Ken Ludwig considers practicing law the equivalent of waiting tables. ''Most actors,'' he says, ''would not want to be identified as, 'Oh, wait a second, you had another career first. You were a waiter, weren't you?'''
Ludwig, you see, was a lawyer before he became a Tony-nominated playwright, responsible for such hits as Lend Me A Tenor, Shakespeare in Hollywood, Moon Over Buffalo and the musical Crazy for You.
''I always wanted to be in the theater, it's all I ever wanted to do ever since I was about 6 years old,'' says Ludwig, who grew up in Pennsylvania's Amish country. ''[But] when I got out of college, I had no means of support.'' He ended up going to Harvard Law School and then practicing law for a few years ''as a day job in order to feed my playwriting habit.''
That habit soon became a career, one that keeps Ludwig extremely busy. This year alone he's launched three new plays, including a comedy thriller The Game's Afoot, which Ohio's Cleveland Play House just premiered. He's also just finished a book for Crown Publishing, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.
Ludwig's got children on the brain, it turns out. The Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright and father of two teenagers is basking in the success of his first children's play, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. Maryland's Adventure Theater commissioned the piece, which employs the famous poem by that title as a springboard for a tale about a girl, her best friend -- a house mouse -- and a fallen Christmas elf. The three set out to visit Santa to find out why he didn't stop by last year. ''The three of them end up saving Christmas,'' he says. And they live merrily the rest of the season.
''I loved writing with the sense of exuberance that I felt kids would enjoy,'' he adds.
Certainly a far cry from a dry legal brief.
Twas The Night Before Christmas runs to Jan. 1, 2012. Adventure Theater, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Tickets are $18. Call 301-634-2261 or visit adventuretheatre.org.