"Call Me Adam" sat down with Kate Dawson and Jodi Glucksman, the creators of "Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project." The ambitious project — which incorporates a 2-CD, 26-song set; a lavishly-illustrated hardcover book of 17 songs from the album; a corresponding e-book encompassing the entire collection; and a documentary film and web series — gathers many of contemporary musical theatre’s greatest composers and vocalists, as well as illustrators, all of whom have donated their talent to deliver an emotionally affecting set of new lullabies, some written specifically for this project.
This collection puts a fresh spin on the classic lullaby form, creating a warmly expressive song cycle that will touch listeners of all ages, while raising funds for respected breast cancer charities, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition.
Originally from Champaign, Illinois, Kate moved to New York and made her Broadway debut in 1997 playing "Emily" (Scrooge's fiance) for three seasons in "A Christmas Carol" at Madison Square Garden. Kate shared the stage with several "Scrooge's" during that time, including Roddy McDowall, Hal Linden, Frank Langella, and Tim Curry. Other favorite credits include "Eileen" in "Wonderful Town" (opposite Lucie Arnaz, directed by Don Amendolia) at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California, "Lili" (opposite Robert Cuccioli) in "Carnival!" and "Lydia" in "The Rivals" at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Off Broadway, Kate played "The Wardrobe Mistress" (also with Robert Cuccioli) in "Enter the Guardsman" at the Vinyard Theatre. She has worked regionally at the 7 Angels Theatre, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Stages St. Louis, readings at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Public Theatre, among others.
Kate's voice can be heard in numerous movies and TV shows, most notably as Faith Hill’s "moment of ecstasy" in "The Stepford Wives," as well as "Sex In The City," "Chicago," "Two Weeks Notice," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and "Marley & Me," among others.
After years of performing in other people's shows, Kate got the writing bug. In 2009 and 2010 she wrote, performed and produced her original one woman show "The A**hole in My Head," garnering much critical acclaim and four encore runs! Her solo CD can be purchased on www.cdbaby.com. Kate and her husband Jed live in NYC with their 1 year old son Zeke, and their little dog Sophie.
Jodi Glucksman holds degrees in both theatrical producing and English Education from NYU. Her broad career dates back to the Hartman/Huntington Theatre Company under the direction of Ed Sherin ("Semelweiss," "Moliere in Spite of Himself," "Mahalia"), Circle in the Square Theatre Company ("The Caine Mutiny Court Martial," "Heartbreak House," "Awake and Sing"), and McCann & Nugent Productions ("Leader of the Pack," RSC's "Cyrano de Bergerac/Much Ado About Nothing"). Branching into the music management, she worked with such legendary artists as the Average White Band, the Ohio Players and Afrika Bambaataa. As an educator in New York and Massachusetts she earned grants and awards teaching language and literature through arts and humanities to students ranging from public middle and high schools to private universities. Jodi's distinguished and diversified career continued when, with her husband Daniel, she co-founded Luckimann LLC, a production company specializing in education, theatre and film. Through Luckimann, Jodi has designed and implemented interdisciplinary, arts-integrated curricula including the plan for Discovery High School, a New Visions Charter School in the Bronx. She has consulted dramaturgically on numerous productions including Daniel Beaty's acclaimed "Through the Night" and the DiCapo Opera Theatre's 75th Anniversary tour of "Porgy and Bess" as well as Roundabout Theatre Company's "Language of Trees," "Tin Pan Alley," "Rag," and "Ordinary Days." Jodi was a producing partner on the award-winning a capella musical "In Transit" and sponsors the Roundabout Underground for emerging playwrights. She has executive produced several documentary films including "A Broadway Lullaby" which chronicles the making of "Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project."
1. You created and conceived "Over The Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project," a new collection of lullabies for children and adults, with proceeds going to various Breast Cancer charities such as The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition. What inspired each of you to create this project? How did you decide to combine your efforts and work together?
Kate: The inspiration was two-fold: I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of the year, and as the early weeks and months passed, I found myself thinking of all the great mothers in my life, in particular, my cousin Jill. Jill was a natural mother in every way and I loved watching her with her children. Sadly, Jill lost her life to Breast Cancer at the age of 45…early in motherhood. I wanted to do something to honor her, involving music, which could raise money for Breast Cancer charities. Since I am a singer, and since music has always been a huge source of joy and comfort in my life, producing a CD of original (or never before recorded) lullabies seemed like a perfect vehicle to, not only honor Jill, but also celebrate motherhood and families everywhere.
I told Jodi about my idea one evening over dinner with our husbands. She was extremely supportive and said she knew of a few people who would be interested in participating! She reached out to them, those friends responded enthusiastically, and within a couple weeks, a very natural partnership formed. So I asked her if she wanted to partner with me on the project. She said yes! And the rest as they say is history.
Jodi: Unfortunately, breast cancer has touched my life quite closely in a myriad of ways:
This project is a tribute. At the height of my awkward adolescence, I lost my maternal grandmother, Tillie Gerschon. She was my best friend at that time. She bravely fought breast cancer for nine years after diagnosis, surgery and a prognosis of six months to live, determined to dance at my Bat Mitzvah, which she did. Oblivious in the early years, by the end I could only stand by helplessly as the disease spread and she succumbed.
This project is a thank you and an apology. After surviving uterine cancer, her annual mammogram revealed a lump in my mother’s breast. Because my children were sick, I was forbidden to be with her for her surgery and recovery. Because of his own illness, my father could not stand by her. Because of my own bedridden recovery from emergency back surgery, I could not accompany her to months of radiation treatments. Memories of her own mother’s valiant battle, her own tireless will, and the support and dedication of loving friends saw her through to recovery in her family’s stead…in my stead.
Alarmingly, my mother-in-law is also a survivor. And I have more than a few friends and cousins who have thus far survived breast cancer…and many more who have died or lost loved-ones to this undiscriminating disease.
Thankfully, my brother’s wife has devoted her life, her career as a breast cancer surgeon to helping and protecting people in their struggle to survive and thrive.
For all of these people, and for my own children in hope to help spare them this particular potential pain, when Kate told me her idea for a small CD project to honor her cousin Jill and raise funds for breast cancer charity and asked if I could help, I said yes…and much more.
Research, support, education and spreading awareness all require funds, concern, a creative approach and an active community. This project is inspired by personal experience with the rampant need. This is a gift and a melodic call to action in the form of musical love letters to life – lullabies.
2. Why did you want to use lullabies as the backdrop for this project as opposed to another genre of music?
Kate: In addition to honoring Jill, the project was created to celebrate motherhood and babies…so lullabies were the perfect fit. There is something so pure, simple, and beautiful about a lullaby…just like the love between a parent and child.
Jodi: To me, it seemed a natural choice. Lullabies are all about soothing, comforting and nurturing. We can all benefit from that – the young and not-so-young, those facing the stress of every day, and certainly those confronting illness and loss. Designed to musically cradle newborns lullabies are by nature life-affirming. The confluence of the nurture and nourishment of a mother’s breast, the unique poignant pain of breast cancer and the role in life of lullabies the relationship is organic and instinctual.
Before she asked me to participate, Kate had set her heart on a lullaby CD, inspired by her own pregnancy, as a way to sing to her cousin Jill’s children after they lost their mother.
3. How did you decide which charities you wanted to support?
Kate: I chose the Young Survival Coalition because it’s a charity that supports and empowers women who are living with the disease. Obviously finding a cure is of paramount importance…but I think what Jill needed the most in her last few years was support and hope. YSC has created a wonderful and strong community for women battling the disease.
Jodi: Foremost among its kind, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded by Evelyn H. Lauder in 1993 to advance the most promising breast cancer research that will help lead to prevention and a cure. Young Survival Coalition is the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. These two charities serve as perfect complements to each other in the fight against breast cancer and the fight for those touched by it.
From a more personal standpoint, after my mother had to battle her breast cancer without her family by her side, she turned this challenge into a gift for others by creating "The Unsung Hero Award" which honors a non-related friend who offers extraordinary support to someone undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It is presented at BCRF’s Annual Hot Pink Party. This project is my "Unsung Hero Award" for her.
4. How do you think your various backgrounds, Kate you are a writer, singer, actor, and new mother, and Jodi, you are a producer, dramaturg, educator, and mother of three, contributed to the structure and design of the project?
Kate: For me, art is about communication, unification, and beauty. So as a writer, singer, actor, and mother I wanted to create something that communicated the love between a parent and a child, and I wanted to leverage the power of that sentiment to combat breast cancer.
Jodi: The creation of this multi-faceted project tested and exercised knowledge and experience from throughout my background and current career.
Motherhood, my years as an educator and my extensive library of children’s books helped guide outreach to illustrators, but the book never would have come to fruition without Barbara Aronica-Buck, our award-winning book designer and my lifelong friend.
Prior relationships and experience not to mention my husband’s award-winning work in documentary film connected us with Peabody and Emmy winner Barbara Rick and her extraordinary Out of The Blue Films team including her husband, the wonderful cinematographer, Jim Andersen. It was their artistry that gave us the web series and the forthcoming documentary film "A Broadway Lullaby."
A delightful web of friendships stemming from my work as a dramaturg led us to the incomparable Matt Pierson. His musical concept, talent, insight (as well as his musicians and arrangers too numerous to name) with seemingly magical sensitivity and subtlety wove these many disparate compositions and voices into the exquisite musical story that exceeds our imaginings from those first conversations about a "little CD to help fight breast cancer."
My work in theatrical producing gave me some sense of what would be necessary to bring the pieces of this puzzle together, but it really couldn’t have come together without longtime friend/attorney Craig Kaplan. Aside from navigating countless Herculean, seemingly Sisyphysian tasks, he brought us to the incredible people at Public Interest Projects, our fiscal sponsor, a 501(c)(3) public charity with a 25 year history of providing fiscal sponsorship for projects working toward a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people. They have coordinated and skillfully juggled the many documents, and disbursements and all sorts of minute logistics for this massively complex endeavor.
5. "Over the Moon" is a 2-CD, 26-song set; a lavishly-illustrated hardcover book of 17 songs from the album; a corresponding e-book encompassing the entire collection; and a documentary film and web series featuring some of today's most contemporary Broadway composers and vocalists as well as some of the biggest visual artists. Out of all the talent out there, how did you decide who you wanted to reach out to?
Kate: It started with reaching out to friends and colleagues, and it went from there. Friends told friends and it just grew. It was really amazing…the project continued to gain momentum as the weeks passed and stars became interested in being involved. We actually ended up not being able to use all the talent we were offered. That was by far the most difficult aspect of the project, telling people that we didn’t have the time or the funds to record every song we were so generously given was heartbreaking.
In terms of actual people – I was on a mission to get Audra McDonald! I’ve idolized her for years and years…my husband Jed had done THE SECRET GARDEN on Broadway with her, but that was the closest I’d ever gotten! We were able to reach her through friends and I have to say, spending those few hours in the studio watching her work was just amazing. It was a "pinch me" moment! It was just thrilling.
Jodi: For the music we began by contacting composers and singers who we know as friends and/or colleagues. As our ambitions and the project grew, we began to reach out to people we knew who might be able to help us contact others. Matt Pierson’s expertise guided the match up of singer with song. Barbara Aronica-Buck ‘s vision suggested the connection of songs to illustrators’ styles. Although Kate and I are listed as co-executive producers of Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, a huge community of people who care about this cause brought together this wide and wonderful array of generous musical and visual artists. I’d love to list the names of many of the people who helped, but can’t imagine you’d print them all anyway. Right?
6. What did it feel like as people started coming on board and this vision was turning into a reality? Now that the project is complete, what emotions come about knowing you are helping so many people?
Kate: It was amazing. It was humbling. It was touching. It was moving. It was hard to believe at times! It felt like we were putting together something the world wanted, which felt divine in some way. It felt like something greater was lending a hand…
Oh gosh…overwhelming joy and gratitude…and a bit of disbelief that it all came together in this amazing way! All of these artists came together to create this, and to help so many people. You know, when you read or hear the news, the world is portrayed as such a corrupt and sad place, but it’s not. Look at this project – people want to help. People want to share their gifts with the world. People want to be a part of something greater. I think what I feel the most is unity. We’re all the same, we all want the same things, we are not alone.
Jodi: Above all else I feel and have felt grateful and lucky….but also sad. So many people contributed in beautiful ways that we can all see and hear, and also behind-the-scenes. It’s been an incredible honor. For this I can never adequately express my thanks. For the people in my life (both here and gone) who I love, who love me, whose inspiration continues to feed my soul and make this celebration of life possible I feel fortunate beyond words. To have the opportunity to help others in this way, how can I not feel lucky…but the ongoing need, the pervasiveness of this disease and too many others, the countless stories of pain and loss…these make me sad.
7. 17 of the 26 songs are featured in the illustrated book. How did you decide which songs to include in the book?
Kate: We relied on our book publisher and book designer to help guide us on this. Being the experts in the field of "Children’s books," they helped us select the songs and drawings that they felt told the most cohesive story. It was not easy!
Jodi: This was a painful, grueling process dictated by criteria of the publisher. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t include all of the songs and illustrations in the hardcover book, but we’re thrilled to include everything in the eBook, and we’re honored that this was selected as one of the inaugural projects of NBC Publishing.
8. As the son of a mother who survived breast-cancer and someone who has lost others to cancer, this project takes on special meaning. What do you hope people come away with after listening to and/or reading "Over The Moon?"
Kate: First of all, I’m so sorry for your losses. We have all lost too many people to cancer. But I’m so glad to hear that you’re mother beat it! YAY! I pray the day will come when everyone can beat it!
I hope people come away with the awareness that we aren’t so different from each other. We all want to bring meaning to our lives, and we all want to share our love and joy with the people that matter to us. I hope that families will share these songs and sing them together for years, and then pass them on to their children, and their children’s children. I sing several of these lullabies to my son every night – I have since he was born. He doesn’t understand the words, but the experience transcends words…and we share something deeper and more profound. I want that for all families.
Jodi: Smiles, sleeping babies, and songs in their hearts – not to mention the glow of doing a little bit to contribute to the fight against breast cancer.
9. What did each of you learn about yourselves from putting this project together?
Kate: I learned that we all are more powerful than we know…if we are willing to put in the effort. We all have the ability to do something to make the world a little better. It may be a lot of work, it may take a lot of time, you may shed a few tears, but one person can start something...and it can spread and spread and suddenly one person has turned into over a hundred…and now, the very real possibility is there for positively impacting the lives of thousands.
Jodi: Among many other things…I learned that I don’t have the energy I had in my twenties. I learned, or rather was reminded again and again that I have amazing, fun, talented and generous children (they sing the last track "The Man Who Invented Ice Cream") who are incredibly tolerant of me, of my stress and my idiosyncrasies. If I didn’t already know, I would have learned that I made a perfect choice of husband who shares the qualities I just described in our children and so much more. And then there are my friends…Oh it’s so hard to know how to answer this. This project is a huge reminder to celebrate life. It’s all too easy to get entrenched in the details of every day and forget all the huge multiplicity of goodness.
10. Since this endeavor honors some of the loved ones you have lost or have been affected by breast cancer, what was your most cherished memory evoked by working on "Over The Moon"?
Kate: Naturally I had a lot of memories of seeing Jill with her children…she was such a wonderful mother. But it also brought up a lot of memories of my childhood…when I was about 9 my Grandmother came to live with us. She was sick with leukemia and was in pretty bad shape by the time she came to us…but after several weeks, she miraculously went into remission for 3 years. They were 3 of the happiest years of my life. Gram sang to me pretty much every night while I was drifting off to sleep. It was so sweet and tender, and I love passing the tradition on.
Jodi: This project – lullabies – fighting illness and preserving life – they’re all about the gift of time. My cherished memory stirred by this endeavor is the gift of time with my grandmother Tillie, after whom I named my first daughter. I wrote all about it in my foreword to the book. Weekends with my grandmother were enjoyed riding the escalator at Alexander’s in the Bronx and making chocolate chip cookies and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup Cake. For me, lullabies are escalators and chocolate chip cookies in song…a gift of time.
11. "Over The Moon" is about lullabies, what was your favorite lullaby growing up?
Kate: This is surprising, but we didn’t really have any standard lullabies that we sang. But some of our favorite songs that we sang as a family were "Bushel and a Peck" (Guys and Dolls), and we often sang the Big Bopper’s, "Chantilly Lace" – in addition to a bunch of camp songs my Dad taught us.
Jodi: My mother always sang "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess to put me to sleep. But the song that was most soothing, and most enduring in the role of a lullaby was my parents’ wedding song, and my grandparents’ wedding song: "Always" by Irving Berlin:
I'll be loving you Always
With a love that's true Always.
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand Always.
Days may not be fair Always,
That's when I'll be there Always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,