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A Park City Local Makes Good With Her First Play

Debra Cook

A Park City resident is taking her life story, told in 30 minutes through song, to New York to compete in the New York New Works Theatre Festival. Melissa Allison has more:

The festival got its start back in 2013 when Producer Gene Fisch decided he’d do what he could to help the Broadway community support talented writers with nominal cost to the contestants.

Since then, industry leaders including Broadway producers and Emmy winners have given of themselves to make the festival a reality for people like Park City’s Debra Cook.

Cook is no stranger to the stage. Since earning her Master’s Degree in Music Performance at BYU, Cook has performed and taught voice, theater and piano in both Utah and New York, but “Jilted to Perfection: A MorMom’s Love” is the first play she’s written.

Cook said it's an autobiography of her life with her husband Fred who passed away two years ago.

“This is a story that some locals might know a little bit about," Cook said. "It’s the story of a divorced Mormon mom who fights against culture and security when she meets a scientologist, actor, director who joyfully takes risks in his life. And who is convinced that he’s married to the woman that’s his soulmate.”

The play has six songs which Cook wrote.

Though Kathy Morath teaches in New York, she’s directing the play that had to be cut down to 30 minutes for the competition in order for attending producers to see six shows. Morath is on the faculty of the American Music Dramatic Academy in New York, but has worked with Cook for some time. She said at first she wasn’t sure she wanted to be involved.

“I’ve known Debra and the late Fred Cook for about seven years, I think, coming out under the auspices of my school with my partner Christopher Stevens and we’ve been teaching and workshopping through Debra’s school," Morath said. "So I’ve known her for quite a while and when she approached me with this idea of helping to shape it and direct it for this festival, I was initially skeptical because I know her so well and I know the history. However, the narratives and the music, and I should underscore that because it's not through song but there are a lot of beautiful, gorgeous melodies and storytelling via song. I decided, ‘Well, that’s interesting to me as a director and as a actress.’ So, I jumped on board, you know, ‘yes.’”

Cook’s six-year-old granddaughter McKinslee is part of the production as well.

“It wasn’t initially written with her in mind, but when I got to the finale of the piece, I just felt like the symbolism of me continuing to sing was not working," Cook said. "So, I asked McKinslee if she would sing it for me and felt like that was a great way to close the piece, because she and her grandpa had performed a lot together and I knew I could put something together to weave that generational growth and the effect of that in our lives.”

The ensemble for her piece includes 25 people who have been rehearsing in Park City. They will also be able to rehearse once they arrive in New York.

Morath said about 80 percent of the plays at the festival come from the greater New York area which brings a different voice to the festival's stage.

Cook said she’s in good company since other submissions include two Tony Award winning playwrights as well.

"Jilted to Perfection" will play on Friday, September 7 at the Acorn Theater and then again on Saturday, September 15 for a matinee.  Six best of shows will perform again on October 1.

Cook said she owes a lot to her team who has helped her pull everything together.

For more information visit nynwtheatrefestival.com

I’m Melissa Allison, KPCW News.