Thursday, August 13, 2015

Spotlight On...Lizz Leiser

Name: Lizz Leiser

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Education: DePaul University's Theatre Conservatory, B.F.A Playwriting

Favorite Credits: We produced a show called Professor von Awesome's Ghost Hunting Safari in 2011 where we read pages from the real (not actually really) Book of the Dead and taught the audience how to escape the cold hand of Death herself. It included a machine that showed one lucky audience member what it was like to pass into the Underworld, a burlesque where an angry Victorian ghost battled with the performer to cover her naughty body, and ended with a full on Broadway number vs. harcore techno dance off between the Professor and Death. It was fun to write, to produce, and to bring to our audiences. We are all about making awesome live experiences and that show came together in a pretty magical way.

Why theater?: I and my collaborators love creating a world, transporting the audience, and making something awesome that exists for a moment only in that live space. We are incredibly collaborative- we originate shows together through collaborative writing meetings where everyone is invited from the head writers to the actors to the light designer. In this way, not only do we create new concepts and ideas that no one would have come up with on their own, but it also limits the time we spend alone drinking and crying (which are the other activities I, as a playwright/theater professional, engage in most).

Tell us about The Magic Jukebox: New York City World Tour: It is almost criminally fun- it's a full on musical sketch comedy show. We feature twelve action packed genre-bouncing musical sketches backed by a live band with full on dance numbers, puppets, and live dolphins (as played by actors). The musical styles range from fist pumping power ballads to the sexiest 90s R&B imaginable (noting here that it's not a kid's show- unless you want your kid to develop some super weird fetishes) to Barbershop Quartets.

What inspired you to write The Magic Jukebox: New York City World Tour?: I was writing with writing with my friend, (an awesome actor/writer who is currently part of the Second City's Touring Company performing on the Norwegian Gem) Chris Woolsey, and we were inspired by the idea of creating musical sketch comedy where the music was integral to the plot. Not only would the sketches need to have music and lyrics, the actors needed a reason to be bursting out in song. This overarching rule created some really interesting concepts: A critical planning session in the oval office where the President must plan an attack against aliens far more powerful than humans with only one weakness: they can't hear words if they are in song and they can't see rhythmic moment (also know as dancing). A jukebox that can play literally any song- as in ANY song imaginable, like, say..the song from Kanye's dream last night or Mumford & Son's first single if they'd been born and raised in 1980s Compton. An aquatic theme-park that has developed a device which can translate dolphin song into human language. A choir of Bullshit Angels that backs you up with the power of the Gods of Bullshit when you really need to get to lying. And, of course, lots more.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love fun fast-faced theater that really gets into the live experience. The Neo-Futurists' Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind has always been one of my favorite shows- 60 plays in 60 minutes, it's such a brilliant, engaging concept. On the big stages I love shows like: Book of Mormon, Gentlemen's Guide to Love & Murder, and Something Rotten. Punchdrunk's Sleep No More and other immersive shows are also incredibly inspiring the way they build worlds and transport you. I'm an escapist at heart, I'm always looking for something that will take me away from reality for a minute.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I find Lin Manuel Miranda amazing in every conceivable way. I wrote the lyrics for the The Magic Jukebox, which is something I really love doing, and his lyrics are just insane. I'd probably do a deal with the devil to work with him (just kidding, mom, I would never do that).

What show have you recommended to your friends?: There's a company in Philadelphia called Brat Productions that does crazy good work, everything they do is awesome. The show that I've seen most recently that I'm in love with is Hamilton. I cried through the entire second act because the writing was so amazing.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Either Tina Fey or Christopher Walken. I think the title would probably be  "I Love You, Now Get the Fuck Away From Me I'm Writing: The Life and Times of Lizz Leiser"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I'd love to see some straight up early 1900s Vaudeville.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: BBC "Sherlock" and whiskey.

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: I probably be a dark sorceress. This is my current back up career if playwriting doesn't make me incredibly rich.

What’s up next?: After FringeNYC? Probably a fairly long nap. But we have several other shows in the works: a choose your own adventure play about four gods that accidentally destroy the universe, an immersive theater experience based on a seance- and- we'd love to keep writing the musical sketch comedy.

For more on The Magic Jukebox, visit or