Monday, June 30, 2014

More free samples

I've just uploaded free samples for my unpublished full-length plays. This includes my backstage farce Kill the Critic!, my fractured fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye and my newest play, a restaurant face titled Million Dollar Meatballs. To read them, visit my Plays page or just click on the links below.

Million Dollar Meatballs
Comedy, 6M/6F, 90min

A pair of bumbling jewel thieves hide from the police in a struggling restaurant, only to misplace their diamonds in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs that gets served to the local restaurant critic. Read a sample.

Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye
Comedy, 6M/11F/12U, 90min

Fairy Tale Land has been hit by a crime wave. The Three Bears had their home broken into. The Three Little Pigs had their homes destroyed. Now Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is missing.  Could an evil mastermind be behind them all? Only hard-boiled detective Rumpelstiltskin can crack this case. Read a sample.

Kill the Critic!
Comedy, 7M/2F, 90min

On the night of his Broadway debut, Trevor Stanton kidnaps New York City's most powerful theatre critic to prevent him from writing a bad review. There's just one problem. Trevor accidentally poisons the critic, and as showtime nears he must take increasingly desperate measures to hide the corpse from a parade of outrageous characters. Read a sample.

If you'd like to see a full script for possible production, please email me by clicking here.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to get media attention for your show

With fewer newspaper pages devoted to the arts, and TV and radio increasingly focused on Hollywood properties like the latest Spiderman reboot, it can be hard to get your little show the media attention it deserves.

But it can be done. Here are some ideas that have worked for me.

1. Find a slow weekend--Let's face it. In the vast universe of the theatrical arts, your show is a mere speck. If it opens the same weekend as the latest revival of Oklahoma! at Big City Arts Center, every media outlet in town is going to give their attention to Curley and Laurie. So the single most important thing you can do for your show is also the first: schedule it on a slow weekend when it's the only show in town and arts reporters are begging for stories. Yes, this requires planning ahead, but it pays off huge in terms of publicity.

2. Forget the fancy press release--You don't need it. What you need is an email that you can send to each and every arts editor, critic, report and blogger in your community (don't forget TV reporters and radio talk show hosts). Address it to them by name and make it personal. Did you enjoy their coverage of a similar show? Then say so.

And keep it short. Journalists are busy people. They don't have time to read your treatise on why you wrote the play or what you hope the audience takes away form it. Just give them a hook (more on that later) and the facts: date, time, venue, ticket prices.

Oh, and offer them comps--whether or not they report on your show. It never hurts to have local media types familiar with your work, even if it doesn't pay off until years later.

3. Give them a hook--What sets your play apart from everything else on local stages? Has it won a national award? Does it star some local celeb? Does the plot feature a twist that's never been seen before? Something's got to make your show unique of the reporters reading your email are going to click that cute little trash can icon.

4. Get photos--No matter who you contact, they're going to want photos. Be ready. Don't wait until you hear back from the local newspaper to do your photo shoot. They may not have time to wait.

Don't worry about getting a top-notch camera. A smartphone works fine. Focus instead on the content of the photo. To capture people's interest, the photo needs to include four things: 1) a glimpse of the set, 2) costumes, 3) two or more characters (one is boring), and 4) action (no talking heads). Do this right and you'll give readers a simple memorable image of what your play's about.

5. Be quotable--If you get interviewed for an article or news piece, you'll want to sound like you're talking off the cuff. But it doesn't hurt to come up with one or two "quotes" ahead of time that you can drop into the conversation. Why should people come see your show? What do you want people to get out of it? This is where you can include all thosee clever little things you wanted to say about your show in your email but didn't have room for.

6. Say thank you--Your mom always told you to write thank-you notes and that's still good advice today. After your story hits the print or the airwaves, send a brief email to the reporter thanking them for their time. If there's an error in the article, let it go. Trust me. The article always has an error. What's important is that you got publicity.

That goes double for theatre critics. If you get a negative review, you'll be tempted to argue with them by email or even on an online forum. Don't. It makes you look petty, and it makes the critic less likely to review your next show. Just suck it up and move on.

After all, what they say is true. The only bad publicity is no publicity. And besides, nothing is more important for your future promotional efforts than maintaining a positive relationship with reporters and critics today.

Even if you want to strangle them.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Make 'em laugh


I caught the local production of The Butler Did It! twice last weekend, and I look forward to going one more time before it closes this Saturday I could write a 500-word blog on why I keep returning to my own play, but as is usually the case, Wall Street Journal theatre critic Terry Teachout has already  covered this issue.

As Teachout suggested, it's a treat. To hear an audience respond to your work is one of the great joys in life. And rarer than you might think.

Of the 100+ productions of my work since 2010, I've gotten to see exactly 7--and all but one were in Colorado. Theatres just don't have it in their budgets to fly playwrights in, and I don't have it in my budget to fly myself. So I enjoy most of my productions vicariously, either through production photos (always a blast!) or through emails from the director or cast members.

But Teachout left out one other important reason: to learn where the laughs fall. I've written comedies for 9 years now, and coming up with a good gag is as much a mystery to me now as it was when I started. Nothing can replace the immediate feedback of a live audience to tell you what works--and what doesn't.

And although actors like to say that every audience is different, I've found that the response remains remarkably consistent from production to production and performance to performance.

If you have fewer than 20 people in the theater (as we did Saturday afternoon), you won't get laughs no matter how funny your script is. Get more than 20 people in the room, and the same lines will get the same laughs time after time after time.

The Butler Did It! is already published, so it's too late to tweak the dialogue now. But studying where the laughs fall is sure to help me in future plays, even if writing a good gag remains more art than science.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Butler in Broadway World

And another review is in, this one from Christi Esterle by way of Broadway World. She writes:
Local playwright Wallinger has written a gently affectionate spoof of a drawing-room mystery, complete with a thinly veiled Agatha Christie clone and threaded with a black humor reminiscent of Arsenic and Old Lace. (One of the household members, a rifle-wielding granny convinced she's fighting the Boer War, is essentially a female variation on Arsenic's Uncle Teddy.) With shaky British accents and uneven comedic timing, the production at the Black Box is carried off with more enthusiasm than skill, but both the audience and myself found the show entertaining and humorous, and some performances do stand out...

While not perfect, The Butler Did It! has a lot of heart and humor behind it and is a fine offering from a Colorado author, and that is enough to recommend it.
To read the whole thing, click here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Glowing review for The Butler Did It!

As they say in every backstage play ever written, the reviews are in!

Or at least one of them. This glowing review is written by long-time critic and theatre enthusiast Bill Wheeler, who runs the Theatre Colorado blog. Wheeler is one of the few critics in the state to make a point of reviewing new work.

Wheeler gave a big thumbs up to David Olson's portrayal of the hapless butler, describing his comedic timing as "spot on", as well as Daniel Robbins' "charming, engaging, and somewhat mischievous" turn as the priest.

As for the script, well, here's what he had to say: 
Wallinger's script delicately sets up the mystery and the final payoff. His characters are decidedly typical of the genre, bringing both credibility and complexity to the story. There is an elegant symmetry to the plot, as both the Barstows and the Covingtons have the illusion of wealth but a justified fear of poverty. The British upper class is the butt of the biggest jokes Wallinger weaves into his story.
After being a theatre critic for over 4 years, it feels odd to find myself on this side of the inkwell. But if all my reviews are this positive, I think I'll get to used it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Butler in the news

The Butler Did It! opens in my hometown tomorrow night, and to support that, the Colorado Springs Independent gave it a nice writeup today. Thanks, Indy!

And yes, I've got to stop saying "kind of".

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Going crazy down under

And my 10-minute comedy You're Driving Me Crazy #1 has just been selected for the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival (the world's largest short play festival) in Canberra, Australia. Which really is crazy because when I wrote this comedy about the driving instructor from hell, I thought it would only be of interest to high schools. I didn't think it stood a snowball's chance of getting into any adult contests.

But I submitted it--and its three companion plays--anyway. Between them, they've had four productions, gotten a reading in New York City, were used for classroom study in Colorado and Massachusetts and are scheduled for another four productions between now and the end of the year.

Sometimes you just got to submit.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Beverly Hills gumshoe

I just learned that my new play Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye won the 2014 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre, also known as the Marilyn Hall Award. No production is attached to this prize, but I do get a nice check.

The play has Rumpelstiltskin as a 40's-style gumshoe attempting to find the evil matsermind behind the famous crimes of the Grimm Brothers tales. It's full of fast-talking dames, tough yeggs and the worst puns this side of the Annoying Orange.

Although I've won a couple of regional contests and my backstage farce Kill the Critic! came close in the McLaren and Pickering awards, this is my first win in a national contest. Looking over past winners of this award, it appears that they favor social dramas, historical dramas and faithful adaptations of classic myths, so I feel honored that they selected my silly little comedy.