Although Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead had known each other for quite some time (Wetherhead having understudied Keenan-Bolger's sister, Celia Keenan-Bolger, in Broadway's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), it wasn't until the two shared the stage in the 2010 Dallas Theater Center production of It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman that they began collaborating.
"We were both moving back to New York at the end of the run," explained Keenan-Bolger, "and neither of us had a job to go into — there's always that feeling of, 'Now what?'"
Wetherhead interjected: "So, I was having a conversation with my husband, [Tony Award-winning lighting designer] Jeff Croiter, who was the lighting designer on Superman, saying, 'What am I going to do when I get home?' It was a big question mark. He said, 'I'll tell you one thing. Stay in touch with Andrew Keenan-Bolger because he likes you, and he knows how to get sh*t out there.'
"He took a breath and said, 'You guys should make a web series together.' I never watched [a] web series. It never occurred to me to make a web series, but sometimes when someone says something in the right moment, it makes sense. I brought it up with Andrew the next day, and what [he] said was, 'That's funny you should say that because I'm thinking the same thing,' and then we started talking about what we could actually create, knowing our limitations. We had zero dollars [and] limited resources, with the exception of actors, which we knew we could get a lot of — based on mutual friends and their friends."
When Keenan-Bolger (a frequent Mary Poppins cast member before originating the role of Crutchie in Newsies) and Wetherhead (who was also seen in Broadway's Legally Blonde) returned to New York City, they began to expand on their web series idea — which, conveniently, began in between scenes of Superman and in the wings of DTC. "We knew we couldn't have a crazy location [for the series]," said Keenan-Bolger. "So it just naturally made sense," added Wetherhead.
Keenan-Bolger and Wetherhead set the world of their theatrical-themed web series in an actor's home away from home — the audition room.
"Andrew already had a fairly successful blog with at least 2,000 followers — at that time — so we thought, at the very least, our friends, our parents and his blog followers would probably watch it, and if they liked it, then perhaps word-of-mouth would expand our audience," explained Wetherhead. "There was very little risk involved. Worst-case scenario was that we would put something out there that would get a tepid response, and that would have been five weeks of our lives [of an] experiment. We got back to the city [and] finished writing the pilot… And we did a table read."
The reading consisted of most of the stars of "Submissions Only," which casts Wetherhead as its quirky leading lady, Penny Reilly; Colin Hanlon (Rent) as casting director Tim Trull; Lindsay Nicole Chabers (Lysistrata Jones) as his assistant Gail Liner; Stephen Bienskie (Cats) as Tim's ex-boyfriend, Steven Farrell; Asmeret Ghebremichael (The Book of Mormon) as Penny's roommate Raina Pearl; and Tony nominee Santino Fontana (Cinderella) as Aaron Miller, Penny's unlikely love interest, struggling actor and occasional reader. Keenan-Bolger, who spends most of his time behind the camera, occasionally appears as over-the-top (yet extremely stylish) audition monitor Donny Rich.
Watch the first episode, "Old Lace," below:
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