Saturday, December 31, 2016

A look back at 2016


You know how they say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Well, that was the story of my 2016.

A year ago, on New Year's Day, I said there was no way to get any more writing time than the 90 minutes I was currently spending and that the only way to improve my writing was by taking care of my body (lose weight, get more weight).

What I didn't plan on was a whole new way to increase my writing time. What was that magical technique? Simple. I got laid off from my day job in April (I'm an electrical engineer).

I spent the rest of the year searching for a new job (I make a fair amount of money from my plays, but not enough to replace my engineering income--yet!). I got a few interviews, but I haven't received any offers yet.

In the meantime, I upped my writing time--a lot. I went from 1 1/2 hours a day to 4 1/2 hours a day. I didn't always meet that. On holidays and vacations (yes, I gave myself those), I dropped my minimum to 2 hours a day. But for most days, I met that aggressive 4 1/2 hour goal.

And my output increased dramatically (big surprise). Not only did I finish the two full-length plays I had aimed for on New Year's Day. I finished four more full-length plays, about one every six weeks. As they say, if you want to write, you've got to make your butt meet chair.

But let's get real. None of this was what I planned (laugh away, God). So how did I do against my plans? Let's take a look.

1) Get to bed by midnight each night.

Failure. I did all right until I got laid off. Now that I don't have a schedule, I stay up until 1 or 2 AM, and wake up late. Don't judge. As I said, I got a lot of work done during the day.

2) Successfully premiere my new play, The Last Radio Show.

Success. The Last Radio Show was a big hit, drawing respectable crowds, garnering lots of laughs and making me a little bit of money as well (a near miracle in the world of community theatre).

3) Get The Last Radio Show published.

Failure. The play was rejected by Pioneer Drama Service and Eldridge Publishing, but I have high hopes (delusionally so, perhaps) that I'll find a publisher for it in 2017. After all, it's one of my funniest plays

But at this point, I'm taking a step back to get more productions before I submit it again. It's currently being considered by two theatre companies that have produced other plays of mine.

4) Get Kill the Critic! published.

Failure. This year the play was rejected by Dramatic Publishing, who I think would have been a perfect for it. It did, however, receive a staged reading from LA's Theatre of Note in February, my first professional anything (reading, workshop or production) in the theatre world, so I'm very excited about that. In the meantime, I'm waiting to see if they produce it before I submit it to any more publishers.

5) Finish the school play I'm currently working on, my second large-cast play and my first one intended for high school actors.

Success. Trouble in Paradise Junction was completed in April.

6) Get that play published.

Success. Trouble in Paradise Junction was accepted for publication by Pioneer Drama Service in September and published in December.

7) Write a second play. I've got some ideas but haven't started any yet.

Success. The Stinky Feet Gang was completed in May and accepted for publication by Pioneer Drama Service in September. It should be published any day now.

8) Lose another 10 pounds (I'm going to need more than exercise now. I may actually need to--gulp!--eat less).

To be honest, I really don't know the answer to this one. When I was working, I was going to the nurse's office once a week to check my weight and once a day to check my blood pressure. I don't own a scale or a blood pressure monitor so I haven't checked either since then (bad, I know), but I've kept up with my 30-minute brisk walk each day and blood pressure medicine since then so I think I'm doing well (my doctor gave me a figurative thumbs-up at my annual physical in August). But I'm pretty sure I haven't lost 10 pounds.

Okay, so four out of eight isn't that great. But looked at another way, it's been a hugely successful year for me, much more successful than I would have ever dreamed. Yes, I'm living off my savings, and I'll continue to do so until I can either: 1) find an engineering job, or 2) publish a lot more plays. But for the last eight months, I've been living the dream--the life of a full-time writer--and it's been wonderful!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Trouble in Paradise Junction is now available


Just under the gun, Pioneer Drama Service has released my small-town comedy Trouble in Paradise Junction. It's my first new play since How I Met Your Mummy came out last December.

With a cast of 25 (10M/15F) and lots of opportunities for doubling and extras, the play lends itself to extremely flexible casting. Here's the blurb:
In this love letter to small town life, Paradise Junction is the "best little town in the world," a place where everyone gets along, the sun is always shining, and the tomatoes grow as big as beach balls. So when a TV network offers to film a reality show there, the townsfolk jump at the chance. After all, the town will receive five million dollars, while the publicity promises to turn the residents into TV stars. But host Wink Smiley has his own agenda. Secrets are revealed, old feuds are rekindled, and the town's annual pie-baking contest is turned into a massive food fight. Now it's up to Joe Goode, owner of the Rise 'n' Shine Diner, to save the town. Will he find a way to stop Wink or will the residents be tricked into destroying their beloved town on live television? Inspired by the films of Frank Capra such as It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, this heartwarming comedy will make your audience cheer while reminding them what really matters in life.
For a sample script and ordering info, click here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sunshine mummy


The Ideal School of Advanced Learning in the Sunshine State (Royal Palm Beach, to be exact) recently performed How I Met Your Mummy and they've posted the entire show on YouTube (see above). The kids did a fantastic job, making all of the characters bigger than life and getting a ton of laughs in the process.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mannequin butler


The mannequin challenge has been making the rounds of the Interwebs lately, and a lot of theatre companies are using them to promote their shows. Last month, Azusa High School in California took the challenge for their production of Long Tall Lester. And now the Kansas School for the Deaf is doing it for their production of The Butler Did It!

This one is especially tricky because it recreates several scenes from the play, with the camera panning away every few seconds to let the actors move into the next pose.

Oh, and the students will be performing the play in American Sign Language. Now that's awesome!

Break legs, everybody!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hoosier meatballs


I'd like to give a big shout-out to Cloverdale Middle School of Cloverdale, IN, where Million Dollar Meatballs will be performed tomorrow night. The talented students there put together this video promoting the show, and I've got to say, I'm really loving it.

The bold graphics and retro music give it the feel of a 1960's mystery/comedy, like The Pink Panther. And check out the credit for the costume designers at the end ("the parents")!

Great job, everybody. And break legs!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Hero's Journey in Star Wars


So I had another amazing at experience Thescon today. Around 25 students attended Five Ways to Punch Up Your Playwriting, and we had some good discussions, especially around loglines and how to make them unique.

But the response to my workshop, Plot 101: Playwriting Lessons from Star Wars, blew me away. I figured those magic words, "Star Wars," would generate a lot of interest, but I never expected over 100 students (and several teachers) to show up. Unfortunately, my room only had chairs for 30 of the students, but the other 70 carried on bravely, putting up with the hard floor for the hour and 15 minutes of my lecture. (I'll ask for more chairs next year!)

Actually, it was less a lecture and more a free-wheeling debate. Most of the students had already been exposed to the Hero's Journey structure, and they all had very strong opinions as to what the catalyst is and why the destruction of Alderaan does not make a strong midpoint. Surprisingly, the students were just as passionate in their discussion of my alternative example of the Hero's Journey, Legally Blonde.

You know how people with a strange, terrible disease often think they're the only one in the world with that disease? And then they find an online support group and they realize there are actually hundreds of people like them? Well, that's how I felt today, only my disease is Story Structure Geekitis.

I didn't bring enough handouts for all of the students, but I promised them I would post the diagram I taught from on my website, so here is the PDF version. Or just download the JPG above. Either way, feel free to print it, email it, tattoo it on your forearm, or whatever floats your boat.

Yes, it borrows from both Joseph Campbell and Blake Snyder, but I've simplified it to include only the seven plot points most important to a well-told story (I don't want young writers to get overwhelmed by the numerous plot points in those other works). I also changed some of the terms to more accurately reflect their purpose. Most importantly, I added the corresponding plot points in Star Wars to guide them as they develop their own stories.

The class was so popular that I've decided to turn it into a two-hour workshop in which I'll work closely with each student to help them structure their story according to the Hero's Journey. Look for this class to pop in Colorado Springs, probably sometime in January.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cornhusker cowboy

A big congrats to Perkins County High School of Grant, NE, which took second place yesterday at their district one-act play contest for their production of Long Tall Lester. This western comedy has done very well at the many play competitions held by our northern neighbor, and it's nice to see it do equally well on this side of the border.

Great job, everybody!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

See you at Thescon!


This weekend, I'll be teaching at the Colorado High School Thespian Conference for the fourth time. I always look forward to it as it's an amazingly well-run event as well as a wonderful opportunity to interact with some of our state's most creative young minds.

I'm especially excited this year because I'll be introducing a new workshop: Plot 101: Playwriting Lessons from Star Wars. In it, I'll examine how this blockbuster film followed the story milestones defined by Joseph Campbell in the Hero's Journey. I'll also work with the students to help them apply the same story milestones to their own plays.

I'm also reprising my popular workshop, Five Ways to Punch Up Your Playwriting. Here I offer five practical tips that are guaranteed to make your script stand out from the crowd (Tip #1: Give your story a hook). The workshop includes examples from published plays as well as opportunities for students to practice the tips we discuss.

Both workshops are on Friday, December 2. Five Ways to Punch Up Your Playwriting is at 12:45pm in Room 210/212. Plot 101: Playwriting Lessons from Star Wars is at 2:15pm in Room 210/212.

I would love to have you join me. Or if you just want to stop by and say hi, that's good too.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Three little words


Well, the new play I'm developing with Palmer Ridge High School has reached a major milestone. I've finished the first draft. And let me tell you, typing those three little words--END OF PLAY--never gets old.

The story ended up quite a bit different from my original synopsis, but that's pretty standard. As characters interact and scenes play out, you start to see what works and what doesn't and things often need to go in a different direction to make things work.

It has ten speaking parts, including 7 females and 3 males, making it the most female-heavy play I've ever written. Director Josh Belk was hoping for a little larger cast than that so I added up to four walk-in parts that I'll let him decide how to use.

As for the set requirements, I was hoping to keep it to a single set which would represent the main room of the Texas ranch house where's it set, but the needs of the story dictated that I include a couple additional sets to represent a kitchen and bus station. I purposely kept these sets simple so that they can be done on small side stages or in front of the curtain.

The script ended up around 80 pages, which means the play should be 80 minutes long, with an intermission at the 40-minute mark. This is just about perfect.

The play doesn't quite feel real yet. It won't until I hear the actors say the lines. But at least the hard part is done. The rest of the development process is pure joy.

I sent the script to Josh today. In my email, I included some guidelines to help him understand what I'm looking to get out of the development process. I consider the cast and crew to be equal partners with me, and I hope that shows here:

1) Wording

I always read my script out loud a couple of times before sending it out, but hearing ti spoken by the actors will uncover any awkward lines I missed. If the actors forget the exact words that I write and keep wanting to say a line differently, I'll probably go with what they say as it's usually simpler and/or stronger.

2) Gags

I never know what will get laughs until the first couple rehearsals. I'll play around with most of the gags that fall flat. I'm fine with ad libs from the actors, especially if they're funnier than what I came up with. Some of them may even end up in the published script.

3) Story inconsistencies

Actors are always great at catching inconsistencies in their characters or continuity errors in the plot. I plan to fix all of these.

4) Production Challenges

I want to make this play fairly easy to produce so it'll get done by a lot of schools and community theatres. I'm depending on you to tell me which stage directions are more trouble than they're worth.

5) Slow Spots

I can't tell where the slow spots are until blocking starts. I'm always happy to cut out or add stuff to fix these.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

How I met my mummy


I rarely see my own plays. This year, I expect to get around 200 productions, but I'll only see two or three of them. So when it does happen, it's special.

This week, my wife and I are visiting our daughter Ashley, who lives in Tucson, so I took a side trip to see a production of How I Met Your Mummy at the American Leadership Academy, a charter school in Queen Creek, a suburb of Phoenix. As Executive Director Bill Guttery told me, it's a hugely successful school, having expanded from just one campus and a hundred-some students in 2009 to eight campuses and thousands of students today.

The drama program is no afterthought here. The auditorium is state-of-the-art and theatre director Leslie Infalt is highly experienced, knowledgeable and fully committed to her students.

This was the first time I had seen this particular play, and after the show, one of the actors asked me if they had lived up to my expectations. I told her the truth. They had surpassed them.

The play has one of my simplest sets, but the stage crew, led by construction teacher Bill Pollard, made the most of it, employing a few elegantly designed pieces to capture the creepy atmosphere of an after-hours museum.

The cast was just as fantastic. The audience was small (the school's football team was playing that night), but the actors really put their hearts into their performances--and got a lot of well-deserved laughs along the way.


After the show, I spent some time signing autographs and talking to the students. Bill also showed me how he built the sarcophagus and the oversized lock used to fasten the sarcophagus (I wish I'd seen it before I'd written the production notes for the script!).

Visits like this always remind me what theatre is about. Sure, it's partly about the art. And it's partly about the entertainment. And it's partly about the skills that are learned as a result.

But more than anything else, theatre is about people. It's about learning to work with a team of like-minded artists to create something new--and discovering something about ourselves in the process.

I'd like to give a great big thanks to everyone at ALA. You really made me feel welcome.

And a special thanks to Assistant Director of Academics Raleigh Jones, who sent me the photos shown here plus a whole lot more. Believe me when I say I'll always treasure them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Free performance rights to The Last Radio Show


For the first time ever, I'm offering free performance rights to one of my full-length plays.

The play is The Last Radio Show. Set in 1948, it's about a radio station in trouble. Their broadcast tower keeps falling over. The electric company is about to shut off their power. And now they're losing actors, one by one. Can this ragtag crew keep the show going? Or will they be shut down for good?

You can read a sample by clicking here. If, after reading that, you want to read the whole thing, please email me at todd.wallinger@gmail.com. I'll send you a PDF of the entire script.

There's absolutely no cost and no obligation. If you decide the play is not for you, that's the end of it. But if you do decide to produce it, I'll grant you free performance rights for the whole of 2017. Perform it once, it's free. Perform it a hundred times, it's still free. All I ask is that you let me know the performance dates and location for my records.

Why am I giving it away? For one simple reason. The play got rejected by the first two publishers I sent it to and I want to get more productions for it before I submit it to a third. Any productions that you good people are able to give it will help convince the next publisher that the play has worth and that it should be made available to the public.

The Last Radio Show does have a couple challenges. It requires a lot of sound effects, both live and recorded. And one publisher thought it was a little male-heavy, with the two biggest parts being played by men.

However, the play doesn't require a lot of memorization. All of the on-air skits are read from scripts, as was done in the golden days of radio. And I just think the play is a lot of fun. I directed the world premiere in Colorado Springs this January and that production got more laughs than any of my plays.

The free script is only available through November 30, so if you're interested, please act now. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Catnip comedy


It's always nice to get reviewed, whether the review is good or bad. Of course, good is a whole lot better than bad.

Fortunately, Attic Productions' production of my mystery/comedy The Butler Did It! just got a rave review in The Roanoke Times. Critic Mike Allen praised Anthony Neal's droll delivery as the butler (seen above) and described the play as "amusing, engagingly plotted catnip to amateur sleuths."

To read the whole review, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On naming plays


Writing plays is hard. Writing the outline is hard. Writing the first draft is hard. Writing the final draft and every draft between those two drafts is hard.

But the hardest words any writer has to write are the two (or three or four or five) words at the top of the script, i.e. the title.

After all, the title has a big job to do. It should be memorable. It should tell you what the play is about. And it should suggest what genre the play belongs to. (For comedies, I also like my titles to pass the smile test. If the title is funny enough to make you smile, it's a keeper.)

If the title does all that, and you find that it's never been used before, then you've hit the play-naming quadfecta.

I was thinking about this today because I've been wracking my brain for a title for the cat heiress comedy I'll be developing at Palmer Ridge High School. But then I usually torture myself over my titles.

Million Dollar Meatballs is one of my favorite titles. But I didn't come up with it until I was halfway through the first draft. Before that, I had gone through half a dozen titles, each one more forgettable than the last.

The problem was that the original version had the diamonds being hidden in a bottle of ketchup. And I didn't like any of the ketchup titles I came up with. So I put the script away for a year--yes, an entire year--until I could figure out how to get the diamonds from the ketchup bottle to a plate of meatballs just so I could call it Million Dollar Meatballs.

I'm glad I did. That play is now one of my most successful, and I think the title helps.

How I Met Your Mummy was originally titled Now Museum, Now You Don't. I liked the pun there (surprisingly, it had never been used as the title of a play), but it doesn't really tell you what the play's about. The museum isn't the important part of the story. The mummy is.

So I played around with "mummy" titles. Unfortunately, all the good ones were already taken: I Want My Mummy, Mummy Dearest. Then my friend Jeff Schmoyer suggested a pun on the title of the sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.

I loved it, but I had to check whether it had ever been used before. Luckily, it hadn't, although it had been used for an episode of an obscure animated series. I didn't think that would lead to much confusion, so I went with it. And it's worked out great ever since.

Could I come up with an equally good title for my cat heiress comedy? Well, not the way things have been going for me lately. I hate the title Where There's a Will, There's a Way. Again, it doesn't really tell you what the play is about and it definitely doesn't pass the smile test. And all the other titles I came up with were extremely lame.

Then today I stopped by Palmer Ridge. I wanted to see the stage where the play will be performed and to meet some of the students in the school's theatre program. It's always better to write a character with a specific actor in mind, even if the actor doesn't end up playing that part.

I took away a lot of ideas for characters. But the biggest takeaway came from an offhand comment by director Josh Belk. He said he'd been wracking his brain for titles and the only thing he could come up with was The Purrfect Murder. Then he immediately dismissed it, saying it was too cliched.

Wait a minute, I said. That's actually a great title. But there's no murder in the play, just a kidnapping. Why not change it to The Purrfect Crime?

I immediately Googled it. Sure, it popped up as an episode of an old detective show, but I couldn't find a single play with that title.

So it's official. The title of my next play will be The Purrfect Crime.

The lesson here? If you're ever stuck on the title for a play or novel or whatever, check the episode list of old TV shows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Stinky Feet Gang to be published


I love writing westerns. My second play, a one-act comedy titled Long Tall Lester, came out in 2012 and it's been doing very well, getting about 15 productions a year. In it, a mild-mannered encyclopedia salesman defeats an evil gunslinger using brains instead of brawn.

For a long time, I've wanted to follow that up with a full-length western, only this time I wanted to do one without guns. As any writer knows, a gun can make any dramatic situation more... well, dramatic. But it can also be a crutch, short-circuiting the tension that should arise from the characters themselves.

Plus, I wanted this play to be producible by everyone from grade school to high school. And in my opinion, prop guns just aren't appropriate for those younger folk.

I racked my brain for months, striving to come up with a weapon that would be deadly but also kid-friendly.

And then it hit me: smelly feet. They're funny, especially to kids. And if you spend any time at my house, you know they can be just as deadly as any chambered weapon.

The play came together pretty quickly after that. I created Malodorous Mel and the Stinky Feet Gang. I created Rose Peddles and the other flower-named shopkeepers of Garden City. Then I set them against each other, and pretty soon they were running away with the story, battling each other with lemon juice and clothespins and, in the end, a pretty nasty concoction (suggested only--don't worry, your theatre won't smell like a locker room!).

The play has, I think, some very funny scenes. But it's not just about the gags. Lately, I've also been trying to sneak a small lesson into each of my plays, and the lesson here is about teamwork and persistence (with some personal hygiene thrown in).

As Rose explains, everyone in Garden City wants to get rid of the shopkeepers. First it was the cowboys. Then it was the sheriff. Now it's the outlaws. But by working together and standing up for what they believe it, the seven feisty women (echoes of the Magnificent Seven!) prove their worth.

So I was thrilled when Pioneer Drama Service told me yesterday that they were going to publish it: my ninth play with them.

The play should come out around December. Until then, I'll give you a taste (or should I say whiff?) of my favorite scene, in which Malodorous Mel explains to his underlings why they're the most feared gang in the territory:
MALODOROUS MEL: Now the Bad Breath Gang, they didn't have commitment. Sure, they refused to brush their teeth. But when push came to shove, they weren't above having an occasional breath mint. 
NOXIOUS NICK: Shameful! 
MALODOROUS MEL: And the Awful Armpit Gang. They didn't have commitment either. Not only did they take a bath every month, but I once caught them using deodorant! 
RANCID RON: Horrors! 
MALODOROUS MEL: And that's why we never take our boots off. Taking our boots off would let our feet breathe, and we don't want them to breathe. We want them to molder and fester and rot until they make everyone in the immediate vicinity sick!
I can't wait to see the cover art for this one!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Trouble in Paradise Junction to be published


So Pioneer Drama Service just informed me that they're going to be publishing my large-cast comedy, Trouble in Paradise Junction. I'm excited because this one really means a lot to me. Okay, they all mean a lot to me, but this one really really does. For a couple of reasons.

First, it's the play I've struggled with the most. I started it three years ago and I think I abandoned it and picked it up again four or five times. I didn't know where to go with the story. I sweated over the dialogue. I couldn't figure out how to make one of the special effects work. There were times when I thought the play would never see the light of day.

And then, earlier this year, everything fell together and I knocked out the second act in two months. It felt good. No, it felt great.

But there's another, more important reason the play means a lot to me. It's more serious, more heartfelt than anything I've ever written. Don't worry. It's still a comedy, and I think one of my funniest ones. But I layered the laughs with romance and drama and even a bit of poetry in the language.

It's basically my love letter to small town life. I know, it's the cool thing to dump on small towns, to make fun of the small-mindedness and provincialism of the people who live there. But I've always loved small towns. I grew up in a small town. And the people I knew there were some of the kindest, most sincere, most real people I've ever met.

I wanted to write a play presenting that other, rarely seen side. So I created the world's most perfect town, Paradise Junction. It's located in the Ozarks, but really, it could be anywhere.

What's the worst thing that could happen to a town like this? In my mind, just one thing: reality TV, and the temptations that come with it. Oh, the good townsfolk think they'll be able to resist those temptations, and for a while they do. But soon the cracks appear. Secrets are revealed, old feuds are rekindled and the town's annual pie-baking contest turns into a massive food fight.

I think I struggled with it so long because I really wanted it to be like a Frank Capra movie. You know, the Golden Age director who made inspirational, heartwarming films about homespun heroes like Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.

No, I don't pretend to be anywhere as good as Mr. Capra. But I find a lot to emulate in the poetry of his dialogue and the quiet strength of his characters. And Joe Goode, the 14-time pie baking champion at the center of Trouble in Paradise Junction, is one of those characters.

Look for the play to be published around December. And sign up for my newsletter at right if you want to be among the first to find out when it's released (no pressure).

Until then, I'll leave you with Joe's opening monologue:
Welcome to Paradise Junction, the best little town in the world. We've got a saying around here. If things seem too good to be true, then you must be in Paradise Junction. Oh, it's not perfect. Not by any means. It just seems that things work out a little bit better here. It's the kind of place where the weather is always fine. It's the kind of place where every thumb is green. It's the kind of place where everybody's willing to lend a hand, even if they each got their own way of doing it...

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Picking a winner


So I finally got around to writing the outlines for the three plays that Josh Belk and the students at Palmer Ridge High School liked, and there was a clear winner: the cat heiress comedy Where There's a Will, There's a Way.

Pirates of the Caribbean had a couple of challenges. First, it's really hard to make a pirate story heavily female, and I couldn't figure out a way to do it with this one. Plus, the premise requires that the play be episodic, with scenes taking place at a restaurant, a boat shop, a toy shop and so on, as the wannabe pirates follow a "treasure map" they found scribbled on a napkin. And this, I realized, would make it hard to produce.

Zombie High had its own set of problems. To make it work, it has to be more than just a story about an entire student body turning into zombies. It has to show how this messes with an important ritual at the school. And, as everyone knows, the two most important high school rituals are: 1) football, and 2) the spring musical.

Football is, again, too male. And the musical would require that the play be, well, a musical. Unfortunately, I just don't have the resources (i.e. a composer) to take that on right now. But I still love the idea and hope to come back to it some day.

Where There's a Will, There's a Way, on the other hand, just fell into place. I knew it would center around a dysfunctional Texas ranch family. I knew that the first act break would come when a pair of pet psychics arrive to communicate the cat's wishes. I knew that the turning point would come when the family discovers that the psychics are thieves intent on stealing the cat's new-found fortune. And I knew that the dark moment would come when the cat was kidnapped. Throw in a couple reversals and the plot almost writes itself.

There's just one problem. I hate the title.

I know, I know. It sounds like one of those cliched titles that have been used a dozen times before. But actually, that's not the problem.

The problem is that the title doesn't capture what's unique about the play. After all, there are a lot of plays that are set into motion by the reading of a will. What makes this play unique is that the will gives everything to a cat.

So it's back to the old drawing board. Let's see. Fat CatMillion Dollar CatWhat the Cat Dragged In...

I think this is going to take a while.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Five synopses

As mentioned earlier, I'll be collaborating with the hard-working director and students at Palmer Ridge High School on a new play this year. We still haven't settled on which play we're going to do, so a couple of weeks ago, I sent the director Josh Belk five ideas and asked him which ones he liked.

And here they are. Which play would you most like to see?


Lights... Camera... Murder!
Mystery comedy
Unit set: Hollywood sound stage

In the 1940's, a struggling studio pins its hopes on a swashbuckling movie starring their washed-up, womanizing star Allan Drummond. But when he remains sprawled on the floor after filming the climactic swordfight, a horrible realization sets in: Drummond has been murdered. Now it's up to Sherlock Holmes (or at least an actor from the next sound stage playing him) to figure out who put the fatal poison on the sword.

Zombie High
Comedy
Multiple sets: Various high school locations.

When a batch of cafeteria food is zapped by a defective microwave, the "cool girls" at George Romero High start to turn into zombies--only nobody can tell the difference. Nobody but brainy science nerd Maggie, that is. Can Maggie convince the administration to take action before the entire student body is turned into shuffling, brain-craving monsters?

Pirates of the Caribbean Grill
Comedy
Multiple sets: Various city locations.

A band of actors at a Pirate-themed restaurant get fired after taking their jobs a little too seriously (they think they're really pirates). Now they're on a quest to follow a "treasure map" they found scribbled on one of the restaurant's napkins.

Where There's a Will, There's a Way
Dark Comedy
Unit set: Drawing room

After a rich old lady leaves her entire fortune to her cat, her disappointed relatives have their own ideas how to wrest the wealth from the pampered feline. Meanwhile, the cat knows exactly what's going on and desperately tries to get help from the clueless butler assigned to care for her.

Don't Say Macbeth!
Mystery comedy
Unit set: Theatre stage

An inexperienced theatre director sets off a string of disastrous mishaps at a rehearsal for Macbeth after saying the play's title. But it soon becomes apparent that the trouble isn't all due to bad luck. Who could possibly want the production stopped--and why?


Josh ran these ideas past his theatre students and the ones they like the most are Zombie High, Pirates of the Caribbean Grill and Where There's a Will, There's a Way. He personally was leaning toward the last one, but his kids were hoping for the zombie one.

Next step? I'll develop a one-page outline for each of these three plays to see which one clicks. I've often fallen in love with a premise, only to have the whole thing fall apart when I try to work out the details. (Believe me, I have files upon files of plots that will never be written.)

Meanwhile, I'm trying finish the bookstore comedy I'm working on and pursuing a second collaboration with a local church.

It's crazy, but I'm loving it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rumpelstiltskin on Parade


On the Fourth of July, while I was watching the always amazing parade in Monument, Colorado (at 90 minutes, it's so long it deserves its own time zone), it turned out I was part of another parade 700 miles away. The Waxahachie Community Theatre of Waxahachie, TX put together a float promoting their upcoming production of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye and filled it with happy, smiling actors.

Nice job on the float, everybody! And a great idea too. After all, what's more American than a team of talented kids putting on a show?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Embrace rejection


When I speak to students, one of the main points I try to make is not to fear rejection, but to embrace it.

That may sound like a strange, even horribly wrong, philosophy. After all, our competitive society teaches us that failure is bad. Success should be our one and only goal.

But if you want to be successful in writing, acting or any field, it's important not just to seek success but to seek rejection.

Why? Because it means you're trying.

When I first starting writing--I was writing short stories and middle-grade novels then--I was afraid of rejection. So I didn't submit. I kept my stories to myself. Unmailed. Unrejected. Unread.

That was a eight-lane freeway to nowhere. I didn't start to succeed until I adopted the opposite philosophy. Instead of fearing rejection, I decided to pursue it.

It was all because of an article I'd read. I don't know where I saw the article or even who had written it. But it opened my eyes to a new, life-affirming philosophy. And it goes like this.

Each of us has a certain number of rejections to get through before we see our first success. We don't know what that number is, but it's a fixed number, and once we reach it, the world will open up to us and acceptances will start pouring in.

This may seem like a small philosophical change, but it's actually huge. And that's because it does a 180 on your behavior. Instead of avoiding rejection, you seek it out. Instead of refraining from submitting, you submit like crazy.

Once I adopted this philosophy, I started submitting dozens of times a month. And shortly after, I started receiving rejections dozens of times a month (when I received a response at all). But I started getting something else too. I started getting nibbles.

A publisher would reject my manuscript but invite me to send more. Or they would reject my manuscript and tell me how to improve. Or they would reject my manuscript but tell me I had come this close to receiving a publishing contract.

No, not acceptances. Not yet. But close enough to acceptances that it convinced me I was on the right track.

My number turned out to be 220 or so (I wasn't obsessive enough to calculate that number exactly). I received my first publishing contract. And after that, as I had hoped, the acceptances started coming in a steay  (this was after I had switched to writing plays).

I still get rejections. In fact, I get more rejections than acceptances. But I get more acceptances than I used to. And I wouldn't be having any success at all unless had I first learned not to fear rejection, but to embrace it.

Here's a similar take from Kim Liao, a short story writer who has aimed for 100 rejections a year for each of the last few years. That's not as easy as it sounds, and she hasn't made it yet. But she's on the right track. And I have no doubt that, with her passionate embrace of rejection in all its many forms, she'll eventually achieve the success she currently only dreams of.

Don't fear rejection. Embrace it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Butler in Oman


I was excited to see photos from last week's production of The Butler Did It! by the Aspirations Players in Muscat, Oman--the 9th country my plays have appeared in. It was, in fact, the first production this group has ever done, and I feel honored that they decided to perform one of my shows.

Great job, all! I hope you have a long, successful future!

Monday, June 6, 2016

RIP Peter Shaffer


The man who was our greatest living playwright died today. Sir Peter Shaffer passed away peacefully at a hospice on County Cork, Ireland.

I had the great good fortune of meeting Sir Peter in 2007 when he came to Colorado Springs for the new-defunct Colorado Festival of World Theatre. The festival was featuring his rarely performed one-act farce Black Comedy and, as part of the festivities, he agreed to give a brief talk for a small group of devoted theatregoers.

The talk was, as expected, smart, funny, and insightful, and afterwards, I gathered my courage to say hello. He was unfailingly gracious, speaking to me for several glorious, uninterrupted minutes until his handler whisked him away. I wish I remembered everything we talked about, but what stood out to me most was that, even at the age of 81, he was still very much plugged into the world of contemporary theatre. When I asked him which emerging playwrights he was most excited about, he rattled off four or five names with barely a pause.

Sir Peter was a brilliant writer, one who excelled in both comedy and drama. Equus may be the greatest psychological drama in the English language, and Amadeus (for which he won the Academy Award) is one of the greatest films ever made.

Less well known is the aforementioned Black Comedy. I don't know if it's the funniest play ever written, but it's the funniest play I've ever seen (take that, Noises Off). In fact, it's the play that has most influenced me in my own writing. Black Comedy was the first true farce I'd ever seen and the intense, almost balletic, physicality of the piece is what opened my eyes to the possibilities of physical humor in the theatre.

Thank you, Peter. You lived on this earth for 90 years, but your works will live forever.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Collaboration


They say theatre is the most collaborative of art forms, and from my own experience, I can tell that it's a wonderful way to work. Every play of mine that I've collaborated on was made better by the process.

But it's also a luxury, especially when you're writing for youth. Many schools can't take a chance on an unknown play. Or if they can, they don't have the time and resources to develop it.

Which is why I was really happy to hear from Josh Belk recently. Josh is the theatre director at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado--10 miles north of my home in Colorado Springs--and he emailed me to let me know that was was ready to work with me on a new play.

We originally got in touch last October. I saw that the school had won honors in Stage Directions magazine, and I emailed Josh congratulating him. I also mentioned that I was a published playwright and that if he ever wanted to develop a new play, I would love to work with him. He was intrigued by the idea, and although he didn't have space in that year's schedule, when the new school year rolled around, he decided to take a leap of faith and carved out a spot in March for me.

I have collaborated once before. In 2014, Million Dollar Meatballs was premiered at Discovery Canyon Campus High School in Colorado Springs. But that collaboration worked a little differently. I had already finished the play by the time theatre director Amy Keating agreed to do the play. Yes, the school contributed hugely to the final version of the play, beefing up jokes, coming up with many good lines on their own and, most importantly, helping me fix a dead spot in the show by moving one scene earlier. But the script was pretty much done before they ever laid eyes on it.

This time, I don't even have a synopsis. So we met today to bat some ideas around. His one requirement was that the play not be a farce, since the school performed one last year. But everything else was fair game. He especially liked my suggestion of doing a murder mystery set at a 1940's movie studio.

Next step? I'm going to put together five titles and synopses and let him and his students decide which play they'd like to do.

I guess I'd better get writing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My 5th year sales


I just received my annual royalty statement from my publisher, Pioneer Drama Service, and I'm thrilled to report that I had another record-breaking year.

Actual comparisons to previous years are difficult to make as Pioneer Drama Service changed the way they reported productions. In previous years, they provided a hardcopy report of all productions that had been paid for through April 30. This year, they provided access to their online system that tracks productions as they're booked, whether they're paid for or not.

The system works pretty slick. I can get a running total of my royalties to date. I can see the location, date and number of performances for each upcoming production. I can even sort by title, production date or when ordered.

This is a fantastic development. For the first time, I'll know about each production before it happens, making it possible to attend local productions and to send good wishes to those that are further away.

The only drawback is that for this one year, it's impossible to compare apples to apples. I no longer know which productions have been paid for, so from this point on, I'll only include productions that were performed in a particular fiscal year. This understates the totals for FY 2016, but the year was such a good one that it doesn't matter too much.

My total number of productions for the year nearly doubled from 78 in 2015 to 150 in 2016. This was the first full year for Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye and, as expected, this large-cast comedy was my big seller, with 63 productions--a new record for me.

You're Driving Me Crazy! was released in November, but it's already doing phenomenally well. It was my #2 title for the year with 27 productions. However, it didn't earn as much in royalties as the next two plays on my list because this short one-act tends to get only one performance per production while the full-length plays get two or more.

Million Dollar Meatballs came out in August, and that did almost as well, bagging 25 productions. As reported earlier, this play got me my 8th country, the United Arab Emirates, with a performance at an American school there in March.

The Butler Did It! was my #4 seller and showed a huge drop, with the number of productions decreasing from 34 in 2015 to 14 in 2016. However, it already has 9 shows booked for next year so I'm hoping that's an anomaly. The fun thing with this title is that it's been popular all over the world and this year added a ninth country to my life list: Oman.

Long Tall Lester was #5 with 9 productions this year compared to 14 last year. I'm excited to see how popular this one-act continues to be in Canada, with a really strong showing at the Sears Ontario Drama Festival for St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School of Barrie.

How I Met Your Mummy came out in December and was a little slow getting started, with just 6 productions in its first four months. I expect this one to do much better this fall as schools select plays for Halloween.

Finally, The _urloined Letter, my first play, also had 6 productions this year compared to 10 last year.

I have several more plays waiting for a response from publishers and I'm hard at work on another. I can't wait for you to see what's coming next!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Putting the community in community theatre




I just got back from a trip to Leoti, Kansas. Janelle Downs of the Wichita County Arts Alliance had invited me out to see their production of Million Dollar Meatballs (she was the director). And while I was there, she thought it would be a good idea if I spoke at the local high school.

I wasn't quite sure where Leoti was, but I jumped at the opportunity. I love visiting small towns--they remind me of my own hometown in Wisconsin-plus it would be the first time I had seen this particular play performed by adults. I was interested to see how it stood up.

To get to Leoti, as any resident will tell you, just head east from Colorado Springs, turn onto a couple of different highways, and when you come to the first flashing light--213 miles later--you're there.


As I headed out late Thursday night, however, I was doubting my sanity. They'd been predicting a winter storm all day, and I should have left earlier, but I stayed in town to catch a performance of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye--my first opportunity to see that show. 

The show ended around 8:30 PM and I immediately got on the road for the 3 1/2 hour drive. Fortunately, the winter storm held off until I left town so I managed to avoid most of the snow and only had to deal with rain and cold and wind for the rest of the trip. If I kept a good speed, I figured, I should be able to get there by midnight, leaving me plenty of time for sleep before getting up for a full day of teaching.

And then, just 12 miles west of Leoti, I saw the sign. Central Time Zone. I had lost an hour.


So around 1:30AM (the weather delayed me as well) I pulled up to the place where they arranged for me to stay for the three nights of my visit. When Janelle told me it was an apartment attached to a seed warehouse, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be wonderful--clean, new and more spacious than a five-star suite.

I crawled into bed and caught what little sleep I could before the alarm went off four hours later. The day dawned gray and rainy, but I was raring to go. I jumped out of bed, showered and drove a couple of blocks to the high school.

Julie Conard, one of the school's English teachers, escorted me to her classroom, where I was to speak to the first class of the day. As it turned out, Julie was in the show too, playing the part of the obnoxious telegram deliverer Tammy Tonedeaf.


I knew ahead of time that the school didn't have any writing or drama classes or so I created a brand new presentation just for them. What I came up with was "A Playwright's Journey, or 48 Hours to Overnight Success". In it, I talk about my decades-long struggle to get published and the over 200 rejection I had received before I got there. I also offer some life lessons that I hope aren't too preachy, thinks like Practice, Practice, Practice and Don't Fear Rejection, Embrace It.

I ended up speaking to five different English classes, from 7th grade through juniors. The students seemed to enjoy my talk, although many were shocked when I told them it takes 10,000 hours to master any subject (thank you, Malcolm Gladwell!). I figure it took me at least that much time before I saw any success in writing. But then I'm a slow learner.

After lunch, Julie brought me into the auditorium to talk to the choir kids, who also happened to be the theatre kids. The school doesn't put on a show every year (it depends on class size, and in a small community like this, class size can vary 4X from one year to the next), but when they do, it's the choir kids who do it.

Many of the kids had heard my talk earlier in the day so I had to come up with something different--and quick. I grabbed my scripts of You're Driving Me Crazy!, threw some chairs on the stage for a car and, in a matter of minutes, we were doing cold readings of this driver's ed-themed play. The kids were great--so funny and talented--and after the impromptu performance I was gratified to hear one of the boys say he couldn't wait to get involved in the school's theatre program next year.


After school, I had a short break, then headed to the First Presbyterian Church for the final dress rehearsal of Million Dollar Meatballs. Normally, I don't offer feedback to the casts of my plays--I figure that's the director's job--but when Janelle herself asked me what I thought, I knew I had to share. And I told them the raw, unvarnished truth.  They did a fantastic job. Sure, there were a few places where they needed to pick up the pace and their delivery of some of the lines needed tweaking. But they were having a lot of fun with the play, and I knew the audience would too.

The next day was Saturday, and I spent most of the afternoon exploring Leoti. There wasn't a lot to see--even the residents will tell you that--I did get some nice pictures of downtown and the courthouse. Another highlight was a mural that the Arts Alliance had only recently put up. Between the sunflowers, the cows and the quilting patterns, it did a great job of capturing the down-home spirit of the town.


That night was the opening performance. The First Presbyterian Church had donated the use of their stage and the Arts Alliance squeezed in several large round tables for the audience. A long table was set up for the pre-show pot luck dinner, and soon it was filled with a wide and very tempting selection of casseroles and pasta dishes.

Of course, many of the cooks were inspired by the meatball theme of the play and brought their own version of those beefy orbs. There was a chipotle meatball dish that I found especially tasty.


The show didn't quite sell out, but it was close. We were sitting elbow to elbow as the house lights went down and the stage lights went up. The play started, and within minutes, the house was filled with laughter. I smiled. To me, it's the most beautiful sound of the world.

At intermission, there was a brief concert as some of the local children sang solos and duets to the accompaniment of a piano. As I sat there, soaking it all in, I was filled with a warm glow. This, I thought, is what community theatre is all about. Good food. A fun-loving cast. Hearty laughter. And the most talented kids in town.

Scratch that. This is what community is all about.


I heard somebody say they wish that more people had attended the show. I quickly did the math in my head. Leoti has a population of 2000 people. The church fit about 100 people, and with two performances, that meant 10% of the town's population would see the show,

I'd kill to get 10% of Colorado Springs' population to one of my shows.

The second act started and the laughter, if possible, was even louder and more enthusiastic. After the show, I talked with the audience, autographed a few programs and then said goodbye to my new friends, who already seemed like old friends.

I left the next morning. The rain had finally stopped, though the sky was still a somber gray. I glanced in my rear view mirror, and as I watched the houses and the grain elevator growing smaller, I said one final goodbye.

You know, it's funny. A couple of months ago I had never heard of Leoti, Kansas.

Now I'll never forget it.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rumpelstiltskin rave


The illustrious Bill Wheeler, theatre critic for the Colorado Springs Independent, attended the Black Box Theatre production of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye and gave it a glowing review. I'm too humble to quote the whole thing here (no, I'm not), but I'll leave you with this one tidbit because it really gets to the heart of what I try to achieve in all of my plays:
"Wallinger's script has something for everyone. The kids connect to the fairy tale characters and the constant physical comedy. Adults get a big dose of puns. Everyone has a good time, and the good guys win in the end. It doesn't get any better than that."
I'm glad that for this play, at least, I may have hit the mark. You can read the whole review here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Meatballs in the Middle East


Million Dollar Meatballs is circling the globe. After a run in Taiwan in February, my restaurant farce landed at the American International School in Abu Dhabi last month.

Great costumes, guys! And I love the foodie posters on the walls.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lester wins big in Ontario


Just got word that St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School of Barrie, Ontario cleaned up at the Sears Ontario Drama Festival district competition with my one-act comedy Long Tall Lester. They won awards for acting (three, actually), stage management, technical achievement, outstanding production and spirit. In fact, it was the most awarded show at the festival. The students now move on, competing April 15 at the West Region showcase in Cambridge, ON.

You can read the whole story here.

Congratulations, everyone! And break legs!

Update: At the regional showcase, the school picked up awards for comedic performance and musical composition/performance. Nice job!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

All the news that's fit to print


I just got some very good news. Three more schools have booked productions of my plays. But these aren't just any schools. They're old friends: all three of them have performed my plays before.

One was a middle school in TN that performed Long Tall Lester in 2012 and is now doing Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. The third is a high school in KY that performed The Butler Did It! in 2014 and is now doing Million Dollar Meatballs. The third is a junior high in TX that performed The _urloined Letter in December and is now doing Million Dollar Meatballs.

As word gets out about my plays, I'm seeing more and more of this, and it occurred to me that some directors might like to know when I've released a new play.

That's why I've decided to launch a quarterly newsletter, which I've titled The Playful Playwright. It'll be chock full of things that will help you, the drama teacher or community theatre director. Yes, it'll have news on my latest releases, but it'll also include free script offers, costume and set ideas, writing tips and, what may be the most exciting, world premiere opportunities.

How do you sign up? I'm glad you asked! Just look for the SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER box in the upper right corner of this blog and enter your email address. No names, no phone numbers, no credit card numbers, no shoe sizes. Just one little old email address. Simple!

Look for the first issue to come out later this month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Get with the program


I wanted to share this cool program from a young artist at Theisen Middle School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Full-color, computer-generated graphics can be very eye-catching, but sometimes hand-drawn pictures are the best. Great job!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Overcoming stage fright


I recently received an email from a young man who'll be appearing as Frankie in his school's production of Million Dollar Meatballs. The show opens in two days and he was feeling a bit nervous. Did I have any advice for him?

Unfortunately, he contacted me through my bio page on the Pioneer Drama Service website and when I tried to reply to the email address he entered, it was rejected by his school's server.

I don't want him to think I'm ignoring him, so I thought I'd reply here. After all, there must be a lot of students out there who are struggling with stage fright.

To be honest, I haven't done a lot of acting, but I have done a fair amount of public speaking and the stage fright with that can be just as bad. Here are some things I did to overcome that stage fright:

1) Do some deep breathing and stretching exercises before you go on stage. This will help you relax.

2) After you're done, stand tall and maintain a confident posture. It's hard to feel nervous when you look like you're ready to conquer the world. You might even try out a superhero stance, which has been shown to decrease feelings of stress and increase feelings of power. Just remember: it's Superman, not Ant-Man.

3) Get your mind off the performance. Read something. Talk to your friends. Play a game. This helps put things in perspective, reminding you that there's a lot more to life than this one show.

4) Remind yourself that the audience is on your side. They're rooting for you to do well. But they're also very forgiving when things go wrong.

5) Realize that stage fright usually only happens before the show. Once you get on stage in front of an audience and start bringing your character to life, you'll forget all about being nervous.

I hope this helps!

If you ever have problems contacting me through the Pioneer Drama Service website or other means, please feel free to email me directly at todd.wallinger@gmail.com.

I promise you'll get a reply.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye costume ideas

My editor at Pioneer Drama Service tells me that Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye has gone off the charts recently. The play has booked 51 productions since last May and he continues to see several new orders almost every day.

With so many schools and youth theatres producing the play, I thought it might be helpful to show some pictures from those productions. It's always fun to see the creativity of the designs, and it might inspire some of you as you work on your own designs.

For this post, I'm going to show you costumes for the dynamic duo themselves--Rumpelstiltskin and Ugly Duckling--around whom the play revolves. You can see there are lots of variations, especially for Rumpelstiltskin.

Some go for the classic gumshoe look, giving him a dark suit and fedora. Some go more gnome-like with a beard and fairy tale garb. Still others prefer a hybrid look, combining a beard with a trench coat. And one school went in a completely different direction, decking him out like Sherlock Holmes with a frock coat and deerstalker hat.

It's all good. The only limit is your imagination. And maybe your budget.












Thursday, February 4, 2016

Meatballs in Taiwan


Check out this poster for the Taiwanese premiere of Million Dollar Meatball, coming February 25-26 to a middle school in Taichung. I love how they made it look just like a movie poster, right down to the iconic font used for the credits at the bottom.

But my favorite part has to be the goofy expressions of the actors. They give the production a real sense of fun.

And in case you were wondering how to write Million Dollar Meatballs in Mandarin, it's like this:

百萬美元肉丸子.

Break legs, everyone!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What I learned directing


And just like that, it's over.

The Last Radio Show closed last night, and although I'm sad to see it go, I'm very happy with how it went. The audience loved the play, I came away with several ideas on how to improve the script (mostly cutting the slow bits), and I even made a little money.

I knew I would learn from experience. What I didn't know was how much I would learn. Basically, a metric boatload. Here are some of the biggest things I learned

1) The actors who complain that their parts are small are often the last ones to learn their lines.

2) As tempting as it may be, don't work on another script while in rehearsal. It's not a matter of time. It's a matter of mental energy. You owe it to your team to focus on the play at hand.

3) That first laugh is the hardest. Put it as early as you can--on lights up, if possible.

4) Sometimes the best thing a director can do for the cast during a long day of rehearsal is buy them pizza and leave them alone.

5) If you don't do anything with a character for several pages, consider giving them an exit.

6) Never ever EVER give an actor a line reading. Unless, of course, you have to.

7) The most important person on your team is the stage manager. Get the best one you can find.

8) It doesn't matter if you think the audience should laugh at a particular gag. If they're not laughing, cut it. There's nothing less funny than a line that's supposed to be funny.

9) Never ask actors to offer suggestions about their characters. They'll give you suggestions about everything BUT their characters.

10) Directing your own play is quite possibly the most stressful, nerve-wracking, nail-biting, agonizing, exhausting experience you ever have. It is also the most fun.

Will I do it again? You bet. But it has to be the right play and I have to have the right team. I don't know when those two things will come together, but I'm hoping that they do at least once a year.

Until then, it's back to writing.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Last Radio Show opens tonight


The costumes are fitted. The props are set. The last rehearsal is over.

Now all that's left to make this thing a real live play is an audience.

Tonight is the world premiere of my newest play, The Last Radio Show. It's a fast-paced farce about KUKU, a struggling radio station in the 1940's, and the mysterious series of "accidents" that threaten to shut it down for good.

It's the first full-length play I've ever directed. It's been a lot of  hard work, sure, but it was also a lot more fun than I ever expected, and you'd better believe I'll be back in the director's chair before the year is out.

The best part about directing is the people. The actors were a delight to work with, and even if they didn't always agree with my decisions, they injected so much of themselves into the characters that the play is a hundred times better as a result.

Of course, I couldn't have done any of this without the fabulous crew I was blessed with. They went above and beyond the call of duty, making sure that every costume, every prop, every set piece met my often nitpicky demands. They also played a huge role in improving the script, and my favorite part of the whole process was batting around ideas with them long after the actors had gone home for the night.

The show runs fours shows only at Black Box Theatre, 1367 Pecan Street, in Colorado Springs:
  • 7pm, Thursday, January 14
  • 7pm, Friday, January 15
  • 2pm, Saturday, January 16
  • 7pm, Saturday, January 16
The production even got a glowing recommendation from the Colorado Springs Independent.

Tickets for the two Saturday shows are going fast. To order yours, visit Brown Paper Tickets.