The following is an interview with Stacey Weingarten regarding the production, Runaway Rue, at the 2023 Hollywood Fringe Festival. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Weingarten about the inspiration behind the production, working with co-lyricist Angela Parrish and the cast and crew to bring the show to life, how you can purchase tickets, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congrats on the upcoming launch of your musical production of Runaway Rue in this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this show?
Stacey Weingarten: Thanks! This is a world-premiere and we’re thrilled to share it. Runaway Rue follows one dog’s journey from the Big Chew Toy (NYC) to Hollywoof (LA) with her furever mom, as she gains a new stepdad and perfect-puppy stepbrother who she thinks threatens the relationship with her mom. Frustrated, Rue runs away from home and makes a new kitty friend on the street who eventually guides her to the conclusion that Furever Home is a place in your heart with the family you choose. Oh, and Rue also has a fabulous Fairy Dogmother who’s training a new Fairy Catparent…
BD: As the playwright, co-lyricist, and director, what can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with co-lyricist Angela Parrish, as well as the cast and crew, to bring this production to life?
SW: First off, Angela is a collaborator’s dream to work with. We started the project remotely over the pandemic and have written songs in every possible manner on this project— words first, music first, a little bit of both. Which not only keeps things fresh but allows both of us to say “what about this…” or “I don’t know how this starts”, which is extremely freeing. But getting words and music onto a page aren’t enough — when it comes to a musical, especially one with puppets, you don’t really know what you have until it’s on its feet. Musicals need to be heard, they need to be danced, and puppetry is a visual storytelling medium. So, we started with readings where we felt like we had something special on our paws, and decided to dive in and really see what’s what with a developmental production.
We’re working with a lot of the same creative team as for Rescue Rue (the first show in this musical series, which ran Off-Broadway in ’21-’22), so they’re coming to Runaway Rue already knowing the world of the piece. But some of our creatives — and most of our cast!— are new to the project, and it’s been amazing getting their perspectives and ideas. All in all — it’s one big collaborative effort. That’s why I love musical theater and puppetry! It’s a team sport.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Rue’s story may connect with and impact audiences?
SW: My hope is that Rue’s rescue story brings awareness to the fact that there are so many Furever Friends just waiting for you at your local shelter – dog, cat, or otherwise— and coupling that with Rue’s emotional journey, we’re hoping that folks leave the theater wanting to adopt their next best friend. I always say Rue rescued me, not the other way around. If just one family comes to see the show and decides to adopt, we’ve done something right! Eventually, the goal is to have adoption days at the theater wherever the show is being produced, but in the meantime we provide that kind of information on our website (RescueRue.com) and social media (@rescuerue). Fun fact: Almost everyone on our team has rescue animals in their lives… and several folks who worked on the first show in the series adopted their first pets after working on it. Coincidence? You decide!
Rue was found on the street in WV, brought to a high-kill shelter by a kind citizen, and pulled by an amazing rescue called the Badass Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, NY. They specialize in “saving badass dogs from idiot humans” by pulling them from high-kill shelters mostly in the south and bringing them north to find Furever Homes… and I’m forever grateful to them for saving Rue from certain doom. But Rue’s not the only rescue in Runaway Rue— the show also features a cat named Moo Kitty, inspired by my best friend’s rescue cat (from an LA shelter), as well as my fiancee’s dog Jack (from local rescue Gurrs and Purrs).
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for this productions?
SW: The community! Our goal for this production is to see our show on its feet for the very first time and get as much audience feedback as possible. That way we can figure out what’s working (or not) and get the script ready to take our next step. It’s been incredible getting to know other Fringe artists and their projects; everyone is so passionate and creative – it’s inspiring. Fringe is the perfect place to take some big swings and not be afraid to fail. After all, next time we can “fail again, fail better!”
BD: The show will be appearing at Actors Company in June. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
SW: From your lips to dog’s ears as they say! We don’t have plans as of yet, but are hoping that Fringe is step one on this show’s journey to a TYA production – whether sit down or touring.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
SW: We’re also rounding home plate on post-production for the filmed version of Rescue Rue, the first show in the series for which Runaway Rue is a sequel, as well as working on the original cast album. We’re hoping to have it available online for the “howlidays” — the cast features Sesame Street’s Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Tony [Award] nominee Caitlin Kinnunen, and Camelot’s Fergie Philippe (among other extremely talented, amazing human beings!).
…but if family musicals with puppets aren’t your jam, and you like something with more time travel, true love, dinos, zombies, and rock music, keep your eyes peeled for sci-fi rock opera Ludo’s Broken Bride! It’s the stage adaptation of a concept album by rock band Ludo that follows one man’s attempt to save his true love from dying in a car accident… by building a time machine to go back and save her. It’s one of my all-time favorite things I’ve ever worked on, and I can’t wait for our next step: LudosBrokenBride.com
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Runaway Rue?
SW: To learn more about the show (as well as Rescue Rue), head over to RescueRue.com and like/follow us at @RescueRue on all social media platforms!
For tickets, take a walkies on down to RueTix.com. We’ve got shows the first three weekends of June! Bonus, just for the folks reading this: If you input the discount code “RRUEFBP,” you’ll get $5 off tickets for any show!
We’ll also be running some buy-one-get-one promotions for Pride (6/11) and Furever Dad’s Day (6/18) the will drop on our social media platforms in the coming weeks… so give us a like and follow… and thanks for reading!