Saturday, May 14, 2022

Copper State Bookshop opens new theater

...well, almost.

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

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.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Whole Latte Love to be published

Just got the word that Pioneer Drama Service has accepted my play Whole Latte Love for publication. It's an important milestone for a couple of reasons.

First, this is my 20th play to be published. Second, it's my first play to be accepted in almost two years.

That dry spell was largely my fault. After snagging a literary agent in early 2020, I spent much of the next two years trying to break into novels.

Well, that didn't work, and looking back now, its seems like a big waste of time. But it was something I had to try.

Now I'm back to writing plays--and even that's had some fits and starts. My first play back was It's a Madhouse!, but because it was written on commission, I had to wait until it had premiered at the school that commissioned it before I could submit it to my publisher. That premiere happened late last month, and I'm just putting the final, post-performance polish on the script now.

Next I wrote The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct, but after it got rejected by Pioneer, I decided to approach some theater companies directly before submitting it to another publisher. That play will get its premiere this weekend in Wellington, New Zealand.

It was my third play back that got accepted. I'm hoping now I can keep the pipeline full. 

Whole Latte Love was a play I've wanted to write for a while. With the unending popularity of coffee shops around the country and, well, pretty much everywhere, I was surprised to find there were no plays actually set in one. So I knew there was a need.

The first question was: do I make it a mystery or a farce? I actually started writing it as a mystery (it would have been called--what else?--Whole Latte Murder). But I soon hit a wall with the plot. And I really didn't want to spend three months writing about murder, even if it was a funny one.

Then I thought I'd make it a You've Got Mail type story, where a big unfeeling corporation tries to stomp out the little guy. But I didn't know where to take it.

Then I thought, I'd make it a magical coffee shop (echoes of The Enchanted Bookshop?), in which the coffee casts a spell on the customers. But which spell? Love at first sight, as in A Midsummer Night's Dream?  Eternal youth? A truth serum? 

It wasn't until I realized I could include all three spells, plus three others--and have the scatterbrained new barista mix them up for the customers--that I had my story.

Here's the opening:

ISLA: So tell me, Shelly. Why do you want to work at Whole Latte Love?

SHELLY: Oh, it's because I just love coffee! All kinds of coffee! I love the taste of it! I love the smell of it! I even love the way it feels against my skin.

ISLA: (Joking.) What do you do? Bathe in it?

SHELLY: Why? Is that weird?

ISLA: Huh? (Realizes SHELLY's serious.) Oh. Well, it's not exactly normal.

SHELLY: I can stop.

ISLA: That won't be necessary. (Scans the resume.) I see you've worked at quite a few coffee places.

SHELLY: Oh, yes! Practically every one in town! I started out at Starschmucks. Then I went to Ditch Bros. After that came Cocakpoo Coffee. And my last job was at Munchkin Donuts.

ISLA: So why did you quit?

SHELLY: I didn't quit. I was fired.

ISLA: Fired? From all of them?

SHELLY: All but Munchkin. They filed a restraining order against me. Said I was too intense!

ISLA: Imagine that.

I think the story's a lot of fun, perfect for both high schools and community theaters. It has lots of female roles, it's easy to produce (single set! few props! no special technical requirements!) and it's got a positive, upbeat message.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. And Whole Latte Love has plenty of it.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Wolverine State Butler finds the Python

I was a comedy nerd before the phrase "comedy nerd" was even a thing. I was a fan of all the old comedy teams: Laurel and Hardy. Abbott and Costello. The Marx Brothers. But nobody made me laugh as hard as Monty Python's Flying Circus.

I was eleven years old when reruns of this groundbreaking show were first shown on American TV. And I adored them. I didn't always get the humor. Some of the jokes were too British. Other jokes were over my head maturity-wise. But I knew they were funny and I watched them over and over again until I could quote them from memory (the exploding penguin sketch was my favorite).

So it thrilled me to learn that a director in Michigan compared the humor in my play The Butler Did It! to those bad boys. The director is Brad Kenyon and he's directing the show next month for the Athens Community Theatre. The Daily Reporter has the story.

"It's not Bob Hope snappy punchline-pacing, but a delightful blend of physical and verbal comedy that makes it hilarious," Kenyon said. "There's influence from classic Hollywood productions, old-time vaudeville and Monty Python."

The article also notes that the actors contributed plenty of their own comedy nuggets, which always makes me happy.

Check it out if you're in the area. The show may not contain the funniest joke in the world, but I guarantee it'll make you laugh.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Peach State Bookshop gives it away

Another day. Another writeup.

This one comes from the august pages of the Valdosta Daily Times. The Gingerbread Players (love that name!), the youth arm of Theatre Guild Valdosta, is performing The Enchanted Bookshop Musical over the next two weekends. And, as the article makes clear, co-directors Pauline Player and Sandy Parrish and the rest of their crew have come up with a couple of clever twists.

One is that they built doors that are disguised as giant books on the bookshelves of the set, making it appear as though Dorothy Gale, Tom Sawyer, and the rest of the beloved literary characters appear by stepping directly out of their books. That's a great idea and kind of my original vision for the play, but I know how difficult it can be for cash-strapped schools and theater companies to build elaborate sets. I'm so glad Theatre Guild Valdosta was able to pull it off.

The other twist is more of a promotional one. In order to promote reading among its young audience, the theater will give a book to each child attending the performances. Now that's a fantastic idea!

Break legs, everyone! I hope you find all sorts of new young fans--and readers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Saskatchewan Meatballs gets funky

Schools and community theaters have made some very creative choices with my plays. But nobody has ever given one a disco spin.

Until now.

According to a local newspaper articleFootlighters Theatre Society in beautiful Creston, Saskatchewan is performing my restaurant farce Million Dollar Meatballs this June--and they're setting it in the 1970's disco era.

Does that mean a glittering disco ball hanging from the ceiling of Chez Monyeu? Bell bottoms on the bus boys? The sounds of ABBA playing between scenes? The article doesn't say. But it does make clear that director Jason Smith is a man of exquisite good taste.

"We looked at a lot of scripts before choosing this one," Smith said. "It's just so ridiculously funny and will be a lot fun for audiences of any age."

This is just their third show since reopening after the pandemic. And they have only one goal.

"We wanted this season's productions to make the audience laugh," Smith continues. "And Million Dollar Meatballs will definitely do just that." 

Sounds groovy to me!