Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl

A NoHo Arts theatre interview with Marylee Herman, writer and star of Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl
A NoHo Arts theatre interview with Marylee Herman, writer and star of Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre interview with Marylee Hermann, writer and star of Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl, directed and developed by Jessica Lynn Johnson at  Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest on Thursday, February 23 at 8pm.

I was able to see Marylee Hermann’s wonderful solo show last year as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I absolutely loved it, you can read the review here.

Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl is a beautifully balanced and artfully constructed play about love and forgiveness and taking one’s time to become who we were supposed to become.

Marylee has worked on the show since then, updated it, honed it, but the heart of it is just as deep and tender and funny. As usual I had a million questions to ask such a perceptive and innovative writer as Marylee…but I did manage to wittle them down to just a few for you…

Hi Marylee! So happy that you are doing the show again! Explain what got you here, how it all came about in 2022/23.

After coming to LA in 2017 to focus on film directing, I went back to Colorado to visit some fellow filmmaking friends. Because I was going to be there for several weeks I suggested we make a short film so I’d have new content in hand, and went about trying to write a short, comedic script that could be shot quickly. I struggled and the only thing that kept coming to mind was the feature-length script I’d had in my head for a couple of years that I knew I wanted to make at some point, but hadn’t found the courage, or taken the opportunity, to get it into a screenplay.

I decided to go ahead and write that out and at least get some notes out of my head so I could get back to writing the short comedy. What developed was an 18-page dramatic monologue based on my relationship with my dad. I shared it with two of my screenwriter friends and the three of us all felt the same thing—this story, at least at that point, wanted to be told as a 1-woman show. Keep in mind, none of us knew anything about writing for theater in general, much less, a one-person show. And I’d only seen one or two shows in my life.

No clue how to go about writing it, I went back to LA and hemmed and hawed over it for a couple of years. And even though I told people, “I’m writing a one-woman show,” I couldn’t find anything to help me understand formatting or what it was I needed to do.

Near the beginning of the pandemic I saw a message in an email group I belonged to, promoting a free monthly workshop on writing a ‘solo’ show, and if you signed up you got a link to ‘Fertile’, a solo show by Heather Dowling, who had posted the message. This was the first time I’d seen the term ‘solo theater’. The workshop was coached by Jessica Lynn Johnson, owner of Soaring Solo Studios.

Going back to Colorado at the beginning of the pandemic, I started taking the online workshops and began to learn more about this unique art form and possible ways to construct my script and tell my story. Eventually, I began taking classes with Jessica and Heather to really commit to my show.

Fear and insecurities often stood in my way, as I’d still procrastinate and do minimal to get it done. In autumn of 2021 I put a stake in the ground and scheduled a table read of my script for a couple of months later on December 4.

It wasn’t required but I really wanted a title before the table read. Brainstorming over titles with my sweetheart who I was staying with in Colorado, we threw a million ideas out there. At some point I said ‘Schmaltzy’ because my grandparents, my dad’s parents, had called him that when he was a kid. In the last months of his life, my dad, ‘Daddy’, would tell me that a number of times with a chuckle. Before I was even born, when they found out I was a girl, I’d been given the nickname, ‘Princess’, which conversationally became, ‘Princie’ after I was born.

Even with the table read scheduled, I’d let fear get in the way, but thanks to Jessica and Heather, my fellow solo artists in my classes, some going through similar experiences, I managed to complete the script.

Though it was over Zoom, I couldn’t believe the incredible response and feedback I got simply from reading the script and doing character work from my chair. Afterward, though some revisions and tweaks were necessary, I was told that the script was really close to being solid, and I was urged to put another stake in the ground and schedule my premiere. Two days later, on December 6, in a private coaching session with Jessica, I committed to performing my show at Hollywood Fringe Festival in June of 2022.

On December 30, I got off a Zoom call with a friend in LA after discussing my return to the west coast and she was going to start helping me look for housing. I picked up my phone and had numerous texts asking if I was following the fire. I turned on the news to discover there was a wildfire spreading quickly in a small city in Colorado where I own a townhouse which I rent out for income. No one was hurt, and though several buildings in the same complex, including one 50 feet from mine, were destroyed, my townhouse was spared. I always say, “Daddy was looking out for me.”

The incredibly overwhelming process of remediation, the likes of which I have never dealt with before, began. Two weeks later, I had Covid. I was lucky that it only knocked me out for a few days, though I still have to use an inhaler at times, especially when I am in full-on rehearsal mode and leading up to show days.

Then in March, I discovered I needed knee surgery.

The reason I mention all this is because I couldn’t decide if the universe was telling me not to do Hollywood Fringe, or if it was simply wanting me to prove how dedicated I am. Part of me wanted to back out. But I decided it was the latter.

I continued getting ready and asked Jessica Lynn Johnson to be my director, partially because she understands the medium of solo theatre more than anyone, and also because I knew she would challenge me since when it comes to developing a story, I come from a filmmaking background.

In April I returned to LA to prep for the Fringe festival. I attended networking events in person when I could and joined online Fringe workshops.

June 4, 2022 I was thrilled and honored to perform the world premiere of ‘Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl’. Went on to have two more shows at Hollywood Fringe. Next show was at Binge Fringe at Santa Monica Playhouse. Then United Solo in NYC- yup, had my Off-Broadway debut in November, 2022. Performed at Soaring Solo Stars Series in December. Was invited to do the Encore for Stars Series but had to make the heartbreaking decision not to partake due to finances. And now I am excited to be gearing up for Solofest 2023!

A NoHo Arts theatre interview with Marylee Herman, writer and star of Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl

This is a very personal play, how does your family feel about you chronicling yourself and them in this way?

Oooh, boy, yes, this is something I had to really consider and still gives me some concern because my family has yet to see the show, but I’ve had to trust. I’ll start by saying, my dad, “Daddy”, was my best friend. Anyone and everyone will tell you that. Though he passed away in 2016, I have ‘talked’ to him and asked how he felt about it numerous times; as well as meditating and journaling on the subject. I realized that if I was going to do it, I had to at least start from a place of honesty. I believe he is proud of me and the show, and that is much of what helps me push forward.

During the writing, I had conversations with my coaches and other artists as to how they handled this type of situation. How much do you want others to know about yourself? And the huge question- how, and if, you incorporate other real people. What it boiled down to is that everyone has their story to tell, and their own way to tell it. No one had an easy answer for me. I had to decide for myself what I’d share and how I’d share it. It’s a process. Originally I hadn’t planned on including what has become one of the most significant moments of the show. Realizing I could remove anything I didn’t want to share, I gave myself the freedom to write everything that came to mind.

And obviously not every detail could be included. So there was a challenge to figure out who from the story is in there, and whether they would be represented by themselves, as a fictional character, or would be a composite representing several people.

Part of me is sad sometimes for some really sweet people that are not in the script because I love them so much and they have been such a big support and I want to honor them. But ‘story’ is about conflict, and ultimately I had to make the tough decisions and focus on it being about the story I am trying to tell in this specific script.

For a long time in the writing I had no intention of having my dad be a character. He was going to be spoken about, but not present. I felt in no way would I ever be able to do him justice. When I finally tried it, I struggled at first, but with help from my coaches I finally found a way to give him a voice and portray him that I feel is honorable.

The character of the mother, ‘Joanne’, was one of the first I’d written. Because of my relationship with my mother and the impact that has had on my life, I knew there would need to be some form of representation of her included. She’s been the easiest and the toughest to write. A lot of good drama to add tension, but also not wanting to make the character one-note. What finally helped was when I stopped trying to write drama for the stage and instead gave thought to the journey our mother-daughter relationship has had. Though she hasn’t seen the show, I’ve talked about this character to my mother because I would not want her to be blindsided by someone else seeing the show first who might not know her or me that well. The character is based on my perspective over the years and not a documentary.

My siblings and I care about each other, however, we are spread out around the country and not in each other’s lives on a regular basis. They know I have a show, and they’ve heard the title, and some of them have said they look forward to seeing it. But I haven’t discussed any of the script with them. I do go over in my head at times whether I think they would want to see the show or if it might be better for them that they not. And I question whether to tell them anything ahead of time. In some ways I really want them to see it because I am so proud of the writing and of my performance as an actor. I figure I will cross that bridge when I come to it. But I had to not worry too much or I would have held back. 

A NoHo Arts theatre interview with Marylee Herman, writer and star of Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl

It’s very complicated to write a play, let alone an autobiographical solo show, how did you begin and what were your methods?

Oh, I guess I answered a lot of the logistics above already, lol. Once I knew I wanted to do a solo show, where I really began making headway was when I took a Creating Captivating Characters workshop. For three weeks I had assignments and I had to come up with something to present to class. I was so unsure of what I was doing but I had to do my homework and present to the class. So it pushed me to setup up. Some of those characters are still in the show, and some will either be in another one, or they were simply devices to help me get to where I needed to be. 

The more solo shows I began to see, I realized that a method most shows use is having someone narrate to the audience in one way or another. Somewhere in the process, Jessica and I made a specific decision to not cross that line. Therefore, some of my methods have had to be adapted so the audience gets to be a ‘fly on the wall’ of the writer’s room of this grieving, insecure, 50-something woman who wants to finally finish something in her life. At the same time, there are so many relatable elements, we want to make sure the audience is entertained and enjoying the journey they are being taken on and that they get to share in the story in some way if they want to and be part of the experience if they feel like it.

When I come up against a block with creating, two quotes have been an enormous help when I need them. Shonda Rhimes said in a graduation speech she gave at Dartmouth that “dreams are for losers.” Her point is that dreams are nice but they aren’t enough. You have to be a ‘doer’. And Anais Nin wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

In my 50s and in reading those two quotes, the realization that I’ve been a ‘dreamer’ and not so much a ‘doer’ most of my life, and that staying in that state is “a kind of death” scares me into writing. 

Any regrets? Anything you wish you had included?

I learned from other solo artists that you can add or change anything to your show even after you’ve performed it. I’ve performed several times already and even on 42nd Street in New York, and I am still finding new things I’d like to add or tweak. Each show I’ve found things I wanted to enhance or try differently. So some things will be different at Solofest than they were in previous shows. In midlife I’m trying to not have regrets, though at times I’ll wish I had been aware last June of some of the things I’m still discovering. That said, if I kept putting it off, thinking I’d get it perfect, it’s possible I’d never have the courage to take the stage and tell my story, and I’d still be in Colorado tweaking every little thing, and then I wouldn’t have had the amazing experiences I’ve had so far on the journey. That whole dreamer vs doer thing.

Sometimes I’ll be insecure and treat my show like it is a ‘cute, little’ story. (a friend called me out on this.) And at times it will take everything I have to not go down a path of thinking I’m too old to finally be diving into an acting career wholeheartedly, or because I don’t have an agent. And because my show isn’t about social justice, or political, or controversial, I’ll feel that it isn’t as worthy as others on the stage. Now I tell people that ‘Schmaltzy & Princie’ is the ‘Mamma Mia’ of solo theatre (bad singing and all, but our heart is in the right place, and we have a woman’s story to tell). It isn’t the thriller, action-packed, horror blockbuster movie of the summer. In a world where some people think middle-aged women don’t have stories that people want to see, after performances I’ve had friends and strangers reach out to me and say how hard they laughed, how deeply they cried, and thank me because they have felt they were too old, or too this, or too that, to pursue something, and now they are going to go for it. I might not have exploding bombs in my show, but it is so exciting knowing I am making an impact on someone’s life. There is an audience for my show, I just have to believe.

A NoHo Arts theatre interview with Marylee Herman, writer and star of Schmaltzy & Princie: Diary of a Not-So-Great Daddy’s Girl

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about this adventure?

Do it. I’ve had people ask if they should do a solo show, and I say, “yes.” Not because I have any sense of how entertaining their show could be, or how many tickets they’ll sell, but they will not know until they try.

It is called solo theatre and a one-person show, and it will be only you once you are on the stage. However, to get there, remember: #solobutnotalone. There is a community of solo artists and we all support each other in numerous ways. It is, to use your word, an “adventure,” and parts of it you will need to find the courage to go forward on your own, and other times you will need to lean on others. And I don’t mean just in LA. They are all over the world.

You might not know at first, but as you develop and create the show, be honest with yourself WHY you are doing the show and what you personally wish to gain from the process.

If you are doing it right, it can be a very intense journey, whether it is another artist, a partner, a great friend, a therapist, or whoever, be sure you have a support system in place. This is more for emotional support and can be good even if they aren’t part of the development of your show. A place for you to tap into when you might need to step away.

Have no expectations. Be on the journey. I thought I was writing a short film. Turned out, my path was meant to be different than what I originally thought.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about solo shows, writing, acting…

No need to say you are ‘trying to be’ a writer, or ‘pursuing’ acting. You are a writer. You are an actor. And the best way to do that is to show up for yourself every day. 

You have a story, and it matters. You matter. Not only does what is in your heart matter but there is someone whose life is depending on you finding a way to share your story so they can heal or grow. 

Thanks Marylee! 

You can find out more about MaryLee Hermann on her website:

Jessica Lynn Johnson helped Marylee put the show together, as she does with so many other solo artists. You can find out more about her and her brilliant FREE classes!


Thursday, February 23 at 8PM 



Whitefire Theatre

13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91243