101 Stories: Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman

By The Children's Theatre

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

From left to right: Mark Friedman, Brooke Chamberlin as Alice, Janet Yates Vogt and Roderick Justice at TCT’s Alice in Wonderland Family Gala

The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati has been incredibly fortunate to have Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, two prolific musical theatre authors, craft multiple stage productions (and hits!) for TCT since 2010. Below, they describe their experience in their own words.

What can I say about The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati?  I guess the real question is – What can I say about a theatre that is instrumental in propelling my writing partner, Mark Friedman, and me to a level of success that we had never envisioned or dreamed of?  

As playwrights and composers, Mark and I love the theatre – every aspect of it – from writing dialogue, composing songs, standing backstage and looking at all the set pieces ready to slide in, working in a rehearsal room and hearing our work out loud for the first time (other than Mark and me saying every line and singing every lyric before the actors infuse their magic into our writing) – to watching an audience’s reaction to our shows (when I’m not too nervous to actually watch!) to finding that a show then “has legs” as they say in the theatre and it goes on to reach places around the world – from the Philippines to England to Italy to New Zealand and others – all because The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati had an idea for a show and Roderick and Kim – and everyone at the theatre – placed their trust in Mark and me to create and craft a piece to bring those ideas to life on their wonderful stage.  

Mark and I began our relationship with The Children’s Theatre when they took a chance on our new musical, HOW I BECAME A PIRATE.  We’ve seen many productions of this piece – and I can tell you I’m not sure if I ever laughed so hard or enjoyed so much their lively and perfectly nuanced story-telling of those lovable pirates and Jeremy Jacob sailing across their beautifully designed stage. I never knew the Pirates were just the beginning.  I was honestly just thrilled to have an amazing production of one of our own shows right here in Cincinnati where I live. Here’s the truth – Mark and I have had our shows play in 49 of the 50 states, but when a show is in your own backyard – and your family and friends are by your side, it’s a very wonderful and fulfilling moment.  

I just want to say a very special thank you to Jack and Susie Louiso, Angela Powell Walker, and Roderick Justice for giving Mark and me those kinds of special moments.  I like to say – you never know how the dots will connect – and I had no idea that Mark and I would go on to be commissioned to write three shows for TCT (and looking forward to more to come) following our Pirate premiere.  Those commissioned shows all led to more surprising and wonderful dots connecting – RAPUNZEL! RAPUNZEL! A VERY HAIRY FAIRY TALE was signed by Rodgers & Hammerstein/Concord Theatricals and had a national tour.  

Also signed by R & H/Concord was THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF MERLIN. I’ll never forget watching a school-attended show at the Taft Theatre and the young audience cheering when Arthur pulled the sword from the stone.  And our most recent commission, ALICE IN WONDERLAND was signed by Theatrical Rights Worldwide and has gone on to play across the United States and is especially popular in the U.K.  

The interesting thing about writing all these shows was another “dot” that I had not even considered – and that is the cherished and fun friendships with actors, directors, and producers that I’m now so lucky to have.  I always say the theatre is a small world – and the creative paths that keep crossing are a treasured part of my life – with so many of them leading back to the starting steps at The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.  I want to thank TCT for giving Mark and me the amazing opportunity to take an idea, envision it, create it, and see it come to life. It is every playwright’s dream to have that opportunity to collaborate together with such a supportive and enthusiastic creative team of remarkable people! We also want to thank the audiences. There would be no theatre without you and your support – and the energy and joy you bring when you walk through the doors.  We hope to see you laughing, dreaming, sometimes on the edge of your seats, and giving the actors (and everyone behind the scenes) a round of applause very soon!

 Janet Yates Vogt – Playwright, Composer, Lyricist

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, some of my best memories were of watching the old movie musicals on TV and singing and dancing along with Gene Kelley in Singin in the Rain or with Robert Preston in The Music Man or Bing Crosby and Rosie Clooney in White Christmas. What a dream I had to someday be involved in the amazing world of musicals! 

I have to say that my career has taken many wonderful twists and turns over the years, from actor, vocalist, and performer, to educator and director, and finally to playwright, composer, and lyricist for musical theatre. My childhood dream has pretty much become a reality! And though I’m not singing and dancing on the stage with the likes of Rosie Clooney, Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire and others, I have had the opportunity to see my original writing and compositions and that of my writing collaborator Janet Yates Vogt performed on stages across the country and now internationally, as well. How lucky can a theatre nerd get?!

And along the way, of the many stages that have shown our work across the country and the world, one theatre stands out in my mind – The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. Early in our career, I can remember being so excited when Jack and Susie Louiso asked us to bring our musical HOW I BECAME A PIRATE to the stage at the Taft Theatre. From start to finish, we were always treated as peers and professionals, and when you’re starting out, that means so very much. The entire staff at TCT took great care of our Pirates and created a beautiful production with a level of stagecraft and professionalism that you might see in major theatres on the East Coast. Our Pirate musical has since played across the United States at over five hundred theatres – and at some very prestigious Children’s Theatres – but that particular run of the show will always remain in the forefront of my mind as the benchmark production of HOW I BECAME A PIRATE.

And how pleased we were that soon after when we were commissioned to create additional work for TCT, a stream of musicals followed our rollicking Pirates:  RAPUNZEL! RAPUNZEL! A VERY HAIRY FAIRY TALE and THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF MERLINnow licensed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Division of Concord Theatricals in New York. Both of those musicals have played all across the United States, England, Scotland, and even in India. ALICE IN WONDERLAND, licensed by Theatrical Rights Worldwide in New York, has played throughout the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Thailand, China, and Italy – being most recently translated into Italian! 

RAPUNZEL’S HAIRY FAIRY TALE, our newest TCT production, features six characters with puppets and costume changes deftly played by two skilled actors on stage and is streaming online, as well. Even during a pandemic, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati finds a way, and rises to the occasion with another wonderful audience-pleasing show – socially distanced, of course!

For us as playwrights, composers, and lyricists, it has been a distinct privilege to work with this wonderful company and their amazing and talented leadership teams over the years. We are so grateful to Jack and Susie Louiso, Angela Powell Walker, and Roderick Justice and so many staff and crew who have kept the theatre bar high, consistently bringing quality arts entertainment to the people of Cincinnati and out on tour. How amazing to have so many of our theatre pieces launched by this great organization! TCT is truly one of the premiere children’s theatres in the United States.

For me personally, in considering my childhood dream of being part of the world of theatre, I had to look no farther than “my own backyard,” as Mickey Rooney said in one of those old movie musicals I loved – right here in my own hometown of Cincinnati! The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati has made dreams come true for 101 years – entertaining and inspiring each new generation of kids to grow up to become the new writers, actors, stage crafters, producers, and directors of the future. Bravo! Bravo!  Thank you TCT, for believing in us and in our work!  

— Mark Friedman – Playwright, Composer, Lyricist

Would you honor Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?

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