Did you hear the one about the guy who had a stroke? And then wrote a hilarious musical about it?
In 2009, Ted Waltmire, age 56, woke up in the middle of the night unable to move. He had a stroke, and was eventually admitted to Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital where he began the process of therapy and rehab. He also (unbeknownst to him at the time) began to gather the source material for his original musical, The Mighty Ted. “When your body is out of control, the only thing you can control is how you deal with it”, Waltmire sagely notes.
“I was sitting at home feeling very frustrated, because it's no fun to play one-handed piano [Waltmire’s stroke affected the right side of his brain and as a result he lost the use of his left hand]. My friend Dale Galiniak suggested we start improv classes at Second City. We did levels A through E then Writing 1-6. After the stroke I jumped at the chance to be creative again.”
Waltmire didn’t stop there. During his time at Second City, he became inspired to create an original live performance based on his experience.
“There is drama in any health crisis - look at the staple on TV of the medical drama. But I don't think it's been dealt with through humor, and certainly not as a musical.” Taking his longtime passions of writing and music, and adding his new comedy training, he began to develop The Mighty Ted.
He also met the creative team who would become his collaborators:
“Andy Eniger encouraged me to submit a proposal for a show at Donny's Skybox at Second City. I approached Jay Sukow with the project and after several meetings of just talking about the experience he encouraged me to think about this as a musical. Steph McCullough Vlcek came on board to [literally] be my left hand as we crafted the songs. I wrote the melodies and she wrote the harmonies. We explored using improvisation as a tool for developing certain scenes, specifically the cane scene. What we ended up with seemed to resonate with audiences. I was more than a show about a guys health crisis.”
The Mighty Ted, Waltmire’s original musical, premiered in 2012 at Donny’s Skybox in The Second City Training Center, but for this re-mount at MCL, Waltmire has some exciting developments in store: “I've been rewriting for two years since the original production and there are new songs and scenes. There's a new and expanded opening. You see more therapy challenges, acupuncture and even a class improv experience. MCL made it possible to include more of the story.”
Waltmire has transformed pain and frustration into something beautiful and funny. The Mighty Ted opens this weekend at MCL and it’s not to be missed!