Saturday, May 31, 2014

On the air tonight

I just had a great conversation with my former boss Warren Epstein. The fact that this conversation took place on the radio didn't detract at all from the conviviality of that conversation.

Warren and I go way back. At least if you consider 2008 way back. That's when he chose me to replace the departing Mark Arnest as theatre critic for the Colorado Springs Gazette.

At the time, I was struggling to get anything published, and this opportunity to write (and get paid!) on a near-weekly basis for over 100,000 readers disciplined me to write fast and write well. And even though we've both moved on (Warren is now the communications director for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center), I'll forever be grateful to him for giving me my start.

So I was especially excited when offered to put me on this week's edition of his radio show, The Ticket.

The Ticket is everything an arts show should be and so often isn't: lively, fun and very, very unstuffy. Warren has a knack for finding the humor in any topic and our conversation this afternoon was no different.

Dave Olson and Jenny Maloney from the Colorado Springs cast of The Butler Did It! were gracious enough to join me, and together the four of us covered a wide range of theatre-related subjects: what makes for a good play, the role of comedy in society, how to make money at this crazy game. I even got to put in a long plug for my monthly playwriting group The Drama Lab. And through it all, we had a blast.

To listen to the broadcast, click here. The audio players requires Flash, so it may not work on your mobile device. case, try opening it on your home computer.

Or click here to access the MP3 file directly. Click Download, select "Open with Windows Media Player" and click OK.

If you live in the Pikes Peak region, I encourage to tune into The Ticket each Saturday at 2pm on KVOR 740AM. Or listen to any of the archived shows on the show's web page. Either way, you'll learn about the wealth of art happenings in our area--and you'll have a lot of laughs in the process.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Discovering meatballs

I'm thrilled to announce that my newest play, Million Dollar Meatballs, will get its world premiere at the Discovery Canyon Campus High School in Colorado Springs, CO in October. The play is a full-length comedy about a bungling pair of jewel thieves who hide out in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant and accidentally lose their diamonds in a batch of meatballs. I think it may be my funniest play. It's certainly the most frenzied.

I'm thrilled for two reasons. First, I really need to workshop it before I submit it to a publisher. It's a complicated farce with tons of physical humor, and action occurring in two rooms at the same time. I want to see how it works in the rehearsal room and I fully expect to rework whole sections of it to make sure it's easily producible.

Second, I've wanted to get involved with a local high school for a long time--and Discovery Canyon is one of the best. Amy Keating, who runs the theatre program there, knows how to get the best out of her kids. And she does something few other drama teachers do: she gives budding young playwrights an opportunity to see their own works on the stage.

So I can't wait to work with Amy, and to see her kids bring this crazy fireball of a play to life.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The butler comes home

If you're one of my Colorado Springs readers, I want to let you know that The Butler Did It! will be performed at Black Box Theatre, 1367 Pecan St., next month.

Since it was published a year ago, The Butler Did It! has been performed in 17 states and Australia, but this is the first time it'll be produced in my own home town.

When I've got a play in town, it's always tempting to pop in to rehearsal. Last year, I poked my head in quite a bit during rehearsals for Kill the Critic!

But then I had a good excuse. I was a producer and a big chunk of my money was on the line.

My presence didn't help. My spy--I mean my daughter--was in the cast and she reported that--big surprise!--the cast members felt intimidated by me.

For one, they wanted to know why I never laughed. Didn't I like their work?

What they didn't know is that I rarely laugh at my own stuff. Comedy is just too serious a subject to me.

So this time I've decided to stay away, and I have no qualms about it. The production is being directed by my friend Nancy Holaday, who did such a great job with Kill the Critic!, and I have all the confidence in the world that she'll bang it out of the park again.

Just as important, much of the cast of Kill the Critic! has returned to star in this production, and if anyone is going to make me laugh, they will.

The show runs June 5-14. And if it's anything like Kill the Critic!, tickets are going to disappear fast. To order yours, visit the Black Box web site.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Lester wins in Canada

I want to send out a great big congrats to the gifted theatre students of Blackville Middle School in Blackville, NB. Their production of Long Tall Lester at the New Brunswick Drama Fest--Canada's largest school theatre festival--garnered awards for props and costumes as well as an honorable mention for one of the actors.

Interestingly, Long Tall Lester won a whole bunch of awards at last year's festival as well when Millerton School of Derby, NB performed it. The conclusion is obvious. ;)

Great job, everyone!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why you need a publisher

I often hear from playwrights who say that they don't want to be published. They hate the thought of splitting royalties with a faceless corporation. Even more, they hate the thought of giving up control over their plays. As a result, they spend a big chunk of their time promoting their play, arranging for the performance rights, collecting the fees and the myriad other activities required to get a play produced.

Now everyone has the right to pursue their career the way they see fit. But if your goal is to make some money at this game, then I think this view is shortsighted.

Last May, Pioneer Drama Service published my first full-length play, The Butler Did It! Now that it had the imprimatur of a major publishing house, I thought I would bolster their promotional efforts by advertising it myself.

I ordered 250 postcards, bought a big spool of postcard stamps and mailed them off, focusing on community theatre companies that had done goofy comedy/mysteries like mine.

The total cost was around $200. That may seem like a lot, but if the postcards resulted in just 2 productions, I'd break even.

So yesterday, I received my annual royalty statement from Pioneer. I was thrilled to see that The Butler Did It! had gotten 24 productions. Surprisingly, however, not a single one came from those postcards. They were all a result of Pioneer own promotional efforts.

I'm sure a few came from people stumbling across Pioneer's website as the result of a Google search. But I suspect that the bulk came from people who were already loyal customers of Pioneer, and knew what to expect when ordering a play from their catalog.

So yeah, my postcards earned me a big fat goose egg. And that's for a play that's already published. Imagine how much more difficult it is to get a production with a play that hasn't been published.

My other plays did well too. Last year, I was a little worried because the number of productions for The _urloined Letter had dropped from 9 in its first year to 4 in its second year. But this year it nearly regained all that lost ground with 8 productions. And Long Tall Lester did even better, its 18 productions representing a healthy 20% increase over its inaugural count of 15 productions.

As a playwright, you often feel like your plays are your children. And it can be hard to send them out into the world without you.

But plays are meant to be produced, and the best way to achieve that is to get them picked up by a publishing house that will give them as much care and attention as you would yourself.