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.