By Brandon Voss
06 Oct 2012
KLG: I am stunned that the Foursquare Foundation wanted to be a part of this, because we are so honest about Aimee and her weaknesses. I think it shows great courage and vision on their part.
Nothing in the show had to change because of that partnership?
KLG: Oh, my gosh, no. I wouldn't have changed anything. Not one producer has any artistic control over the piece. It would upset me if anyone thought I was on the take in any way. I cannot be bought. You can't shut me up if I believe something, and you can't pay me enough to say something I don't believe.
So the Foursquare Foundation had to accept the show's depiction of Aimee as is, warts and all?
KLG: It's not interesting theatre unless the story is warts and all. Billy Graham's life, let's face it, would make the world's most boring musical, because he just loved God and served him his whole life. Hello, that's boring. Aimee gave us new fodder every time she turned around. The biggest problem was figuring out what to leave out.
Fair enough, but I would guess that Foursquare Foundation cares less about funding interesting theatre and more about honoring Aimee's legacy.
KLG: There was actually a huge to-do at the Foursquare headquarters when they were first contemplating being a part of this. I would say that half of the leadership in the church wanted nothing to do with the musical. Luckily, the other half was delighted, and they made the final decision. They'd seen the show in Seattle, warts and all, and they understood that this was Aimee's story and that I had been fair to her legacy. I had lunch in New York with the gentleman that runs the Foundation after he heard about the show. He hadn't even read it at the time, but he said it was something they wanted to be a part of because they're proud of their founder.
KLG: Well, they're not talking about Broadway. This is the first time they've invested in Broadway. I think they understand that this is a critical time in our culture, and this woman's story is helpful. There's a whole conversation today about women's empowerment, and we need more stories about women who did amazing things.
Your other lead producers are Dick and Betsy DeVos, conservative Republicans who have donated to various religious and far-right organizations, so you've attached the show to producers with deep roots in both the Evangelical church and the Republican Party. Because the Broadway community is a largely liberal one, were you at all concerned about what kind of message that might send?
KLG: Not the least bit. When somebody comes to you in today's financial environment and wants to give you money, you don't ask about their religion or political party. That's not my business. Dick and Betsy DeVos love theatre. My dear friend Emily is Betsy's sister, and Emily said, "I think Dick and Betsy would love this. Can I invite them to your next workshop?" I said, "I'd be delighted." They came to the workshop and liked it enough to invest in the Seattle production. Then I learned that they also made a very large endowment to the Kennedy Center, and they fund ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. We're just a piece of the philanthropic work that they do and their love of the arts. They're a beautiful couple and I'm grateful for them, but I've never talked to them about their politics or beliefs.
Whether or not you've had that conversation, their conservative politics and controversial funding record may not sit well with everyone in the New York theatergoing community.
KLG: I hope we're not getting to the point that we start boycotting people just because they don't agree with every single thing we do. Look, we needed a lot of money for this show, so whoever wanted to give us money, I had two words: "Thank you." And two more words: "Sign here." Are people talking about our producers?
There's been some buzz after an item in the Times that called out your producers as "unusual newcomers."
KLG: Well, they're definitely weird producers, and I think that's OK to say. I'm just grateful to have producers. I honestly don't know what their agendas are because I've never discussed it with them, except for the gentleman who runs the Foursquare Foundation, who said he thinks it's important for people to know who their founder was.
You must know that it can be hard for some people to separate product and politics. After all, Chick-fil-A's antigay stance doesn't make their chicken any less delicious, but gay consumers still have the right to not eat it anymore.
KLG: It's sad, because I believe that everybody's rights are guaranteed under the Constitution. Every citizen of America has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That's the beauty of our Constitution, but it also guarantees freedom of religion, and we've got to start learning how to live in harmony with each other. Whether we agree or disagree, we have to have respect. That's what Aimee did. She had everybody at her church, including homosexuals. Anthony Quinn once said that nobody did more for the Latino community than Aimee did.
She would go into the brothels and invite the hookers to come to her meetings, and she would tell them, "I'll save you a special seat." She'd go into the bars and invite the drunks too. She went into the deepest sewers of despair and told people that there was hope. She didn't judge anyone, but the irony is that she was judged so harshly. She was crucified by the press and by the status quo religious order because she loved people so much and had the audacity to think they had a place in God's kingdom. The beauty of Aimee's message is that it was one of tolerance and love — come as you are and see what God can do for you. We should applaud her for that.Continued...