Photo source: Warner Bros.

A Mini “Friends Reunion” at the Story Summit Writer’s School

Jane Sibbett, Jessica Hecht, Maggie Wheeler and Tate Donovan Join Table Readings of Participants’ Work in “Friends Week — The Art and Soul of Collaboration”

In Preston Sturges’ screen masterpiece, Sullivan’s Travels, the film director, played by Joel McCrea, sets out across America to find the secret of life. In the final reel of the movie, the director realizes it’s laughter.

Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels

Perhaps nothing cements a relationship between two people more than a story they experienced together that had a funny result. Years or continents can divide us but we always remember one another in the lens of that laugh-provoking moment. Laughter is key to the creative process. Even when working on the challenges of the dramatic Godfather 3, laughter was a key ingredient in trying to make a story work in post production.

One of the amazing aspects of this mini reunion with some of the Friends cast for our class entitled Friends — The Art and Soul of Collaboration is how, after 30 years, the actors maintain a healthy vitality and excitement. Without a stitch of plastic surgery, they all look damn good! Laughter seems to be a great Fountain of Youth.

As a writer, you may think that it starts and ends with your writing, but that is just the launch pad. You need to collaborate with beta-readers of your material. You need to work with agents, producers, illustrators, editors on revisions and the list goes on and on. You have to, for a time, lose the inner-directed talents of writing and find the other-directed aspect of your personality that allows for healthy collaboration with people.

As Tab Murphy Story Summit Mentor and author of a half dozen animated Disney movies including Tarzan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, says, “If you want to become a writer, write. But if you want to have a successful career, learn how to collaborate.”

Marta F. Kaufmann/Source: Getty Images

This writing workshop taking place from February 15 to the 19, 2021 is led by Marta F. Kaufmann, the co-creator of Friends as well as Grace and Frankie. The Friends week on collaboration is the brain child of Amy Ferris, author and co-director of the Story Summit, and Marta F. Kaufmann. “Having worked in theater, movies, TV and publishing, collaboration is seminal to success,” says Amy Ferris. “Marta is an expert collaborator. Over her esteemed and lauded career, Marta has hand-picked and worked with hundreds of writers, actors, and directors. To top it off, Marta happens to be a remarkable, kind woman who is always nurturing others toward career success.”

The live, virtual workshop, under Marta F. Kaufmann’s direction will simulate several writer’s rooms. On the last day of the class, Friday, February 19, the scenes from the groups will be read live by actors who have make a living making people laugh.

Several actors from Friends will be back for a mini-reunion of the popular and iconic series on Friday, February 19. They include Jane Sibbett who played Ross Geller’s ex-wife, Carol Willick. Jane is a mentor at the Story Summit with expertise in acting in both movies and television. In February, Jane Sibbett’s spiritual memoir, About Jane, caught the eyes of the mentors at the Summit and she won a full scholarship to the Winter Story Summit. Since then, Jane has worked with the Story Summit on an ongoing basis.

Lisa Kudrow looks on at Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht

Joining Jane is fellow thespian Jessica Hecht, who played Carol’s wife in Friends. The Friends episode featuring their lesbian wedding was reported as the most watched single sitcom episode to that date. Jessica played Gretchen Schwartz on Breaking Bad and has appeared in numerous other television series and movies. Jessica also received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress for her role in A View from the Bridge on Broadway.

By coincidence, two other actors joining the table reads on Friday, like Jane Sibbet’s character, were also love interests to the principals — Maggie Wheeler and Tate Donovan. Maggie played the nasal-voiced Janice, Chandler’s girlfriend and Tate Donovan played Rachel Green’s boyfriend. Joshua, from Season 4.

Maggie Wheeler

“This is going to be such great fun,” said Deb Engle, co-director of the Story Summit Writer’s School. “ We tried the table readings back in December 2020 with our popular A Very Hallmark Holiday, with Jane Sibbett leading the way. It was so incredible to discover the joy and accomplishment of the participants when their work was read and regarded by professional actors. By reputation, Marta creates the absolutely best environment for the creative process. I can’t wait to see the magic Marta whips up.”

“I worked with major divas in my happy career, too,” says Jane Sibbett, “ but Friends was utterly without ego, all about the best for all, and I attribute that to both the heart of the cast and the heart of Marta and her standard of soulful success.”

“I try and create a quality of warmth with the work,” says Marta, the 2020 recipient of the prestigious Norman Lear Award presented by the Producers Guild of America. “Someone once called it ‘comfort food’ and I think that’s what it is.”

If you would like to learn more about this remarkable week-long event or to enroll in the class, please go to the Friends Week class page here. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of the unique workshop nature of the classes with Marta F. Kaufmann, seating is limited and we expect to sell out.

If you have questions, please ask John. If you would like to be kept abreast of the Story Summit Writer’s School offerings, please sign up for our newsletter.

Final Note: The classes are designed specifically for live participation, so your attendance is important. If you need to miss a class for any reason, you’ll receive a passcode-protected link to watch the recordings after the course is over.

Co-founder of MIT Center for Future Storytelling, President of Paramount Pictures, Production Chief of Walt Disney Studios, optimist, author and teacher.

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