film a whole tv show or movie. My projects are like my children. I owe it to them to bring them life. Call it a drive or an unwillingness to settle until the work sees the light of day.
Q: At age 25 you were reportedly the youngest producer in network television. What was this experience like for you and how, if at all, did this experience influence your creative work that followed?
When I produced “the brady bunch” at 25, youth wasn’t at a premium the way it is today. Now most producers are in their thirties (by the way, I am no longer the youngest producer in tv….Could be the oldest). At that time, the people running the shows were still the men (few women) who came from radio. All were in their fifties. To tell the truth, I never thought it was that unusual to be in charge. I had always been president of my senior class, fraternity, etc. and I had grown up on stages. Since…through my trusting father… I moved quickly from dialogue coach, to production associate to producer in three or four years. I never had to be a production assistant. Never had to get coffee for anyone. I guess I was used to rarified air. Like everyone, I spent three years in junior high, three years in high school, then four years in college (got an M.F.A. in another year). Then there was five years on “the brady bunch.” When it was over, I went to the studio and assumed there would be another long term assignment. Instead, they showed me the door. A rude awakening. Only after the series did I begin to understand the vicissitudes of the business. Since that time I never have taken anything for granted. I never assume a job or show will last for a long time. When I get an office, I never redecorate. I just hang a couple of the same pictures on the wall and get to work. My motto is “‘I can’t believe I get to do this again tomorrow.” I feel that I am incredibly lucky. In some ways, it’s as if I never had a job. I’m always doing “arts and crafts” from summer camp and I just hope audiences enjoy my handicraft as much as I have enjoyed making it.
Q: You worked with your father, Sherwood Schwartz, as a father and son producing team in television and now have co-founded The Storybook Theatre of Los Angeles with your wife, Barbara. What would you say would be the greatest points of being able to work and create with family?
A: First and foremost it is important to have a talented family. I see other people work for (or give work to) family members who are unqualified. That doesn’t help anybody or any show. The show is the most important thing. When I worked with my father, he made it clear that he felt I was the best for the job or he never would have hired me. The greatest points of working with family are trust and vocabulary. I know that my wife will always tell me the truth…the same way my father did. There are always a lot of people with their own agendas. Sorry, but that is just how the business is. My family has my back and in terms of vocabulary, they know what I mean…even nonverbal communication. One time on “brady,” dad came to the set (he was usually in the office). He saw a scene and said to all, “that was really good.” I took him aside and told him, “yes, but not as good as you want it.” I had them reshoot the scene with a little adjustment. He acknowledged it was better and told me with a smile that he had better get back to the office. I loved my father. By the way, last tuesday would have been his 100th birthday. On tv there were references to both “Brady” and “Gilligan,” nothing unusual about that. There always are. He would have been so pleased about his lasting impact. Working with my wife brings me the same kind of joy…though we argue more during the process. It’s because we are both in charge. When I worked with my father, the shows were his creation, and he was the ultimate boss. Ironically, when we created a show together, we did argue more. Storybook theatre is a joint creation of Barbara’s and mine. Since I write and direct most of the shows, that is my domain. At the beginning…thirty some years ago….I also produced. Since then, she has taken over all the producing. That’s good…because she is much nicer than I am and has more patience with mothers and children than I do. She also acts in a lot of shows. We have done many tv shows and plays together. She is very talented, and I enjoy writing things that make her shine…which she always does. Like I said before: “have a talented family.”
Q: What was your inspiration behind The Storybook Theatre of Los Angeles?
A: My wife began her career with the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre…the most prestigious children’s theatre in the country. When she moved out to Los Angeles, met me, got married, and had our sons, we took the boys to children’s theatre and didn’t find any that Barbara felt had the same attributes that she thought were important. She asked if I would write a play. I did. It was an adaption of “Little Red Riding Hood,” and she gave me the guidelines. We staged it in a park near our house. It was an immediate success. A local theatre company, Theatre West, (Barbara was a member) asked if we could do children’s theatre for them. I was nervous about it. I only had that one play and didn’t think I could do any more. Anyway, that was eighteen plays and thirty-two years ago and we’re still going strong. Storybook theatre is the only equity children’s theatre in los angeles. We’ve gotten many awards and commendations, and I am immensely proud of our work there.
Q: Can you tell us about THE BABIES currently playing at St. Luke’s Theatre?
A: I have worked with children my entire life…Summer camp, “The Brady Bunch,” lots of other tv shows, the children’s theatre. I have two sons, two grandchildren. I have become increasingly aware of how young personality is established. When my first grandson, Sawyer, was born, we met him at ten minutes. His attitude was “I don’t know who you people are, but let’s get started. This is going to be fun.” He is now four, and his attitude has never changed. What if that is how all babies are? What if we could know what they are really thinking? What if we could put that on the stage and they could also sing and dance as they go through the first three years of life? I have worked with Anthony Gruppuso on several shows and he joined me in writing lyrics. He introduced me to Matt Dahan, an extremely gifted composer. I had done four plays in Los Angeles with Ed Gaynes who runs the St Luke’s theatre in New York. It all came together rather easily. Anthony is the big jewish baby, my wife, Barbara, is the baby born to older parents, and the equally talented Parnell Damon Marcano plays the African American baby from a military family and Jayme Lake is a baby who is adopted. These four babies are the entire cast with a piano score. It’s a basic concept and the audiences have been responding with laughter and tears.
Q: Why do you feel that people should come and see THE BABIES?
A: There is so much drama in the world today. “The Babies” brings us all back to the real joy of life. It’s a compelling show that is funny, emotional and heartwarming. Everybody has been a baby and “The Babies” allows us to focus on how life can be if we allow ourselves to think like babies do. It’s a one act ninety minute entertainment that leaves audiences happy that they could spend time with “the babies.”
For more information on THE BABIES visit: http://bit.ly/2h06Ru8