by: Hope After Divorce
We had the honor of interviewing Molly Reynolds, co-creator of the new dark musical comedy,“The Gingerbread Pimp,” premiering this week at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Molly Reynolds is a talented writer, lyricist, actress, and proud member of the Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity. Hope After Divorce interviewed Molly about her professional and personal journey, which lead to the creation and production of “The Gingerbread Pimp,” and the significance of her message for women and families everywhere.
“The Gingerbread Pimp is a wry, unflinching look at the inner workings of emotional abuse told through the eyes of a once vibrant young woman living in a very real and often dangerous world of manipulation and extreme control. It's the story of Coco’s reawakening and battle for freedom of mind.” The Gingerbread Pimp is based on Molly’s own true story.
As Molly reminds us, “Gingerbread Pimps come in all shapes and sizes. Like me, that Sugar Cookie Girl was just down on her luck. You see, that’s what Gingerbread Pimps do. They find you at the weakest moment of your life--when you’re feeling insecure and vulnerable. Then they use the things around you (that you had anyway!) to build you up. So you think you owe him your life, because he made you. In reality, you already had everything you needed. If you just had a moment to think . . . you could have frosted your own self."
Hope After Divorce: Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us. We believe your story and message are important in bringing awareness of domestic abuse to all and hope in healing.
Molly Reynolds: Thank you for this opportunity. I think your mission and message are very important for all those who face divorce, as well. I think we have a lot in common.
HAD: Can you tell us a little bit about your new production, “The Gingerbread Pimp,” and your professional and personal journey, which lead you to writing and producing it?
MR: Yes, I’d be happy to. “The Gingerbread Pimp” refers to being bullied by your own spouse, even though you are supposed to have this perfect gingerbread, cookie cutter life. The man you love treats you like a pimp treats his prostitutes. My production is a dark, musical comedy, because if you don’t laugh at the terrible things happening, then you really will cry.
HAD: That’s very true! What an excellent analogy you’ve made to describe what a gingerbread pimp is referring to in real life. Your production has been accepted and invited to be a part of New York’s Musical Theatre Festival this month?
MR: Yes, we are so excited and honored to be a part of this great festival in NYC. “The Gingerbread Pimp” is premiering this Thursday, July 18th and again on Sunday, July 21st, and we cannot wait!!
HAD: Congratulations to you and your whole production team! Can you share your inspiring and courageous story with us?
MR: Yes. I grew up in California near Los Angeles, and began acting at a young age. I attended the Professional School of the Arts with a musical scholarship, where I trained under Broadway greats. Then at age sixteen I was offered an acting scholarship to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts where I performed in many musical productions. After graduating I went to work producing commercials for big names like Apple, Coca Cola and Pepsi. That same year I got my big break as a writer covering scripts for producer Carolyn Caldera, sparking my life-long love for the art. My true passion is writing musicals, in particular musicals including social commentary.
Now for the real back story of how my musical production, “The Gingerbread Pimp” came into being. I was performing in a lot of plays and musicals by the time I was twenty years old. Well, I was in a production in Los Angeles, and met a guy who was a cast mate. He was 11 years older than me; he was 31. He asked me out on a date, and then we had a romantic courtship. I looked up to him, because he was so much older than me. However, he started to make me feel bad about myself, and magnified things I didn’t even like about myself. This made me feel even worse about who I was. He would accuse me of cheating on him with other men, and second guess anything I did. He would get so mad at me, and I wouldn’t understand why he was even mad to begin with. Then he would switch gears out in public and be so kind, helpful and nice to anyone and everyone around us. I was so confused and hurt emotionally and mentally.
I continued to date him, and then he asked me to marry him. Now I know why…..because he needed a Visa to stay in the states; I was his free ticket. Now that we were getting married, and I continued to let him verbally and emotionally abuse me, I realized I needed to get a full time day job. I had to give up my love for acting to support us, because he did not have a full time job. I actually took on two jobs to support us. The money I brought home was not enough for this man.
He started requesting that I go and donate my own eggs for money…I did donate my own eggs several times. When I did he would take the money, and leave me in the hospital alone. He began to isolate me from my own family, whom I have always been very close to. He mentally worked hard to convince me that my family and friends were all crazy, and that I needed to stay away from them all. He even tried to convince me that I was mentally ill. I started to believe him, unfortunately. He was not hitting me, at least not yet. The police could not do anything to protect me from him, or to help my family help me. It was all emotional and mental abuse.
A miracle happened while I was in the hospital after donating my eggs. I met a lady there who began to change my life for the better. She offered me a job there and then to help her out at her agency doing marketing. Within six months I was her managing director. I began to wake up to my own reality of being terribly abused emotionally and mentally by my husband. I started asking questions, but it took over six years for me to do so. During the day I was a mover and a shaker in my professional life as a top marketing director. By night I was back to being a shadow of the person I was in the presence of my abusive husband.
A few more positive things started to happen to me. I worked around a lot of good men. They did not treat their wives or girlfriends the way my husband treated me. I finally allowed myself to acknowledge and accept the reality that my husband had been and was an abusive spouse. I started asking myself important questions like, “what am I going to do about it?”
HAD: You must have been so grateful for the woman in the hospital. You experienced many years of emotional abuse. When you asked yourself that question, what was your response? Did you start to do anything about it?
MR: Yes, I started writing. My passion is writing, and so I turned to my passion to work through my feelings to get to the truth of my own life. I wrote a musical!
HAD: So you turned to what you loved to do. That's very inspiring for others to hear. What happened to the musical you wrote? Did you write others?
MR: Yes. One of my musicals or shows I wrote caught the interest of a TV network, but it didn’t make it to the screen. Then I wrote a musical called, “Benny the Baboon.” I realized I didn’t have any support from my husband, because he took a stand and walked out of our big table reading for the show. After my husband left the room I got up the courage to tell everyone gathered around the table what I had been going through for the last 8 years of my marriage. They were all in total shock, but I still somehow thought I could “work things out” with my abuser. However, this is when I finally started to stand up to my husband, to my abuser!
HAD: That must have felt like such a relief when you shared what you had been going through with your production team. What did you do to stand up to your husband after that?
MR: Here’s an example. One night I was trying to be kind and helpful to my husband. All of a sudden I started having a panic attack. He took me on a car drive, and then parked the car. Then he got out of the car and went to the trunk. All he was doing was getting CD’s out, but I had convinced myself in my own mind that he was going to get something out of the trunk to kill me. Wake up call! That is the exact moment I realized and accepted the fact that I had to get out of my relationship with him. I more than stood up to him that night. I left him. I left everything and never went back.
HAD: Did you go back to your own family for support and help when you left? MR: Yes! I was reunited with my own family and friends, which was so wonderful! They all embraced me with complete unconditional love and welcomed me HOME! No one judged me.
HAD:That is wonderful, Molly. How was that transition from living with an abuser to now living with and among your loved ones?
MR: It was a hard transition for me, because I had to acclimate myself back to what truly was a “normal way of life.” I talked with my Mom’s friend, who is a renowned therapist. Then I got my musical play I had been writing out for her to read. She got half way through it and started to cry. She said, “this man is a predator, and he targeted you; this is domestic abuse.” I completely agreed; I was out of the fog.
HAD: It sounds like you were ready to hear the truth of your life and what you had experienced. What did you do afterwards, and what did you do with the play you'd been writing?
MR: I knew I needed to finish writing my play, even though it was hard and painful to relive and share my pain and experiences. I received such positive responses and feedback from people, because they could all relate to it. If they weren’t in an abusive relationship themselves they knew someone who was (friend, family, child, neighbor, co-worker, etc.). I know I had something special in “The Gingerbread Pimp” that would touch the hearts and souls of many worldwide as human beings.
HAD: You absolutely have something special in "The Gingerbread Pimp." Everyone can relate to your story and message in some way, like you said. Were you still married when you finished writing your play?
MR: No, thank goodness! My divorce was finalized 2 years ago.
HAD: That's good. What did you have to do to finish writing your musical play, and what did you do afterwards?
MR: I took it to a dear friend, fellow actor and composer, Will Collier. We started writing it into a musical together in 2012. Then I connected with a talented director of musicals, Lea Bonvissuto, who truly understood the heart and soul of my story. On April 22, 2012 we successfully pitched our musical to Madaline Clark Studios. Then a full year later to the very day on April 22, 2013 we partnered with Safe Passage in Los Angeles.
HAD: It sounds like everything has fallen right into place for you with "The Gingerbread Pimp." Is there any significance with both of these milestones occurring on April 22?
MR: Yes, thank you for asking. My wedding day was on April 22nd, and it was my would-be 10th wedding anniversary on April 22, 2013 when we partnered with Safe Passage.
HAD: WOW, that is not a coincidence by any stretch of the imagination. That is truly incredible, Molly.
MR:Yes, it was!
HAD: Was “The Gingerbread Pimp” accepted and invited to be a part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival shortly thereafter?
MR: Yes, and we were so thrilled to have been selected to be a part of this great musical theatre festival.
HAD: Congratulations to you and your production team! You must be so happy to be bringing your story to life, sharing your message with the world.
MR: Yes we really are. We have been in final rehearsals, and are ready to bring it to the stage in NYC.
HAD: How exciting. Can you tell us a little bit about your production?
MR: Yes. The first scene begins at the end of my abusive relationship with the car scene and panic attack, then it works its way back to the beginning. “The Gingerbread Pimp” is a 90 minute dark musical comedy. 70% is true, and 30% was written to fit the entertainment world, so to speak. It’s a musical, so there are musical numbers throughout.
HAD: It will be a big hit! What did you learn from your experience writing and creating “The Gingerbread Pimp?”
MR: Thank you. The wonderful thing about writing it was that it took the power away from my abuser. It all went to this play, which in now bringing awareness of emotional and mental domestic abuse to the masses; we are beginning the conversation.
HAD: That is powerful, Molly, and so important to raise awareness that emotional domestic abuse exists. Was it hard to write this musical?
MR: Yes, I did cry when I was writing the songs with Will. I cried for days, but now I really am fine. I don’t cry anymore. I think I have gotten it all out of my system. I even played my own character, Coco, in the lead role one time during rehearsals and I was totally fine.
HAD: That is so healing.Have your family and friends been by your side throughout your production of “The Gingerbread Pimp?”
MR: Yes. They are my rock, and have been there to help me every step of the way. They came to see my play when we were rehearsing and preparing for this big Festival. They were there through my real story, and they are here with me now for my musical true story.
HAD: How wonderful to have a support system like you have. What are your short-term goals for “The Gingerbread Pimp?”
MR: We have launched an interactive website for victims of domestic abuse in any form. Visitors can go there to tell their stories, share, and build support through our online community. Our “Gingerbread Pimp” musical is also building a platform for conversation about domestic abuse, including emotional and mental abuse.
HAD: That is wonderful. How about a long-term goal for “The Gingerbread Pimp?”
MR: We do have a long-term goal. In 5 years, after the success of our musical, we will open a real Gingerbread House to help victims heal from domestic abuse (emotional, physical, and mental) through the Arts. I want to help others heal and turn their pain into Art, take their pain away and help them prove to themselves that they are bigger than the pain, because they will get through it! I want to give back, and say “thank you,” and teach others how to channel their energy through the Arts.
HAD: That is what we call giving back with gratitude. You are a great example and role model, Molly. Do you have anything you’d like to say in conclusion?
MR: Yes, I want women and people everywhere to know this can happen to anyone anywhere. Be aware!
HAD: Thank you so much. It has been such a pleasure interviewing you, Molly. Hope After Divorce will be cheering you and your production team on as "The Gingerbread Pimp," premieres this week. We wish you and your production team all the best in New York this week and always.
Dates and show times are:
Thursday, July 18th at 3:00pm
Thursday, July 18th at 7:00pm
Sunday, July 21st at 1:00pm
Learn more about the “The Gingerbread Pimp,” at http://www.gingerbreadpimp.com/events/, subscribe to their newsletter, follow their blog, and keep up with future events. Follow “The Gingerbread Pimp”on FB at https://www.facebook.com/GingerbreadPimp?ref=br_tf and Twitter at https://twitter.com/gingerbreadpmp.
Following Molly's work as an actress, she began writing scripts for film producers and working in commercials at Tombo Films, a boutique production company that created spots for the likes of Apple, Petco, and Coca Cola. Since then, she has written anything from ads to children’s books to musical theatre, with a special emphasis on socially conscious material. Her latest musical, Benny the Baboon (books and lyrics), has been performed in Los Angeles and New York (most recently at the Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival). Molly is currently the Director of Development at LUCID and a strong advocate for empowering women and minorities. "The Gingerbread Pimp," Molly’s fearless new musical that takes a bite out of domestic abuse will be coming to the New York Musical Theatre Festival July 18th through July 21st.