News and Updates

Mary: Her Story Completes Book and Music

Songwrite Maria McNeil and Playwright Amber Frangos

Playwright Amber Frangos and songwriter Maria McNeil have finished the first complete draft of Mary: Her Story, complete with the full script and sixteen songs. While continued development is on the horizon for the musical, this is a huge landmark in the progress of the musical’s development, as it is the first version of the musical’s book  that is complete from start to finish. 

Playwright Amber Frangos says it feels wonderful to have completed the first full draft:

“This story has stayed with me for so long, it’s an accomplished feeling to know that the draft is completed; and it’s completed to my liking. I said exactly what I wanted to say. “ The completed draft of the musical includes sixteen songs, three of which are ensemble pieces. 

However, Frangos reminds Mary backers that the process of development is far from over. Most new theatrical works remain in draft until their first production, and often after. “I tinker with my plays after they are finished,” says Frangos, “The blue print is complete.“ Frangos says that she expects the biggest changes to the musical will be additional music added to the book of the musical as needed. Much of this music will be transition music that will add flavor to the show and pull the scenes of the show together.

Another next step in the development process will include working with Pianist, Composer, and Music Technologist Andreas Haberlin to arrange the already composed music of the piece for a full band. Frangos reports: “We have been in contact and this is the part where we relay to him what it is we want to hear musically. These micro decisions will flavor the entire musical. Our decisions currently will be deciding how to create an impact on the scene while keeping in mind the continuity of the entire piece musically.” 

Having the full blueprint of the first complete draft of the show is a huge step as Mary: Her Story approaches its world premiere in May 2022. The process is far from over, but as playwright Frangos reminds us, part of the theatre’s beauty is its ability to constantly change and evolve. She cheers: “That’s the nature of the beast. Theater is never static. I love the fluidity of it and look forward to making Mary the best musical.”

Mary: Her Story Featured in KY: Forward Magazine

Amber Frangos’ upcoming musical, Mary: Her Story had the pleasure of being featured in an article in KY: Forward: Kentucky’s Online Newspaper this past month. The article, titled ”Kentucky by Heart: In these tumultuous times for our country, there is much good happening in Kentucky not getting the coverage they deserve is written by Steve Flairty and details all the exciting things happening in Kentucky. You can read the full article on KY: Forward’s website now at this link

KY: Forward, Kentucky’s Online Newspaper logo

The article gives information about how audiences can find and keep up with Mary: Her Story online through social media. It also features a quote from playwright Amber Frangos stating that Mary is “a story of a mother and a son…the human relationship between Mary and Jesus.”  It encourages theatre fans all around the state to look forward to the production coming to the Flashback Theater stage in May 2022.

Other stories from around the state mentioned in the article include Transylvania University’s Scott Whiddon’s ongoing music project, overwhelming support for the Red Cross in Woodford County, budding poet Marie Parsons in Clark County, The Asbury Equine program at Asbury University, Barry Hisel’s handyman ministry in Pendleton County, the Unity Committee in Winchester, email updates about ongoing in Stanford, and a bike and computer outreach in Henderson. It is clear that the news of Mary is in good company amongst many examples of warm-heartedness across Kentucky.

The Mary: Her Story team is grateful to KY: Forward for including the news of our exciting production in this special article. Mary: Her Story has ambitious plans of spreading the news of the upcoming musical project to the far reaches of the bluegrass state and beyond. Supporters of Mary’s journey should be sure to share the KY: Forward article with friends and family, as well as encouraging them to follow Mary: Her Story on social media to receive updates on the show’s development as well as trivia and fun facts about the life of Mary: mother of Jesus. 

Mary: Her Story Embraces Social Media Engagement

Mary: Her Story Logo

Kentucky Playwright Amber Frangos is hard at work on developing her latest project, Mary: Her Story, a new musical with book and lyrics by Amber Frangos with music and lyrics by Maria McNeil based on the life of Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ. As progress continues on the musical, many community members will be eager to follow the evolving piece from concept to fully realized stage production. To engage with the community, the Mary: Her Story team will embrace social media as a platform to share the musical’s progress. Those eager to learn more can follow Mary on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even blog posts dedicated to tracking the musical’s developments.

Mary: Her Story seeks to explore the human experience of Mary and her journey from an ordinary young girl to the mother of the Son of God. Frangos, who grew up in the Catholic Faith, first had the idea for the musical when she was fourteen years old. In April 2018, Frangos put pen to paper. Since then, there have been two workshops of the musical led by Frangos at local theatre company Flashback Theater Co. The first, in July 2019, focused on the book of the musical. In October 2020, the team held a second workshop where focus shifted to the musical numbers performed by the leading characters of the piece. A final workshop is being planned for September 2021 before the musical has its world premiere at Flashback Theater Co. in 2022.

Progress on the musical’s development can be tracked by following Mary: Her Story on social media. The community will get an inside look at the process of researching, writing, editing, and workshopping a new musical. In addition, those who follow Mary will get to engage with fun social media tags. For example, #MaryTriviaTuesday will take place every Tuesday and share a fact about the history of the Biblical period during which Mary lived. Trivia will often focus on rarely discussed facts about women’s life and culture during the period.

Following Mary: Her Story on social media is the number one way to stay up-to-date on the exciting new project. The ambitious project seeks to spread the word about the new musical to the Lake Cumberland region and beyond. Followers will learn more about the artistic process and engage with the incredible local arts community of Somerset, Kentucky. By following the page now, as the show works up to its world premiere in 2022, you can be the first to share the exciting news with your friends and family. 

Followers can expect the content shared to be inspiring. Playwright Amber Frangos shares: “People should follow the development of Mary to become involved in the story of her humanity. Development is not a static process, we review and make changes, just like life. My hope is that the process will make all of us comprehend the world where Mary lived, what the stakes were and what she sacrificed.”

Those interested can find and follow Mary: Her Story online on multiple platforms: Find Mary on Facebook as Mary: Her Story (@MaryHerStory), on Instagram as @MaryHerStory, and on Twitter as @MaryHerStory. You can also always find Mary updates and at playwright Amber Frangos’ website at

The process of developing a new theatrical work is an exciting prospect that the whole community can take pride in. Mary: Her Story invites the Lake Cumberland region to celebrate the exciting work that has been done by the artistic community so far, and to build anticipation for what is ahead.

Follow Mary: Her Story’s journey today on social media!

Find and follow Mary’s journey online today!

Mary Changed Her Name

What I discovered when developing Mary: The Musical was that during the course of development Mary was getting lost. The participants offered well meaning comments such as “It would be great if you mentioned the resurrection here.” “Why not add an apostle in the kitchen scene?” “This would be a great place to add scripture.”

While these comments were offered with sincerity, the story of the musical is Mary and her journey. At the time frame that I am writing, these people did not know they were destined for immortality. Immortality in the sense that if you were close to Jesus, then you would be forever included with his story.

The characters in the musical were nondescript in that they were everyday people living within their culture. They had not reached visibility, yet. Mary was doing her best to raise a son. Of course, she knew that Jesus was special and she always had to keep that thought in the forefront of her mind, but she was responsible to see that he was safe, fed, nurtured; the every day mundane tasks mothers do for their children. The unsung actions that are not listed in scripture. That is the focus of the musical.

Mary: The Musical is now Mary: Her Story. She is being renamed so there is no debate on who the musical is about. I expect a well meaning urging of “this is a great place to add Jesus” to continue. And, my hope is that once the audience sees Mary: Her Story they will understand Jesus’ place in it.

Mary: The Musical receives Grant

The Kentucky Foundation for Women has awarded Flashback Theater a grant for the development of Mary: The Musical. I conceived of this musical and wrote an outline for it, when Jesus Christ Superstar was at its Zenith. At the time, my thoughts were, why not tell Mary’s story? The story of a modest, unmarried Jewish girl that becomes pregnant. The story of what it must have been like to raise the son of God. The story of what it was like to hear a conversation between Joseph and Mary behind closed doors.  And, how their family and ultimately the world came to terms with this extraordinary story.

But then, I put the outline away and my life took a completely different path. The Mary outline had been lost and forgotten. Until, January 19, 2018, I was attending a play at Somerset Community College and I ran into my friend, Maria McNeil. She is the founder and CEO of McNeil Music Center and a Berklee Alum. She mentioned that she wanted to be involved in a musical, but she wasn’t keen on writing the book portion. She wanted to write the music.

My initial thought was, I would love to write a musical, but the current play I was working on would not lend itself to a musical. That and the fact that I cannot write music. So, I put the thought out of my mind and enjoyed the play.

On the drive home, I felt this unease I get when something is off balance. I kept thinking…What Amber? If you could write anything in the world and have it put to music, what would it be? What would it be?  Think.

Then the epiphany.  Mary.  Remember, Mary? The musical you outlined a long time ago? The drive was spent in formulating the story and another outline was born before I arrived home.

The story is told through Mary the person, the daughter, the mother and the wife. Mary: The Musical is not a story of the manifestation of the mother of god. It is the human story of a girl that is expected to do an extraordinary thing in everyday circumstances.

Mary: The Musical is scheduled for a work shop at Flashback Theater in July 2019. A staged reading  will be presented in August 2019.

From Rosies to Leo

Leo: His Journey Through Breast Cancer is my newest play. And, in my mind one that I never thought of sharing after it was written. I like to think of myself as someone that writes plays about women for women. I mean, after all, being a feminist (or my simplistic view of feminism being I love and accept all of humanity) compels me to sit at the computer hammering out my focus on what it means to be a woman. I

intended to write plays about women only because they are an under represented market. I do not harbor any ill will toward men and their influence in theater or any other arena for that matter.  I only want my place at the table and in my mind there is room for all of us.

So, with my what I perceived as my mantra, I could not let this play down. Leo would not let me sleep. Leo would not let my brain think of any other subject until he was brought to life. This idea was born in 1992 when I lived in California attending college. I do not recall the details of how I knew men got breast cancer, but I do remember becoming very aware that breast cancer was marketed as a woman’s disease.

Wait a minute? What? Men get breast cancer and no one talks about it. Where are their 5K runs? What symposiums do they have? Where are their cute little buttons, t-shirts, headbands, key chains?  Why is it always pink? Why is breast cancer cute?

This blew my mind. I became hyper aware that breast cancer was drowning in pink.  And, honestly it pissed me off. And, women in general should be alarmed. They are manipulated by the market and quite honestly, this terrible disease is marginalized by catering to only women. They are called warriors. The are called survivors. Their pain and suffering is out there and it should be. I never want to have that life experience, but, this life experience includes men.

We all share in the seriousness of this disease. We share. I’ll say it again. We share in its presence. Men and Women. This kind of thinking does not fit into a neat little package. We are not prone to group women and men together for a cause. It’s not something that’s marketable. It’s too civilized. Too smooth. Where’s the controversy?

Initially, I was going to write Leo then put it to bed. It’s not as popular a theme as my last play, Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation. It does not have women rallying together to face the world. It does not have the warm fuzzy factor of what women during WWII gained by working together as a team. These women were a fortress of strength. In the end they won.

That camaraderie is not present in Leo.  Leo is uncomfortable. It does not lend itself to fitting into a nice easy show. It’s ugly and it’s off putting.

Leo: His Journey Through Breast Cancer is now available for reading on The New Play Exchange.  My hope is that it has achieved the awareness that breast cancer is the enemy. The only enemy.  Breast cancer does not discriminate. We are fighting this battle together.



Bessie Young, A Real Rosies

My play, Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation held its world premiere on May 3, 2018 at the Flashback Theatre in Somerset, Kentucky. Rosies performance brought to life characters that I imagined, with the exception of Rose Monroe, who was a Science Hill, Kentucky native and she was cast in a war bond film that was shown before the feature film in movie theaters across the nation.

Too my great surprise, I was introduced to another Rosies that was born in Keavy, Kentucky. Bessie Young, 94, was able to attend the May 5, 2018 performance. When I met Bessie I burst into tears. Here in front of me was a living emblem of everything I believed in. My producer and the director of my play, contacted Bessie’s family earlier in the week to see if they would be interested in attending. Sommer Schoch arranged Bessie’s attendance without informing me as she wanted to surprise me. Surprise does not define the emotions I felt and still do.

After the play, I was able to visit with Bessie and discovered that her life experiences during the war were every bit as interesting as the experiences of my characters in Rosies. What sounded like a romantic tale of adventure and intrigue became Bessie’s life.

She and her sister-in-law took a bus to Indianapolis, IN to work in an appliance factory. From there they worked their way to Detroit, MI where she met her future husband. This meeting was even more fortuitous as he was a London, Kentucky native and they never met while residing in Kentucky .

The most mysterious component of her work during the war was she was employed in an atomic bomb plant. Of course, at the time no one knew what they were building. She said everything was top secret and they were not allowed to talk during their shift.  She said that she did not know it was an atomic bomb plant until many years after the war.

She recalled a curious incident while working there. The bobby pins that the women wore became magnetized. I asked her if that scared her and she said, “No, I never wore those things.”

As I reflect on my meeting with Bessie, I have realized that these women continued to be Rosies long after the war ended. Their independent spirit did not dissolve. Bessie had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The family was and still is her greatest joy. She still quilts, gardens and insists on cooking all the holiday dinners without help.

I asked her if she liked the play and she said, “I loved it, but I have hearing aids. Did you make a book?” I suggested to her that I would be glad to send her a copy of the script. My top priority for today is to take Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation to the post office, so a real Rosies can read it. If there is a more rewarding experience out there, I can’t imagine it.


The Rosies Paradigm

The play, Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation, will have its world premiere on Thursday, May 3, 2018 at Flashback Theatre in Somerset, Ky. If you are familiar with the play, Rose Monroe was born in Science Hill, Kentucky which is only a stone throw away from Somerset. She was a very visible Rosie in that she became the face of Rosie the riveter in the war bond films that ran before the feature in movie theaters across the nation during World War II. The play chronicles the life experiences of Rose, Margie, Kay and Doris.

What I found enlightening about being the playwright and ultimately witness to its full production is the paradigm of the ripple effect of the message of the play. That being, that all working women that support one another are Rosies. These women trudge through their days with all of the stresses life offers, yet still lend a hand if their sisters are in need. The enlightening part for me was witnessing the participants in the play’s production that exemplified the Rosie paradigm. These women worked diligently to support each other through the process. They displayed a positive outlook and supported their sister cast mates.

Not to say that this is a gender specific setting, but from my personal experience women as a rule have not displayed the all welcoming, we are all in this life boat together kind of empathy. Which leads me to think that the special circumstances of women working during World War II was a time capsule that was waiting to be sprung open now. This message would not have the impact during the upheaval of the Gloria Steinem era. I’m old enough to remember her on the Phil Donahue show and the hostility from the audience still gives me chills. Here was a very modest, quiet spoken woman trying to give her message and the audience wasn’t buying it. The most hostile remarks were from other women.

I am not taking a stand on her message either way. My point is I truly believe the climate for women is now one of acceptance of voice. That is not to say I agree with a lot of what women are espousing today, but I agree that whatever they are saying they have a right to say. The trend that I’m noticing is that women are creating their voice and now the powers that be are also listening. My personal example of this is I’ve written a play that will be produced. I’ve written a screenplay that will be produced. I’m in collaboration on a musical that I believe will be produced. This is a glorious time for women with a message. What are you waiting for? Get out there and say what you have to say.



Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation

Amber Frangos

Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation, will have its world debut in May 2018 produced by Flashback Theater.  The labor of love that I can’t wait to see on stage. The thought that brought this play to light was grounded in what  I consider one of the most important components of women working together: Positive Networking.


Positive networking is that ability of women to shoulder the responsibilities of each one of us. When a woman succeeds we all succeed. When a woman fails we all fail.

The secret to empowered women is not forging ahead blindly alone under the assumption that it’s lonely at the top. It’s lonely at the bottom if you do not have a support network. And, it is lonely at the top if you don’t have a support network. You won’t be up there long without the foundation of those who helped you get there.

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Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation

Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation, will have its world debut in May 2018 produced by Flashback Theater.  The labor of love that I can’t wait to see on stage. The thought that brought this play to light was grounded in what  I consider one of the most important components of women working together: Positive Networking.


Positive networking is that ability of women to shoulder the responsibilities of each one of us. When a woman succeeds we all succeed. When a woman fails we all fail.

The secret to empowered women is not forging ahead blindly alone under the assumption that it’s lonely at the top. It’s lonely at the bottom if you do not have a support network. And, it is lonely at the top if you don’t have a support network. You won’t be up there long without the foundation of those who helped you get there.

With those thoughts in mind my play, Rosies: The Women Who Riveted The Nation was born. With the onset of WWII a unique situation held the nation. Men were at war; women had to replace them in the job force. What resulted was women working together in all areas of their lives. Without their concerted effort we would not have won the war. These women made their effort personal and universal.

If you happen to be in Somerset, Kentucky the first two weekends of May 2018. You will meet Rose, Doris, Margie and Kay. Four women that were part of a team that built B-24 and B-29 bomber planes. Four women that fought together daily on the production line; four women that shared their  pain and tears when news of a loved one was lost overseas.

Together these women became the women that riveted the nation when they were our only hope to do so.


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