Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A look back at 2019

I don't know about you, but we're staying home tonight.

It's not that we don't ever go out on New Year's Eve. Once every three or four years, we head out to a nice seafood restaurant for lobster or scallops. But we usually end up regretting it. The restaurants are packed, the servers are rushed, and the bill, when you finally do get it, is usually stratospheric.

So we're going to stay home and cook lobsters on the grill. And eat snacks. And drink Prosecco. And play lots and lots of games. Our favorites? Apples to Apples, Cranium Whoonu and Logo Party (my wife and daughter always cream me in that last one).

That's one nice thing about having an adult daughter live with you. You always have a third player for those fast-moving three-player games.

But before we get into that, there's one little piece of business I need to take care of. Reviewing my goals for this year.

Or should I say goal? Avid followers of this blog know that last New Year's Day, I flushed my usual practice of making a list of five or six or seven writing-related items. Instead I set for myself one overriding goal:

1) Sell The Enchanted Bookshop as a TV series

Well, it didn't happen. But it wasn't for lack of trying.

As described here previously, I acquired a Hollywood manager back in May 2018. I worked with him closely for the first couple months of 2019, polishing the pilot script and getting it ready for pitching. I even put together a pitch bible giving the background of each of the characters and offering short synopses of eight additional episodes.

The script went out in February. My manager had some impressive contacts (he said), including development executives at a couple of the big streamers (you can probably guess the name of one of them).

Every couple weeks I'd call my manager for an update. And every couple of weeks he'd give me the same answer. No word yet.

After a while, he stopped picking up the phone when I called, but at least he'd return it a day or two later. And then he stopped returning my calls altogether. And responding to my emails.

I sent him the script for another episode, which tells the origin story of the Lits and features a special appearance by Don Quixote himself. He never responded.

I don't know what happened. But I'm guessing that he heard enough no's that he decided I wasn't worth his time anymore.

Which is fine. A lot of screenwriters go through several managers before they find one who works (oops, I meant "that works").

Anyway, I kept busy writing all through the spring and summer. I started--and abandoned--a feature script version of The Enchanted Bookshop. I started--and abandoned--a Christmas play set in The Enchanted Bookshop universe (yeah, you heard right, universe). I started--and abandoned--a children's TV series based on another one of my plays, Wicked Is As Wicked Does.

And I did one other thing. I started pitching to animation studios. As it turns out, you don't actually need a manager to approach a lot of the animation houses. I ended up emailing 97 of them. Seven requested the script. Four of them rejected it.

So things are looking up. My 18-month contract with my manager ended in November. That frees me up to approach new managers. Seven minus four means three animation houses are still considering my pilot. And I'm almost done with a new project I started late last year, one which may provide an alternate path to getting a TV series.

I may not have achieved the one goal I set for myself this year. But the dream isn't dead either. I've got a new plan, a new energy, and a new year in which to get there.

But more on that next year...

Saturday, December 21, 2019

How I met your "Mumie"

Yesterday, I received something in the mail from my publisher. It was in a 4 X 5 envelope, nothing special, and I tried to guess what it was.

Sometimes Pioneer send me copies of my scripts, but those always come in a big Priority Mail envelope. And besides, I'd already received the ten free scripts of my latest play, The Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras, so I knew it couldn't be that.

Sometimes they send me catalogs or a T-shirt with the logo of one of my plays, but those also come in bigger envelopes.

Sometimes they sent me contracts to sign, or copies of contracts that I've already signed, but I didn't have anything in the pipeline so I knew it couldn't be that either.

I was stumped.

So I tore it open. It turned out to be the first foreign language translation of one of my plays. A publisher in Switzerland, Theaterverlag Kaliolabusto, had negotiated the exclusive right to license How I Met Your Mummy in Switzerland and translated the script into German so that they could market it there.

The situation is a win-win-win. Kaliolabusto gets a play with a proven track record, Pioneer gets the play into a country they normally wouldn't have access to, and I get my usual royalty for any performances they license.

In fact, Kaliolabusto has already licensed a performance in that country, although when it first popped up on the Pioneer website over a year ago, I didn't realize that it had been in German. The group that had put on that performance was Sofa-Theater in the historic village of Hindelbank.

I don't expect a lot of productions from Kaliolabusto. Switzerland is a small country, of course, and even their most popular plays don't get more than 7 or 8 productions a year. But it makes me smile to know that one of my works is now being done in another tongue.

Wie wundervoll!

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Enchanted Bookshop Musical comes to life

Let me tell you, publishing a musical has been quite the educational experience. And one of the things I've learned is this: It takes a whole lot longer to rehearse and mount a musical than a play (well, duh).

My play The Enchanted Bookshop was first published in July 2017 and premiered on September 21. Think about that. A script wasn't even available until July 31, so the group that first produced it--The Orange County Players of Paoli, IN--had to do all of the following in just seven weeks:
  • Order a perusal script
  • Read the script
  • Decide to perform it,
  • Pay the licensing fee
  • Order performance scripts for the entire cast
  • Hold auditions
  • Cast the play
  • Build the sets and costumes
  • Run a full set of rehearsals from first read-through to final dress 
That's pretty impressive.

Musicals, however, need a lot more time. The Enchanted Bookshop Musical came out in July of this year, and it's just now getting its first productions.

And that's okay. Learning the lyrics probably takes a month of rehearsal time. Add choreography, and you've just extended it another month.

Now that the show has had its premiere, other theaters are jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, the musical currently has 27 productions booked for the current school year.

That's a very healthy start. It's not as many productions as the original play got in its first few months of publication, but it's a whole lot more than any of my other plays. So it looks like the musical is going to be a hit as well.

So who gave The Enchanted Bookshop Musical its world premiere? Well, it turned out to be the Arbor Court Anderson Valley Entertainment Center of Lancaster, CA. They haven't posted any photos from their production, however, so I was excited this week when I saw that the second group to perform the musical--Haystack Productions of Beausejour, Manitoba--posted some of theirs.

Of course, the photos don't look any different than the photos from the play (other than the open mouths during the musical numbers!). And that's because the play and the musical have the exact same characters, the same costumes, the same sets.

In fact, all of the dialogue and stage directions from the original script were used as is in the musical. The only change were the eleven songs that were added.

Looking at the photos now, the one thing that really strikes me is the distinctiveness of the costumes. 

When I was first choosing the literary characters that would appear in The Enchanted Bookshop, one of my criteria was to only include characters that are instantly recognizable from their costumes. I didn't want the audience getting distracted trying to figure out who was who. That's why there's no Anne of Green Gables or Caddie Woodlawn in the play (though I really, really wanted to include a Canadian character).

Anyway, as the photo at the top of this post shows, I think I was successful--at least with the guys. The girls, on the other hand, pose a bigger challenge.

We all recognize Dorothy Gale's blue-checked gingham dress, of course (Fun fact: While the ruby slippers were invented for the 1939 MGM film, her iconic clothing came right out of L. Frank Baum's book). But the other two characters are a little harder to place. Need help? That's Pollyanna in the middle and Heidi on the right.

I think the problem is that our image of the six main characters is shaped not by the original books they appeared in but by the movie adaptations of those books, and there hasn't been a movie version of Pollyanna or Heidi in decades. Besides, even when those characters did appear on screen, there wasn't one definitive outfit they were identified with.

Let's face it, male movie heroes don't change their clothes as often as female movie heroes.

Anyway, I love the costumes here. They're very colorful and true to character, so once you're introduced to the characters wearing them, you shouldn't have any trouble keeping them straight. And that's really what's most important here.

So a great big kudos to the costumer designer, the skilled seamstresses and seamsters (?) who made the costumes, and everyone else involved in the production.

You can be proud. Very, very proud.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Enchanted Bookshop--it's not just for kids anymore

Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK

I love writing for kids. Both of my daughters were active in theater when they were young, and although they're grown up now and have found other interests to pursue, their theatrical experiences have given us a lifetime of happy memories. And I'm firmly convinced that their success in their current careers is due in large part to the social skills they learned and the confidence they developed as young performers.

So I'm a big believer in children's theatre. Which is why I love seeing kids perform my plays. But it's just as much fun to see my plays being done by adults.

It is a much rarer experience, however. Less than 5% of my plays are performed by adult church and community theater groups.

Some of my plays, of course, are done more frequently than others. My restaurant farce Million Dollar Meatballs has been extremely popular with older groups, as has my British drawing room mystery The Butler Did It! On the other hand, The Enchanted Bookshop has been entirely limited to schools and children's theater groups.

Until now, that is.

I just came across a fun article about a production of this large-cast fantasy comedy all the way up in Petersburg, Alaska. The group performing the play is called the Mitkof Mummers, named for the boggy island near Juneau where Petersburg is located.

The performances are tonight and tomorrow, and the article says that they're intended for all ages. The photos, however, suggest that all of the performers are adults.

And really, should that seem so strange? I mean look at some of the books that the play's characters come from: Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, Oliver Twist. Those are mature, meaty books--books that appeal to adults just as much--or even more so--than kids.

And if the other characters come purely from children's books, anyone who first fell in love with them as a child knows that they stay with you whole life, just as my daughter's theatrical experiences have stayed with them.

So call me crazy, but I think a lot more adult groups should perform The Enchanted Bookshop. I guarantee it'll bring out the child in you, whatever your age.

Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Going to the dogs

So Gemma, the director of that New Zealand production of Doggone Detectives, just sent me some photos of the cast. They're from rehearsal, not the performance itself, but they do a great job of showing the costumes in all their furry glory--as well as the passion and skill Gemma put into making them.

Doggone Detectives has 35 roles, plus an optional number of extras. This makes it my largest-cast play by far. The good thing about this is that it gives a lot of kids the opportunity to strut their stuff.

The challenging thing is that somebody's got to make all those costumes. And a lot of those costumes are breed-specific (though you're always free to change the breed or make them all generic).

A couple of Dalmatians named--what else?--Spot and Dot are the ones who get the whole ball rolling, calling the doggy detectives to investigate a missing bone.

The detectives turn to three poochy police officers--two German Shepherds and a coffee-loving pug. Unfortunately, they find them less than helpful.

An evil dog catcher captures German Shepherd detective Sam Spayed while her bloodhound partner Sherlock Bones watches helplessly.

Sherlock and their other partner, a terrier named Frisky, look for him at the pound but only find these forlorn prisoners (no breed is listed for them, but I like to think of them as mutts).

It turns out that the missing bones were part of a nefarious plot to turn the town's dogs into cats--masterminded by Miss Fluffypants and Alley Cat Gang.

In the end, Frisky overcomes her fear of telephones (and everything else) to defeat the evil cats and turn the dogs back to their intended species.

The licensing fee is $50 per performance (cheap), but if you'd like to read the script for possible production (or just to find out how our slobbering sleuths vanquish those bad old cats!), email me and I'll send you a free electronic copy. Bone appetit!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Set ideas for The Enchanted Bookshop

It looks like The Enchanted Bookshop is going to have another bang-up year. It's already booked 69 productions for the new school year, and there are several more months still to go.

Many of those productions are in their planning stages, so I thought this would be a good time to share some of the photos I've found from earlier productions. This time I'll focus on the set.

One of the best things about The Enchanted Bookshop is that it used a single set, and the requirements are really quite simple. In fact, the script lists only four must haves: a counter, a small bookcase, a cat bed and a shop sign. In this play, you won't be needing any doors, windows, or furniture.

But you can use doors if you want to:

Fort Stockton, TX

A comfy chair can be nice too:

South Saint Paul, MN

As for the sign, I like the old-timey look of this one:

West Pawlet, VT

Or you can paint one right on the counter:

Huntingdon Valley, PA

Some theaters are happy with just a bookcase or two:

Carroll, IA

While others go nuts:

Seaside, OR

Still others build a whole wall out of them:

Thornton, CO

Some even paint books on the flats:

Spokane, WA

Using book covers as posters is a great idea:

Medford, OR

You can also use oversized books as set pieces:

Aberdeen, WA

Or one really big book for the book characters to enter from:

Pearl, MS

The grandfather clock and fireplace here add a homey touch:

Kearney, NE

While this backdrop lends a more elegant air:

Eudora, KS

I really like this colorful, circus-like set:

Clarksville, IN

And the mimimalist, almost dreamlike quality of this set is quite striking.

Thunder Bay, ON

These are just a few of the sets I've found online. If you're proud of yours (and why wouldn't you be?), email it to me and I'll add it here.

By the way, The Enchanted Bookshop Musical has the exact same set as the play, so you can use the designs shown here for that show too.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Tarheel Wicked passes the torch

So the Community Youth Players, the Andrews, NC youth theater that snagged that half hour radio interview the other day, has now made it into their local paper. It's a good writeup, with lots of quotes from the young actors preparing for their opening of Wicked Is As Wicked Does tomorrow night.

As the article makes clear, they've been hugely successful in attracting talent from all over the area. And why wouldn't they? Many of their current actors are the kids or grandkids of previous actors, going all the way back to the grouo's founding in the 1970's.

"We're just so blessed to have them coming to us," says director Lori Coffey.

I'm sure they feel just as blessed for this opportunity to strut their stuff--and to continue the legacy that the older generation has given them.

Again, the show runs September 20-22 and 27-29 at the Valleytown Cultural Arts Center in Andrews. If you live in the area, please give them your support.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

On Sharpay, Grandpa Joe and lotteries

So here's a fun story. It seems that Emily Cacnio, a student at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, put together a slide presentation for her English class arguing that Sharpay Evans was not the antagonist of High School Musical but the hero.

Seems crazy, doesn't it? But she makes some good points.

Sharpay and her brother Ryan were the real professionals in the situation, not Troy and Gabrielle. They're the ones who showed up on time for the audition. They're the ones who put together an elaborate routine with original music.

And let's face it. She deserved to be lead. She was clearly more talented.

But Cacnio overlooks a few things.

Sharpay's shallowness and self-absorption make her completely unsympathetic. And in contemporary movies, that's often all it takes to move a character from the hero to the villain category.

She totally tried to steal Troy from Gabrielle. And being willing to do anything to achieve her goals is not the positive trait Cacnio thinks it is.

Be focused, sure. But don't be a jerk.

Plus, I've always felt that at the high school level, teachers have no business casting solely on talent. Their job is education, not entertainment, and you achieve that by giving students at all skill levels as many different roles as possible during those formative four years.

That pretty blonde with the killer pipes and the personality that just leaps off the stage? Think how much better an actor she'll be after stage managing a show or running the sound board.

So yeah, I still view Sharpay as the villain. But I do find it interesting that the writers of High School Musical decided to make the villain someone with a ton of theatrical experience while the heroes were mere dilettantes.

And there can be only one explanation for that. Our country's lottery culture. Why work hard for something if you can win it through luck?

Exhibit A. The candy bar opening scene in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:
Charlie: I've got the same chance as anyone else, haven't I? 
Grandpa Joe: You've got more, Charlie, because you want it more.
You used to see it on American Idol. You see it now on America's Got Talent and a gazillion other reality shows.

The producers on these shows don't promote the contestants who've struggled at their art for years. They promote the ones who recently discovered some innate talent and poopoo professional training because it might spoil their "authenticity".

Well, I've got news for them. Talent is overrated. What leads to success is work. Hard, knuckle-bleeding work. And lots of it.

So while Sharpay may be the villain, there's one small part of me that wants her to win, if only to show that hard work wins over "wanting it more".

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bookshop musical goes north -- really north!

My plays have been performed in some exotic locations: Panama, The Philippines, Abu Dhabi. But even I was surprised to see where the first group to book The Enchanted Bookshop Musical was located: Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada.

The mostly Inuit community has a population of 7700 and serves as the capital of the territory. Situated on the west coast of Baffin Island, it's locked in by ice for much of the year but features a modern airport that keeps it connected to the rest of the country all year long.

The musical is going be performed in May by Nakasuk Elementary School, shown in the photo below.

Break legs, everybody! I hope you have a ton of fun with it.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Tarheel Wicked hits the airwaves

Check this out. Two talented young actors in beautiful Andrews, NC were interviewed by their local radio station about their upcoming production of Wicked Is As Wicked Does. And wow, was the radio station generous with their time! About 30 minutes generous, in fact (I'm more used to 5 minute interviews).

Sure, the hosts riff on a number of only loosely related topics during the interview, but a lot of it was about the play and the kids (Jordan and Kencade) did a great pitching it to their community.

Andrews is located in the Great Smoky Mountains so it's not a heavily populated area, but if any of you lovely readers live there, I urge you to see the show. And bring everyone you know with you.

You can find all the deets in the graphic below:

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Doggy detectives find a home

I've been tough on the New Play Exchange in the past. When it first launched four years ago, I complained that they were putting way too much emphasis on signing up playwrights to list their plays and not enough on recruiting theater companies to search for and produce those plays.

Well, things are getting better. Over the last year, I've heard from numerous playwrights who've gotten discovered through the site. Not by publishers (at least not yet), but it seems plenty of theater companies--both big and small--are filling the odd slots in their seasons with plays they find on the site.

I'd never gotten contacted by one, but I'd chalked that up to the fact that I primarily write plays for youth. The teachers who select plays for young actors still tend to rely on publisher's catalogs and word of mouth.

I started to think I would never get contacted. Maybe the New Play Exchange wasn't meant for my me.

And then, in the last two weeks, I received not one but two inquiries from theater companies. And that's exactly two more than I've ever received from this website.

The first was a nonprofit in Maryland that tours plays in schools. They wanted to know how much I would charge for performances of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye.

Since that play is published by Pioneer Drama Service, I quoted them Pioneer's rate and then directed them to the play's website. I haven't seen the group pop up on my account yet so I'm thinking they went in a different direction.

The second was a children's theater group in Wellington, New Zealand, of all places. Gemma, the director, had already ordered Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras (as a matter of fact, she's going to give the play its world premiere next month), and she liked it so much that she went to the New Play Exchange to see what else I'd written.

As it turned out, she loved Doggone Detectives. And therein lies another whole tale (tail?).

When I first wrote the play, I thought I had a winner. The play featured three adorable leads--a German Shepherd who'd been drummed off the police force for eating the evidence in a sausage-stealing case, a bloodhound with a nose for crime (and a mouth for snacks), and a yippy little terrier who desperately wanted to be a detective. There was only one small problem. She was afraid of everything.

Other  was also easy to produce and crammed full of poochy puns. It even won the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre. But I couldn't get it published to save my life.

Pioneer was the first to reject it. They thought the costumes would be too challenging because they  would have to be specific to the breed.

Heuer and TheatreFolk thought the play was too young. YouthPlays failed to get enthused. And Eldridge wasn't talking.

Oh, one other thing. It wasn't called Doggone Detectives then. When I first submitted it to Pioneer, it was called Big Trouble in Dogtown. But I quickly soured on that title. It sounded too close to my play Trouble in Paradise Junction. More importantly, it didn't communicate the idea that the play was a detective story.

Its next title was Bow Wow Detectives. And that's the title under which it won the Beverly Hills contest.

Then earlier this year, I received a cease and desist letter from a self-published author who'd trademarked that exact same title for her series of books about dogs that aren't detectives and detectives that aren't dogs. I politely pointed out that her own trademark registration did not include plays as a category, but she refused to back off. And by that time, I started to think that the title might be a little too young.

So I gave the play its third (and hopefully final) title: Doggone Detectives. And that's the title under which it'll receive its world premiere next month in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand.

Anyway, if you're a playwright and you're looking for a way to promote your plays, I highly recommend you include the New Play Exchange as one part of a broader marketing strategy. It only costs $10 a year, and even if you get only one production every three or four years, it'll still pay for itself.

Those slobbering sleuths have paid for mine.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras is now available!

I remember seeing the 1985 Jeff Goldblum/Michelle Pfeiffer thriller Into The Night when it first came out in theaters. I don't remember a lot about the movie, but there was one scene that has stuck in my mind all those years.

It was the statis = death scene, the early scene that's meant to show how boring and meaningless the hero's life is. This always happens just before the inciting incident and helps provide a contrast with the conflict and tension that comes later.

In the scene, a team of electrical engineers are meeting in a conference room. A complex circuit diagram is being shown on an overhead, and one of the engineers drones on and on, explaining in excruciating detail how the microscopic defect he found had caused the chip to fail. Sitting in the back of the room, it's all Jeff Goldblum can do to stay awake.

Clearly, the screenwriters wanted to show the dullest, most mind-numbingly boring job imaginable. But as I sat there and looked up at that screen, only one thought came into my head: That's exactly what I do for a living.

I guess this is my way of saying that sometimes we all need a little more excitement in our lives. We all long for thrills and adventure.

That's the theme of Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras, which was just released by Pioneer Drama Service. It's my 15th play to be published by them and, I think, one of my funniest.

As the play begins, four princess sisters--Pearl, Ruby, Emerald and Opal--bid their beaus a fond farewell. The princes are setting sail to capture Blacktooth, the most vile pirate on the seven seas, leaving the princesses to their boring, humdrum lives in the castle.

How do the princesses respond? The only way they know how: by crying their eyes out.

That's when Amber, the fifth princess arrives. She's not like her sisters. She loves adventure, she loves excitement--and she doesn't need a man around to muck up her life.

Disgusted by her sisters' emotional display, she suggests that the best way to get their mind off their sorrows is to have some good old-fashioned fun. So she hauls out their old costume trunk and joins her sisters in acting out their own pirate adventure.

Well, who should be spying on them but Blacktooth himself? Believing them to be bloodthirsty pirates, he forces them to serve as his crew, since his previous crew mysteriously disappeared (he pushed them overboard).

Amber couldn't be more excited. Here at last is her chance to lead a life of adventure.

But she soon discovers that the pirate life isn't all it's cracked up to be. The food is frightful, the rats are repugnant, and Blacktooth has the most vile breath on the seven seas.

That's where the funny comes in, and lots of it. But the play runs deeper than that.

As princesses, the sisters never had to do anything for themselves. It's not until they're on the ship, posing as pirates, that they get their first real taste of independence. And when it becomes clear that nobody's going to rescue them, they finally find the courage to take charge of their lives and do what it takes to rescue themselves.

Back in 1985, I finally found a way to add some excitement in my life. I took up writing, and the stories I've created since then have provided me with all the adventure I need.

Do the five princesses of Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras learn to savor the adventure they find themselves in? Well, to learn the answer to that, you're going to have to read the script.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Enchanted Bookshop Musical is now available!

After a year of development, the musical version of my hit play The Enchanted Bookshop is now available for purchase! It's got all the characters, action and gags of the original play but adds another whole dimension with Stephen Murray's score.

I have to admit I was a little nervous when Pioneer first approached me about musicalizing the play. I've never worked with a collaborator before and I wasn't sure Stephen would do my baby justice.

But I can honestly say that Stephen banged it out of the park. All of his songs are catchy and clever, from the energetic opener "A Novel Idea" through the comedic duet ""The Crook's Life" to the tear-jerking ensemble number "Goodbye".

Want to check it out for yourself? Clips from the songs and a sample script can be found right here.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

More fun with Okie Rumpelstiltskin

Linda Provost/The Duncan Banner

Well, that summer camp production of Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye keeps getting great press in its hometown of Duncan, OK. Today the Duncan Banner talks to several of the students in the camp.

And they all agree. It's been a fantastic learning experience.

"It doesn't matter if you haven't done it before because you come here and you learn a lot," says Tegan Watson, who plays Virginia Wolf in the shoew. "It cam seem scary because you are going someplace new with a bunch of people who have already been doing it--everyone is really supportive so it never hurts to try it out."

To find out what else these talented kids learned, be sure to check out the entire article.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Okie Rumpelstiltskin makes the news

I've never been interviewed on TV, but I still remember the first time I was interviewed on the radio. I think I was 13 years old. It was in my hometown of Beaver Dam, and the local radio station (WBEV--Your Hometown Station!) invited me and two other DeMolays to chat up the car wash we were doing.

We were all pretty nervous at first, but the interviewer made us feel at home, and before long, we forgot all about the microphones sticking in our faces and just started talking.

Of course, listening to a recording of the interview later, I realized I wasn't as professional-sounding as I'd felt. But it was a good time and the three of us learned a lot.

Well, I'm glad to say that the kids from Duncan Little Theatre's summer drama camp already sound like pros. This Oklahoma group is doing a production of  Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye on July 27 and their local TV station interviewed them about their experience.

The three-week camp is a wonderful opportunity for this sparsely populated region of the Sooner State, as it draws students from several small towns. And it sounds like the kids are in it for all their right reasons.

"It always cool to be able to do something throughout the summer. ," said Emily Trostle, who plays Smart Pig and ugly stepsister Minerva. "Instead of just sitting around being bored, you can learn more. Every year I've learned something new."

The show is free for kids and just $5 for adults, so if you're in southwest Oklahoma, I urge you to check it out.

I guarantee you'll see some real pros.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Five-Star Butler

Well, that Missouri director who based his production of The Butler Did It! on Carol Burnett's old show must be doing something right because it just got a five-star review in KC Applauds.

Critic Bob Evans had some nice things to say about the script, but what makes me even happier is hearing how the cast really threw themselves into their roles.

"But all of the cast were strong in their performances. They knew their characters and delivered the punch lines were flair," Evans writes. "The play does not demand a lot of physical comedy so the line delivery, facial expressions, and tonal inflections are paramount to the comedy's effectiveness."

If you live near Kansas City, you have three more chances to see the show this weekend. If you don't, check out my Productions page to see what other shows may be playing in your area.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Show me the funny

Summit Theatre Group of Lee's Summit in the Show Me State of Missouri is closing out their 2018-2019 season with The Butler Did It!, and that got them this nice writeup on their local news site.

Director Mark Hamilton first read the script five years ago and was drawn to the fast-paced humor and the oh-so-proper English setting.

"Think Downton Abbey, if Downton Abbey was a comedy," he says. "1930's English manor house, quirky characters, a dark and stormy night, murder in the kitchen with a paring knife, what's not to like?"

I can tell Mark and I have similar tastes in humor because he based his direction on the wacky parodies from the old Carol Burnett show--one of my great comedy influences growing up (you had to love that mid-1970's Saturday Night lineup on CBS).

If you're in the area, I strongly encourage to check it out. Performances are June 14-15 and 21-23 at the MCC Longview Cultural Arts Center in Lee's Summit.

Tickets? A mere $15 ($12 for students and seniors).

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

My 8th year sales

It's May, that magical month when Pioneer Drama Service mails annual royalty checks to its playwrights. It's also the month when I take stock of the year just past and compare it to the previous year.

The good news? In terms of productions, it was my best year yet. I had 361, a 16% increase over the 312 productions I had the previous year.

The bad news? The amount of my check actually went down. Sure, it was just a small drop (0.5%), but this was the first time I've ever seen a decrease.

That's largely due to the vagaries of school theater. Some schools pay when they book the show, some up to a month after it's been produced. If I get too many of the latter in April (the biggest month of the year for school plays), it can push my royalties into the following year.

Another problem was that I only had one new play come out -- Babka Without Borders -- and it had the slowest start of any of my plays to date. I can't say I'm too surprised -- it's an odd little play with an unusual setting -- but I love that play and the message of tolerance and acceptance that it promotes so I'm glad Pioneer has stood by it.

One positive development this year was that 32 or almost 10% of my productions for the year were from schools and community theaters that had previously done my plays. I hope to see that percentage continue to grow.

Oh, and I was excited to see my plays make it to three new countries this year.

Without further ado then, here is the breakdown:

My #1 play was The Enchanted Bookshop, with an amazing 156 productions. Not only does that put it at the top of the list for Pioneer's plays, but that makes it one of the best-selling plays in the country. Normally, plays drop off after their first full year, but Bookshop has already booked 38 productions for next year--more than most of my plays get in an entire year--so I'm hoping it may see another uptick next year. This year, it was also my first play to be done in Ireland, making it my 12th country.

You're Driving Me Crazy! continues to do well in the #2 slot this year with 39 productions. This driver's ed-themed collection of shorts has been popular with high schools and middle schools. around the world, and this year it even got a production in Panama, my 13th country.

At #3, Million Dollar Meatballs pulled off the impossible this year. My plays have always done their best in their first full year, but with 37 productions, this restaurant-set farce actually set a new record in this, its third full year of publication.

After struggling last year, Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye rallied hard this year with a respectable 31 productions (a 63% increase over the 19 of the previous year). That puts it at #4.

My reality TV parody Trouble in Paradise Junction dropped a precipitous 70% from last year, its first full year of production. But it still ended up with 21 productions, which was good enough to make it #5.

This was also the first full year of publication for The Purrfect Crime (#6) and Wicked Is As Wicked Does (#7). Unfortunately, with just 17 and 16 productions respectively, they came in a little weaker than I'd been hoping. Maybe these will pull off a Meatballs miracle and show a big boost next year.

Going down the list, we find The Stinky Feet Gang (14 productions), The Butler Did It! (12 productions), Long Tall Lester (8 productions), How I Met Your Mummy (7 productions), and The _urloined Letter (3 productions). Although Mummy is down big-time from the 30 productions it got just two years ago, one of this year's productions was in Switzerland, which gave me my 14th country (only 181 to go!).

My new baby, Babka Without Borders (unlucky #13), did manage to book 4 productions during the year. But all of those occur this month, which puts them outside of the 2018-2019 season. The upshot? A big goose egg for the year just past.

So all in all, the year was a bit of a disappointment. But I've got hope! This coming year will see the birth of what could be two monster plays: The Enchanted Bookshop Musical, and my first pirate comedy, Real Pirates Don't Wear Tiaras.

Keep checking back here, folks. You can bet this proud papa will let you know as soon as they're born.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Oman Bookshop photo named finalist

So you remember that photo contest I was telling you about? Well, it turns out that a production of The Enchanted Bookshop at the American International School in Muscat, Oman (yes, Oman!) made the list of five finalists selected by Pioneer.

And I can see why. Their costumes look awesome. And I love the expression on Margie's face (Margie is the one seated on the sofa).

Now comes the fun part, as Pioneer is taking votes from the public to decide the winner. To participate, all you have to do is visit Pioneer's account on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (or better yet, all three) and click Like under the photo or photos you think are best.

Here are the links:




Of course, I'm not about to tell you how to vote. That's up to you.

But I know which one I'll be voting for.