HBO’s Schmidt plays around

Publicist exposes hidden talent

Maggie Schmidt, a longtime publicist for HBO and now Phoenix Pictures, is showing hidden talents.

“Crooks,” a play garnering strong industry interest and supposedly written by someone named Leigh Reilly Hayes, turns out to be Schmidt’s handiwork.

Schmidt wrote the piece based on a real-life experience. The play is about a down-and-out couple who kidnap a rich Los Angeles man so they can discover the secret of success.

Now, the legit effort, which has been running at the Tiffany Theater since July 16, is taking off thanks to solid notices from L.A.’s drama critics. The play stars Daniel Roebuck.

Schmidt was reluctant to put her name on the piece because she felt too many industry execs would judge it on the wrong basis.

Schmidt went to film school in 1985 at the American Film Institute. An actress who wrote plays and screenplays in her spare time, she joined HBO in 1986 for a paycheck.

She slowly elbowed her way up the cable net and then joined Phoenix as a senior publicity exec. Throughout the last decade, Schmidt has penned a few plays under the Hayes moniker, but she had more or less given up writing in favor of PR.

Though she’s vocal about the play’s reception, Schmidt refuses to talk about one thing: She won’t divulge the identity of the play’s Hollywood exec who has an affair with a co-worker. “The play is based on a true story,” she allows. “That’s all I’ll say.”

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