EXCLUSIVE: Mark Gordon Pictures has tapped playwright John J. Caswell Jr. to adapt a stage musical of the acclaimed short documentary The Flagmakers, from Oscar winner Cynthia Wade and AFI Doc Award winner Sharon Liese. The New York Public Theater’s associate artistic director Saheem Ali is attached to direct.
The doc, from National Geographic Documentary Films, is a meditation on the American dream, following workers at the employee-owned Eder Flag in Oak Creek, WI, the country’s largest maker of American flags and flagpoles, which sews and ships 5 million American flags per year. The flagmakers — locals, immigrants and refugees — stitch stars and stripes as they wrestle with identity and belonging. The film provides an intimate glimpse into the people whose hands make America’s most recognizable icon.
The film was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2022 Critics Choice Documentary Awards and was awarded Best Documentary Short by the SCAD Savannah Film Festival and Denver International Film Festival.
Gordon, who served as an executive producer on the film, was quick to secure stage rights and felt it could be a musical.
“There is something inherently theatrical, both joyful and painful, about a community of immigrants and refugees working together to physically craft the symbol of a country that provides them with opportunity, while at the same time oppressing them,” Gordon said. “I am looking forward to working with John and Saheem to bring a new life and their unique perspectives to this beautiful and complex story.”
Caswell’s new works include Man Cave, a Mexican-American horror story that recently premiered at the Connelly Theater and is produced by Page 73 Productions. In 2023, he will world premiere the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award winner Wet Brain by Playwrights Horizons and MCC Theater.
Ali‘s production of Fat Ham, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2022, will transfer to Broadway in March 2023. His long-anticipated production of Goddess opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre this summer. His production of Merry Wives was recently recorded for PBS Great Performances, and was the subject of the documentary Reopening Night on HBO Max. He is a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, a Sir John Gielgud SDCF Fellow, and a Shubert Fellow.
Ali is repped by UTA and Schreck Rose Dapello Adams Berlin & Dunham. Caswell is repped by UTA and Empirical Evidence.