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American Girl Live Writer Interview

The Daily Gazette interviewed Sandy Rustin, the writer of the new American Girl Live show, about how she wrote the show! Here it is:

Q: How did you narrow down the characters [or dolls] that you wanted to focus on? And how did you fit that into one production?

A: For the show, I created six original characters that weren’t American Girl dolls. So there’s five campers and their summer camp counselor, and they go to camp and each girl comes to camp with her American Girl doll. So the first thing I did was establish who those characters are and [figure out] which doll [each] would have a kindred spirit with. Then I went back to the American Girl brand with that information and they gave me a wide-ranging list of the American Girl characters to choose from that they thought would be great to bring to life in the show. From that list, I selected the six that I felt were best suited for the original characters that we created. I sort of played matchmaker between the original characters and the American Girl characters.

Q: It takes place [entirely] at summer camp?

A: Yes, at Camp American Girl, which is a fictional summer camp created for the show, where campers come for a week and they bring their dolls with them. It’s a regular summer camp. There’s swimming and sports and performing arts. Over the course of the show, as the friends encounter obstacles or face challenges, their dolls come to life to impart their wisdom and help them to know what to do. When they come to life, they come to life in musical numbers that reflect their historical era. For example, Julie is the disco doll from the 1970s, so she comes to life in a disco boogie number. Rebecca, a World War I-era doll, comes to life [with] a ragtime number. And it’s subtle: The kids aren’t necessarily connecting that; the adults will connect it. But it’s a subtle introduction to the musical genres of the historical periods of each doll. They’re of course dressed in their iconic costumes from their periods in history.

Q: What sort of problems or lessons come into play with these campers?

A: Each camper faces her own obstacle over the course of the show. For one of the campers, it’s her first time at camp and all of the other campers know each other. She’s shy and she’s not quite sure how she’s going to fit in, and she has to figure out how to speak up for herself and be true to herself and make herself open to making new friends. One of the campers struggles with relying on her teammates. She wants to do it all by herself, and she needs to learn how to work with others and accept help and ask for help. There [are] lessons like that across the whole show. It’s a lot [about] learning how to be yourself and work with others and support each other.