Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Five-Star Butler


Well, that Missouri director who based his production of The Butler Did It! on Carol Burnett's old show must be doing something right because it just got a five-star review in KC Applauds.

Critic Bob Evans had some nice things to say about the script, but what makes me even happier is hearing how the cast really threw themselves into their roles.

"But all of the cast were strong in their performances. They knew their characters and delivered the punch lines were flair," Evans writes. "The play does not demand a lot of physical comedy so the line delivery, facial expressions, and tonal inflections are paramount to the comedy's effectiveness."

If you live near Kansas City, you have three more chances to see the show this weekend. If you don't, check out my Productions page to see what other shows may be playing in your area.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Show me the funny


Summit Theatre Group of Lee's Summit in the Show Me State of Missouri is closing out their 2018-2019 season with The Butler Did It!, and that got them this nice writeup on their local news site.

Director Mark Hamilton first read the script five years ago and was drawn to the fast-paced humor and the oh-so-proper English setting.

"Think Downton Abbey, if Downton Abbey was a comedy," he says. "1930's English manor house, quirky characters, a dark and stormy night, murder in the kitchen with a paring knife, what's not to like?"

I can tell Mark and I have similar tastes in humor because he based his direction on the wacky parodies from the old Carol Burnett show--one of my great comedy influences growing up (you had to love that mid-1970's Saturday Night lineup on CBS).

If you're in the area, I strongly encourage to check it out. Performances are June 14-15 and 21-23 at the MCC Longview Cultural Arts Center in Lee's Summit.

Tickets? A mere $15 ($12 for students and seniors).


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

My 8th year sales


It's May, that magical month when Pioneer Drama Service mails annual royalty checks to its playwrights. It's also the month when I take stock of the year just past and compare it to the previous year.

The good news? In terms of productions, it was my best year yet. I had 347, an 11% increase over the 312 productions I had the previous year.

The bad news? The amount of my check actually went down. Sure, it was just a small drop (0.5%), but this was the first time I've ever seen a decrease.

That's largely due to the vagaries of school theater. Some schools pay when they book the show, some up to a month after it's been produced. If I get too many of the latter in April (the biggest month of the year for school plays), it can push my royalties into the following year.

Another problem was that I only had one new play come out -- Babka Without Borders -- and it had the slowest start of any of my plays to date. I can't say I'm too surprised -- it's an odd little play with an unusual setting -- but I love that play and think it's one my best so I'm glad Pioneer has stood by it.

One positive development this year was that 32 or almost 10% of my productions for the year were from schools and community theaters that had previously done my plays. I hope to see that percentage continue to grow.

Oh, and I was excited to see my plays make it to three new countries this year.

Without further ado then, here is the breakdown:

My #1 play was The Enchanted Bookshop, with an amazing 142 productions. Not only does that put it at the top of the list for Pioneer's plays, but that makes it one of the best-selling plays in the country. Normally, plays drop off after their first full year, but Bookshop has already booked 38 productions for next year--more than most of my plays get in an entire year--so I'm hoping it may see another uptick next year. This year, it was also my first play to be done in Ireland, making it my 12th country.

You're Driving Me Crazy! continues to do well in the #2 slot this year with 39 productions. This driver's ed-themed collection of shorts has been popular with high schools and middle schools. around the world, and this year it even got a production in Panama, my 13th country.

At #3, Million Dollar Meatballs pulled off the impossible this year. My plays have always done their best in their first full year, but with 37 productions, this restaurant-set farce actually set a new record in this, its third full year of publication.

After struggling last year, Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye rallied hard this year with a respectable 31 productions (a 63% increase over the 19 of the previous year). That puts it at #4.

My reality TV parody Trouble in Paradise Junction dropped a precipitous 70% from last year, its first full year of production. But it still ended up with 21 productions, which was good enough to make it #5.

This was also the first full year of publication for The Purrfect Crime (#6) and Wicked Is As Wicked Does (#7). Unfortunately, with just 17 and 16 productions respectively, they came in a little weaker than I'd been hoping. Maybe these will pull off a Meatballs miracle and show a big boost next year.

Going down the list, we find The Stinky Feet Gang (14 productions), The Butler Did It! (12 productions), Long Tall Lester (8 productions), How I Met Your Mummy (7 productions), and The _urloined Letter (3 productions). Although Mummy is down big-time from the 30 productions it got just two years ago, one of this year's productions was in Switzerland, which gave me my 14th country (only 181 to go!).

My new baby, Babka Without Borders (unlucky #13), did manage to book 4 productions during the year. But all of those occur this month, which puts them outside of the 2018-2019 season. The upshot? A big goose egg for the year just past.

So all in all, the year was a bit of a disappointment. But I've got hope! This coming year will see the birth of what could be two monster plays: The Enchanted Bookshop Musical, and my first pirate comedy, Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras.

Keep checking back here, folks. You can bet this proud papa will let you know as soon as they're born.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Oman Bookshop photo named finalist


So you remember that photo contest I was telling you about? Well, it turns out that a production of The Enchanted Bookshop at the American International School in Muscat, Oman (yes, Oman!) made the list of five finalists selected by Pioneer.

And I can see why. Their costumes look awesome. And I love the expression on Margie's face (Margie is the one seated on the sofa).

Now comes the fun part, as Pioneer is taking votes from the public to decide the winner. To participate, all you have to do is visit Pioneer's account on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (or better yet, all three) and click Like under the photo or photos you think are best.

Here are the links:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Of course, I'm not about to tell you how to vote. That's up to you.

But I know which one I'll be voting for.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Babka on a shoestring


Babka Without Borders had its world premiere this last weekend with TheatreWorks, a homeschool group in Bloomington, IN, and I was thrilled to hear from Dianna, the nimble-fingered mom who'd made all the costumes.

Dianna got me in touch with Tara, the photographer, and Tara sent me an invite to the group's Shutterfly account, where she'd archived a whopping 275 stills from the show.

I wish I could share them all, especially since they show just how creative you can be on a shoestring budget. these penny-pinching moms and dads were.

Dianna told me that their stage was very small, so they only got rid of two tables on each side of the border that runs through the middle of the set. (The set diagram in the script shows four table on each side, but that is only a suggestion.)

Costumes were also a challenge, especially for a play set in 1910 Europe like this one is. But Dianna was able to get everything she needed at the local Goodwill, and she added embellishments as needed to make them period-correct.

It's resourceful volunteers like these that make youth theater such a positive experience for actors, stage crew and audiences alike.

As they say in Primwick and Bunkelburg, vielen dank!

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Purrfect case of gender bending


I'm always happy to have directors creatively cast my plays. After all, it comes with the territory.

Schools and community theaters don't always get the right mix of actors -- or even a sufficient number of actors -- at auditions, so they're often forced to combine roles or change the gender of the roles they're casting.

And sometimes they do it just for the fun of it.

That's the case with the Sheeptown Players Drama Society (love that name!) of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. They're performing The Purrfect Crime May 10 and 11 and, as this article in the Fort Saskatchewan Record makes clear, they're having a ball.

"We have a gentleman playing a female cat. We have a guy who is playing a female lawyer. We have a woman playing a male butler," executive director Stuart McGowan says. "This isn't the first time our group has bent the gender bar, but we are getting into it as much as possibly can."

Make you wonder what they'd do with Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.

Break legs, everybody. I'm glad you're having fun.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Badger Bookshop makes a trailer


Loyal followers of this blog know that I'm currently trying to sell The Enchanted Bookshop as a movie or TV series. Right now, it still looks like a longshot. I'm currently knee-deep in a page one rewrite of the movie based on feedback from a studio exec (turns out it's still not big enough).

But if the movie ever does happen, I couldn't make a better trailer than this colorful, action-packed one from Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wisconsin -- which just happens to be 20 miles from where I grew up.

Nice job, guys! I hope you sell out every show.