Friday, June 3, 2022

Kiwi dinosaurs come to life!

Tena koutou!

My new comedy The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct premiered in New Zealand at the end of April, and as much as I would have loved to travel to that stunningly beautiful country to see it, it just wasn't possible at this time. I like to blame it on their COVID restrictions, but the truth is I'm too poor.

So I did the next best thing. I contacted Gemma Shapleski, who runs the Wellington performing arts school where it was performed, and asked her to send me some photos.

Somehow, Gemma manages to put rhe shows together in just four days. That includes rehearsal, set building, costume making, and the performance. Gemma says the short rehearsal period makes her job easier. The kids seem to retain things better this way.

That may be true. But I thing the real reason is that Gemma and her talented staff of teachers are amazing.

I told Gemma to keep the costumes simple. There's no need to make complicated animal costumes, just baseball caps and T-shirts. This worked out great because it gave the kids an opportunity to decorate their costumes themselves, designing and attaching their own eyes and teeth.

The key in differentiating between the various animal groups was in the colors of these items. Green for the plant-eating dinosaurs.


Black for the meat-eating dinosaurs.


And brown for the oh-so-cute mammals (shrews, to be specific).


The play takes place in three separate locations: Fernville (the verdant home of the Plant Eaters), the Crags (the rocky abode of the Meat Eaters), a laboratory, and a classroom.

This could have been challenging since the show was performed in a very low-tech community hall (Gemma's words, not mine), but they made it work with just a few simple set pieces. Like the pine tree in the above picture (yes, Antarctica, where the play takes place, had pine trees in the Late Cretaceous Period!).

Or the whiteboard and rocks (seen on the edge of the stage) in the picture below.


The props are pretty easy too. There's the broken dinosaur model which clumsy young Snaggleclaw breaks, leading him to approach the two scientists, Professor Broadbeak and Doctor Duckbill.


And of course, the telescope through which the three of them first view the asteroid on a collision course with earth.


Gemma reported that the play was a roaring success (pun very much intended). The kids had a lot of fun and there was a ton of laughter from the audience.

Ka pai, everyone!

If you'd like me to email you a free perusal copy of the script, just email me here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Belmont diary: It's a Madhouse! to be published

I thought the three weeks it took An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas to get accepted for publication fast, but It's a Madhouse! blew that away. It took just seven days from when I submitted the play To pioneer Drama Service to them accepting it.

And I couldn't be happier. Not just for me, but for the kids and faculty at Belmont Day School who worked so hard to bring the play to life. I know it'll mean a lot to them to see their names as part of the world premiere credit in the script.

It'll be interesting to see how this play does. As I've said in my previous posts chronicling its development, the play was specifically written to meet school Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion requirements. It also has a massive cast--40 actors in total. It's one of the biggest full-length plays Pioneer has ever published. I know it's the biggest one I've published.

The script should be released in time for school this fall. In the meantime, let me tease you with this scene introducing the first of literally dozens of intruders who threaten the Pembroke family's search for the treasure:

HOBSON (Opens UPSTAGE DOOR. GEORGE and HARRIET ENTER, holding novels.): May I help you?

HARRIET: Look at this place, George. Isn't it just a dream?

GEORGE: Oh, it's more than a dream, Harriet. It's an absolute vision!  

HARRIET: This is exactly how I pictured his house, you know. All ominous and spooky.

GEORGE: Spooky indeed. In fact, I might almost call it "sinister."

HOBSON: Excuse me. Is there someone you'd like to see?

HARRIET: Oh, yes. Byron Pembroke, please. We're his biggest fans.

HARRIET and GEORGE hold up their novels.

HOBSON: I'm sorry, but Mr. Pembroke is... indisposed.

HARRIET: That's all right. We'll wait right here until he's disposed again.

HARRIET and GEORGE start toward the sofa.

HOBSON: No, no, no! Don't sit down!

HARRIET (Sits.): Oh, but we must. Our feet are simply pounding.

GEORGE (Sits next to HARRIET.): They're a virtual symphony of pain.

HOBSON: All right, fine. He's dead.

HARRIET: Who's dead?

HOBSON: Mr. Pembroke. The man you're waiting for.

HARRIET: Well, that was rather sudden.

HOBSON: Actually, it happened several days ago. 

HARRIET: Oh, dear! And to think we never got to tell him how much his books have meant to us! Isn't that tragic, George?

GEORGE: More than that. It's a genuine cataclysm of sorrow.

HOBSON: And now that you've made that point abundantly clear, I really must insist that you leave—

HARRIET: Oh, we can't leave.

HOBSON: What do you mean you can't leave?

HARRIET: Didn't you hear? The bridge is out.

HOBSON: Surely you're joking.

HARRIET: He doesn't believe me. George, dear, would you tell this nice manservant about the bridge?

GEORGE: Oh, you should have seen it. It was a disaster of the highest magnitude!

HOBSON (Calls OFF LEFT.): Mr. Pembroke!

HARRIET: I thought he was dead.

HOBSON: What? Oh, uh, Mr. Pembroke is dead. I mean that Mr. Pembroke is dead. I'm calling the other Mr. Pembroke. The one that isn't dead.

If you want to know when the play is released, keep checking back here. You'll be the first to know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

My 11th year sales

Well, it was a good news, bad news kind of year. The good news? I had 199 productions, which was up 28% over the 155 I had last year.

The bad news? That's still down 45% from the 361 I achieved in my peak year of 2018-2019.

My total royalties, however, were much better, being up a whopping 155% from last year and down only 32% from my best year.

Of course, that drop in the number of productions isn't totally unexpected. The fall semester was heavily impacted by the omicron variant of COVID, and while this resulted in milder symptoms than earlier variants, it still discouraged a lot of schools from herding a bunch of kids onto a stage for weeks of rehearsals. So yeah, I get it (although it is funny that sports never get affected that way).

There is one bright spot to all this. Those schools that figured out how to stream or record their shows during the darkest days of COVID are still doing it for their live performances as an option for those unable to attend. As a result, many productions are generating an extra royalty for that stream or recording.

Now that COVID has finally evolved into something closer to the flu, I expect that the school and community theater world will fully rebound and that in the coming year, all playwrights will see bigger royalty checks.

As it has been since premiering in 2017, The Enchanted Bookshop was my best-selling play for the year with 63 performances. That's up from 38 last year but down from the 156 it received its full year of publication. It already has 28 productions booked for next year so that's one sign that things are improving.

Last year, for the first time, The Enchanted Bookshop Musical was my #2 show. It had 25 productions l, which is very impressive for a large-cast musical in a COVID-impacted year. In fact, that's only a 14% drop from the 28 it received its first year. And it already has 8 productions booked for next year.

You're Driving Me Crazy! has always done well, and last year was no exception, with this driver's ed comedy coming in #3 with its 20 productions.  

Coming out in September 2020, just as the first COIVD wave was hitting hard, An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas has never had a normal year. Which may explain why this last year was its best year yet, with a very healthy 18 productions. Not only was this enough to place it at #4 on my list, but it ended up as the #1 full-length Christmas play at Pioneer.

To put it another way, my three Enchanted Bookshop plays got more productions than my other 18 plays combined.

Rounding out the top five, my perennially popular restaurant farce Million Dollar Meatballs received a respectable 15 productions,

Several plays only had 1 production, but unlike last year, none had 0 productions and none earned negative royalties (due to the cancellation of previously booked shows).

So yeah, I'm excited for the coming year. Productions of each of my existing plays should continue to grow. But I also have two new plays coming out (maybe more), which will add to my total.

Is this what hope feels like?

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Copper State Bookshop opens new theater


While many community theaters continue to struggle just to stay open, it's heartening to see a plucky young company not just succeed but actually build stylish new digs.

That's the case in Prescott Valley, Arizona. After bopping around from one borrowed venue to another for every twenty years, Prescott Valley Performing Arts is thrilled to finally have a home to call their own.

An article at the local SignalsAZ website tells the tale. A true labor of love, The Main Street Theatre was funded and built by volunteers from the community and will feature a wealth of artistic opportunities: acting classes, improv performances, after-school activities, and more.

It all begins May 13 with a production of Gilligan's Island: The Musical. Shortly after that, the theater will offers its first theater camps with productions of The Nifty Fifties for teens and The Enchanted Bookshop for younger folk.
 
I hate to admit it, but I've only been to this lovely burg once, and then only when I was passing through after a weekend in Sedona (it's about 60 miles north of Phoenix). But with a snazzy new venue like this, I'm going to have to start going up there a lot.



Friday, May 13, 2022

Hoosier Bookshop builds confidence


When the Washington Times-Herald of Washington, IN wrote up a preview of Veale Street Theatreer's upcoming production of The Enchanted Bookshop, they got as many quotes from the kids performing the play as they could.

Many of the young actors describe their character's roles in the play. Others mention how much fun they're having. 

"I'm the oldest of four kids so this role was pretty easy for me," jokes Kianna Smith about her role as the Wicked Witch of the West.

But my favorite quote came from Brooklyn Schofield, who plays the Book Fairy. "It's done so much to help me embrace myself and find my confidence."

That's what youth theater is all about.

Break legs, everybody! And may you all find the confidence that's already inside you.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Tarheel Murder finally takes the stage


Community theaters are run by busy, day-working volunteers, so they often have to spread their rehearsals over an extended period. Three, even four months isn't uncommon. But that's nothing for the Good Time Players of Mayberry--oops, I mean Mount Airy, NC (famous for being the hometown of Andy Griffith). The Mount Airy News has the scoop.

After their initial shutdown for COVID, this plucky little theater company started rehearsing last June for my Hollywood mystery Lights! Camera! Murder! Unfortunately, they were forced to shut down later that year when omicron reared its much more contagious head. That production is finally taking stage this weekend, a whopping eleven months after rehearsals first began.

Broken legs to all! I'm sure it's a great feeling to finally have an audience again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Cotton State Bookshop funds Ukraine rescue group


I've seen some great photos from South Baldwin Community Theatre's recent production of The Enchanted Bookshop, but none have warmed my heart as much as this one from today's edition of The Mullet Wrapper. If you can't read the fine print, that right there is a check for $1722, and it was raised by the young cast for Project Dynamo, a non-profit rescue group working in Ukraine.

According to the article, director Sharon Watson (L) and assistant director Linda Miller (R) were thrilled when the youthful thespians approached them with the idea. "I feel it's important to instill the spirit of giving in young artists," Watson said.

As a result, they quickly learned to become effective fundraisers. Miller persuaded 23 local businesses to donate gift cards. Meanwhile, families of the cast and three area libraries donated books to sell at the performances.

No doubt, there's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world today. But it's generosity like this that gives me hope for the future.