Playwright Stan Zimmerman’s touching comedy “Yes, Virginia” is inspired by his mom and a former housekeeper.
Stan Zimmerman’s mom used to joke, “Watch what you say around Stan because it might end up in one of his scripts.”
And, sure enough, in Zimmerman’s latest play, Yes, Virginia, co-written with Christian McLaughlin, the two lead characters are inspired by his mother, Susanne, and his family’s longtime housekeeper, Virginia Campbell. Yes, Virginia will make its Michigan premiere Aug. 10 and 11 as a staged reading at Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak.
Thanks to the generosity of Diane Orley of Birmingham, a co-producer on another Zimmerman play, Right Before I Go, Zimmerman is flying in from Hollywood, where his mother also lives, to attend both shows and host the audience talkbacks.
And while Yes, Virginia, is set in Bloomfield Hills, Zimmerman grew up in Southfield and graduated from Southfield High. Many of his classmates will attend the Saturday night performance and have a mini class of ’77 reunion afterward. From there, Zimmerman will head to Grand Rapids to hold a talkback at the Spectrum Theatre Aug. 15 and watch Warm Cheese, the one-woman show he directed.
“The world and the gods were saying ‘Come to Michigan,’” says Zimmerman, who also scripted many sitcoms including Golden Girls, Roseanne and Gilmore Girls. “The likelihood of having two of my projects in my home state within a week’s time is too good to be true.”
Proceeds from Warm Cheese will benefit Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.
“Gilda Radner was a huge inspiration to me, and it was great she was also from Michigan. I later worked with Gene Wilder on his NBC series and getting to know him got me closer to Gilda,” Zimmerman says.
In June, Zimmerman lost his lifelong friend Julie Silverman Sachse to cancer. It was Sachse’s mother, Shayna Silverman, who contacted her friend, Vonnie Miller, at Stagecrafters to put on Yes, Virginia. The staged reading will be directed by Miller and is dedicated to Sachse’s memory.
“Julie grew up across the street from me in Southfield. She was really my first friend. Shayna had me hold her hand as we walked through the woods to Kennedy Elementary School. We were like Hansel and Gretel,” Zimmerman says.
“We both moved to L.A. around the same time and Julie came to all of my plays. Even when she was sick, she came to see Yes, Virginia when we did it in December. In a business where you often get no’s, Julie was one of my biggest supporters.”
Known for his wit and comedy-writing forte, Zimmerman has tackled some heavy subjects lately including aging, suicide, dementia and intolerance. Zimmerman recently mounted and directed a production of the The Diary of Anne Frank where he cast the characters in the attic with LatinX actors. The run sold out.
“I’m taking what I was taught at Temple Beth El — never again for the Jewish people — and making it part of my new mission statement in life,” Zimmerman says. “I want to combine art and advocacy to make a difference in the world. I want people to laugh and think.”
See Yes, Virginia at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, on the 2nd Stage at Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre, Royal Oak. General admission, $10. Stan Zimmerman will host a talkback after both performances. stagecrafters.org.
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