Slyly in his work, brother name checks his sister.
Slyly in his work, brother name checks his sister.

Kevin Murphy C’89 writes and produces in Hollywood and Deirdre Murphy C’99 manages plays.

October 2017 – Drew University alumnus Kevin Murphy C’89 takes that whole rib-your-kid-sister thing to a new level.

The successful Hollywood writer, producer, lyricist and composer has long named characters after Deirdre Murphy C’99—with several meeting untimely ends. The most famous is Deirdre Taylor, the dead heroin addict central to the plot of the TV series Desperate Housewives, where Kevin was a writer and co-executive producer. There have been other notable Deirdres, though, including a “killer leprechaun” in the TV version of Weird Science.

Interned at the N.J. Shakespeare Festival as a student
Interned at the N.J. Shakespeare Festival as a student

Needless to say, the siblings are close. Deirdre, a company manager on Broadway, followed Kevin’s path to Drew and cultivated a wide and loyal following in social media for the stage productions of the play that he co-created with Laurence O’Keefe: Heathers: The Musical.

Kevin and Deirdre returned to Drew to see a student production of the play and speak to undergraduates. The talk was made possible by support from the Traphagen Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series Endowment. Endowed by Trustee Emeritus Ross Traphagen, the series brings prominent alumni to campus to engage in discussion with students and other members of the Drew community.

Students behind the latest production got a unique window into its creation, as Kevin reflected on how he turned a 1988 film about high school angst into a musical. “It’s so incredible,” said stage manager Madeleine Blossom, a senior. “It’s so exciting to be part of this.”

Composed his first musical at Drew
Composed his first musical at Drew

Grounded in the liberal arts

The Murphys, who grew up in Burlington County, N.J., credited Drew’s nationally ranked Theatre and Dance department—where students assume many roles—and the school in general with giving them the flexibility needed for success.

“Without the humanities and liberal arts at Drew I wouldn’t have the perspective I have now or be the person I am now,” Deirdre said. Added Kevin: “If you’re going to ultimately have a position of responsibility in the arts, you have to see the big picture—all that stuff you pick up in the liberal arts part of Drew.”

Kevin came into his own as a writer as an undergrad, when he began composing musicals. His first was a rock version of the Greek tragedy Antigone. “We did a show that was way too ambitious,” he said. “But it was awesome that we tried.”

Meeting the students
Meeting the students

Heathers: The Musical was staged off-Broadway in New York and in Los Angeles in 2013 and 2014, with Deirdre serving as company manager in N.Y. and general manager for the ’13 production in L.A. The play is now performed at regional theaters and schools, with talk of a production abroad.

Deirdre, who as a student interned at the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and the N.J. Shakespeare Festival, recently completed a run as company manager on the Broadway adaption of George Orwell’s 1984 and will assume the same role on Farinelli and the King, which is opening in December on Broadway.

Kevin is juggling multiple projects in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife, producer Noreen Halpern, and their son. He described his return to Drew as a treat, noting the physical home of the theatre department had grown since his days as a student with the addition of the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts.

“It’s always amazing to be back here. It’s a reminder that when we were in the department we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us,” he said. “Now others are on our shoulders.”