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Interview with Sean Cunningham, Part 1 - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

Interview with Sean Cunningham, Part 1

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During a break from rehearsals for HOOVER COMES ALIVE!, I got the chance to chat with HOOVER playwright Sean Cunningham*. Here’s the first installment of our conversation.



Gabriel Greene: What was the inspiration for this project? What brought Herbert Hoover into your consciousness?

Sean Cunningham: The inspiration was that Alex Timbers [who co-conceived and is directing HOOVER] has a family member who married into the Hoover clan; he is very distantly related to President Hoover. He felt this vilified former president was a logical person to make a musical about.

One night we went out for a drink to talk about random ideas, and he said to me, “I’d like to do something about Herbert Hoover’s triumphant return.” I’ve always been obsessed with Elvis, and as we were talking about comebacks, I started thinking about Elvis’s ’68 Comeback Special. My idea was, what if we took that format, but instead of Elvis Presley, we had Herbert Hoover triumphantly re-emerging into the world? Having led us into the last Great Depression, he can now lead us out of this one.

GG: Had the economy already begun to tank when you started writing the script?

SC: It wasn’t nearly as bad as it would get, ironically. There were hints. You could smell the smoke a little bit. This sounds like an odd digression, but my apartment burned down recently**. I was actually inside the building when it happened. It initially smelled like a barbeque. And then it smelled like a very strong barbeque. And then finally, it was clear, “Okay, this is more than somebody cooking ribs; this is serious.” We started writing HOOVER COMES ALIVE! when the recession was still at the stage of smelling like a barbeque, before the flames.

Alex just had a feeling that the bottom was about to fall out. He may be a seer of some sort. If he predicts bad things for you, they probably will happen, alas.

GG: So tread carefully around Alex, is what you’re saying.

SC: Stay on his good side.

( * Not to be confused with Sean S. Cunningham, director of the original Friday the 13th film.)
( ** No one was injured.)