Hollye Levin’s decision to become a playwright was as easy as falling off a cliff—literally! In fact it was that life-changing fall and the months and months of recovery and rehab that turned her focus from music and touring to penning plays.
“I thought my life and music career were over after that life-altering accident, but as fate would have it, it ended up opening a whole new world for me,” says the St. Louis native who fled the farmland to pursue a musical career in Los Angeles. After a stint at the UCLA School of Music, and playing local gigs in her spare time, her original material and unique brand of story telling captured the attention of various producers. The green-eye- girl from the Midwest was suddenly touring and opening for such blues greats as Muddy Waters and Sonny Terry and folk/pop/jazz artists Tom Waits and Billy Joel.
Always armed with a notebook that she filled with honest, real-life observations and little girl in the big city ideas, Levin was laying the groundwork not only for the songs she would sing, but the plays that would later come. Though she always dreamed of writing plays one day, she knew she had to first fulfill her rock ‘n' roll dreams.
“I used to think that I’ll try my hand at playwriting when I get the rock ‘n roll thing out of my system,” she recalls. “The material was always there—going as far back to my rather unorthodox childhood—to being the Midwest farmer’s daughter who was suddenly hanging out with Billy Joel and Frank Zappa in between sipping champagne and eating caviar at The Polo Lounge. I was living every artist’s dream.”
After the accident, she turned her acerbic wit and watchful eye to comedy. Her first play, THE POLO LOUNGE, A TRUE STORY captured the ironic humor intrinsic to the famous Beverly Hills watering hole from the tell-it-like-it-is point of view of a 19-year-old outsider in Levis, tennis shoes and a button-down shirt. Among her first fans was director Rob Reiner, who after seeing her first showcase, told her, “You’re crazy not to finish this and turn it into a full-length play…You are f**king hysterical, a cross between Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon”. That was all the encouragement she needed.
The success of THE POLO LOUNGE, A TRUE STORY, which received rave reviews at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and featured Levin’s original and clever songs and dialogue, convinced her to pursue writing full time. Her flair for comedic writing led to her second musical, FUNNY BUSINESS a heartfelt look at the ups and downs of stand-up comics in search of the big break. Gordon Davidson, artistic director of The Center Theater Group and composer/director, Mel Marvin fell in love with the play and developed and presented it at The Mark Taper Forum New Works Festival. FUNNY BUSINESS then received a full workshop production at the Kennedy Center in Partnership with Dodger Productions. The show opened for a commercial run at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles.
Her latest and most personal musical to date, A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME is comedic take on her midwestern childhood in the 1950s, and set against the backdrop of a Betty Crocker cooking club. Imagine the poignancy and social commentary of ‘The Help,’ written with the sharp-edged humor and understated style of Nora Ephron. The play culminates in the 1960’s, at the dawn of the sexual revolution. The concept, Levin says, “Grew out of the crazy dysfunction of my life while growing up in a pre-women’s-lib world. I dreamed of the simplicity of a Betty Crocker life, but what I got was more Bette Davis on a bad day.” In addition to plays, Levin is a top-notch lyricist with two Gold Records to her credit, (‘By Heart’-Jim Brickman and ‘Here In My Heart’ with record producer, David Foster).
Levin currently resides in Venice, California with her lawyer/husband, Seth Lichtenstein and daughter/soccer star, Hannah Lichtenstein. And while Betty Crocker is still a role model, Levin admits, the only thing she’s successfully baked from scratch are plays—and ‘A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME’!’ may be her sweetest one yet.