Tuck Everlasting lyricist Nathan Tysen along with his wife, lyricist Kait Kerrigan, can breathe a sigh of relief. While Tysen’s been juggling the opening of his first Broadway show, Kerrigan has been preparing two summer workshops (for the musicals Republic and The Bad Years) and caring for their newborn daughter, Lucy, born a few months back in November. Tuck had a successful opening and is a Critic’s Pick in the New York Times.
To get through this crazy time, Kerrigan and Tysen—who met at a TheatreWorks writing retreat in 2010—started Baby Happpy Hour, arranged a matrix-like sleep schedule and snuck in alone time when they could. Now, the couple packs up their Theatre District sublet and triumphantly heads back home to their apartment in South Slope Brooklyn. Tysen’s lyrics from the Tuck song “Partner in Crime” ring especially true: “You need a partner in crime/Someone to share in the view…/Running a race without a pace setter/I’m out of place without my better half.”
This is such a crazy time for both of you! How have you been handling it?
Kait Kerrigan: Everything was kind of fine until we suddenly reached this period of time where we didn’t see each other at all. That was really challenging. Nathan’s parents [who were staying at our apartment in Brooklyn] had friends coming into town to meet the baby, so we forced a little date night into the equation while they were out visiting, and that made everything better. We left the house together and had a conversation. Every now and then we have to make sure that we leave the house without the baby and have a conversation, where we say, “How are you?” We have so many friends who are in town and so many people who want to meet the baby, so you have to take advantage of people and their niceness. People are willing to help out when you ask, but it’s hard to ask.
Nathan, has it been hard to be away from Lucy so much?
Nathan Tysen: It has, but the smartest thing we could have done was sublet an apartment [near the theatre]. I would have lost almost two hours everyday commuting, but now I have those two hours to be with the baby.
KK: And he can come back during his dinner break and hang out.
NT: We’re calling it Baby Happy Hour. It’s from five to seven everyday. We invite cast members, family, people who have come in to see the show. We have wine, and people hang out with the baby.
Sounds like a new Hell’s Kitchen hot spot! Kait, I have heard you call Nathan’s writing partner and Tuck composer Chris Miller your writer-in-law, and you write songs with composer Brian Lowdermilk. What is it like to be married, but to each have other partners that you work so closely with?
KK: I love Chris Miller. He’s just the best, and it’s so awesome to watch them grow and change as writers together. We’ve both been with our writing partners for over 12 years. Having that relationship and understanding of what a partnership is—the highs and the lows—have sort of prepared me for what it is to have a marriage. [With writing] you really come to understand collaborating in a really deep way over the course of that many years. It’s important to be able to communicate hard things and have the real conversations, and that’s [a skill] that I’ve definitely evolved with my writing partner.
NT: It’s a very hard relationship to explain to someone if you don’t have one—if you don’t rely on another person to do what you do. I think we are very lucky that we do the same thing in that regard. Kait understands that I also kind of have a husband. There are good and bad things [about having another partner] because that also means that I have an additional person that I can work things out with, both emotionally and artistically. It’s definitely a family, and our composers have been so supportive of this baby. They basically had to let us go for those first couple of months when we were not sleeping and realizing how our lives are completely changing.
Did either of you ever think that you would fall in love with another lyricist?
KK: We both dated writers and people who were artistically inclined before, so it wasn’t that far off, but Nathan told me he was worried we would competitive with each other in the beginning, and we just aren’t. It’s such a tough business, and it’s so rare that you have success, so you kind of want to have as many horses in the race as possible.
NT: We purposefully have not collaborated together—although we believe we would actually write really well together—because we know each other so well.
KK: I like writing the books more, and Nathan likes writing lyrics more, but we’re both really good at talking about both of them. It could be really fun but…
NT: Like Kait said, it’s better to diversify our portfolio and have as many shows [out there] as possible [to help our chances] that one of them will actually take off and help us feed this baby.
What is your favorite song that the other has written?
NT: I think writing a truly funny song is the hardest thing in the world, so my first memory of Kait’s material is a song called, “Party Dress.” It’s such a perfect introduction to the mind of this character, who is a six-year-old girl. Her brain keeps running and she has different trains of thought while she’s trying to talk about this dress. It’s totally surprising and really hilarious. I feel like a lot of people don’t get to see the super silly side of Kait Kerrigan and it’s one of my favorite sides.
KK: The [song of Nathan’s] that surprised me the most is “My Most Beautiful Day” from Tuck. What really struck me is that it’s written from a woman’s perspective. It’s about [Mae Tuck] getting engaged and feeling like she was at the top of her life. It’s so far away from Nathan and his experience, but it feels so accurate. His ability to empathize and get into someone else’s brain is really extraordinary, and one of the things that I love about him. It’s really cool to watch when that is shared with the world.
Now Tuck is taking off! What did you guys do when you learned Tuck was going to Broadway? How did you celebrate?
NT: We were actually in China. Kait was doing research for yet another musical she’s working on, and it was the day before we climbed the Great Wall…
KK: I was a mess because I was eight weeks pregnant.
NT: It was crazy! We were with Brian Lowdermilk, his fiancé and his sister. We were all at a Peking duck restaurant when we announced that not only was Tuck going to Broadway, but that we were having a baby—both at the same time.