Local husband and wife creative team Kristina and Graham Fuller are taking the ups and downs of parenting to the stage in their original production, In the Trenches: A Parenting Musical, as part of this fall’s Neustadt JAAMM Festival at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center.
“This show is really about finding your identity—this new entity of multiple personalities merged together to make a family. Who are we? What are all the facets?” explains Graham.
Creating a Family
Although Graham and Kristina grew up together in Boulder, attending the same middle school and both graduating from CU Boulder (where they sang together in an a cappella group) they didn’t start dating until they both moved to the east coast for graduate school.
“Our lives just kept intersecting,” says Kristina, “We couldn’t get away from each other so we finally gave in!” The Fullers returned to Boulder to marry and start their family, and now find themselves deep “in the trenches” of parenting. As is typical of artists, they have turned their experiences into art.
Art Reflecting Life
Although there are many universal things about parenting, it can still feel lonely and isolating when you’re in the middle of it.
“We wanted something in a modern voice that touches on the good, the bad, the funny, the struggles,” adds Kristina. “Something that says, ’you’re not the only one. We all go through and feel all of this.’”
In addition to her starring role as mom to Daniel, age 7, and Sophia, almost 4, Kristina teaches voice, theater workshops, and master classes from her home studio. After majoring in music and vocal performance at CU, she pursued a graduate degree in musical theater at NYU, and as her kids have started to become more independent, she has found herself once again pining for the stage. Unfortunately, professional theater opportunities don’t often accommodate the schedule and demands of parenting. Nor have the Fullers found many scripts that resonated with them in their current phase of life.
“A couple years ago on a rare night out alone, Graham suggested that we write our own show,” remembers Kristina. Despite her extensive theater and music background she laughed at the idea. Songwriting was not something she’d really explored. Nevertheless, Graham started storing ideas and lyrics in a Google drive. “When I clicked in and looked over his lyrics, I could hear just how it was supposed to sound in my head,” she says. “That became our first song and we’ve been going ever since.”
Birth of a Dream
In addition to writing and composing the show, the Fullers perform in the production, along with a knockout cast including Emma Martin, Scott Rathbun, Marcos Ospina, and Vidushi Goyal. The score features a surprisingly diverse assortment of musical styles, all delivered with power and finesse.
“We love a really broad array of music,” says Graham. “We’d come up with the content of each song then let that guide the style—each topic would just invite a gospel arrangement, or a Gilbert and Sullivan patter (“Toddler Travel Travesty”), or R&B (“Second Child Blues”) or swing (the running Dad Jokes gag). And of course there’s the “Parents Get a Bad Rap,” which had to be a rap.”
Although Graham is a practicing attorney by day, this show was not his first foray into rap stardom. After the Fullers posted a parenting rap video on YouTube a few years ago, Graham’s opposing council greeted him in court one day with the question, “Is it possible that I recognize you from a rap video on YouTube?”
Although the show has not gone through enough runs or iterations for this to be considered a world premiere, the Fullers have high hopes for one in the not too distant future.
“I want it to pay for our kids’ college,” laughs Kristina.
“Seriously,” adds Graham, “I’d love it to be produced at one of our regional theaters and then take on a life of its own. It’s like another one of our children and we want it to grow up and fly.”
Need to Know: In the Trenches plays on Saturday October 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday October 20 at 2 p.m. at the Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia Street. It is directed by Robert Michael Sanders, with orchestrations and musical direction by Daniel Graeber. Tickets available at jccdenver.org
NOTE: While this is a show about families, it is NOT recommended for children under 16 years of age due to adult humor and language.