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Follies Spotlight: The Showrunners, Morgan Salvan and David Granik6 min read

How did you guys get into the performing arts/theatre? 

Morgan: I don’t know that I really have had a formal foray into the performing arts/theatre, but I did work in advertising before Stern, where I cast and produced a few commercials. Additionally, I used to work as a camp counselor and would write the lyrics to end of year parody songs for an annual event that would take place. Does a bunch of Jewish kids singing songs with inside jokes as the focal point count as performing arts?

David: I spent the 10 years before Stern working in the TV industry, most recently doing comedy development at CBS, so I have a lot of experience reading and critiquing other people’s scripts – though we can all agree nothing on CBS is actually funny. I’ve also written some of my own screenplays that have yet to be produced if any rich investment banker is looking to invest in me. But I grew up loving TV, movies, Disney and Broadway, so joining Follies seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend my MBA2 year ignoring all my real responsibilities and instead produce a 2 hour streaming musical that will air for one night only. 

Childhood photos of David (top) and Morgan (bottom) foreshadow their future calling as the directors of Aladdin (B School)

What was it like for Follies last semester transitioning from in-person to virtual?

Approached it not knowing what Spring semester would look like so built a script that could be adopted to an online medium or in-person performance. We were guardedly optimistic, but very ready to make moves for Zoom. It became clear around winter break we were going to be doing an online show, so we adopted the blueprint that was set out from last year and got some best practices and tips from last year’s showrunners.

What is the script writing process like? Do one or both of you write it? Where do you draw inspiration from?

  • Long and iterative. You want to plan ahead, but not so much so that relevant material is left out. We have constantly been making adjustments, sending one another ideas for jokes and tracking what funny events or mishaps have occurred at Stern. 
  • It starts with a general skeleton of an idea then transforms into specific scenes and words to bring those ideas to life in a comprehensive structure so that a narrative can be drawn out. The plot of the original Aladdin anchored how we thought about converting that world into one of our business school experience and then we created a script and story without worrying about the jokes. Once that was set up we did countless rounds of going scene-by-scene to add jokes in, punch it up, and ensure there was something from our list of jokes. There have been over 50 iterations since we began writing.
  • Another part of the reason has been the constant changes to music selections. We have been toying with lyrics, and thinking about which songs could be tweaked in creative ways. Once we finished casting we also wanted to go through the songs once more to see how we could play into the strengths each brought to the table and create opportunities for them to shine.
  • Inspiration came from the original version, past Follies shows, and the absurdity that comes with attending business school during a global pandemic. We did not shy away from highlighting the unique experiences that have come from this past year. We used the script as an outlet for some of the frustrations that have been built up, but also wanted to make sure it served as a love letter and appreciation for the school and community we love.

How long is the script writing process from start to finish?

Discussions for the script began the day that we were named Co-Presidents of Follies last summer and changes to the script will likely still be happening by the time this story runs. It’s exhausting but extremely rewarding. 

Sometimes the script changes even when we don’t expect it to — our cast has had fun ad libbing and trying out new ideas during takes!

How does the editing process go? Do you have any prior experience with video editing that made the transition to online smoother?

Morgan had done some editing for personal projects in iMovie and David had previously edited a few student films back in 2006. So, you could say that we were basically experts. 

We’ve constantly been asked, “who did you get to edit it since you wrote and directed it?” but unfortunately, hiring external help is not within budget. So, we’ve had a crash course in editing thanks to YouTube tutorials and MBA1 Alexa Mauro. Who would’ve thought the biggest skill I would’ve left business school with would be editing! It will be proudly featured in the “Additional Information” sections of our resume.

Transitioning to an online format puts a lot of pressure on us because we want to make sure the great performances our cast gave are met with equally impressive and refined production quality. We have spent many 10-11 hours days holed up in study rooms and our apartments trying to get everything to be as good as possible.

What advice would you impart onto next year’s showrunners?

Go in with eyes wide open. This has been more time consuming than recruiting, but it’s also much more fun than that (mostly). Plan for Murphy’s Law. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. Ultimately, the show is in your hands so take the responsibility that comes with it, but make sure you have fun along the way.

Do you plan on continuing theater (or any performing art) in some capacity after graduation?

David: I’m still looking for a job, so I’ll continue in theater if they’ll have me. I can take Scott Rudin’s place producing The Music Man. I’ve always wanted to meet Hugh Jackman. 

Morgan: The Oppy seems like as good a place as any to formally announce my 1 man show… SternMBAMemes: Live!

Favorite Follies moment?

David: I’m hoping seeing and hearing all my classmates’ excited reactions will be the cherry on top of this exhausting experience. In case that doesn’t happen – I’ll say the many bloopers and outtakes we’ve captured in Zoom filming that never stop being hilarious to rewatch. 

Morgan: Same as David. Well…that and Hot Cop…You’ll get what I mean on May 7th.

Favorite Broadway show?

David: Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! It’s a movie but should be a Broadway show

Morgan: Hamilton. I’m basic, I know. I got to see it live in 2017 and have listened to the soundtrack an embarrassing number of times. 

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