Recently we got the chance to talk to Scott Goldstein, director; and Amy Speckien, one of the stars and co-author of the satirical play Waiting for Drew Peterson. Read on to get their take on the nature of obsession, D-list celebrity, twinges of guilt, and how they would cast the Lifetime movie based on Fatal Vows.
Justice Café: What attracted to you the story and what about it did you think would make for good satire?
Scott Goldstein: I read a preliminary script that Nancy and Amy sent me where they played women who were obsessed with a fictionalized version of Drew. After some time putting our heads together we decided to use the real Drew as our “Godot”, and as a jumping off point for the social satire. Also, the real story is just straight up nuts!
Amy Speckien: Nancy (Friedrich) had the idea of two sisters who were in love with DP and I immediately liked it. The idea of being in love with him is absurd, so I knew we could do a play under the umbrella of “absurd,” which can be a lot of fun-you can get away with a lot if you’re not playing a realistic character. I guess you could say I was attracted to for actor-type reasons.
Everything about this story makes for good satire. Like many celebrities, he is a celebrity for all the wrong reasons. You don’t have to be a good person to be a celebrity these days. Americans just love celebrities, no matter if they’re talented or smart or good people, and we don’t make fun of ourselves enough for that, in my opinion. Plus, DP is not a HUGE celebrity, he’s kind of D-list, and clearly a murderer. Why would someone choose him to have a crush on? That’s funny to me.
Justice Café: Do you think that the way media covers high profile murders contributes to obsession and fantasy, or have there always been people susceptable to the allure of a man behind bars?
Scott Goldstein: People have always been attracted to outlaws, going all the way back to Barabbas…I mean the crowd was more into him than Jesus. Robin Hood, Guy Fawkes, Bonnie and Clyde. Generally people love these outlaw types because they flaunt the laws of decent society. It’s a chance to imagine living outside the law…However in this case, I have no idea why anyone would be attracted to a man who (allegedly/probably) killed his wives. He’s not a romantic outlaw at all. It’s got to be the mustache.
The media loves it because it’s like the news version of Reality TV. It’s like gaper’s block…everyone always wants to stop and look at the accident…in some ways it’s a measure of our own mortality…like, “man, I’m glad that wasn’t me…and I can’t stop watching”
The media just gives the people what they want and will go to any lengths to get it. Ask Amy Jacobsen…bad day for a swim if you ask me.
Amy Speckien: It seems to me like the media contributes to obsession and fantasy with many celebrities. While women have always been susceptable to the allure of a man behind bars, with the media now, you can see pictures of Drew any time you want. You can see pictures of and interviews with him and his kids. When I saw an interview with him when his kids were sitting next to him, it hit home for me that, wow-this guy is not just a murderer, but also a father. For the right woman, seeing his human side-his house, his kids, etc., might feed her obsession. His “human” side is just so accessible.
Justice Café: How about the Internet? Has it made it easier for people to indulge in romantic fantasies about accused murderers?
Scott Goldstein: Of course because there is no filter whatsoever, so people are free to create their own world. I saw a feature on “Second Life”, and it freaked me out. You can be whoever you want on the internet and create your own reality. In the past delusional people didn’t have the ability to interconnect so easily. It allows the fantasy to be shared and built upon, with absolutely no relation to actual facts. You get arrested for yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, but on the internet you can scream “nuclear meltdown” and gain 20 followers and face no consequences.
Amy Speckien: Yes-I guess the answer above would apply to this.
I’d imagine some women have blogs-I haven’t done the research, but if there are blogs out there, you can look up any old crazy thing and think “hey, I’m not alone. There are people out there like me, which means I’m not crazy!” and the women who love him can get together, bond. If they all think he’s innocent he must be. So, yes. I’d imagine that the internet has made it easier to indulge in romantic fantasies.
Justice Café: I saw that Joel Brodsky has already seen the play. Have you heard from any others involved in the case – prosecution or defense?
Scott Goldstein: No…and I really didn’t want to. I mean c’mon the Shark was a defense attorney in the Family Secrets trial. I was a little weirded out when Joel showed up. One of my friends came into the lobby of the theater and called out my name and I said “shut the f*** up”…I was weirded out. I was even more weirded out that they were so nice to us. He was the nicest guy I’ve ever met who is defending (an alleged) wife killer.
Amy Speckien: No-just Joel Brodsky and another. They liked the play. They were cordial. They said they would get Drew’s autograph for us.
Joseph Hosey, who spent a year with Drew Peterson writing the book Fatal Vows, came. He is also working on the screenplay for the Lifetime movie. He liked the show. He has been supportive.
Justice Café: When writing a satire involving an ongoing murder case, especially a local story, do you ever get a twinge when you think of the real people involved?
Scott Goldstein: Absolutely. When I realized that Drew was aware of it, I was totally uncomfortable for a few days. I mean he does know how to kill someone and make it look like an accident (his own words according to hearsay/internet) I also was worried that Stacy or Kathleen’s family would get the wrong idea. I saw a lot of negative comments on the internet, as if they didn’t understand that the play is not pro-Drew. Satire is easily missed. I also got serious twinges of guilt when I thought about Drew’s kids. It’s not their fault, and I really hope that they aren’t hurt. They’ve suffered enough losing their mothers.
Amy Speckien: There are times I feel horrible thinking of Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson’s family hearing about this show. I hope they don’t. They could easily get the wrong idea about the show, they could very easily just not want to hear his name at all. And with Drew Peterson being famous for loving attention, it’s horrible to think that we are giving him the attention he loves so much. We did not think of that when we started working on this show. I think it set in for me the day Joel Brodsky contacted our director about wanting to come. I thought “oh, yeah. Drew Peterson would love this. We’re doing a murderer a favor.”
I’ve had some major guilt pangs.
Justice Café: Are you now hooked on the Drew Peterson story like so many others are? Does this experience make you want to write more plays based on true crime stories?
Scott Goldstein: I never get obsessed with cases like this generally, however I am into how the media plays them. We have serious issues in this world and so much time is devoted to this, because bascially people are nosy and like gossip. This is like neighborhood gossip taken to the extreme. This case now will always haunt me though.
Amy Speckien: I’m not really hooked on it that much. I’ve kind of overdosed. I don’t think I’d ever want to write a play based on true crime stories again. I’ve had too many nightmares and waves of guilt over the reality of it.
Justice Café: What kind of source material did you look at when writing the play?
Scott Goldstein: I looked at the internet, that treasure trove of always well documented, factual information. I tried to just look at the facts and think of ways to make them come out of these two characters mouths. Sometimes Amy and Nancy didn’t want to say some of the more awful things, and I would say “it’s true”, and they would say “it’s just too much”. It really is too much sometimes. I really didn’t realize how many Peterson sites, forums and “lovers” were out there until I started to google our pre-opening publicity. Scary as hell.
The actual writing process was a mixture of Nancy and Amy’s original script, improvisation sessions, those facts and fine tuning the jokes.
I asked the girls to watch “Grey Gardens” and try to gain a level of “squalor glamour”, and we discussed “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane”, as well as “Waiting for Godot”.
Amy Speckien: Scott Goldstein, the co-writer director, did a lot of the research. Nancy and I did a lot of the pop-culture and character jokes, and then Scott made sure it was factually accurate. Scott would have to be the one to answer this question.
I read Fatal Vows. I hated the pictures in it. I read some articles online about what kind of women like criminals. A lot of them were missing a father figure or the criminal reminded them of their dad. That’s in the play.
Justice Café: Did you model your sisters on anyone in particular?
Scott Goldstein: Nancy and Amy are true originals, and their characters reflect that. If any one wants to claim it is based on them, go right ahead…I sure as hell wouldn’t.
Also, Big and Little Edie (from Grey Gardens) are inspirations, especially in the way that Little Edie wants to be glamorous and fabulous, and Big Edie is always knocking her down in a real passive-aggressive way.
Amy Speckien: The mother and daughter in Grey Gardens (YIKES) were somewhat of an inspiration, in the way they loved to hate eachother.
Justice Café: Are you aware of the Peterson super-fan that we’ve profiled on our blog?
Scott Goldstein: I learned of her before we opened when I saw a post by her on an online blog. She didn’t inspire us…although I suppose the archetype of the lonely woman who loves the bad boy is timeless. I believe Ted Bundy still has admirers too…It’s a great relationship…you can’t ever fight, and you know you’re safe, because he totally can’t kill you as long as he’s in jail. No arguing over chores or money either…and conjugal sex is pretty damn hot.
Amy Speckien: I am not aware of this super fan. I wish we had known about her.
Our characters are pretty unrealistic-we wanted to make sure they came off as satirical. Nancy’s character doesn’t sleep and mine doesn’t eat. Nancy chases squirrels and my character thinks that only celebrities are allowed to work for Habitat for Humanity…things like that.
Justice Café: A new lifetime movie is in the works with Robe Lowe cast in the role of Drew Peterson. Who would be your dream cast?
Drew Peterson: Dennis Farina or OJ Simpson
Stacy Peterson: Blake Lively or Amanda Bynes
Kathleen Savio: Mary Steenburgen or Anne Archer
Joel Brodsky: F. Murray Abraham or (the sadly deceased) Robert Schimmel
James Glasgow: Sam Elliot or Nick Nolte
(There are a lot of great mustaches involved in this case)
Justice Café: Anything else you want to tell us??
Scott Goldstein: I don’t want to be killed because of this show. Nancy and Amy are fantastic performers and were a joy to create this show with.
The Annoyance is a wonderful place that features some of the hardest working actors, writers and directors that you’ve never heard of, working odd hours and crazy schedules to put shows together in a six week timeline, set them up and break them down for the next one. They don’t do it for the money, we don’t have big sponsors or donors….we do it the hard way.
There are a ton of shows
Amy Speckien: There are no murders re-enacted in this show. It is pure satire, and it’s more about fascination with celebrity culture than Drew Peterson himself. It is a little dark, because we do catch people up on the crimes he committed, but we do it tastefully (we think) and definitely don’t glorify him in the least. It’s like an Onion article come to life. Drew Peterson could have been any celebrity that isn’t a celebrity for doing something good for the world. He could have been Paris Hilton.
I hope people aren’t scared off from this show because they think it is direct re-telling.
You’ve only got three more chances to see waiting for Drew Peterson at the Annoyance theater, so make sure not to miss it!
“Waiting for Drew Peterson” is written and performed by Nancy Friedrich (’10 Jeff Award Winner, “The Crucible,” ’09 Jeff Award Nominee, “Dastardly Ficus and Other Tales of Woe and Misery”) and Amy Speckien (Gift Theater, Profiles Theater). Directed by Scott Goldstein (“Bodyslam!” “Tommy’s Place”)