Monday, January 23, 2017

Wicked Is As Wicked Does to be published

Close on the heels of The Stinky Feet Gang being released comes news from Pioneer Drama Service that they'll be publishing my tenth play, a large-cast comedy called Wicked Is As Wicked Does

Yes, that title is inspired by Forrest Gump's second favorite saying, "Stupid is as stupid does." And like that Academy Award-winning film, this play explores the idea that it's not how you look that's important. It's how you act.

Forrest Gump wasn't stupid, even though many people thought he was. And the protagonists in my play aren't really wicked, even though the other characters say they are.

I guess in that respect, Wicked Is As Wicked Does also owes a debt to that blockbuster Broadway hit Wicked. Both ask the question: what is wickedness? And how can you be good if other people attribute your actions to wickedness?

But my play isn't based on the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. It's based on the similarly named villains from the fairy tales: Snow White's Wicked Queen, Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother, Sleeping Beauty's Wicked Fairy and the Frog Prince's Wicked Witch.

The story takes place after "happily ever after." Snow White has ascended the throne, magic has been outlawed and the four Wickeds have been sentenced to nine million hours of community service each.

But that's not enough for Prince Intolerable, who will soon marry Snow White and rule with her as King. No, he wants to kick the Wickeds out of the kingdom. Learning of this plot from a sassy Magic Mirror, the Wickeds decide to stop the wedding the only way they know how: through magic.

There's just one problem. The Wickeds have gotten a little rusty in the magic department. Can they get their spells to work in time? Or will they be banished forever to the icy wasteland of Grimstad?

The play is 60 minutes and has a highly flexible cast of 32 (9M/12F/11U). It's the most female-driven play I've ever written, with the five biggest parts (the four Wickeds and Snow White) being female.

Here's an excerpt from the script. In this scene, the Wickeds are trying to enlist the good Fairy Godmother in their plot:
WICKED QUEEN: Look, we know we've done wrong, but we've been trying to pay our debts to society. I've spent over 600 cleaning the palace. Wicked Fairy has been traveling around the kingdom making sure every spindle has a warning label on it. And Wicked Witch is leading a campaign to ban the eating of frog's legs.  
WICKED FAIRY: Believe me, you don't want to find out those legs used to wear pantaloons. 
FAIRY GODMOTHER: So why have you come here? 
WICKED QUEEN: I'm afraid I have some bad news. The four of us Wickeds are going to be banished to Grimstad. 
FAIRY GODMOTHER: And the bad news is...? 
WICKED QUEEN: Okay. So maybe you don't care if we're sent away. 
WICKED WITCH: But think of Snow White or your precious Cinderella, going through life without a stepmother. 
WICKED STEPMOTHER: After all, a wicked stepmother is better than no stepmother at all. 
FAIRY GODMOTHER: Who's going to banish you? 
WICKED QUEEN: Prince Intolerable. 
FAIRY GODMOTHER: Oh, man. That guy. I can't tolerate him 
WICKED FAIRY: I know, right? 
WICKED WITCH: You think he's bad now? Just wait until he becomes king.
FAIRY GODMOTHER: So where do I come in? 
WICKED QUEEN: We want you to stop his wedding to Snow White. We're not allowed to use any magic, of course, but we were thinking maybe you-- 
FAIRY GODMOTHER: Oh, no, no, no, no! Queen Snow had banned magic for everybody, and that includes me! 
WICKED WITCH: I know, but you have a spotless record. No one will get their breeches in a bind if you perform one spell. 
WICKED STEPMOTHER: All we're asking for is a bippity. 
WICKED WITCH: Or a boppity. 
WICKED FAIRY: Or one little boo.
Assuming I don't get sued by Disney first, the play will be available in Spring.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Get on your feet

If I told you that there's one simple thing you can do to make your writing really come alive, would you believe me? One thing that will individualize your characters, enliven your dialogue and spice up your staging? Well, there is, and me being a little slow on the uptake, only just discovered it.

It all started a couple of days ago when I was listening to the On The Page podcast podcast. It's one of my favorite writing podcasts, and although it's focused on screenwriting, I've found that a lot of the advice applies to plays.

It's also a lot of fun. Host Pilar Alessandra interviews a wide range of Hollywood creatives, and her conversations with them are always lively, informative and hilarious.

So anyway, I was listening to the 12/16/16 podcast, titled The Seven Deadly Sins of Actors... And Writers. In it, actor Kevin E. West talked about the bad habits he had to overcome to achieve success in his career, and about halfway in, he said something really interesting:

"I don't know how much writers get up and walk around when they're writing dialogue... The dialogue of a character, regardless of what, you know, archetype you've made this person and what ethnicity you've made them or what educational background you've given them is: what are they like on their feet? And that's what's missing a lot in a lot of the dialogue I've read over the years... I can read something and tell you've never put this character on their feet in your mind."

He nailed it. At least for me. Oh, I'll read my scripts out loud a couple of times during the revision process to make sure the words flow naturally. But I don't act it out. And I rarely picture what the characters are doing while they're talking, other than the occasional laugh or sneer or pout.

So I decided to give it a try. I read the script I'm currently working on, and as I read it, I acted out their movements. I made every entrance and exit. I fidgeted nervously as the earnest young production assistant asked his crush for a date. I even writhed in agony as the temperamental movie star succumbed to a fatal dose of cyanide.

It worked wonders, just like Kevin said it would. By getting off my butt and moving around, I felt like I had actually become my characters. Not only did it let me figure out what the characters were doing while they talked, it helped me with the dialogue itself.

If a line I'd written didn't match their personality or their emotional state at the time, it jumped right out at me and I could immediately come up with something more authentic and true. I didn't have to think about it. The words just flowed form my brain.

There's only one drawback to this technique. Okay, two.

First, it's exhausting! You're basically performing an entire play--speaking every line and making every movement--all by yourself. So obviously, you don't want to do this every single time you revise the script. I recommend doing it once or twice, near the end of the polishing stage.

The other drawback? Oh, just some minor domestic strife. I guess when I was performing my little one-man show, I was so loud my wife could barely hear the TV upstairs.

Ah, well. The sacrifices we make for our art. At least I didn't injure myself like this guy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Stinky Feet Gang is now available

Just four days into 2017, and I already have one new play toward my goal of six to be published in the new year. Yes, The Stinky Feet Gang is now available for production.

I had a blast with this one. The characters were a lot of fun to write, and the aromatic appendages of the title provided an endless opportunity for gags.

But the play is more than just a bunch of stink jokes. It's a story of female empowerment (really!) as the women shopkeepers at the heart of the play have to work together to defeat the baddies.

Don't be put off by the cast requirements. The Pioneer Drama Service website says the cast is 10M/8F. But the two leads are female and six of the seven biggest parts are female. Also, as described in the production notes, you can double or change the gender of many of the roles, meaning you can get away with as few as 2 male actors and 15 actors total.

So book the play today. I guarantee your students will never have so much fun!

Here's the blurb:
Something's rotten in Garden City! When Malodorous Mel and his gang rob the town, they use a secret weapon: their smelly feet, guaranteed to incapacitate anyone within twenty yards, But Rose Peddles, owner of the general store, has a plan to stop them. She leads Lily, Hyacinth, and the other flower-named shopkeepers into the gang's secret hideout to de-scent the aromatic appendages with lemon juice. When they find the gang lying in wait for them, however, they're forced to flee for their lives--and their noses! Is there a traitor in their midst? And if so, who? Now the shopkeepers have only one hope left--to fight fire with fire! But how do you out-stink these stinkers? With its large, flexible cast and wacky humor, this Western comedywill leave everyone smelling like... well, a Rose.
For a sample script and ordering info, click here.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A look ahead to 2017

I don't even know where to start this year. I'm still hoping to get an engineering job, but I'm 53 years old and, as I've discovered, it's not easy to find any kind of job at this age. So for the purposes of this post, I'm going to assume that I won't get a job and that I'll be forced to continue living as a starving (well, maybe just hungry) writer.

Here then are my top goals for the new year:

1) Complete eight new plays

This is a pretty aggressive goal, as it means I'll have to crank out a new script every six weeks--for the entire year. But hey, if you're going to set goals, you might as well make them big.

Besides, if I never find a job, I'll have to make my living from writing--and that's going to take a whole lot more plays.

2) Publish six new plays

I'd love to publish every play I write, but my batting percentage last year was a little disappointing (only 1 in 3 plays I submitted got accepted for publication, although some of those rejected plays may still get picked up by other publishers). So I'm trying to stay reasonably realistic here, especially since I don't have a lot of control over this particular goal.

Six plays, by the way, would be twice the output of my best year to date, 2015, when I published three plays.

3) Have a successful premiere of The Purrfect Crime

As reported earlier, Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, CO is getting ready to produce the world premiere of my cat heiress comedy. Auditions are February 8-9 and the production is scheduled for March 16-18. It's my first opportunity to work with a school since 2014's Million Dollar Meatballs so I'm very excited. I know that the extremely talented students there will help make it the best play it can be.

4) Get another production of Kill the Critic!

I love this play. In fact, several people have told me it's the funniest one I've written, which depresses me, because I've written a LOT of plays since then, For some reason, thought, it's been rejected by two publishers and has struggled to get a third production. A couple theatres are currently looking at it, and if it gets a production from one of those, I'll try submitting it to some new publishers.

5) Get another production of The Last Radio Show

I love this play too, but I admit it's a little hard to produce (lots of props and sound cues). Two publishers have rejected this one as well, so I'll try to get some more productions to prove its worth before submitting it again.

So there you go. Five goals, a lot less than I've had in the past. But to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a full-time writer, I have to focus on one thing: writing more plays. It really all comes down to that.