Doug Wright’s got a knack for writing dark scripts, from Quills, about the Marquis de Sade, to I Am My Own Wife, about an East German transvestite. He also did the book for last year’s surprise hit Grey Gardens. And this fall, he’s doing the story for...Disney’s The Little Mermaid? Huh?
So you’re doing The Little Mermaid as a camp spectacular, right?
Actually, no. I’ve always been drawn to stories of people who weren’t comfortable in their own skin and had to do radical things to re-create their world—whether it’s an elderly East German man pretending to live as a woman or a mermaid with ambitious dreams of one day becoming a human being.
Fair enough, but last year you said doing this show was about “wanting a real mattress instead of a futon.”
Well, happily, I’m now in better circumstances.
So they didn’t just hypnotize you with a huge pile of money?
Actually, [head of Disney Theatricals] Tom Schumacher thought it would be worthwhile to meet, and I said rather brashly, “What’s up with The Little Mermaid? That’s always been my favorite.”
Did you bring any darkness to Ariel’s undersea world?
The show is hardly a terrorfest. But when I was a kid, the creatures that haunted my dreams were the Cruella De Vils and the evil snow queens, and I think Ursula [the Sea Witch] fills that bill. She’s kind of Auntie Mame with a heart of blackened coal.