Friday, October 13, 2017

The Purrfect Crime to be published


I just mailed back the contract for my twelfth play to be accepted by Pioneer Drama Service, The Purrfect Crime. And I couldn't be more thrilled. Loyal followers of this blog will remember this play as the one I developed with Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, CO. Which means that the talented cast and crew who gave the play its world premiere production will soon see their names in the published script.

The Purrfect Crime is about a cat that inherits 42 million dollars after the death of the cantankerous Texas rancher who owns him. His spoiled children are appalled, and the oldest--a hard-driving businesswoman named Cecilia--immediately plots ways to get the fortune for herself.

I think the play will do well. Although it's not a farce in the strictest sense, there's a lot of physical humor and farcical elements in the plot. In fact, one show-stopping scene features a pair of stupid criminals who pose as pet psychics, a case of mistaken identity that would feel at home in a classic farce.

It's also my most female-heavy play. Of the ten speaking parts, seven are female, including the two leads. 

And it should be fairly easy to produce. There are no special technical requirements and, except for a couple of scenes that are played in front of the curtain,  the entire playy takes place in the living room of a Texas ranch house.

The play comes out in January. Until then, let me leave you with an excerpt from the fateful scene where the will is read:

JANICE: (Reads.) "The last will and testament of Robert 'Big Bob' Little."

ANNIE: Can you hurry up?

JANICE: I just started.

ANNIE: I know, but I was hoping you could skip to the part where I get everything.

JANICE: Please. Be. Quiet. (Clears her throat.) "As we grow older, we come to realize that money really doesn't matter—"

CECILIA: I'm not that old yet!

ANNIE: I hope I never get that old!

JANICE: "What matters is the love and devotion of those closest to us. Therefore, I leave everything I own to the one member of this family who has shown me nothing but unswerving devotion and love..."

CECILIA: Here it comes!

ANNIE: I can taste those millions now!

JANICE: Wiggles.

CECILIA: What did you say?

JANICE: I said Wiggles. Wiggles gets everything.

CECILIA: Who's Wiggles?

ANNIE: I think it's the cat.

DIGBY: Oh, it's most definitely the cat.

CECILIA: Uh huh. And when it says "everything," what exactly does that mean?

JANICE: It means everything.

CECILIA: You mean like the cat bed?

JANICE: No. Everything.

ANNIE: Oh, the cat food!

JANICE: No. It means everything!

LITTLE BOB: Wow! Even the cat toys?

JANICE: Let me see. How can I put this? Wiggles gets everything. The house. The land. The 36 million dollars in the bank. It all goes to Wiggles.

ANNIE: That's not fair! Wiggles is just a stupid animal!

JANICE: How can you call her stupid? I thought you loved animals.

ANNIE: I do. As a concept. It's real animals I can't stand.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beverly Hills mutt


Today I got a call from Candace Coster, also known as Candace Hilligoss, star of the 1962 cult horror film Carnival of Souls. No, we didn't talk about old horror films (though I would have loved to!). Candace called to tell me that my full-length comedy The Bow Wow Detectives won the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre, also known as the Marilyn Hall Award, for which Candace serves as organizer.

It's the third time I've won in the last four years. Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye won in 2014 and How I Met Your Mummy won in 2015. Last year,  The Last Radio Show got an Honorable Mention, and the judges said it probably should have been entered in the adult category.

I feel extremely honored. And I have to chuckle, because the win demonstrates, more than anything else, the subjectivity of humor.

The Bow Wow Detectives didn't win a thing in four other contests I entered it in, and it's been rejected by two publishers, including my regular publisher, Pioneer Drama Service. But the kind folks who judge the Beverly Hills contest thought it was hilarious.

The award doesn't include a production, but it does come with $1200 cash, one of the biggest youth theatre prizes out there. And I'm looking forward to attending the awards luncheon at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel in March. I wasn't able to make it the first two times, but now that I live a mere six hours away, it's much easier for me to get there.

The most important benefit of the award, however, is the breath of life it's provided. I 'd almost given up on the script, but now with this vote of confidence, I'll be brushing it off and sending it out to other publishers soon.

By the way, I'm still looking for some school or community theater to give the play its world premiere. If you'd like to me to email you a no-cost, no-obligation script, email me by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Catskills mummy wins awards


A big shout-out to the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop of South Fallsburg, NY and to the talented individuals who took home TANYS (Theatre Association of New York State) Awards for their recent production of How I Met Your Mummy.

Kristopher Rosengrant received a Meritorious Achievement in Acting for his performance as that knee-knocking, lily-livered security guard Melvin (see above).

Harold Tighe and Jim Schmidt received a Meritorious Achievement in Set Design and Construction  for their colorful, artistic take on the O. Howe Dulle Museum.

And Dawn Perneszi and Jenny Silverman received a Meritorious Achievement in Costume Design and Construction for their simple yet pitch-perfect costumes.

Congratulations, everyone!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Set ideas for How I Met Your Mummy

A while ago, I posted photos from Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye showing some of the costumes that were designed for the two main characters. My thought was that other performing groups would get ideas from those designs--or be inspired to go off in their own direction.

Well, that post was so popular I decided to do it again, only this time I wanted to focus on set ideas. And what better play to use than my museum play, How I Met Your Mummy,

When I wrote the play, I purposely kept the set requirements to a minimum. There are no doors or windows and only two entrances, making it perfect for schools and community theaters with limited space. Here's how the script describes it:
The exhibit consists of a single room dominated by a sarcophagus lying horizontally on a platform CENTER. A work table is STAGE RIGHT with a yardstick, rope, and other miscellaneous tools as well as a folding chair just LEFT of it. There are two exits, one STAGE LEFT and one STAGE RIGHT. These lead to other exhibit rooms and should be open archways. The STAGE LEFT exit also leads to the restrooms.
It's what you do with that space that counts. Some groups went all out, constructing pillars, statues and an elaborate sarcophagus covered with hieroglyphics and Egyptian-style art. Others kept things simple, using just a hand-painted paper backdrop and a plan wooden box to set the scene.

Well, I think it's all great! No matter what size budget you have or how experienced your crew is, I'm sure you can find inspiration in these awesome sets:















Friday, September 15, 2017

Free monologues and scenes now available



Have you scoured the internet looking for scenes or monologues only to be put off by complicated licensing arrangements or inappropriate subject matter? Do you wish you could find a dependable source of clean, funny material? Well, I'd like to help.

I've posted a collection of my favorite scenes from my plays--some before they're available in publication. And all are free for educational use.

Whether you need a monologue for an audition or a two- or three- (or nine!) person scene for theatre class, I've got a wide selection to choose from.

Just bop over to my Free Monologues or Free Scenes tabs to see what's available. Each scene can be downloaded, printed, emailed or shared as much and as many times as you want.

Why am I doing this? Well, the obvious answer is that I'm hoping to get greater exposure for my work. But more importantly,  I owe my career to school drama programs and the dedicated teachers that run them and I'd like to give something back.

So check out the scripts. I hope you find something you'll like.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wicked Is As Wicked Does is now available


Just in time for the new school year, Pioneer Drama Service has published my eleventh play, Wicked Is As Wicked Does.

This large-cast comedy brings back all of your favorite characters from the fairy tales but turns those tales on their heads. Here those four nasty ladies who caused so much mischief become the heroes as they try to foil a fiendish plot to banish them to an icy wasteland.

Here's the synopsis:
Think all those fairy tales really ended with “happily ever after?”  Well, think again!  In this hilarious follow-up, Snow White has taken the throne and is about to marry her prince, who actually is quite intolerable.  He is trying to outlaw magic and has sentenced the four Wickeds — Snow White’s Wicked Queen, Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, Sleeping Beauty’s Wicked Fairy and the Frog Prince’s Wicked Witch — to nine million hours of community service.  But even that’s not enough for Prince Intolerable.  He vows that as soon as he marries Queen Snow, he’ll send the Wickeds to Grimstad, where they’ll never be heard from again.  Really, though, the Wickeds aren’t so bad anymore, so there’s only one way to foil his plans:  stop the wedding!  But the Wickeds are a little rusty in the magic department.  Can they make their old spells work in time?  What if they get caught?  And why did the seven dwarfs turn into wombats?  Find out in this zany comedy that proves there’s a little good in everyone...  though sometimes, very little. 
It's always a challenge to make bad guys not only good, but likable. And these baddies seem especially repulsive. I mean, what kind of person (or fairy) would put a girl in a 100-year coma just because she was snubbed for the girl's christening?

Writing guru Blake Snyder would tell you it's simple. Just have the baddies save a cat.

Well, that seemed completely out of character for them. So I took the opposite tack. Instead of having them do something nice, I made them targets of prejudice as the evil prince plots to kick them out of the kingdom without trial or just cause.

I'm hoping this will be just as effective in winning audiences' sympathy. After all, these gals have already paid the penalty for their crimes (Wicked Fairy, for example, traveled the kingdom placing warning labels on all the spindles).

And besides, you'll be laughing so much at their crazy antics, you'll forget they were ever bad to begin with.

Wicked Is As Wicked Does has a cast of 28 (7M, 12F and 9 roles that can be either) and runs about 60 minutes. To read a sample or order a script for perusal, click here.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Enchanted Bookshop is now available


My tenth play has just been published by Pioneer Drama Service. The Enchanted Bookshop is my love letter to classic literature and the power of reading. Also spitwads. Spitwads can be powerful too.

Here's the synopsis:
During the day, A Likely Story may look like any other used bookstore.  But at night, it’s a place where magic happens.  That’s when the characters inside the books come alive.  Six of those characters — Dorothy Gale, Robin Hood, Pollyanna, Sherlock Holmes, Heidi, and Tom Sawyer — long to help Margie, the scatterbrained owner, save her struggling store.  But they’re not allowed to leave the building or be seen by human eyes.  So when a pair of smugglers comes looking for a stolen necklace hidden inside one of the books, the characters are torn.  Should they warn Margie and risk disappearing forever?  Or can they find a way to defeat the crooks without being seen?  Featuring additional appearances by such beloved literary characters as the Queen of Hearts, Long John Silver, and Doctor Dolittle, this charming comedy celebrates the joy of reading in a fresh, fun-filled way. 
You might wonder how I chose those main characters. Well, it's a little complicated.

First off, I had to decide on the number of major characters, the ones that would drive the plot. After some thought, I realized six just seems right. Four wouldn't give enough opportunity for interaction. Eight would be unwieldy.

Next was the gender. Although I've been striving to include more female roles in my plays, for this one, I wanted an even number of male and females among the main parts. (Don't worry. I include more females for the secondary roles.)

So who to choose? A legal argument can be made that I have a right to use copyrighted characters (Jon Scieszka did so in his hilarious middle-grade novel Summer Reading Is Killing Me!), but not all lawyers may see it that way. Wanting to stay far away from any courtroom, I decided to limit my choices to those in the public domain.

I also wanted characters who would be easily recognized by audience members as soon as they appear on stage. And I was aiming for a variety of ages, nationalities and personalities.

The guys were easy. Sherlock Holmes would provide the brains, Robin Hood the brawn and Tom Sawyer the spunk.

The girls were a little tougher. I would have loved to include Pippi Longstocking, but she's still under copyright protection. So is Laura Ingalls.

Peter Pan's Wendy and Wonderland's Alice are in the public domain, but I've never found them to be particularly strong. In their books, they let things happen to them rather than the other way round.

Anne Shirley (of Green Gables fame) is a strong character, but audience members might have difficulty recognizing her. The same goes for Caddie Woodlawn, Sara Crewe (A Little Princess) and Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden).

Fortunately, Dorothy Gale--one of the all-time great children's book characters--recently came into the public domain. Clever and brave, she serves as the real hero among the book characters.

I cheated a little bit with Pollyanna. People would recognize her more from the old Disney movie than the book, but what a personality she's got! What could I do but make her the ever peppy cheerleader for the team?

For the last one, I decided on Heidi. As portrayed in the books, she doesn't have a particularly strong personality, but I decided to play up her melodramatic side (or am I thinking of Shirley Temple?). And I can't wait to hear that accent onstage. I've had French, Italians and Russians in my plays. Why not a German-speaking Swiss girl?

The Enchanted Bookshop has a cast of 23 (8M/9F and 6 roles that can be either) and runs about 60 minutes. To learn more, click here.