Dealbreaker Theater Review: Monetizing Emma

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Ed. note: Last night was the Manhattan debut of the play Monetizing Emma. We sent Above The Law editors David Lat and Kashmir Hill to check it out. Here's their review.
Over at Above The Law, we often write about the business side of law firms, but we don't have the appreciation and knowledge of securities, futures, and the like that you Dealbreaker folks have. So Monetizing Emma, about the first-ever securitization of smart teenagers, was a nice little lesson for us, with its humanizing of the balance sheet.
Interestingly enough, playwright Felipe Ossa wrote the script several years ago, well before securitization became a household (and maybe dirty) word. The play is quite timely today, as we live through what characters in the play, set in 2013, refer to as "the Great Unwinding of 2009."
An investment bank, Thackeray Walsh, is setting up a fund composed of some non-traditional assets: gifted youngsters. Investors can buy shares in the teenagers' futures and will get a cut of their future earnings, in exchange for effectively funding low-interest loans for the kids' college educations. If this idea sounds far-fetched to you, think again. (For the more technically oriented among you, who are curious about the nuts and bolts of securitizing teens, see this flowchart.)
Emma Dorfman is a 15-year-old gifted student that two Thackeray bankers want to securitize. A Jane-Austen-book-devouring nerd, Emma's painfully shy and doesn't want to be taken public.


One investment banker is convinced that Emma is undervalued and has lots of potential. The other banker is more skeptical, especially when Emma announces her intention to major in English in college. He perks up when he hears she might want to attend law school, but becomes bearish again when she expresses an interest in human rights law.
(Given our knowledge of law school types, we wanted to speak up to let him know that Emma might very well still be a valuable asset. Many of those in lucrative Biglaw jobs today went to law school intending to save the world.)
After performing due diligence, both bankers agree to place Emma in the "Genius Trust." The investors love her too. As one character says after the Trust's IPO, funds are rushing the offering "like it's the summer of 2007, and Emma's a sub-prime mortgage."
After the initial rush, things get complicated. Hilarity, drama, and divestment ensue.
Before we even arrived at the theater, we were impressed by the play's website, which looks like the corporate site for the play's fictional investment bank. The 90-minute run time flew by, thanks to a dynamic and suspenseful plot, sharp and funny dialogue, and some great characters. We particularly liked the comic relief provided by two jealous Mean Girl types at Emma's high school.
The best part, though, may have been the play's setting in 2013 -- when the Great Unwinding of 2009 is but a memory, and oversubscribed IPOs are once again the norm. If you'd like to imagine a return to boom times, or if you just enjoy good theater, Monetizing Emma is a strong buy.
The play, written by Felipe Ossa and directed by Leah Bonvissuto, has five more showings this month. Information about tickets ($18) can be found here.
Monetizing Emma [official website]
The Matrix Meets Jane Austen in Felipe Ossa's Monetizing Emma [Flavorwire]

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