'Leave Them Laughing' Demo - a Musical Comedy about Dying
Ninety riveting minutes of songs about life, and quips about death, from the wheelchair of a woman who vows to exit the stage with a smile on her beautiful face.
Once a nationally-known performer of ballads, skits and self-parody, now fated by Lou Gehrig’s Disease to perish within months, the remarkable Carla Zilbersmith was diagnosed in 2007 and given less than four years to live. She will leave a teen-aged son, a few fans and students who adore her, and this 90-minute pre-mortem retrospective of a life lived fully, but far too fast.
On stage in actual and dramatized flashbacks to her giddy days as a comedienne and chanteuse, and on camera in the unashamed current reality of her condition, "Leave 'Em Laughing" tells Carla’s own glad, sad story in her own voice through diary entries, travelogues, interviews and skits. Films of her last brave travels to Australia, Britain and Mexico demonstrate the ferocity of her intention to suck the last molecules of pleasure from her life.
“A journalist asked me what I wanted to do before I died,” Carla says, “and I quite naturally answered: Johnny Depp.”
She is confident that a musical comedy about the nearness of death will be a unique and compelling vehicle to engage an audience with a subject that might otherwise be shunned for its graphic toll of suffering and pain.
But beyond the inexorable progress of the disease is the inescapable truth that all of us, sooner or later, will have to confront our own individual demise. No one could serve as a more inspiring forerunner along that path than Carla Zilbersmith, who faces her own extinction with wit, wisdom, courage, music and love. That she will die before her audience, her son, her friends, and her parents, there is little doubt. That they need grieve for her suffering while she still is living, there is no reason. Later, she says, there will be too much time for tears and sorrow.
We see a universal appeal for this unique portrayal of a woman’s capacity for humor in the face of tragedy. Carla’s outrageous and colorful sense of humor remains intact, even as her physical body weakens; who else would have the words Out of Order tattooed on her feet!
As an Academy Award-winning director, no one knows the power and impact of the motion picture better than John Zaritsky.
ALS imposes a cruel and literal deadline; Carla has up to two years to live. Our goal — and hers — is to bring the film to the screen for her to see.
We plan a 90-minute version for theatrical and festival release and a 60-minute documentary for international and domestic broadcast.
a little About carla
For more than fifteen years, Carla Zilbersmith wrote and presented an amazing array of musical and theatrical scores, scripts, one-woman plays, and songs. Carla and her band the SubUrbans were Lilith Fair finalists, she was the founding member of We’re Redheads, a women’s sketch comedy troupe, and Lighten Up John, a musical improv group, as well as serving as the Artistic Director of the College of Marin Drama Department before ALS rendered her unable to perform, sing, or teach.
Carla’s one-woman musical, Wedding Singer Blues, received rave notices up and down the west coast, including a Best of the Bay award. The Los Angeles Times compared her favorably to Lily Tomlin.
Carla has written numerous plays and solo pieces, including: A Motherhood, which debuted at The Luggage Store Excess Baggage Festival; Car Sex, developed with Charlie Varon and performed at The Marsh, and License to Drive , also developed with Charlie Varon, chronicling her 15-year journey to learn how to drive. Carla’s off-Broadway production Notes won her the Washington Square Players Young Playwright’s Award and was produced at the Intar Theater in Manhattan.
The seventieth anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous “luckiest man” speech at Yankee Stadium finds the dreadful ailment that his death made famous barely closer to a cure. Certainly, this film will help to raise awareness and, the filmmakers hope, funding for research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Awareness is an important first step in the search for a cure. Please donate today to help us finish this important film. Our goal is to have it done in time for Carla to still see it and enjoy it! Time is of the essence!
Please note: “Leave Them Laughing” has been accepted by the International Documentary Association (IDA) for fiscal sponsorship. This means that every donation will qualify as a tax-deductible charitable contribution. A copy of the IDA’s letter of support for our project can be found in the press kit (PDF)
Click here to donate on the IDA website or send your check (with “Leave Them Laughing’ in the subject line) directly to the IDA so they can issue your tax receipt.
International Documentary Association
Attention: Fiscal Sponsorship Program
1201 West 5th Street, Suite M270
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Why don’t you join one of our giving levels today?
Carla’s Angels - $10,000 +
Carla’s Muselings - $2,501 to $10,000
Carla’s Driving Miss Crazy gang $251 to $2,500
Carla’s “High Fivers” – any amount up to $250
Appropriate film credits will be given.
Every amount will help us to finish this important film! Please make your donation today!