Thursday, December 31, 2015

A look back at 2015

On the first day of this year, I laid out ten goals that I hoped to accomplish in 2015. Not resolutions, mind you, but goals. They weren't good habits I was hoping to pick up or bad habits I was hoping to break, but things that I hoped to accomplish in my writing (mostly) and personal life.

How did I do? Well, here's the list plus my assessment whether I succeeded or failed in achieving each goal.

1) Increase writing time during the week from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour per day.

Success. I started writing 1 1/2 hours a day on January 1 and, other than a few vacation days in which I gave myself permission to play hookey, I haven't missed a day since. If I fall short one day, I make it up the next day.

2) Increase writing time on the weekend from 1 hour to 3 hours per day.

Failure. I did well for about two months, then life got in the way. Still, I manage to squeeze in 3 hours of writing on the occasional slow Saturday or Sunday.

3) Cut way back on Facebook. Ten minutes a day should do it.

Failure. This has been an ongoing challenge for me. I waste too much not just on Facebook but all social media. Sometimes it's easy to convince yourself that it's a good investment of time, that it's important to keep marketing yourself online. But the payoff I've seen from social media marketing is minimal. It's just a huge time sink, and one I can't afford to keep indulging.

4) Only submit to markets that pay.

Halfway success. I did submit to a few markets that didn't pay, but these were for special opportunities that I wanted to get involved with for reasons other than money. But for the most part, I managed to avoid the siren call of those countless playwriting contests that offer a reading or production as their only prize. My total submission count for the year was 108, which was down significantly from each of the last two years. I expect that my submission count will continue to drop as I increasingly focus on youth plays, which I can submit directly to Pioneer and other publishers without the need to get productions first.

5) Get Million Dollar Meatballs published.

Success. The play was published by Pioneer Drama Service in August.

6) Get You're Driving Me Crazy published

Success. The play was published by Pioneer Drama Service in November.

7) Get my first professional production for Kill the Critic!

Failure. I did get a second production of this play, in Austin, TX, but this was by an amateur group. Sadly, none of the professional theatre companies I've submitted the play to have shown any interest. And I don't understand why. This is probably my funniest play, and everyone who sees it seems to love it.

8) Finish the school play I'm currently working on.

Success. While I didn't want to give any details at the time, I can tell you now that this play was How I Met Your Mummy. I finished writing it in March and it was published by Pioneer Drama Service in December. I may never get another three-play year again, but as I'm starting to build up my portfolio, I'll gladly take this one.

9) Finish the adult play I've struggled with off and on for the last two years.

Success. This play is Butterfly Effect, an adult farce with a very dark twist at the end. I think it may be the best thing I've written. Sadly, however, I've received absolutely no interest from any of the theatre companies I've submitted it to. My struggles with this play and Kill the Critic! just go to show how much harder it is to get productions for an adult play.

10) Lose 10 pounds (my wife made me add this one).

Success. I actually thought this was going to be the hardest of the ten goals to accomplish since I've tried and failed so many times before. But in February, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, which may be one of the best things that ever happened to me. My doctor put me on a low-sodium diet and told me to start exercising. I'm now eating a lot more fruits and vegetables and hiking half an hour every day, enabling me to reach that elusive 10 pound goal. And I feel a whole lot better as a result.

Summing it all up then, I achieved six and a half of my ten goals. Not too bad, I suppose, but I'm hoping to do even better next year.

Besides these accomplishments, I also had my South Korea and Philippines premieres. And with productions in Kansas, New Jersey and Georgia, I have now reached 45 of the 50 states. Only Delaware, West Virginia, New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii remain. Can I close those out in 2016? Possibly. And if so, it'll be Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye that does it. That play is taking me all sorts of places I've never seen before.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Let loose the mummy!

My seventh play--and third new play of the year--has just been published. How I Met Your Mummy is a classic farce that runs 85 minutes and has a cast of 11 (5M/6F). Here's the blurb:
In this hysterically witty, spine-tingling farce, the O. Howe Dulle Museum is about to unveil their latest find -- a mysterious mummy named Yo-Wut-Sup. There's nothing dull about this museum considering everyone wants to get their hands on this ancient man! A pushy reporter vows to prove Yo-Wut-Sup is a hoax. A wacky mystic intends to sneak him back to Egypt. Three high school students want to use him in their low-budget horror film. And two clueless robbers plan to steal the mummy, if only they can figure out what one looks like. Can Melvin Trimble, the world's most cowardly security guard, stop all of them considering it's his first night on the job? Or will he be left taking the "wrap"? And why are there, not one, not  two, but three creepy mummies roaming the halls? Now museum, now you don't!
As I come across photos from productions of my plays, one thing has struck me again and again. Many schools and community theatres are performing the plays on a shoestring, with very little room for an elaborate set. In fact, many of the productions have no set at all. Instead, they're mounted in an empty corner of a classroom or school basement.

I think that's great. Theatre is a wonderful thing, and space or budget limitations shouldn't prevent students and small town audiences from reaping the benefits of it. But that does pose a significant challenge for me in my own writing. How can I make my plays simple to produce while maintaining a professional level of storytelling?

For this play, the answer was simple. I did away with the set. All you need is two exits, a sarcophagus, a table and a chair.

The costumes are fairly detailed, and there several props and sound cues that need to be provided. But overall, it's one of my easiest plays to produce.

For ordering info and a sample from the script, please visit the play's webpage.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hawkeye meatballs

And if, after watching that clip of Million Dollar Meatballs, you want to see the whole play, you can--thanks to the Wolf Creek Players of Dysart, IA. Their production was a hoot, with some clever ad libs (their actors broke into laughter more than once), and they even figured how to stage the "swordfight" at the climax of the play with a larger-than-life knife and fork (check it out starting at the 1:04:57 mark).

Nice work, everyone!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why high school theatre survives

It's a sad fact that all across this country, high schools are cutting their theatre programs, especially if that school is in a small community. Especially if that community isn't all that prosperous to begin with.

However, it's also true that a lot of these schools are keeping their theatre programs alive, and often that's purely due to the passion and dedication of the teachers and students.

That's what happened at Fort Lupton High School, which I visited last Friday so I could see their production of my play Million Dollar Meatballs. A year ago, this school--the only high school in a small agricultural community northeast of Denver--dropped all of its theatre classes due to budget constraints.

But Connie Garcia, the school's Spanish/ESL teacher (lower left in the photo), refused to let the program die. There were too many students who loved theatre, too many students for whom performing was their only creative outlet.

So she recruited some other teachers and former students to help out and, like Mickey and Judy before them, they put on a show. They did it on a shoestring, often making dozens of calls to find someone who could donate a single prop like the old stovefront used in the play.

Their commitment paid off. The performance I saw was very well-done, and the audience ate it up, laughing hysterically in all the right places (and some that weren't right!).

A bonus--for both the students and myself--was a Q&A session Ms. Garcia arranged earlier in the day. We assembled in the school auditorium and then, for an hour, I fielded questions from about 25 students, This included the entire cast and crew of the play as well as a handful of students from the school's creative writing class.

Like the kids, the questions were smart and funny. They were also surprisingly wide-ranging. Here are my favorites:

Q. What made you start writing?
A. I've always had so many stories in my head I needed to get them down on paper or it would explode.

Q. Which of my plays would I most like to see as a movie?
A. Million Dollar Meatballs. It's the most visual.

Q. What should I do if I find myself stuck in my own writing?
A. Make sure you know what your story is really about. Writing a one- or two-sentence synopsis can help with this. Also, try writing with a partner, which can get you out of a rut and take your thinking in new directions.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I usually start with a familiar setting, like a restaurant or museum, than try to twist it in some funny way.

Q. What's your zodiac sign?
A. Aries.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I want to thank Ms. Garcia and the entire staff at Fort Lupton High School for giving me this opportunity.

With dedicated teachers like these, high school theatre won't just survive. It'll thrive.

Friday, November 13, 2015

On encouragement

When I was in 9th grade, I had a class called Novels. All we did was read and read and read, and although I had to endure some abuse for carrying around a copy of Lisa, Bright and Dark for a couple of weeks, it was my favorite class.

One day, my teacher brought a special guest, a friend of hers who was a professional poet. She'd invited him to speak to our class about writing as a career.

As it happens, I had just completed my first novel, 83 hand-scrawled notebook pages about survival in the Far North titled Muktuk, The Story of a Banished Dog. Yeah, it was pretty much the Jack London ripoff it sounds like.

The Poet read it. I don't know whether he was just being nice or what, but he said that he liked it. He was especially impressed by its length, and predicted that in a few years I would have sweeping, thousand-page tomes on bookstore shelves across the country.

Of course I ended up writing silly little plays instead. But his encouragement stayed with me.

Today I'm driving up to Fort Lupton High School to see their production of Million Dollar Meatballs and to speak to the students about writing as a career.

Today I am that Poet.

I hope I do him justice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cornhusker gumshoe

Photo by Jory Schweers/Daily Sun staff

This upcoming production of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye by the Community Players in Beatrice, NE got a great writeup in the Beatrice Daily Sun. I liked this quote from director Tyler Rinne:
"It's a funny, goofy show that we can play up the crime and fairy tales in a funny way," Rinne said. "The cast and I have had fun mixing the cute and fluffy creatures of our favorite fairy tales with the familiar tropes of hard-boiled crime fiction."
From the costumes seen here and on my Photos page, it appears that they leaned more toward the hard-boiled and less toward the fluffy. And I think that's cool.

But what I like even more is what the kids had to say about the play:
Emily Allen, 10, who plays the Ugly Duckling, said they have had a lot of fun and laugh a lot during rehearsals. "I think this character fits me pretty well," she said. "I like to be funny, so this role has been fun to play."
Break legs, everybody!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Start your engines!

My sixth play has just been published by Pioneer Drama Service. You're Driving Me Crazy! is a collection of  four 10-minute comedies set in a driver's ed class. You can perform them all with a combined cast of 7 (2M/5F) or use different actors for a total cast of 13 (5M/8F). Here's the blurb:
Most people have some funny stories about learning to drive, and driver's ed seems to add to the absurdity of this rite of passage. These four scenes take a hilarious look at the world of driver's ed, especially from the instructor's perspective. In them, we meet: 1) a nervous teacher who doesn't seem to know the first think about driving, 2) a teenage girl who brings some unexpected guests to her first driving class, 3) a teenage boy who's forced to share a car with his temperamental ex-girlfriend, and 4) a teenage girl who can't break away from her smartphone long enough to learn how to drive. You'll love the unique structure of this piece, composed of four individual 10 minute plays, each standing alone yet related thematically. Whether performed individually, making them perfect for talent shows and speech competitions, or together for an evening's entertainment, you're guaranteed miles of smiles and gallons of laughter.
To order a preview copy or read a sample from the script, please visit the play's webpage.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stealing from the best

I don't know why I didn't see this before, but this clip of Million Dollar Meatballs has been posted on YouTube since last October. In fact, the clip is from the world premiere, which was produced by Discovery Canyon Campus in Colorado Springs, CO.

As described earlier on this blog, the cast was phenomenal. They improvised readily, and a lot of their bits ended up in the final, published version of the script.

One prominent example can be seen in this clip. Starting around the 1:00 mark is a scene between Cecil Blueblood, the arrogant restaurant critic (played by Josh Owen), and Humphrey, the snarky maitre d' (played by Grant Lattanzi).

As you'll see, Grant drew out much of the scene, giving the character a languid air that was not at all what I had in mind when I wrote the scene (I usually prefer more rapid-fire dialogue) but works really well here.

Humphrey tries to get Mr. Blueblood's name, which the critic wants to keep a secret.

HUMPHREY: And what is your name, sir?

CECIL: Uh, just put me down as Mr. X,

HUMPHREY: Very good, sir. And how do you spell that?

CECIL: M-i-s--

HUMPHREY: No, no. I mean the X part.

CECIL: Just draw two lines that cross in the middle.

In my original script, the gag ends there. Humphrey writes an X in his reservation book and the scene continues.

But Grant and Josh came up with a really clever bit. Humphrey draws a huge plus sign on his ledger and holds it up for Cecil--and the audience--to see. Cecil then tips the ledger in Humphrey's hand, turning the scribble from a plus sign to an X.

Man, why didn't I think of that?

A contrary example is shown later in the clip, starting around the 10:00 mark. Frazzled restaurant owner Sue DeJour (Ashley Miller) is looking for smart alecky dishwasher Olive Pitt (Tayler Scriber) and when she asks Humphrey, "Where's Olive?", he responds with a wry, "I imagine she's in a martini."

It's a funny line, and during the show, it usually got a good laugh. But I didn't include it in the final script.

Why? Because of pacing. The momentum in this scene comes from Sue's search for the elusive Olive, not the dialogue, and I thought it was more important to maintain that momentum than to squeeze in one more laugh.

How does that saying go? If you're going to steal, steal from the best? Well, these students were some of the best I'd ever worked with, so I had no qualms using their ideas in the script.

After all, in the theatre at least, there's another word for "stealing". It's "collaborating".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sorkin on writing

Say what you want about Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, but you've got to admit the guy knows how to spin a good yarn--in real life as well as on the big screen.

I saw him a few weeks ago on Conan when he showed up to promote his new film Steve Jobs (and let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that he's probably the only screenwriter working today who gets invited to appear on late night talk shows).

Conan asked Sorkin about his writing habits, and Sorkin described how he likes to act out his scenes while he writes them. One time, when he was working on a fight scene, he forgot where he was and smashed his face into a bathroom mirror, breaking his nose. But the injury wasn't the worst of it. No, the worst of it was when people asked him how he broke his nose and Sorkin was forced to answer "writing".

I think that's a great model for us writers. If we're not viscerally involved in our writing, if we're not living our characters' lives and fighting our characters' battles, then we're not pushing ourselves hard enough.

Writing... it's not for sissies.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wanted: Meatballs

Leave it to those creative teachers and students at Fort Lupton High School in Colorado to come up with a new twist on their poster for Million Dollar Meatballs. They used a very eye-catching design, and played up the criminal aspect of the villains by making the whole thing look like one of those old-time wanted posters. What a fun way to promote the show!

This production happens to be just an hour and a half up the road for me, so you can bet I'll be showing up one of those nights. Break legs, everybody!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Meatballs are ready!

I just received my copies of the script for Million Dollar Meatballs. Pioneer Drama Service always does a good job with their artwork, but I especially love what they came up with here. You've got to wonder how those thieves intend to use those cooking utensils in their getaway.

The script has only been available since August, but it's already gotten a great response, with productions booked for this fall in Lanesville, IN, Fort Lupton, CO and Dysart, IA (and those are just the ones that popped up on my Google alerts). Break legs, everybody!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Auditions for the world premiere of my new play The Last Radio Show have been scheduled for 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Sunday, October 18 at Library 21c in Colorado Springs. For complete information, please visit the play's blog.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Shenandoah gumshoe

You've got to love the passion and humor that went into this very professional trailer from Elkton Middle School in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I love how this time the adults are getting into the fun, with the school's faculty making up much of the cast. Baby Bear's deafening footsteps are a hoot too.

Break legs, everybody!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The mummy awakes

I just received the contract for How I Met Your Mummy, my seventh play to be published by Pioneer Drama Service.

As previously mentioned, this play won the 2015 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre. Like Kill the Critic! and Million Dollar Meatballs before it, How I Met Your Mummy is a farce in the classic sense, with snappy one-liners, hilarious mix-ups and tons of physical humor.

It may also be the easiest of my full-length plays to produce. There are few technical requirements and no need for a set at all. All of the action takes place around a single sarcophagus that can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. The only real challenge is the need to provide three similar-looking mummy costumes, only one of which needs to be changed into and out of during the course of the play.

When I was kid, I used to love watching old monster movies, especially funny ones like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or, yes, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Well, this play is a throwback to those wacky comedies of old. It's about the world's most cowardly security guard, who must protect the O. Howe Dulle Museum's new mummy from being stolen, only to discover that there are, not one, not two, but three creepy mummies roaming the halls.

How I Met Your Mummy will be released in Pioneer's spring supplement this December. That catalog, by the way, will also mark the first appearance of my driver's ed comedy You're Driving Me Crazy.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I want to be a... director?

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog titled "I want to be a producer". It was my way of announcing that I'd decided to produce the world premiere of my play Kill the Critic! At the time, I questioned my sanity due to the sheer amount of work required to produce a full-length play. And the simple fact that I had never produced one before.

Well, if I was borderline crazy at the time, I must be completely certifiable now because I've just signed up to not only produce but direct my new play, The Last Radio Show.

Why am I doing it? Well, I guess it's because I haven't produced a play since that time and I really want to get back into it. Not only was producing a blast, but sitting in on rehearsals and hearing the audience response taught me more about playwriting than anything I've ever done.

And if producing taught me that much, then directing should teach me a whole lot more.

Plus, I really, really want to do this one. It's a classic farce, my favorite type of play, and yet it should be easy to produce. There's no set. Light and sound cues are minimal. And much of the play will be read from scripts.

Of course, that's not to say that the play doesn't pose its own challenges. There will be plenty of sound effects, after all. It's just that they'll be generated onstage, just like they were in the Golden Age of Radio. There's also a ton of physical comedy, and making sure that part works is always the toughest part of developing a new play.

The process is already well underway. I've booked the theater. I've reserved a rehearsal space. I've set up the ticketing site. A couple of friends have even signed as stage manager and light/sound tech. Now I need to get the actors.

What's the play about, you say? Well, here's the blurb:
It's 1946, and KUKU Radio is in trouble. Their broadcast tower keeps falling over. The electric company is about to cut off their power. And now the station owner is threatening to fire the whole crew. Can this ragtag group of radio actors out together one perfect show? Or will they be shut down for good?
The show runs Jan 14-16 at Black Box Theatre, 1367 Pecan St., Colorado Springs. Tickets are just $15, To get yours (you know this won't be the last you hear about it!), go to

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Million Dollar Meatballs is here!

My fifth play has just been published by Pioneer Drama Service. Million Dollar Meatballs is a full-length farce that I first developed at a local high school last year. It has 12 roles (4M/4F/4 either) and runs about 70 minutes.

Here's the blurb:
Get ready for a comedy of epicurean proportions! Two bumbling jewel thieves are on the run from the cops when they duck into Chez Monyeu, a restaurant so bad the mice are their only repeat customers. And that's just the start of their problems. Not only has Chez Monyeu's chef just quit, but the city's most powerful restaurant critic is about to arrive. In desperation, the restaurant's owner, mistaking the thieves for famous French chefs, insist that they make their renowned Million Dollar Meatballs for the tough-minded critic. Insanity ensues as the pair try to keep up the ruse while hunting for the seven priceless diamonds they lost. Will the thieves get away with their crime? Where could the diamonds have gone? And why are the meatballs so crunchy? Find out in this deliciously funny farce!
I love all my plays equally, but this one holds a special place in my heart as it's my first classic farce. I just adore comedies that feature mistaken identity, outrageous accents and some poor sap getting water dumped in his lap. This play has all that and more.

To learn more, check out the play's web page here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kill the Critic! returns

After two years and over a hundred submissions to contests and theatre companies, both large and small, Kill the Critic! is finally getting its second production. Stage Presence Players in Austin, TX has just announced that they'll be performing the play in September.

I couldn't be more excited. My published plays have been getting a ton of productions, and I'm thrilled for every one of them. But this production is especially meaningful to me because this is probably my favorite play I've written. And its the first full-length production I've arranged myself.

Why did I take this route instead of submitting it directly to my publisher? Well, Kill the Critic! is my first "mature" play, a bawdy farce in the spirit of Noises Off or Boeing Boeing. I produced it that way for its world premiere, and audiences responded enthusiastically. I thought that professional theatres would gobble it up.

Well, they didn't. I got a few nibbles, with theatres in both NYC and LA asking to read the whole script. But no bites.

I thought the play was dead.

And then a funny thing happened. I heard from two different groups who had performed The Butler Did It!, wondering whether I had anything similar. I sent them Kill the Critic!, warning them that it was considerably more risque than my murder mystery.

They both loved it. And a great new theatre company in Austin, Texas, the Stage Presence Players, decided to produce it. (The other group, a church in Canada, would have done it but worried that some members of their congregation might complain.)

That's when I realized something. I'd been targeting the wrong markets. Despite the "maturity" of Kill the Critic!, no professional theatre company is ever going to produce it. They simply don't do farces, at least not new ones. No, they'd rather do yet another grim social drama. (Seriously, have you seen the schedules of most professional theatres?)

But community theatres love farces. And if I clean this one up a bit, I may be able to get high schools and churches interested.

So that's what I'm working on now. It's not easy, turning a naughty comedy into something that your grandma will enjoy. But, as I'm discovering, it can be a lot of fun.

If you're in the Austin area, I urge to see Stage Presence Players' production of Kill the Critic! It runs September 24-26.

For more info, visit the theatre company's Facebook page.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rumpelstiltskin hits the small screen

After the reading of The Real Meaning of Things earlier this month, I've had more than one person suggest I should write more adult plays. I tell them that I already do. In fact, I now have two adult full-lengths making the rounds of professional theatre companies.

It's just that it's hard to get adult plays produced. Schools and children's drama camps are much more open to producing a play by an unknown playwright than adult theatre companies are.

But that's not the reason I write children's plays.

This is.

Friday, June 19, 2015

You're Driving Me Crazy to be published

I just received a contract from Pioneer Drama Service for my driver's ed comedy You're Driving Me Crazy, my sixth play with them.

You're Driving Me Crazy is a collection of four 10-minute plays which can be performed together or individually. They're simple to produce, requiring only a few simple props and no set other than a few chairs (one play does call for several easy-to-find sound cues). Here's the blurb:
Learning to drive is an important rite of passage for any student. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun with it! These four plays take a hilarious look at the world of driver's ed. In them, we meet: 1) a nervous teacher who doesn't seem to know the first thing about driving, 2) a teenage girl who brings some unexpected guests to her first driving class, 3) a teenage boy who's forced to share a car with his temperamental ex-girlfriend, and 4) a teenage girl who can't break away from her smartphone long enough to learn how to drive.
I've been submitting the individual plays to contests over the last two years and I'm thrilled with the response. They've snagged 19 productions around the world--and not just with school-age groups. One of the plays was produced by a community theatre at the Minnesota State Fair. Another one was produced by a university in Pennsylvania. That same play received a staged reading by an off-off-Broadway theatre company and was later produced at the Short + Sweet Festival (the world's largest short play festival) in Canberra, Australia, where it won the Director's Choice Award.

Look for the plays to be published this December. In the meantime, you can read a sample by clicking here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The real meaning of theatre

Just came back from the final reading The Real Meaning of Things at the Rough Writers New Play Festival. We had about 40 people at the first reading a week ago and nearly a full house of around 100 tonight, and the response to the festival as a whole and my play in pa

The after-reading talkbacks provided an interesting contrast. Last week, they were mostly question for me and the other playwrights: what inspired you to your this play? How much research did you do?

Tonight the tables were reversed as the audience members told us what they thought. And there was one comment in particular that grabbed my attention.

My play takes place during Georgia O'Keeffe's first trip to New Mexico. She has been frustrated in New York, and as she explores this wild new land, she discovers something that she has long been searching for:

I mean it. Most of the women I know, they'd have been screaming for help, afraid the coyote would get them. 
I'm not afraid. I'm like that coyote. I belong here too. 
In the desert? 
In the desert. In the mountains. The whole of New Mexico, I guess. It's such a quiet, lonely place. It makes me feel—oh, I don't know. 
Oh, God. Not that. 
Then what? 

There's no stage direction before that final word to tell the actress to pause, but she did--exactly as I had hoped.

The comment I wanted to mention was in reference to that line. The commenter said that he had expected the next word to be "Alive", but when Georgia said "Hungry"instead, it somehow seemed better. It somehow seemed right. Also, exactly as I had hoped.

As a playwright, you're at the mercy of your actors. This is both good and bad. Actors can often misinterpret your intent. But when they get it right, it's a powerful thing.

And sometimes, they uncover things you didn't even know were there.

Of course, the best part of any reading is sharing the experience with your friends. I had a lot of friends at tonight's reading--including a good-sized contingent from my playwriting group--and I'm grateful for their support. I especially enjoyed the chats we had afterwards, about theatre, about life, about everything and nothing.

I want to send out a big thank you to Nathan Halvorson, director of the festival, and the entire crew at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. It was a great festival, and I can't wait to submit next time around.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rough writing

It's always nice to get mentioned in the press, even if that mention is a brief one. Which is why I'm happy to report that my short play, The Real Meaning of Things, got a shout-out in this month's issue of American Theatre magazine, the Bible of the American theatre community.

The article covers the Rough Writers New Play Festival at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and focuses on Jade O'Keeffe, a Toronto-based playwright whose full-length play Two Nine One Letters is one of the centerpieces of the festival. O'Keeffe based her play on the extensive series of letters between Georgia O'Keeffe and her lover-turned-husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. And yes, in case you're wondering, Jade is a relative of the artist, though a distant one.

My play was not nearly as well-researched, inspired as it was by a single sentence in Georgia O'Keeffe's Wikipedia entry. But it was a really good sentence.

I attended the first reading of my play last weekend, and the FAC did a fantastic job with it. They cast two of my favorite local actors: Mike Miller as a hard-bitten rancher and Amy Brooks as a humorously prickly Georgia O'Keeffe, and their performances precisely captured the awkwardness I was going for.

If you're in the area, I encourage you to stop in this Saturday at 8pm for the final reading of this and three other plays by local playwrights.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Crazy in Manila

Photo by Candid Ventura (

Just got word that my driver's ed comedy You're Driving Me Crazy #1 has been accepted into the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival in Manila this September. The Philippines is my 6th country, joining the US, Canada, Australia, South Korea and the UK as places where my plays have been performed.

The weird thing is that I didn't even know this play was still in the running for Short + Sweet, since I first submitted it to this annual series of play festivals over a year ago. But hey, I'll take it. The festival itself will take place at the huge, ultra-modern Samsung Hall.

If you have a play you'd like to enter in Short + Sweet, visit their website by clicking here. Although I don't usually enter contests that charge fees, I had no qualms about entering this one. After all, you can't beat this deal,w ith just AUS$20 (about US$15) getting you into 24 contests in some of the coolest, most exciting cities around the world.

Break legs, all!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I give birth to a dinosaur

I didn't always want to be a playwright. When I first started writing seriously 18 years ago, it was with dreams of becoming the next Bruce Coville or Jon Scieszka--authors who wrote funny, exciting novels for the burgeoning middle-grade market.

I came up with a character--Edison Young--gave him a group of smart alecky friends and set him off on an adventure involving a science fair, a tyrannical teacher and a giant robot dinosaur.

The book didn't go anywhere. I submitted it to dozens of publishers, both big and small, and while it got a few nibbles, no one bit.  With defeat, I concluded it was unpublishable and put it away.

Until a few weeks ago, when I decided to dust it off and read it again. And I realized it wasn't half-bad. I'll admit it's no Harry Potter. But it is entertaining, exciting and a heck of a lot of fun.

Am I going to run the gauntlet of the big publishing houses again? No. And for one very good reason.

Over the last decade, the publishing industry has seen a seismic shift in way it does business. Authors no longer need publishers to see their books in print. There's this little thing called a Kindle, and with a few simple steps, any author can make their works available to the public.

That's why I'm excited to announce that Edison Young and the Ravenous Robosaur is now available on Amazon. Here's the blurb:
Nothing hurts your grades like blowing up the school gym. That's what 12-year-old inventor Edison Young learned at last year's science fair. Now it's science fair time again and Edison has come up with his greatest idea yet. What could possibly go wrong with a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex robot.
The book sells for $2.99 and features the same zany humor as my plays (you didn't think I'd get serious, did you?). Young readers might just learn a few things about science as well. To order yours, click here.

Right now, the book is only available for the Kindle and any device which has the Kindle app. But if it does well, I'll release a print version.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Rumpelstiltskin photos

Horizon Middle School in Bismarck, ND didn't get the world premiere of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. That honor belongs to School Around Us in Kennebunk, ME, who beat them by one day. But Horizon was the first to publish photos. And what great photos they are!

I love the colorful costumes as well as the funny billboard they created for the Three Little Pigs. Nice job, everyone!

"I don't think you're taking this crime very seriously." 

"That's real cute, Baby Bear. Now why don't
you go back to bed? For about 18 years?"

"You know, when you shorten my name, don't shorten
it from the end. Shorten it from the beginning."

"Your house was made of straw. A mildly 
hungry cow would have destroyed it." 

"So did that trio of future footballs accuse
me of destroying their houses again?"

"What big feet you have!" 

"She's supposed to look pale. Her name is Snow White, remember?"

"Ewww! We have to kiss her?"

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My 4th year sales

Just received my annual royalty statement from my publisher, Pioneer Drama Service, and I'm glad to say this was my best year yet, with a total of 73 productions.

Part of this was due to the fact that this was the first statement to include Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. Although this large-cast school play wasn't released until January, it flew out of the gate, booking 15 productions in its first four months.

But that's not the whole story. The Butler Did It! showed huge growth by itself, snagging 34 productions compared to the 24 it got in its first year of publication.

My two one-act plays held their own. Long Tall Lester had 14 productions vs. last year's 18, and The _urloined Letter had 10 productions vs. last year's 8.

When I first got published four years ago, I expected that my plays would peak in their first year and drop off from there as schools and community theatres snapped up newer plays. But I've got to hand it to Pioneer. They do a phenomenal job promoting their plays year after year after year.

If you're a playwright looking for a publisher, I can't recommend them highly enough.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Beverly Hills mummy

I just learned that my new play How I Met Your Mummy won the 2015 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre, also known as the Marilyn Hall Award. Loyal readers of this blog may remember that my play Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye won the same prize last year.

The play has a cast of 11 (5M/6F), uses a simple unit set and runs about 90 minutes.

Here's the blurb:
The O. Howe Dulle Museum is about to unveil their latest find--a mysterious mummy named Yo-Wut-Sup--and everyone wants to get their hands on him! A pushy reporter vows to prove Yo-Wut-Sup is a hoax. A wacky mystic intends to sneak him back to Egypt. Three high school students want to use him in their low-budget horror film. And two clueless robbers plan to steal the mummy, if only they can figure out what one looks like. Can Melvin Trimble, the world's most cowardly security guard, stop them? Or will he be left taking the "wrap"? And why is there one --no, two--no, three creepy mummies roaming the halls? Now museum, now you don't!
I'll be submitting it for publication later this year. In the meantime, if you'd like to read a copy for possible production, send me an email. You could be the first to produce it!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Young Author's Day

I spent a rapid-fire morning today at Scott Elementary in Colorado Springs. It was their first annual Young Author's Day, and I felt honored to be invited. The school brought in about 15 local writers and each of us spoke to four classes in 25-minute blocks.

I got the 5th graders, and man, were they fun. I told them what it was like to be a playwright and showed them a slideshow of photos from my productions, and when I asked if they had any questions, their arms shot in the air.

One of the kids asked where I lived, and the whole class was surprised to find out I'd driven only five blocks to get there. At that age, kids tend to think that writers always live in some far off place like New York or Chicago, and I made the point that writers live everywhere.

I ended each session with a reading from my newest play Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. I played Rumpelstiltskin and drafted volunteers to fill in the rest of the roles. The scenes were a big hit, and the room was filled with disappointed groans when the reading was over.

One young girl, however, was not bowled over by my writing.

"Why do you put so many puns in your play?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.

"Do you think they're kind of cheesy?" I asked. She nodded.

I smiled. "To tell you the truth, my wife thinks they're cheesy too. But they always get a laugh, and that's why I like them."

Afterwards, we assembled in the gym for the Young Author's Showcase. Tables were spread out for the authors--both young and old--and the younger authors had feedback sheets next to their stories so that readers could write their comments.

I circulated the room to see what kinds of things the kids were writing about--adventures were popular, as were animal stories--and added my words of encouragement to as many feedback sheets as I could. By the end of the day, I was glad to see that every page was crammed with comments. If there's a better way to encourage young authors, I don't know it.

After that, I returned to my table to hawk my plays. I shared a table with a young girl who had written a horse story and had filled her space with an adorable display featuring a giant plastic horse and an American Girl doll. I didn't have anything that cool, just my nametag and a few scripts. I wonder where I can find a tiny fedora and a Rumpelstiltskin doll.

I did manage to sell a couple scripts. Although I was trying to push my younger plays like Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye and Long Tall Lester, the only play any of the kids were interested in was The Butler Did It! I guess they were hooked by those photos of the butler tied to a chair.

The best part of the day, though, was a conversation I had with a quiet girl who, after some coaxing, told me about an elaborate fantasy story she was working on. Her eyes lit up as she regaled me with the details, and I got the feeling that she'd been longing to tell them to somebody for a long time.

Young Author's Day was a learning experience for me as well as the kids. The most important lesson I learned? Not all kids are texting and playing video games. Some are writing stories.

And they're very, very good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hometown hit

I was both honored and thrilled to learn that my newest 10-minute play The Real Meaning of Things was selected for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Rough Writers New Play Festival. As such, it'll get two staged readings along with the other seven winners.

This hit is especially meaningful to me, not just because the play is one of my few dramas, not just because the play is my first one based on real people. No, the hit is especially meaningful because the FAC has played such a big part in the life of myself and my family.

Over the years, I've been to dozens of performances there. It was the place where I first introduced my daughters to the joys of theatre (Annie and Brigadoon were big hits with them). Even more importantly, it was where my younger daughter often appeared on stage, twice as part of the theatre company's excellent Youth Rep summer camp, and twice in their mainstage productions (The Music Man and Gypsy). So being selected for this reading feels a lot like coming home.

In tandem with the FAC's upcoming Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit, the theme of this year's Rough Writers festival was the life and works of that quintessentially American artist. For my play, I decided to focus on O'Keeffe's time in New Mexico. As I explain in my blurb for the festival:
Through my research, I was fascinated to discover that Georgia O'Keeffe had learned to drive at the age of 41, mostly she could explore the New Mexico desert by herself. According to reports she was a fearless driver, though not a great one. That instantly sparked an image in my mind and I wondered what would have happened if her car had broken down.
If you'd like to attend the reading, it'll be held at 7:30 PM on the first two Saturdays of June in the FAC's upstairs music room. I'm excited to be sharing the stage with three other local writers--Sue Bachmann, Jess Weaver and Grant Swenson--all of whom happen to be members of my playwriting group.

Seriously, if you're a playwright and you haven't joined a playwriting group yet, you need to.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taking Back the Rom-Com

As I had mentioned earlier, I wasn't able to make it to NYC for the staged reading of You're Driving Me Crazy #3 on March 28, but excerpts from the evening have now been posted to YouTube.

The eight plays are performed by just six actors, and it's fun to see their versatility as they move from role to role. Enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Million Dollar Meatballs to be published

I just received the contract from Pioneer Drama Service for Million Dollar Meatballs. This is the play that I developed with the help of the talented students at Discovery Canyon Campus High School in Colorado Springs.

I'm especially proud of this one. I love a classic farce, and while I've written other, more adult farces, this is my first one for students. Community theatres will enjoy it too. It runs 90 minutes and has a cast of 12 (6M/6F), although many of the roles are flexible.

Here's the blurb:
Get ready for a comedy of epicurean proportions! Two bumbling jewel thieves are on the run from the cops when they duck into Chez Monyeu, a restaurant so bad no one has ever eaten there before (unless you count the mice). And that's just the start of their problems. Not only has Chez Monyeu's chef just quit, but the city's most powerful restaurant critic is about to arrive. In desperation, the restaurant's owner, mistaking the thieves for famous French chefs, insist that they make their Million Dollar Meatballs for the tough-minded critic. Insanity ensues as the pair try to keep up the ruse while hunting for the seven priceless diamonds they lost. Will the thieves get away with their crime? Where could the diamonds have gone? And why are the meatballs so crunchy? Find out in this deliciously funny farce.
Look for Million Dollar Meatballs in Pioneer's spring supplement in May. Or check back here. You can bet I'll post the link as soon as the play is available.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back in the Big Apple

Michael Minn (

I'm back in New York this month. Well, not me, unfortunately, but one of my plays. You're Driving Me Crazy #3 will receive a staged reading in the Jewel Box Theatre on the 4th floor of the Abingdon Theatre building on March 28.

The play will be part of an evening of shorts titled Take Back the Rom-Com. Produced by NYCPlaywrights, the show hopes to prove that romantic comedies still have something to say in today's cynical world.

I don't know if my play contributes much to that discussion, but it does provide an interesting challenge to the cast. All eight plays are performed by the same six actors, and I suspect that mine is the only one that requires them to play characters much younger than they are, specifically 16-year-old driver's ed students. Should be a ton o' fun. I just wish I could be there to see it.

Break legs, all!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Butler in South Korea

It's always fun to see photos from my plays, especially when the production represents a new country for me. Here's a photo from a production of The Butler Did It! at the International Christian School in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. The production was done very simply, proving once again that you don't need an elaborate set for this fast-paced mystery/comedy. Just a few pieces of furniture and some passionate, fun-loving actors.

When I wrote the scene where the butler gets tied up, I was worried that it might be too difficult, that the cast wouldn't have enough time to do a convincing job with the rope.

You know what? It doesn't matter. Every picture I've seen shows just a few loops of rope around the actor's chest and arms.

Could he get out of the rope if he tried? Sure. But this is theatre, and you can always count on the audience to willingly suspend their disbelief.

Now to finish that scene with a police helicopter...

Friday, January 16, 2015

The New Play Exchange - Boon or Bust?

After three years of development, Gwydion Suilebhan and the National New Play Network yesterday launched the New Play Exchange, an online database that allows playwrights to upload synopses and samples from their plays while allowing theatre companies to search for those plays by genre, cast size and keyword.

Already, the site appears to be a big hit. From Facebook to HowlRound, eager playwrights are breathlessly describing the benefits it will bring, how it will break down those walls which have so far prevented their plays from getting produced, or even read. Some of those playwrights are even boasting about the dozens--yes, dozens!--of plays they've already posted to the site.

But so far an important part of the equation has been missing: the theatre companies.

Let's face it. The site's entire success depends on whether theatre companies will actually use it, and so far I've heard nothing from them, no breathless posts from artistic directors expressing their relief that finally they have an easy-to use website where they can search for new plays.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as hopeful as any other playwright that the New Play Exchange will succeed, that it will lead to productions that wouldn't have happened otherwise. And I'm grateful to Mr. Suleibhan for all the effort he's put into this project.. That's why I ponied up the $10 annual fee to post my own full-length farce, Kill the Critic!

But I'm not holding my breath.

After all, most artistic directors select their seasons based on plays they've seen elsewhere or scripts that came recommended by someone they know and respect. Relationships matter as much as the scripts themselves. And I don't think that's going to change.

Despite the enthusiasm in the playwriting community, there are a lot of questions remaining to be answered about the New Play Exchange. Will literary managers actually take time out from their busy days to search it? If they do, will they find what they're looking for? Or has the New Play Exchange merely transferred the slush pile from their desks to their laptops, forcing those literary managers to slog through mountains of dreck to find one nugget of gold? And suppose they do find that nugget, will they actually produce it?

Until we know these answers, I'm going to keep submitting my plays the old-fashioned way: by personal query to the literary manager of artistic director of each theatre company that is open to plays like mine.

One by one by one.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rumpelstiltskin is here!

My newest play has just been published by Pioneer Drama Service. Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye is a full-length comedy that won the 2014 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Competition for Youth Theatre. Here's the blurb:
Fairytale Land has been hit by a crime wave! The Three Bears' home was broken into. The Three Little Pigs' Home was destroyed. Now Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is missing. The crimes seem unrelated, at least if you listen to those shady Grimm brothers. Could an evil mastermind be behind them all? Only hard-boiled detective Rumpelstiltskin and his wisecracking sidekick Ugly Duckling can solve this wacky case.
I'm super excited because this is my first large-cast school play so I'm expecting it to do well. In fact, the play has already booked its first production at a middle school in Daytona Beach, FL.

But don't let the fairy tale theme fool you. The humor is sophisticated enough that high schoolers will have a blast with it. And audience members of all ages will love the mystery angle. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a good whodunit, especially if the one "who dun it" is a favorite fairy tale character?

Oh, and if you want to know who the bad guy or girl is, well, you're just going to have to buy the script!

For a script sample and ordering info, click here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A look ahead to 2015

Just as it's important to review the year just finished, it's important to lay out your goals for the coming year. On the first of January, the new year spreads out before you like an untrampeled blanket of snow, and setting guidelines helps point your feet in the right direction before you get distracted by other paths.

Last year, I made two resolutions. Or should I say one real resolution and one default resolution (carried over from the previous year).

The real resolution was to get to bed by midnight every night so that I my brain will still be alert in those evening hours when I do bulk of my writing. How did I do? Well, my "early" bedtime lasted for a couple weeks and then I fell back into my old pattern of collapsing into bed around 12:30am or 1am, after I got done watching a movie or surfing the web or just putting off bedtime as long as I could. Still, it didn't seem to affect my productivity. During 2014, I completed two full-length plays and came close to completing a third. So out it goes.

My default resolution, which I originally made in 2013, was to make one submission every day of the year. I didn't intend to carry it over into 2014, as I thought I'd entered every contest I could in 2013. But I had a new play to submit--You're Driving Me Crazy--and by that time, the habit was so strong that I just kept going, ending up with a total of 230 submissions for the year.

Yes, that's still short of the 365 I aimed for, but it's more than I've ever done and it got me a respectable 17 productions. Most of them, of course, were for You're Driving Me Crazy, proving not only that this teen-centered collection of plays appealed to adults, but that it has global appeal as well, with productions in Australia and the UK. This should help when I submit the play to my publisher later this year.

At this point, I don't need any more productions of short plays, especially if I'm not making any money out of the deal. What I need is more time to write. My brain is bursting with ideas and I need to get them down on paper before they evaporate into the ether.

So here, in no particular order, are my goals (not resolutions!) for 2015:

1) Increase writing time during the week from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour per day.

2) Increase writing time on the weekend from 1 hour to 3 hours per day.

3) Cut way back on Facebook. Ten minutes a day should do it.

4) Only submit to markets that pay.

5) Get Million Dollar Meatballs published.

6) Get You're Driving Me Crazy published

7) Get my first professional production for Kill the Critic!

8) Finish the school play I'm currently working on.

9) Finish the adult play I've struggled with off and on for the last two years.

10) Lose 10 pounds (my wife made me add this one).

Come back next New Year's Eve to find out how I did.