Out Chicago resident Patrick W. Ziegler is part of a fun new project that is giving the Chicago community the unique opportunity to participate in the development process of a sitcom, provide feedback on the show, and see TV legends live on the stage.
I've Got a Life in Kalamazoo was created and written by Ziegler and business partner Teresa L. Thome through their entertainment company, Fubble Entertainment. The pilot and second episode will be filmed live as a staged reading Saturday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. at Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications.
The reading will feature an impressive award-winning cast led by Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio, Broadway/Chicago, Finding Nemo); multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe winner Ed Asner; and Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Marion Ross (Happy Days, Brothers & Sisters, Gilmore Girls). Gregory Jbara (Tony Award for Billy Elliot) and Ziegler, a two-time Emmy winner, are also featured in the cast.
I've Got A Life in Kalamazoo is about Nilah Hoyer (Lewis), a small town singer/performer. In the midst of a mid-life crisis, Nilah decides to finally attempt to move her career to the next level. With a best friend, Clayton Croft, living the fabulous life in Chicago, urging her to move to the Windy City, and a husband who merrily rolls along with all the punches, this is finally her moment. With one phone call, a turn of events occurs and Nilah must stay in Kalamazooreluctantlyto care for her aging parents, Bob and Imelda Hoyer.
"[It's] very much Everybody Loves Raymond meets Will & Grace," Ziegler said.
The idea for the sitcom came from Ziegler and Thome's real-life experience and friendshipthe pair met through theater while in collegeand the family is based on Thome's family.
The show is set in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Chicago, with Nilah going back and forth between the two cities throughout the episodes.
Ziegler plays best friend Clayton Cross, who is out in Chicago but not in Kalamazoo.
"It was something we made a definite choice on," said Ziegler. "We feel that it speaks to a lot of people that still might not be so comfortable being out in certain ways, because there are still people out there my age who are living a kind of double life."
In the pilot episode Ziegler is outted to Nilah's father, Bob, played by Asner, who subsequently worries that he has offended Clayton because of a joke he'd told previously in the episode.
"The thing about the father, he is a humorous man who is a little politically incorrect, but not prejudiced," Ziegler said. "He just thinks it's everybody else's business and he shouldn't be in everybody else's business. So he is totally fine that Clayton is gay and is worried that he offended him."
Ziegler said the sitcom really explores the shifting relationship between parents and their children as the parents begin to age and need more help, and the humorous situations and conversations that ensue.
"It's one of those things at our age, mid-30s to 50s, where your parents raised you and all of a sudden you find yourself raising your parents and caregiving for your parents," he said. "At the same time the parent's don't feel like they need it. They want their independence but then they realize 'Well, we do need help.'"
The script is getting a positive response so far, and audiences who attend the staged reading will have the opportunity to share their input as well through a post-reading Q&A and survey.
"Everybody that's read it has said 'Wowdid you grow up in my family?'" Ziegler said.
Ziegler said the Museum of Broadcast Communications is a perfect fit for the style of the sitcom.
"Originally, we were looking at different theaters to do it at and benefit, and they said why don't you do it here," Ziegler explained. "We were thrilled because Teresa and I are both classic TV fans. What they like about it is that it celebrates classic TV, but its something new and innovative. Our [company's] tagline is contemporary media with a nostalgic appeal."
Following the staged reading in Chicago, the show will be sent to the networks for consideration. If it is picked up, the cast is committed to continuing its roles on the show.
Tickets are on sale now at www.LifeInKzoo.com . Prices are $22-$155. Some pricing includes VIP options to meet and dine with the cast. Proceeds will benefit the Museum of Broadcast Communications. More information on Fubble Entertainment can be found at www.fubbleentertainment.com .