Monday, September 23, 2019

Set ideas for The Enchanted Bookshop

It looks like The Enchanted Bookshop is going to have another bang-up year. It's already booked 69 productions for the new school year, and there are several more months still to go.

Many of those productions are in their planning stages, so I thought this would be a good time to share some of the photos I've found from earlier productions. This time I'll focus on the set.

One of the best things about The Enchanted Bookshop is that it used a single set, and the requirements are really quite simple. In fact, the script lists only four must haves: a counter, a small bookcase, a cat bed and a shop sign. In this play, you won't be needing any doors, windows, or furniture.

But you can use doors if you want to:

Fort Stockton, TX

A comfy chair can be nice too:

South Saint Paul, MN

As for the sign, I like the old-timey look of this one:

West Pawlet, VT

Or you can paint one right on the counter:

Huntingdon Valley, PA

Some theaters are happy with just a bookcase or two:

Carroll, IA

While others go nuts:

Seaside, OR

Still others build a whole wall out of them:

Thornton, CO

Some even paint books on the flats:

Spokane, WA

Using book covers as posters is a great idea:

Medford, OR

You can also use oversized books as set pieces:

Aberdeen, WA

Or one really big book for the book characters to enter from:

Pearl, MS

The grandfather clock and fireplace here add a homey touch:

Kearney, NE

While this backdrop lends a more elegant air:

Eudora, KS

I really like this colorful, circus-like set:

Clarksville, IN

And the mimimalist, almost dreamlike quality of this set is quite striking.

Thunder Bay, ON

These are just a few of the sets I've found online. If you're proud of yours (and why wouldn't you be?), email it to me and I'll add it here.

By the way, The Enchanted Bookshop Musical has the exact same set as the play, so you can use the designs shown here for that show too.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Tarheel Wicked passes the torch

So the Community Youth Players, the Andrews, NC youth theater that snagged that half hour radio interview the other day, has now made it into their local paper. It's a good writeup, with lots of quotes from the young actors preparing for their opening of Wicked Is As Wicked Does tomorrow night.

As the article makes clear, they've been hugely successful in attracting talent from all over the area. And why wouldn't they? Many of their current actors are the kids or grandkids of previous actors, going all the way back to the grouo's founding in the 1970's.

"We're just so blessed to have them coming to us," says director Lori Coffey.

I'm sure they feel just as blessed for this opportunity to strut their stuff--and to continue the legacy that the older generation has given them.

Again, the show runs September 20-22 and 27-29 at the Valleytown Cultural Arts Center in Andrews. If you live in the area, please give them your support.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

On Sharpay, Grandpa Joe and lotteries

So here's a fun story. It seems that Emily Cacnio, a student at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, put together a slide presentation for her English class arguing that Sharpay Evans was not the antagonist of High School Musical but the hero.

Seems crazy, doesn't it? But she makes some good points.

Sharpay and her brother Ryan were the real professionals in the situation, not Troy and Gabrielle. They're the ones who showed up on time for the audition. They're the ones who put together an elaborate routine with original music.

And let's face it. She deserved to be lead. She was clearly more talented.

But Cacnio overlooks a few things.

Sharpay's shallowness and self-absorption make her completely unsympathetic. And in contemporary movies, that's often all it takes to move a character from the hero to the villain category.

She totally tried to steal Troy from Gabrielle. And being willing to do anything to achieve her goals is not the positive trait Cacnio thinks it is.

Be focused, sure. But don't be a jerk.

Plus, I've always felt that at the high school level, teachers have no business casting solely on talent. Their job is education, not entertainment, and you achieve that by giving students at all skill levels as many different roles as possible during those formative four years.

That pretty blonde with the killer pipes and the personality that just leaps off the stage? Think how much better an actor she'll be after stage managing a show or running the sound board.

So yeah, I still view Sharpay as the villain. But I do find it interesting that the writers of High School Musical decided to make the villain someone with a ton of theatrical experience while the heroes were mere dilettantes.

And there can be only one explanation for that. Our country's lottery culture. Why work hard for something if you can win it through luck?

Exhibit A. The candy bar opening scene in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:
Charlie: I've got the same chance as anyone else, haven't I? 
Grandpa Joe: You've got more, Charlie, because you want it more.
You used to see it on American Idol. You see it now on America's Got Talent and a gazillion other reality shows.

The producers on these shows don't promote the contestants who've struggled at their art for years. They promote the ones who recently discovered some innate talent and poopoo professional training because it might spoil their "authenticity".

Well, I've got news for them. Talent is overrated. What leads to success is work. Hard, knuckle-bleeding work. And lots of it.

So while Sharpay may be the villain, there's one small part of me that wants her to win, if only to show that hard work wins over "wanting it more".

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bookshop musical goes north -- really north!

My plays have been performed in some exotic locations: Panama, The Philippines, Abu Dhabi. But even I was surprised to see where the first group to book The Enchanted Bookshop Musical was located: Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada.

The mostly Inuit community has a population of 7700 and serves as the capital of the territory. Situated on the west coast of Baffin Island, it's locked in by ice for much of the year but features a modern airport that keeps it connected to the rest of the country all year long.

The musical is going be performed in May by Nakasuk Elementary School, shown in the photo below.

Break legs, everybody! I hope you have a ton of fun with it.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Tarheel Wicked hits the airwaves

Check this out. Two talented young actors in beautiful Andrews, NC were interviewed by their local radio station about their upcoming production of Wicked Is As Wicked Does. And wow, was the radio station generous with their time! About 30 minutes generous, in fact (I'm more used to 5 minute interviews).

Sure, the hosts riff on a number of only loosely related topics during the interview, but a lot of it was about the play and the kids (Jordan and Kencade) did a great pitching it to their community.

Andrews is located in the Great Smoky Mountains so it's not a heavily populated area, but if any of you lovely readers live there, I urge you to see the show. And bring everyone you know with you.

You can find all the deets in the graphic below:

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Doggy detectives find a home

I've been tough on the New Play Exchange in the past. When it first launched four years ago, I complained that they were putting way too much emphasis on signing up playwrights to list their plays and not enough on recruiting theater companies to search for and produce those plays.

Well, things are getting better. Over the last year, I've heard from numerous playwrights who've gotten discovered through the site. Not by publishers (at least not yet), but it seems plenty of theater companies--both big and small--are filling the odd slots in their seasons with plays they find on the site.

I'd never gotten contacted by one, but I'd chalked that up to the fact that I primarily write plays for youth. The teachers who select plays for young actors still tend to rely on publisher's catalogs and word of mouth.

I started to think I would never get contacted. Maybe the New Play Exchange wasn't meant for my me.

And then, in the last two weeks, I received not one but two inquiries from theater companies. And that's exactly two more than I've ever received from this website.

The first was a nonprofit in Maryland that tours plays in schools. They wanted to know how much I would charge for performances of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye.

Since that play is published by Pioneer Drama Service, I quoted them Pioneer's rate and then directed them to the play's website. I haven't seen the group pop up on my account yet so I'm thinking they went in a different direction.

The second was a children's theater group in Wellington, New Zealand, of all places. Gemma, the director, had already ordered Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras (as a matter of fact, she's going to give the play its world premiere next month), and she liked it so much that she went to the New Play Exchange to see what else I'd written.

As it turned out, she loved Doggone Detectives. And therein lies another whole tale (tail?).

When I first wrote the play, I thought I had a winner. The play featured three adorable leads--a German Shepherd who'd been drummed off the police force for eating the evidence in a sausage-stealing case, a bloodhound with a nose for crime (and a mouth for snacks), and a yippy little terrier who desperately wanted to be a detective. There was only one small problem. She was afraid of everything.

Other  was also easy to produce and crammed full of poochy puns. It even won the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre. But I couldn't get it published to save my life.

Pioneer was the first to reject it. They thought the costumes would be too challenging because they  would have to be specific to the breed.

Heuer and TheatreFolk thought the play was too young. YouthPlays failed to get enthused. And Eldridge wasn't talking.

Oh, one other thing. It wasn't called Doggone Detectives then. When I first submitted it to Pioneer, it was called Big Trouble in Dogtown. But I quickly soured on that title. It sounded too close to my play Trouble in Paradise Junction. More importantly, it didn't communicate the idea that the play was a detective story.

Its next title was Bow Wow Detectives. And that's the title under which it won the Beverly Hills contest.

Then earlier this year, I received a cease and desist letter from a self-published author who'd trademarked that exact same title for her series of books about dogs that aren't detectives and detectives that aren't dogs. I politely pointed out that her own trademark registration did not include plays as a category, but she refused to back off. And by that time, I started to think that the title might be a little too young.

So I gave the play its third (and hopefully final) title: Doggone Detectives. And that's the title under which it'll receive its world premiere next month in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand.

Anyway, if you're a playwright and you're looking for a way to promote your plays, I highly recommend you include the New Play Exchange as one part of a broader marketing strategy. It only costs $10 a year, and even if you get only one production every three or four years, it'll still pay for itself.

Those slobbering sleuths have paid for mine.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras is now available!

I remember seeing the 1985 Jeff Goldblum/Michelle Pfeiffer thriller Into The Night when it first came out in theaters. I don't remember a lot about the movie, but there was one scene that has stuck in my mind all those years.

It was the statis = death scene, the early scene that's meant to show how boring and meaningless the hero's life is. This always happens just before the inciting incident and helps provide a contrast with the conflict and tension that comes later.

In the scene, a team of electrical engineers are meeting in a conference room. A complex circuit diagram is being shown on an overhead, and one of the engineers drones on and on, explaining in excruciating detail how the microscopic defect he found had caused the chip to fail. Sitting in the back of the room, it's all Jeff Goldblum can do to stay awake.

Clearly, the screenwriters wanted to show the dullest, most mind-numbingly boring job imaginable. But as I sat there and looked up at that screen, only one thought came into my head: That's exactly what I do for a living.

I guess this is my way of saying that sometimes we all need a little more excitement in our lives. We all long for thrills and adventure.

That's the theme of Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras, which was just released by Pioneer Drama Service. It's my 15th play to be published by them and, I think, one of my funniest.

As the play begins, four princess sisters--Pearl, Ruby, Emerald and Opal--bid their beaus a fond farewell. The princes are setting sail to capture Blacktooth, the most vile pirate on the seven seas, leaving the princesses to their boring, humdrum lives in the castle.

How do the princesses respond? The only way they know how: by crying their eyes out.

That's when Amber, the fifth princess arrives. She's not like her sisters. She loves adventure, she loves excitement--and she doesn't need a man around to muck up her life.

Disgusted by her sisters' emotional display, she suggests that the best way to get their mind off their sorrows is to have some good old-fashioned fun. So she hauls out their old costume trunk and joins her sisters in acting out their own pirate adventure.

Well, who should be spying on them but Blacktooth himself? Believing them to be bloodthirsty pirates, he forces them to serve as his crew, since his previous crew mysteriously disappeared (he pushed them overboard).

Amber couldn't be more excited. Here at last is her chance to lead a life of adventure.

But she soon discovers that the pirate life isn't all it's cracked up to be. The food is frightful, the rats are repugnant, and Blacktooth has the most vile breath on the seven seas.

That's where the funny comes in, and lots of it. But the play runs deeper than that.

As princesses, the sisters never had to do anything for themselves. It's not until they're on the ship, posing as pirates, that they get their first real taste of independence. And when it becomes clear that nobody's going to rescue them, they finally find the courage to take charge of their lives and do what it takes to rescue themselves.

Back in 1985, I finally found a way to add some excitement in my life. I took up writing, and the stories I've created since then have provided me with all the adventure I need.

Do the five princesses of Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras learn to savor the adventure they find themselves in? Well, to learn the answer to that, you're going to have to read the script.