On this episode we’re talking with Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald, the creative team behind the musical “The Magnificent Seven,” which takes place over the 2 days of competition during the women’s team artistic gymnastics competition at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
Gordon and Julia have been working together since the early 2000s and write musicals they describe as “aggressively empathetic” in which people find connection and build community. No better place to do that than on a “sports blue” world stage!
Find out more about the musical–and listen to the soundtrack–at the show’s website. It will have its world premiere next spring at Flint Repertory Theatre, and single tickets go on sale September 1. Jill’s planning to go during the run’s last weekend. If you’re interested in going, get in touch and we’ll put a group together!
In our Albertville 1992 history moment, Jill’s got more on la parcours de la flamme (that’s torch relay, if you don’t speak French). Here’s what the relay looked like in action:
And the story includes an interesting full-circle moment for the final torchbearers, 8-year-old François-Cyril Grange and Michel Palatin. Here’s François-Cyril looking back at this moment:
And here’s the final lighting – do you notice his recoil from the kiss?
And François-Cyril is still friends with this girl!
We’re still trying to find video of the laser/light show that happened at the end of every stage. In the meantime, here’s a day in the life of the flame that truly is puzzling:
During our check in with our citizens of TKFLASTAN, we have updates from:
- Hammer thrower DeAnna Price
- Swimmer Mallory Comerford
- Sport climber/Ninja Warrior Josh Levin
- Race Walker Evan Dunfee
We also have updates from Tokyo 2020–both good and not-so-good–Paris 2024, Milan-Cortina 2026 (if you guessed “expanding budget,” you’re right!), and an update on budget issues with World Games 2022. Even the floorball federation felt the need to apologize.
If you’ve got ideas for other Olympic- or Paralympic-related musicals, let us know!
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
The Magnificent Seven logo courtesy of Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald.
Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript. It contains errors. Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note. If you would like to see transcripts that are more accurate, please support the show.
Jill: [00:00:00] Hello, fans of TKFLASTAN, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host. Jill. Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host Alison brown, Alison. Hello, how are you?
Alison: Hello, jazz hands.
Jill: Wait, wait, what, what what’s jazz hands for? Cause I’m excited about that already.
Alison: Well, I’m ready to break out into song and a choreographed dance number where people just pour out of the houses.
Jill: Wait, no, wait, what is this?
Alison: Well, it goes with our guests today. Oh,
Jill: This is where my brain is. My brain is permanently on a bike cuz I’m well,
Alison: I was about to ask you, you know, I’m ready to break out into song, but how are you feeling after you’re toward D Ohio?
Jill: Well, I’m a little grumpy still. I had I’m training for a century ride. I decided I’d like to ride 101 miles this year in one day.
And doing a fundraiser with the organization that maintains the tow path in this area. And it’s a wonderful resource to have really excited to be participating. But this weekend I was really not feeling my training. I was supposed to be in Chicago and that trip got canceled and I instead had to ride 75 miles on Saturday.
And I was grumpy the entire day. I did not wanna be out there. I have been meaning to buy a new bike seat for weeks and about 40 miles in. I said, that’s it. I’m in the town where there’s a nice bike shop. I am getting a seat right now. I walked into the shop and I said, I am grumpy. I need a new seat.
Just sell me something. And the poor guys that they, they were laughing and they’re like, do you want us to put it on? Like I carry around these stupid tools. Let me try doing it myself. If I come crying, you’ll know, they loaned me a wrench. And then they said, well, this is great. They said, you know, if you, if you came back and you weren’t crying, I, we, we thought about offering you a job to which after I walked my.
Ways down to get past, past some restaurants and things that weren’t rideable through. I, I got on my bike and I realized that my brain did not do the connection of, if you add two inches of gel onto your seat, then you’ve, you don’t touch your feet. Don’t touch anymore. Yes. So I did not go back crying to say, help me get my seat down.
But I did pull out my little dinky. It’s not dinky. It’s a nice multi tool, but it’s really, it is a little. Tough to work with and fixed my seat. And I gRED, it gRED all the way home. You
Alison: learned a lot about road racing.
Alison: you learned, how important the people in the car?
Jill: Yes, very much so, but I, I did wonder while I was on the road, again, my fascination with how does the Peloton work came? How do you ride so close to each other and maintain a speed? And how do you agree? What speed you should be riding and get sandwiches back and forth to each other.
Alison: Put it on the list.
Jill: All right. We’ll work on it. okay. So, but let’s go back to happier news, which is jazz hands
Alison: jazz hands.
Jill: Today, we are talking with Gordon Leary and Julia. Meinwald, the creative team behind the musical, The Magnificent Seven. Gordon, and Julia have been working together since. The early two thousands and write musicals, they describe as aggressively empathetic in which people find connection and build community.
Some of their other musicals include Pregnancy Pact, which was inspired by a surge of pregnancies at a Massachusetts high school, which the principal claimed was because of a pact among the girls and also another musical called The Loneliest Girl in the World about Anita Bryant, who was a noted anti L B GT Q plus activist.
The Magnificent Seven takes place over the two days of competition during the women’s team artistic gymnastics competition at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics side of the infamous Kerri Strug vault.
Which bay or may not have helped propel the women, the American women to win the first team gold medal in their Olympic history. When we recorded this interview in July, when the show was having a limited run off Broadway, it’s going to head to Flint, Michigan in spring 2023 for its world premier at the Flint Repertory Theater.
Take a listen to our conversation with Gordon and Julia.
Alison: So Magnificent Seven [00:05:00] as a musical. Yes. Where did that come from in your heads?
Gordon Leary: Well, it actually, it’s been in my head since about 1998 when I was in high school and realized that musicals are things that are written by people and that I could be one of those people who does that.
And it’s a story that kind of has it all. It has wonderful characters. It has built in drama. It has an amazing combination of. personal stories and larger universal stories. And so it just has always been in the back of my mind. And then Julian, I met in grad school in the mid two thousands, the mid odds and it was one of the first story ideas that we ever discussed when we were thinking about things, full length things we might write.
But we actually waited a few years before beginning it and it kind of fits in the wheelhouse of, stories we like to tell. We like to tell a lot of stories about communities, about communities of women, about growing up and kind of what it means to find your identity. And yeah, it just has always sung to us and it’s been fun finding all the different permutations of how it sings.
Alison: So how grounded in research is this, or are the characters more musical theater developments?
Gordon Leary: There is a fair amount of research. The story takes place distinctly over the two days of the team competition. So it’s grounded and rooted in those facts.
And we certainly read about them, watched them, all of those things, but I would say it’s equally about our nostalgia for it and the way that we remember them and also trying to marry or figure out or navigate the difference between. Who NBC told us they were and who they actually are.
And a lot of, the writing process has been cracking that open or trying to crack that open. And of course there are archetypes and things that are useful for storytelling. We don’t, you know, this is by no means of documentary. But it is certainly we like to say rooted in what we think is the emotional truth of those two days.
Alison: So Julia, when you’re talking about the music and you have 10 characters, I think in show 11, 11, how are you finding the different musical voices and matching them up with what Gordon is doing with the story and the lyrics?
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, I think generally when I think about musical voice and vibe, I think more about a sound for the show than for a specific character.
Like if you compare the score for this show, which is inspired by nineties pop with say the score to our show about Anita Bryant and the gay rights activist who pied her, and that’s a little bit more, you know, that’s a story that starts earlier in our history. It’s slightly where jazz influenced it’s got a trumpet in it.
Whereas this has a lot of electric guitar. So I think a lot in terms of world building, as opposed to having 11 different sounds, I will say the exception to that is there’s a surreal number about halfway through the show where we. As Gordon was saying, we try to be faithful to the essence of who these gymnasts were, but we speculate wildly about this sort of dream sequence of the three commentators, John te Tim Baggo and ish label.
And those three get their own sound. They leave pop rock world of get this sort of highly theatric sort of Kurt VI type sound just to make them distinct from the gymnasts that we’re focused on. Okay.
Alison: I’m so glad you mentioned them because we have to talk about Elish Schlegel and what you did with El fi Schlegel, because any of the listeners will know I have a special place in hell reserved for her.
Alison: so, you have John Tesh and, and Tim Daggett and El Fikel announcing, as they did, is any of that dialogue, actually what they said.
Gordon Leary: Ye, yeah, we, we consider it found text . And it’s, I would say, a good, what have we settled on Julius? 60 ish percent present, perhaps.
Yeah. Yeah. So some of the more egregious things that are said are certainly, the infamous what is it can there’s something in the air, this warm Olympic night, can you feel it little girls dancing for gold? That kind of stuff is in there, but we do, try to understand, especially, LFI try to understand where she fits into the trajectory of like the life of a gymnast and what it means to have competed [00:10:00] in a sport that really.
You’re done by a certain point. And with her, she, because of global politics never made it to the Olympics. And she’s certainly, she’s an interesting character in the show that I think we have grown to appreciate more as we’ve written, at least again, at least our imagined version of ish lake they all say just horrible things.
well, and that was just
Jill: then announcing was just horrific, just 90, 19 96. Gymnastics announcing was jaw dropping in every way.
Gordon Leary: Yeah. We use some of the language from a few of the like athlete packages and some of the things that they say about, you know, they make Dominic Dawes’ story about how she’s, persevered in the face of her parents’ divorce, which is just so egregiously invasive and, yeah.
It’s, interesting and obviously gets laughs and all of that because it’s so egregious, but it is that again, it’s this weird, the like narratives that are created about them are so strange.
Alison: So in the show, Dominique Moceanu, who we read her biography as part of our book club, gets a really wonderful moment.
And, you know, she gets introduced as the 14 year old darling and she gets this wonderful solo. Where did that come from? And, what do you think of. In that moment. and since writing the show,
Gordon Leary: I find Dominique Moceanu to be really interesting, cuz I think it’s strange to tell the story of, as John Tesh says 14 year, 299 day old Dominique Chiu.
And I think we have been able to see the story of her after those Olympics has been so wonderful and important that it’s been tricky to let this character be the one just competing before, her falls on vault and things like that. When she. Like full of hope and is the, the future of the sport and all of those things.
And we have a little, epilogue at the end and one of the things that always gets, I think one of the nicest, if not most audible energy shifts is when she talks about how she testified before Congress about abuse in the sport. And that’s a topic that has been tricky to navigate.
But I think the Dominique that we have tried to present is a prodigy, which is what she was and just somebody who has had this story constructed about her and her story in our show is starting to. Understand that that is not the story that she has to live.
Alison: Now you mentioned abuse and that’s obviously the big story in the past 10 years around women’s gymnastics. How do you manage that when you’re writing a musical comedy? That is some very funny moments and some very win to the audience moments, but not taking away the seriousness of that
Julia Meinwald: to interject really quickly.
I’m sure this is gonna be a question, but I don’t think we necessarily do categorize this as a musical comedy. I mean, we hope there’s funny moments, but I think most of the things we, right, we’re sort of just hanging out in that place between comedy and drama and I don’t know. Yeah. Anyway, just a quick pre search of whatever.
Brilliant. Think’s about to say.
Gordon Leary: Yeah. I actually, This run has, I think, solidified that this is a show that’s really more than anything like a character study, cuz the plot, most people coming in know what’s going to happen. All of those things. So it’s really a way to like dive deep into some of the issues of bodily autonomy and what it means to be gifted and what it means to be looking toward to a future that’s not guaranteed for you and all of those things.
In terms of, the kind of shadow of abuse that hangs over everything. I, I would say that it was important to us that, that’s not the only story to tell in gymnastics. We nod to it a few times it’s ever present, we hear the voice of Bela and what that inspires in each of the gymnasts and how they navigate their own relationships in relief, I guess, is that the phrase or in opposition to the adults in the room who don’t always have their best interest, emotionally, physically, all of those things.
And I think that’s been part of our writing. One of the first songs we wrote for the show was called is called my body is, and it’s just in some ways like a body horror song where they, there are little monologues about some of the most intense injuries that are suffered and married to this discussion about how, they are teenagers whose bodies really So many people lay claim to them.
And so I think all of those things relate back to the larger [00:15:00] issues, both with of, of all kinds of abuse in this sport.
Julia Meinwald: We, we tried to do it with a light touch. I keep thinking about there’s there’s a lyric in the surreal commentator song when they’re talking about and they say, even if we all pretend there’s a choice that she could make.
And I always like the way that, that lyric sort of bounces off of the situation that you find Kerri in at the end of the show that I do think in a lot of ways, Kerri vaulting at the end of the show, it feels like a, you know, a a musical finale and you really feel the triumph of her landing, but hopefully the show you’ve experienced up to that point sort of puts you in a mental place to be thinking about.
How much did she feel like doing this vault was a choice she could make or not?
Alison: so do you think she had a choice cuz it’s something we’ve talked about before?
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, I mean it’s a really tricky thing. you know, I don’t think any of us can ever know. I think you can look at
everything, you know, about the pressures they were under about the way that they interacted with their coaches about the way that this entire event and this entire sport was framed for them. I mean, I think we like to ask questions more than we like to answer questions, which may be easy way out, but I think we’re not trying to claim that we know one way or the other, but it’s an interesting, the question you just asked is one we’re interested
Gordon Leary: in as well.
Yeah. Cuz it’s a question of what kind of agency she was ever allowed. One of the, in that my body song, one of the thing, one of the stories we tell is Shannon Miller injuring her elbow and all of the medical decisions that were made for her that she didn’t really have a say in that she didn’t, it wasn’t put in a cast and even if they explained things to her, I feel like so much of the culture is, know, your coach, you believe your coach has your best interest in mind.
Even though that interest isn’t simply your own
Jill: how did this go from idea to what it is now, and especially like trying to figure out how do we tell the story and then landing on the we’ll focus on the competition?
Gordon Leary: I think from the beginning, we talked about it being just over those two days, that seemed like a really kind of neat case or, or boundary for the storytelling. I think what, or I don’t know if it surprised us, what we discovered was how much we were enjoying getting into the minds of these moments.
And so I think it became, as we were writing, we’ve been writing it for, we started writing it in earnest in 2016. And I think. As we were writing, it became much more song focused and much more, I would still consider it a musical, but it has elements of a song cycle or a concert Al feel almost.
Jill: that’s a good lead in to I’ve questioned for Julia about where do you find the moments to put in song or where are the moments that song is the more appropriate vehicle to move the story forward?
Julia Meinwald: I’ll try to answer that, but I will say that’s, that’s really Gordon’s decision as well. Gordon does all of the book, which includes figuring out who sings when about what, but I guess I will say as a tangent to.
We’ve always found that when we start to write the quickest way for us to try to figure out for ourselves who people are and what they’re feeling is exploring it through song. So we often do sort of look for the moments with the most emotional heat and sort of write those songs and then use that as a scaffold to build the rest of the show off of.
Alison: So over the six years, what are some of the big changes that have happened in terms? And I know some characters have come and gone and things you probably hated to see go,
Julia Meinwald: yeah, I’m the worst defender. I absolutely hate cutting anything. I feel like you work so hard on the song. It’s so sad to jet it, but sometimes you have to, but let’s see, there’ve been a couple.
we had a previous attempt at a Shannon Miller song that I was sad to see go, that it was called enough. And it was more specifically focused on her getting flack for not smiling
Alison: which, which she definitely did. Yeah.
Gordon Leary: Yeah. actually I think the commentators over the course of it have changed a lot.
I think we initially thought of them just as a device almost and getting to explore them and the way they relate to one another and giving them a song, I think was a, was a big moment for us, a big moment of realization for us, which happened, probably three or so years into, working on it.
Julia Meinwald: Another gymnast we pivoted a bit on was Dominique Dawes. One of the first songs we wrote from for the show was a song for her specifically about being potentially the first American [00:20:00] black gymnast to win a gold medal. And then the thinking about it, more wanting to give her a moment that definitely touches on her experience of race in the Olympics, but doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be okay.
You get a song about race and now her song is about loving actually the love of support. She is really the only song that’s about I do this because I love it. And this is what loving it feels like.
Gordon Leary: Yeah. We realized after our most recent reading that most recent as in 2019, the summer of 2019 That no one ever talked about the things they liked, in doing gymnastics in the show.
So we really, we found yeah, we found I think a really nice, a nice way to like, one of the opening lines is there’s always noise. There’s always chatter, but when you’re in the middle of the moment is how it gets into the, into the course. It’s that like the actual love of the sport is the reason that they all keep going.
Jill: How did the pandemic affect the development of this show?
Julia Meinwald: Well, , we were slated to do a version of this production in the summer of 2020. so we literally, we kicked off our fundraising in February of 2020, and then quickly realized that we were not going to be able to do that production scheduled. So it’s really just been waiting biding our time. And I think we had the theater we were originally gonna work with, I think put a little bit of pressure on us to do a version of this in 20, I guess it was early 20, 21, but they were having these conversations with us in late 20, 20 before we had a vaccine.
And we really resisted that because I mean, while the world certainly has not become a safe and easy place, now is the earliest that we felt comfortable even attempting it, you know, since we are. Producing this show, as well as writing it, we feel a degree of responsibility for everyone involved.
And we wanna make sure that we can create some semblance of safety for them.
Alison: Yeah. So, so far it’s been mostly staged readings.
Gordon Leary: do I have that right? Yes. Yeah. Up until now, up until this production, we’ve always done it just people at music stands with their, with their binders in front of them.
So this is the first time that we’ve gotten to see what, what it’s like to do a gymnastics musical without any gymnastics and how that lives in space and moves and all of those things.
Alison: So what are some of the issues that being gymnastics musical with no gymnast.
Gordon Leary: Well, I will say my, one of my favorite quotes Julia has ever given is that the only gymnastics done on stage are the, of the vocal variety because Julia writes some incredible, incredible seven part harmonies for those gymnasts.
And so I do think, there is a certain virtuosity in that that can stand in in some places, but we’ve been working with a really wonderful choreographer just to figure out a movement language that can stand in at times. And just thinking about the shapes of the different events and the way.
We can, we have a 16 by 20 stage with four musicians and 10 actors on it at any given time. So there’s not a lot of space to move around. So it’s been about a lot about suggestion and kind of Tableau and, and things like that.
Alison: How do you handle the, the infamous Kerri Strug fault?
Gordon Leary: Actually, our director had a really, we think um, really smart solution, which is since people, most people coming to it can picture what it looked like, that it wasn’t about. We have a song that kind of walks through the run, the round off the twist and the landing. But rather than trying to show anything on stage, the whole song is a preparation for the vault. And so the only real athleticism that we have on stage is at the very end of the show, Kerri prepares to start the vault and starts to run. And then we go to a blackout, which is, I think has been really thrilling and really fun to withhold that from the audience for so long, and then let us see it right at the very end.
Julia Meinwald: It has been something interesting to navigate though, dealing with the fact that people come in with very different levels of what they know and what they remember about this event. You know, There’s some people who come in, they know which commentator lines of verbatim, they know who got, which scores on in every event.
They know it all. And there’s some who are vaguely like, oh, 96 was that the, the year that Kerri STR was there and to sort of track how all of those different audience members are experienced in the story, it’s been
Jill: interesting. I was gonna ask, how has the gymternet. Take into the show.
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, I think, I think pretty well.
We had a, we had a group of the gym TriNet in, at our Saturday mat a [00:25:00] and we did a talk back with them and it was really interesting to yeah. Be in dialogue with those folks. I think that some people were wary of us when they knew that this musical was happening and they hadn’t heard a word of it or a note of it.
I think there was some worry that it was going to be, you know, the Magnificent Seven, the musical exclamation point, a comedy celebrating, child abuse in this
Gordon Leary: point.
Julia Meinwald: And it’s hard. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it is hard to, to control. I mean, if you even can control what someone will think about your work before they see work. But I think that concern was there and I hope that some of those concerns are laid when people do see the story, we’re trying to tell,
Gordon Leary: but it’s been amazing to have people traveling in to see it who heard about it via the gym internet and via other interviews we’ve done.
Cuz it, I think as a, a layman or a a, I don’t now I can’t remember what was it a normal as a normal yes as the internet at the talk back called us as a normal, it’s been wonderful to see other people for whom this moment meant so much. I think, you know, we always joke that this is a musical written for people born between 1980 and 1988 in a lot of ways, people who were just the right age that this really like.
Meant something in growing up. And that nostalgia factor, I think a lot of the internet folks who’ve come to see it fall into that category too. And it’s one of the things that, that led them to, you know, or they were doing gymnastics around the same time. So these were people they idolized.
Yeah, it’s been really rewarding to be embraced by people who know what they’re talking about.
Alison: how much did you know about gymnastics
Gordon Leary: again? We’re we’re normals so you know, a lot of what I knew about gymnastics was my memories of, this. I think we all did gymnastics as children. My older sister was a gymnast. I mean a high school gymnast by didn’t continue in college or anything. And, obviously watch the Olympics, watch world championships and things like that.
And so follow well enough to know but casually, which I think is another reason that people have been wary of, of the show. I think it’s always hard to, come at a story from an angle that’s different from the angle of, of the core fandom. And I think, I hope that that skepticism has been quelled a little
Alison: and Julia.
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, I did. I did gymnastics when I was a very little kid. My mom was telling me a story that I was a very petite child. And apparently when I looked at the balance, me, my dad. That’s too small for me and I students attempt it but most of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned from the research Gordon has done and shared with me,
Alison: the gymnasts have very specific physicality.
You know, These are very, very tiny girls and very, very young. And obviously your performers are not necessarily going to fit into that. So how are you working with, you know, I noticed in one of the readings, one of the girls was very tall and so, I mean, it struck me because the gymnast are so small. So how are you reconciling or dealing with the, the physicality and then the demands of the singing.
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, so there’s the physicality. And then another thing that we’ve had a lot of conversations about is the age that most of the women, it didn’t completely end up this way, but in our original vision, the idea is to catch the gymnast of people about our age, which is, you know, like we’re saying, you know, born in the eighties to sort of tap into the idea that in some level, these people are performing a memory or an idea of a person at a time, as opposed to trying to exactly replicate that person.
With the exception of we have there’s one character, the 11th character, who’s a vision from 1984, spoiler gets Mary Lee reten. And we like the idea that most of the gymnasts are cast sort of with this sense. An adult awareness and retrospection, but the vision of Mary Lou appears as a, ver as a young young woman who looks like a gymnast, just sort of to contrast
Gordon Leary: that.
Yeah. And I think we also found as we were writing, how parallel kind of the world of theater and the world of gymnastics is, especially in the way participants, specifically women are discussed and kind of, you know, you, when you fit in your archetype, there’s a big difference between being a 22 year old actress and being a 32 year old actress.
And I think. We were struck by that [00:30:00] universality and wanted to lean into that with different body types and, and different ages and all of those things. Because I do think that the things that they sing about are applicable to so much JC Phelps sings, a song called “The Girl Who Fell” after she falls off the balance beam.
And it’s really, it’s about a moment of fear that your life is simply going to be defined by one single mistake. And I think that that goes, obviously it’s when you’re in front of an international audience, it’s a different feeling. But I think the undercurrent of the emotions of that apply to everyone.
Julia Meinwald: Our guitar player was joking. That song has this sort of the difficult guitar part. And he was like the irony of almost making a mistake on the guitar part in the song about how making a mistake.
Gordon Leary: And it defines you.
Alison: Have you heard from any of the real people?
Julia Meinwald: Yes and no. Um, Gordon and I haven’t reached out to, or spoken with any of the real people, but the actress playing Dominique Dawes has been Instagram messaging I’m sold.
I don’t know if that’s the right term with the real Dominique Dawes
Gordon Leary: just a very, she got a very nice message of support a lot because Dominique came to Broadway after the 96 Olympics. And so she posted about how hearing about the show made her nostalgic for her time on Broadway. And so they’ve had some, a little nice conversation.
Jill: has working on the show, distorted your memory of the games or what you remember, because I will say working on this podcast has totally messed with what I know or don’t know about Lake Placid, 1980 in the miracle and ice game.
Gordon Leary: Hmm. That’s a really interesting question. I think we certainly, for me, at least some of the archetypes of the characters that we’ve found have maybe
I’m surprised going back and seeing the, seeing the actual performances that the energy is a little different. But I think for the most part, you know, I’ve gone back and re-watched. Pretty frequently over the course, partially to, if I need to find new commentator, new, horrible things that the commentators have said or the kids that keeps on giving.
Yeah, exactly. Cause that, yeah, that’s a very deep well so I think, I think it’s actually been fun to stay connected to it over so many years and see it in new ways. But there are moments that will, oh, I mean, the moment that I think of almost every single night is the look on Dominique Mo’s face after Kerri’s first vault when she falls as well.
And just looking and you can tell she’s concerned for her friend she’s concerned for the team. it’s a moment that I think of. That is connected that we don’t show on stage, but I, have that thought every night
Jill: the show’s gonna move to Flint in the spring to do its world premier bigger stage.
Gordon Leary: Yes. Do you
Jill: all different shape at least. Okay. I, I was gonna say, do you have input in how the staging expands or is that more of the director’s purview?
Julia Meinwald: I think it’s really different with each process. We’ve been very lucky that so far we’ve worked with directors who are really solicitous of our input, and we love working that way. And we hope that that will be the case in Flint as well, especially. With such an early production of a new work. It is very meaningful to us to be able to have that input and be a collaborator in making sure that the physical embodiment is in line with what we’re picturing.
Gordon Leary: And I think this show in particular, because so much has to the world has to be constructed. from the bottom up, I think it’s gonna be a fun challenge to reimagine some of the things that we’ve seen in this initial developmental production.
Jill: I was going to say, are there moments that you see now that during this run now that you see it on stage and produce that you’re like, oh, we need to tweak this.
Julia Meinwald: We’ve been emailed thread going about that right now.
Gordon Leary: Yeah, we have, I. Five major points right now that we’ve been talking about. and we haven’t even compared notes with our director yet. So, I think there will be, there will be a lot of things. I mean, I don’t know how, how much wholesale rewriting there will be, but I think it certainly inspired our imaginations in a fun way, rather than a daunting way.
Alison: How has this changed? How you watched Tokyo or Beijing this year?
Gordon Leary: Well, I mean, I think it’s hard to, not about the parallel with Simone Biles. And I just think, it was inescapable. . there was no way to escape that discussion, finding its way into the show and being in dialogue with that and the, the way the world has looked at gymnastics differently, sort of what you asked, but I think, I also think I’m [00:35:00] inventing inner monologues for everyone at all times.
uh, And so it’s been, it’s been fun to think about where there are parallels and where there are whole new experiences.
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, I’ve definitely been more aware like Gordon was saying before about when I find myself experiencing a, sort of a narrative for a gymnast, thinking about how much of that is being shaped by, or, you know, said to me in a very sort of intentional explicit way and how much of that is really to be believed
Jill: Well, and it’s interesting because the way we thought about gymnastics and especially John Tess’s lovely language back in 1996 and what we think and know today, just about that sport and the mental challenges that elite athletes go through. How do you work on today’s mentality in a show about the past?
Julia Meinwald: That is such a great question. Yeah, it is a fine line. I think that you’re the, the sort of implication there is that you’re right. That we don’t want to necessarily be ascribing all the beliefs and ideas that we have today to those people at that time. And I think it’s a little bit of crossing our fingers and having faith that, that the audience will see that by showcasing some of the moments and ideas that we try to showcase that that’s where sort of the more modern perspective comes in.
Gordon Leary: I would say that I mean, not to. Act like we were ENT in any way, but I think
we wanted to approach this from a, from a position of interrogating what was going on. And I think
I think that even six years ago, or seven years ago when we began it, like when you can take a step back and, and hear the things that were being said, and obviously with, we knew about the issues with the Karolyis and the and all of that. I think the problems were maybe closer to the surface than we necessarily even imagined when we started I think the biggest change leading into this production was we had always been resistant about including the coaches.
We’d always thought this is. A story about the public facing things and the way that the audience experiences it. But I think in so many ways, I, I mean, in every way that it’s it’s inescapable. And so we did purposely put in a few instances of hearing Bela, just hearing or recording, as Bela saying, you can do it, or our friend doing his best Bela and per station Because, and that came directly from our experience of watching the last Olympics and, and Simone Biles, bravery, and, and ability to speak for herself and break through the kind of like Paul of, Power over her.
Jill: Well, yeah. And when in 1996, Bela was such a larger than life figure. And when you started working on this in 2016, I mean, NBC was doing documentaries or pseudo documentaries on the Corolla ranch and just how much she was a larger than life.
So taking the story off the coaches for once in gymnastics lives, so to speak, mm-hmm might be the better way to tell a story.
Julia Meinwald: Yeah, we hope so. yeah.
Alison: Have you come away with a favorite of the seven that you did not expect?
Gordon Leary: Oh gosh.
Jill: It’s like choosing among your children, Alison, and I don’t even have any, I know this question
Gordon Leary: truly, I feel like which is why I have
Gordon Leary: child. I mean, I think the show at its core is 100% about adoration and about respect and about more than anything, the example that that was set for people in our little microgeneration by those seven gymnasts.
So I think them as a team, this is a cop out. It may be, but really the way they were, as it seems, gymnastics seems are just kind of like forced together after, competing against one another. And all of that, I think the moment that you hear that they refuse to.
Go out and accept their medal without Kerri that they just did not move backstage backstage. I say, as a theater person I think that that kind of, the family they built and the collaboration they built is, is the thing that, that I come away with. And the thing that I’m look the kind of fresh perspective that I I’m looking at the show for next steps to really emphasize.
Julia Meinwald: And from yte, it almost changes night to night. I mean, we worked really hard to try to give each of the seven gymnasts, a complete arc in the show and, you know, a journey [00:40:00] somewhere to go and watching the way that each of our actresses really individuates her person and lives through that arc each night has been really helpful in really sort of like just feeling who our versions of these women are.
Gordon Leary: Yeah.
Jill: Well, fantastic. Allison, anything else?
Alison: I just wanna tell you, I love the poster so much.
Gordon Leary: with that red leg. Oh, we were inspired by paper dolls, cuz it felt like just an act metaphor for so much.
Jill: and, and I do love the description that the stage is leotard blue.
Gordon Leary: Yeah. yes. Yes. Our set designer just could not stop talking about sports blue and it’s that?
It’s that? You know the floor? The, the map. Oh yeah, yeah. Is. And as our director lovingly joked that in our world sports blue is neutral. That’s the new neutral
Jill: well, excellent. Thank you so much for letting us know about this show. we’re really excited and we’re looking forward to it, having a longer life in many other locations, and hopefully many of our listeners will get to see it.
Gordon Leary: Thank you so much. And thank you for having us such
Julia Meinwald: a fun discussion to have.
We’re thrilled that we gotta spend the time with y’all. You’re welcome.
Jill: Thank you so much, Gordon and Julia. You can follow firstname.lastname@example.org and on Insta at Gordon and Julia musicals. So as we mentioned, the world, premier will be at the Flint Repertory Theater in Flint, Michigan from March 31 through April 16th, 2023. Single tickets go on sale September 1st, if you would like to go with other listeners, email us at flamealivepod@ gmail.com.
Flint is not that far away from me. So I am kit in the road for this show. And I’m looking to go during its last weekend which would be either Friday, the 14th, Saturday, the 15th, which both of those shows are at 8:00 PM. And Sunday, the 16th is at 2:00 PM matte. If you’re interested, let us know flame a life email@example.com and maybe we can get a group.
Uh, That sound means it’s time for our history moment all year long, we are talking about Albertville 1992. It is the 30th anniversary of those winter Olympics. Last week we hit a part two this week, also a part two. Excellent. Going back to PAC de. That was pretty good. thank you. The torch relay.
So last time we talked about the torch itself, a Philippe stark Production uh, the torch bears outfits and Le post as co-sponsor. just, you know, you got two more years, two more years of fun of Jill’s French accents.
So today let’s talk a little bit about the relay itself we can blame. LA 1984 for making the torch relay the spectacle that it is today, because it had been previous to that had been fairly low key, but apparently LA made it a major spectacle and millions of people came out to watch the torch relay.
And. Albertville got awarded the games in 1986. So they have seen the spectacle and they’re like, oh, well, you know, Hey, but Calgary and soul continued the craze. So now it’s a thing and the pressure is on. luckily they have Le post for their co-sponsor to do the 57 day relay. And the route goals were to.
Start in Paris, you hit all the regional capitals. You hit stage towns. That would be about a hundred kilometers apart. you hit all the big towns so that you don’t get anybody upset. Politically. Can you, can, can you imagine the back, end talking about this?
Alison: Oh, they did not come to my town.
Jill: They estimated that the average running speed would. 10 kilometers an hour.
Alison: That’s pretty fast.
Jill: This is a nine minute 41 mile pace. that’s what I thought you see them shuffle today because they have so many torch bearers and everybody gets like a hundred meters. They assumed that everyone would just be trucking along with this thing.
there would be no running at. And of course you would go through all regions of the sevo, which was the host city department. So they broke down the daily route kilometer by kilometer with the help of IBM computers, which a big deal, cuz it’s 1992 and computers are still they’re they’re useful, but it’s not the same as it is today.
LA post was this turned out to be like the greatest sponsor. In the history of torch relay because they helped figure out if there was road construction issues. And if there were tunnels that they could get all of the, the trucks through, or if they would get stuck in them,
Alison: the [00:45:00] post, the
Jill: postman knows that’s right. And they could do this, all of this for connaissance more cheaply than any other sponsor.
Alison: Cause they’re there anyway.
Jill: Okay, so then you add the caravan and there were four vehicles in this caravan driving and they would also drive at the normal running speed of 10 kilometers an hour. so you had a press vehicle in front and that’s where journalists could work or the VIPs could go to be entertained. Then you had the runner, you had a special relay control vehicle that coordinated security measures and had a really powerful projector, which could announce the arrival or presence of the torch for miles around.
Can you, this? I wanna.
Then it also, this is kind of cool for 1992. It had a radio beacon on it. So you could track the torch and know where it was, And they, they had it on computer within 300 meters. They could track how far this torch was. So that’s pretty good. Sort
Alison: of like the Nora Santa tracker.
Jill: Exactly. Exactly. Then they had a Reno backup vehicle for repairs if necessary, and then a Red Cross vehicle to provide medical aid to the runners and escorts
Alison: if they collapsed because of the 10 kilometer more hours.
Jill: Apparently, apparently. So your day followed a general pattern at 7:00 AM. You’d leave the first stage town every col every runner had to run a kilo. Yeah. So they were running pretty far and pretty fast. Well, in, part, one of this story, they did not do a good job of, asking for promoting the idea of having torch bears from not a whole lot of people applied.
So maybe they had to go every kilometer. and then the escorts went every five kilometers. And changed out the torch 10 at 6 45, they would arrive in the stage town for the night. They would be received by the mayor at 7:00 PM. There would be a light and laser show, which would be at the town’s main square.
And then they would have this 3d. Inflatable structure composed of shapes and pyramids and cones and spheres, which could be adapted to the size of the town square. There’d be a replica of the cauldron that would be lit and raised up and the torch bearer and the escort were followed by. All these other runners onto the square, through a guard of honor.
And then the light and laser show would be about 20 minutes long. And it would, this is what the official report says would transform the inflatable structure into a living sculpture. I so want to see video of this,
Alison: but how did it actually go?
Jill: I, I guess it went well. I don’t know. And the cool thing for the towns is that the show was free. The torch really provided the show free for the towns. But, you know, if you wanted to close with something special, like fireworks, which I think was suggested the town had to foot the bill for that.
So this is also a quote from the official report for, for which I am very curious if this is the actual number. So each evening. 10 to 50,000 people came together on the squares to take part in the spectacles.
Alison: Okay. Wait 10, like 10 or 10,000 to 50,000.
Jill: Yeah. Is what I don’t know. oh, and, and that is because of course I hinged on that too.
Or I fixated on that too. Can you imagine the stage where just like 10 people came out and they had watched this light and laser show and went, Ooh, LA LA and then walked back home.
Alison: Well, they got a personal laser show, but thank goodness, the drone, the laser shooting drone that they were talking about for Paris hadn’t been developed yet. Cuz those 10 people would be done they would be French
Jill: toast. And then last on the schedule of the evening, post show cocktails with the mayor.
Jill: Not a bad day, not a bad day. So, they had a few special things, you know, the, Spectacle in Paris was pretty big, cuz it was the, the kickoff of the relay. The torch came in on the Concord, which is a super Sonic jet. That was a big deal. And in Paris they were there for a few days. It seemed like, and their last show was staged with fireworks and choreography by several hundred postmen and women from the Paris region, which I also wanna see this chore. Oh, so the male carriers. Yeah. So they had a big show in, in Paris and, and the male carriers did some kind of choreographic movement. Did it involve
Alison: like swinging packages around? Oh gosh. Wouldn’t that be great.
Wouldn’t that be? Be like, what was that, bro? Oh, bro. That Broadway musical Newsies. Or they do the choreography with
Jill: newspapers we can help on why not? One of the [00:50:00] other special stops was that they did stop at Pierre de Coubertin’s childhood home and torch bears, affixed the flame to the wall and let it sit there for several minutes next to the plaque, the hundredth anniversary of his birth.
So they had little ceremony there. Phish report says the torch relays was attended across all 57 days by 10 million people. And they had this brochure that went out to also several million people to give, like the time by time of where the torch would be. And when, so that, you know, you could close the shop for a few minutes and come see the flame.
of course the name of the last runner was secret as per usual now. And it turned out to be Michel. Platini the most famous of French footballers who came into the stadium, carrying a torch. He stopped in the stadium to meet up with this eight year old kid. Cuz again, We’ve gotta have the little child,
Alison: nothing says opening ceremonies, like a cute little
Jill: kid, right?
So this was a kid who was in a photograph of a few kids and he was smiling. So he got chosen. His name was as Fran was Grange, who is now 39 years old. Fran WAIS actually did become a Alpine skier very briefly, but. Have much of a career. And he’s now the head trainer at the VE war ski club. His brother is Jean Baptist Grinch, who was a double slalom world champ.
His parents were both skiers as well on the French team. He was told just a couple of minutes before he went on stage that he was going to be meeting up with Michelle Platini and kind of knew who he was because his father loved football. So they’ve got the Michelle’s running through the stadium and then the, the boy comes out and he tries to do the little kiss that you do in greeting and France, WASK, recoiled.
He did not wanna be kissed. Because he’s a nine year old kid. Yeah. Yeah. So they went up the stairs of the stadium together, long, long stairway, and up on top of this box, on which France WASK almost stumbled. And the, the boy lit a ball of fire was flew up to the Calder, not a wire. And the caldron was lit.
He, Fran swore, apparently keeps in touch with the little girl who sang the national. Acapella at the opening ceremony, which is kind of a nice touch.
Alison: Very sweet. It would’ve been better if they
Jill: had gotten married. Oh yeah. Well, that’s true too, but you know, keeping in touch, that’s pretty good. As for Michelle he was a former France national team, captain and manager of football was president of the U F E.
Until he was banned from football for eight years in 2015, over a corruption charge where he and former FIFA president SEP bladder had supposedly unlawfully arranged for FIFA to pay. Platini a very large money, some of money for consulting, but this year a Swiss court cleared the two of charges.
Alison: Oh, that was him. Yes. Oh,
I love full circle moments like
Jill: that. Right? Right. So he is now cleared of charges as he has claimed all along, he was innocent, but this, that incident has pretty much ended his ambitions and dreams of becoming FIFA president.
And that is your torch relay for 1990.
Alison: Welcome to TKFLASTAN.
Jill: It is time to check in with our Team. Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests of the show who now make up our citizenship of TKFLASTAN our very own country. Starting off with hammer thrower, Deanna Price. She and her husband, James Lambert have joined the coaching team at the university of Illinois in champagne.
Urban JC will be the throws coach. Indiana will be a volunteer, which is how JC originally got involved with coaching. So maybe coaching is Indiana’s future. She would be a great coach. Gosh, can you imagine powerhouse husband, wife throws duo coaching.
Alison: Swimmer Mallory Comerford competed in Dual in the Pool, a meet between Australia and the us.
She swam in the mixed four by 100 medley relay the women’s four by hundred medley relay and the women’s 50 and 200 free. This was a four day. Stool country meat and the us defeated Australia 309 to
Jill: 2 83. Now you got to watch some of this, right? I
Alison: did get to watch some of this and there were some weird formats of races, you know, not typically that we’ve seen and they had things, there were swimmers dropped out and got cut and it was a lot of fun and it was in Australia.
And of course, Australians trying to beat American swimmers. They went. Excellent.
Jill: Excellent [00:55:00] sport climber, Josh Levin will be on stage two of the American Ninja Warrior finals.
This week. He’s never been able to get through stage two, so hopefully he will meet his goal. This. And
Alison: race Walker, Evan Dunfee finished second in the 20 kilometer walk at the N a C a C championships that covers North America, Central America and the Caribbean’s athletic association. He was disappointed because he fell short of his goal of winning, but he said his body is very tired after three big races in a short time.
And he’s had come away with the gold with Commonwealth Games.
Jill: Yes. Yes. So that
Alison: is good. So, and after this race, I believe it was in Bermuda. He posted, he was sitting on the beach, uh, with a pina colada and a donut
Jill: most excellent.
We’ve got some Tokyo 20, 20 news. The village has reopened. So the site is now known as Haromi flag and is Tokyo’s largest public private housing development. There are. 4,145 refurbished flats for sale in the development, which includes a multi mobility station. That’s got public transportation, community cycles, a ferry port.
There’s a whole bunch of other amenities. So it’ll be interesting to see how the sales end, if there will be any units up on Airbnb, that we can go.
Alison: Because you did that in Montreal.
Jill: Yes. And it was fabulous. also open is the sea forest waterway, which has rowing and canoeing. The canoe slalom facility is open to the public and they’re pretty much booked up for August, but they are still looking for more ways to use the facility.
And have it open to public use as well. And the O hockey stadium has been reopened for public use, and it is one of the few public hockey stadiums in Japan. So it has a lot of demand already built up. So that is excellent to
Alison: hear, not excellent. To hear follow up on a corruption story involving AOC holdings and Tokyo 2020 Olympics board member Haki Takahashi. So Takahashi and AKI holdings. Former chairman hero Nori AKI got arrested on Wednesday.
Jill: Oh, uncle Haki.
Alison: So supposedly AKI a holdings paid only 500 million yen to be a sponsor. which is less than half of what other sponsors paid. And there was also supposedly they have evidence of money going to Takahashi personally.
So we will keep an eye on this.
Jill: Whoa, whoa. Yeah. If there, there has to be money going to him because why else would you pay less for sponsorship?
Alison: Right. And this was all reported in Reuters and several Japanese outlets as well.
Jill: We have a little bit of news from Paris, 2024. The times in London is reporting that the UK or that the chairman of the BBC and ITV are asking the new prime minister of the UK to introduce a new bill to parliament, making it illegal for the summer in winter Olympics, the summer pair winter and win the summer and winter Paralympics and the Commonwealth games to be placed behind a television pay wall.
Discovery owns the European rights for the Olympics and Paralympics in the UK and also something like 50 other countries in Europe. And so they’ve negotiated to have some free coverage, but it’s a fraction of what’s available. And therefore, I mean, if, if you thought we had feed beefs, I was reading about some feed beefs.
Like people in Italy would be going Italy’s playing softball right now, but we’ve got some swimming on and Italy’s not even competing because that’s what discovery will let us show for free. So, they really want to be able to access sports that they want to watch and are important to them and not have them be behind this television pay wall.
So that’s an interesting development. Thank you to listener Harry for that tip. I honestly. Because we’ve got a conversation going on in the Facebook group about this. I, I think this is not good for the IOC as a whole. Oh
Alison: right. Cuz you want people around the world to be watching. That’s the point to be participating in watching.
And I don’t know how television broadcast work, obviously in other countries, but in the us, there’s lots of places still in the us. That are just using the free broadcast channels. You know, they don’t have cable, they don’t have streaming because they don’t have the internet access for it. So [01:00:00] those broadcast channels still matter a lot, even in the us where we do generally have streaming pretty available.
Jill: Exactly. So it, when the IOC is concerned about its brand, Being lost in the shuffle of so many other options of things to watch, they should be concerned about this. And Discover’s got the rights for Paris, 20, 24 as well. So we are going to see more instances of this, although, you know, I do love a good feed beef, but not the, at the expense of our listeners.
Alison: Absolutely not. And inside the games is reporting that Tahiti will be part of the torch relay.
Jill: Oh, boy,
Alison: I hope this is one of those times where they either put it on a boat or put it underwater.
Jill: They need to put it on like one of those Outrigger canoe type boats, or maybe even surf with it.
Alison: Exactly. So during his visit to Tahiti Paris, 2024, president Tony, Stanway met with French Polynesia, president Edward Fritch and they signed an agreement to have Tahiti be part of the torch relay, which is.
Good because a lot of French cities don’t want it,
Jill: right. Because it’s expensive because the towns had to foot the bill. when this is all said and done, I do want to know how much this to torch really is costing. And if they’re still having issues with towns, not signing up because they don’t want to pay the cost for it, especially in today’s.
Speaking of costs, costs arising for Milan Cortina 2026. Yeah. Don’t say what a shocker . So inside the games was reporting, News from the Italian newspaper ITO Diano that the new overall costs of the winter Olympics are going to be An estimated 2.165 billion Euro.
This includes essential cost for the games as well as essential quote unquote essential infrastructure projects like 34 road and whale Ray projects that are deemed essential. But we already know that they won’t be finished on time for the games. the original gains budget was 1.5 1.58 billion euros.
So this is a significant increase. But I still wonder, like how many other projects get rolled into an Olympic budget that are just like, oh, well we were thinking about maybe doing this, but we put it off for another 10 years if we could, but we got these games. So let’s just roll it into that budget and blame then cousin
Alison: Tony knows the guy
Jill: so we’ll keep an eye on that as well.
Also. Speaking of busted budgets. The world games is 14 million in the red, according to w B R C uh, news outlet in Birmingham, Alabama. A lot of vendors are owed millions. One is owed a million plus, but, uh, this is also a good conversation on our Facebook group. I will say listener Billy, who was of a volunteer there.
He had a lot of insight about the turnover that happened a lot in the organizing committee. And also as, as listener, Brian pointed out, we forget about the COVID postponement costs. And having to keep staff on for another year, having to keep all these venues going for another year or planning for them for another year, those costs are real and somebody has to eat them at some point.
So that’s pretty tough. Well, you know
Alison: what else is real in terms of cost? What air conditioning . I mean, Birmingham from all the people we heard were there was just
Jill: brutal. Oh man. Enlister Billy also had this interesting point about the floor ball Federation. The international floor ball Federation was happy to be one of eight sports that had a production team, but they apologized.
On their website for the quality of the production team, because there were a ton of infrastructure issues related throughout the event. And we’ll link to this cuz they talked about how the level of internet provided by the organizing committee was unstable and fragile and they could not really produce the quality of stream that they wanted.
I think there were
Alison: probably wires bursting into flames they were keeping the flame alive and not in the good way.
Jill: Oh, oh. So yeah, it it’s interesting when you, when you think about all the pieces that go together and, and how this works, but boy, I don’t think floor ball enjoyed their time at Birmingham, at least from a feed per.
So that we’d like to give a big shout out to our Patreon [01:05:00] patrons who keep our flame. Find out more about patronage at patreon.com/flame live pod. And if you’d like to support the show in other ways, go to flame alive pod.com/support. We greatly appreciate all of you who do chip in and help keep the show going.
Speaking of production expenses, there are a lot here as well, so we appreciate your help as we do this independently.
Alison: By the way you can get some back to school March. Oh, that’s right. Notebooks t-shirts masks. I don’t know if schools are still requiring mask, but we, if you go to that support page, you can get some cool stuff.
Jill: Exactly. So that will do it for this week. Let us know your thoughts about the magnificent seven. And if you’re looking forward to going,
Alison: you can get in touch with us through email, flame, alive pod, Gmail dot. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it, our social handle is at flame alive pod and be sure to join the, keep the flame alive podcast group
Jill: on Facebook.
You know, we haven’t talked about this, but what would you turn into a musical? What Olympic or Paralympic event would you turn into a musical?
Uh, could you adapt John McLeod? Could you adapt CHLA, Johnny John McLeod’s film about Steve Jenner into a musical. I mean, it’s got a lot of drama. It’s also got a pool so this, we obviously know from magnificent seven that you can do gymnastics without doing gymnastics, but it’s a pool.
Okay. Well, think about it. Let us. I think that would be a good, that would be a nice discussion. All right. Well, if you have opinions on what should be put on stage from an Olympic or Paralympic perspective, totally get in touch with us or get on the Facebook group and talk about it.
Next week is labor day weekend in America. So we are going to have a lightning. Lightning round of featuring and all athletics cast. So we’re gonna have Madeline Manning Mims, Evan Dunfee, and Abdi Abdirahman. So look forward to that next week. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.