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Jun 2, 2017

The Man In The Ceiling, book by Jules Feiffer, Music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and directed by Jeffrey Seller, producer of Hamilton, will run May 30-June 25, 2017 at The Bay Street Theater. In his new theatrical adaptation of his graphic novel “The Man in the Ceiling,” opening the 2017 Main Stage season at Bay Street Theatre May 30, he wants the audience “to feel they’ve been dragged up onstage” and are part of the action. “Yes! I want you to experience what I am doing in the present tense! That’s the way it’s always been in whatever medium I’m using,” he says. “It took over 50 years for me to learn to leave my work alone, and not to try and control everything. To be a lack of control freak. Or a loss of control freak.” “The Man In The Ceiling” was first published as a graphic novel in 1993. Both the book and the play, directed by Jeffrey Seller, deal with failure, mostly creative failure, centered around two characters — Jimmy, a boy who only wants to draw cartoons whose father is displeased by his ambition, and his Uncle Lester who lives upstairs and writes “flop musicals.” “ ‘As Jimmy saw it, he had no other choice but to grow up to be a great cartoonist. Only that would make up for the awful burden he bore in the present. Because, in every way that counted, Jimmy was a flop as a boy.’ ” “This passage is completely autobiographical,” he tells me, “completely true of me as a kid! My eyes had different mis-matched sighting, so I couldn’t catch or throw a ball. All the skills you need as a kid growing up during the depression without any money are athletic.” “The Man In The Ceiling” in its new form has been a long time in the works. Seventeen years ago, Andrew Lippa contacted Mr. Feiffer about writing music and lyrics and hopefully collaborating on turning the book into a musical. They had a brief encounter with Disney, who sponsored a reading of the first iteration of the play, but a film was never made. A few years ago Mr. Lippa brought Jeffrey Seller on board to direct. Mr. Feiffer says the chemistry has been magical. “This is a play about how you deal with yourself as a human and your self as an artist when the results aren’t what they’re supposed to be in the world you live in — where if it’s not a commercial success then it’s no good,” he says. “It’s putting together a life that is going to make your adult life livable, despite the fact that you’re not doing it by the rules of the people that seem to count, namely everyone else but you!” After a career of more than 70 years, Jules Feiffer is busier than ever. “As I’m getting older, I’m doing more work,” he says, “but it’s not because I feel time is running out — I mean time is obviously running out — but I’m just having more fun! One of the nice things about age is that you come to terms with how stupid you are. In your 20s and 30s and 40s, there’s the pride of hopefully being smarter than anyone else. But after a while, that stops being important and you gravitate toward the things that really count, or you should be able to. Not everyone can do that. I’m doing more because I’m having a better time!”