Monday, September 21, 2020

Lights! Camera! Murder! is now available

A play which took me years of on and off writing and revising and tweaking to complete, went on to get rejected by several publishers, and was finally given up for dead has just been published by Brooklyn Publishers.

The play, of course, is Lights! Camera! Murder! I've told the whole crazy story before, so let me just say here what a joy it is to finally see this play in print. It's my first play with Brooklyn, and my 18th play overall.

Ordering info and a free script sample can be found on Brooklyn's website. Here's the blurb:

It's 1948, and Hope Holloway is an ambitious young press agent on Dial M for Migraine, a detective movie that's three weeks late and half a million dollars over budget. To finish the movie, temperamental leading man Roger Drummond has to film one last scene, a scene in which his character drinks a poisoned cup of coffee. 

Roger gives the performance of his life, writhing in agony as he collapses to the floor. But when the scene is done, and Roger remains sprawled on the floor, Hope has a horrible realization: the coffee really was poisoned! 

Worried about the bad press this will generate, Hope quickly hides the body so she can solve the murder herself. But who could the murderer be? Alberto Bologna, the hotheaded director who's only pretending to be Italian? Gwendolyn Chambers, the bubbleheaded starlet who can't read her cue cards without squinting? Tommy Novak, the gawky production assistant who has a crush on Hope? Or one of several other unlikely suspects? 

With its crazy characters and snappy dialogue, this sassy send-up of the Golden Age of Hollywood is guaranteed to be a blockbuster hit!

The theater world is still largely on hold with the COVID-19 crisis, but I'm hoping to see this play on its feet soon, maybe early next year.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas is now available

Just in time for the new school year, Pioneer Drama Service has released the latest addition to the growing series of Enchanted Bookshop plays. 

It's titled An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas (echoes of those heartwarming Hallmark specials?) and it's my very first holiday play. The play's web page, including a script sample and complete ordering info, can be found here.

Here's the blurb:
Revisit or discover anew the beloved literary characters of the bestselling The Enchanted Bookshop in this very merry prequel. This time, they're joined by a whole crew of Christmas-themed characters, including the Nutcracker Prince, Amy March, the Velveteen Rabbit, the Little Match Girl, and even Ebenezer Scrooge himself! 
As the play begins, it's four days before Christmas and Miss Margie, the scatterbrained owner of the shop, is thrilled to have two very special guests — her serious-minded sister Ellen and book-loving niece Annabelle.  Ellen was recently laid off from her position as an astronomy professor, and she's certain she'll never find a job again. 
Her luck changes, however, when high-tech billionaire Philip Brantley stops in at the shop and Margie convinces him to hire Ellen for his new space project. With Ellen out shopping, Margie has a brainstorm to wrap the bookmark that Philip wrote his phone number on it and give it to Ellen as a Christmas present. After all, what could possibly go wrong? The present could go missing, that's what!
Now it's up to the Lits to solve the mystery of the missing bookmark and save the day for Ellen — all without giving away their magical existence. It's a hilarious, heartwarming tale that reminds us that the best gifts don't come wrapped in pretty paper and bows.
Of course, An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas had to be a prequel as the original play concluded (spoiler alert!) with the Lits disappearing into their books forever. And that was just one of the challenges in writing this play. After all, how can you create any kind of tension in a story when you know the heroes will survive for another play? Well, I came up with a neat little solution that I think works well.

Another challenge was deciding which characters to include. In my post about the original play, I explained how I came up with the six literary characters who formed the core of that story.

One of the most important criteria for me was that the characters be instantly recognizable from their costumes. This narrowed things down pretty quickly, and I ended up going with Dorothy Gale, Tom Sawyer, Pollyanna, Robin Hood, Heidi, and Sherlock Holmes (of course, Pollyanna may be the odd girl out here, as she's not particularly well-known outside the 1960 Disney movie).

I knew I wouldn't be able to stick to that rule in the new play. Sure, all of the new Christmas-themed characters are well-known and well-loved. But they're not visually iconic in the same way that the original six were.

Of course, the Nutcracker Prince had to make an appearance in the Tchaikovsky ballet have made him a happy part of many people's Christmas traditions. Sadly, to make room for the new characters, I had to axe some of the older ones (namely, Robin Hood, Heidi, and Sherlock Holmes). But with his pompousness and love of big words, the Nutcracker Prince ably filled Sherlock's shoes.

I love the book Little Women and I desperately wanted to include one of the March sisters in the play. And yes, I realize that, strictly speaking, Little Women isn't a Christmas story, but the novel does open with that famous scene by the hearth with the sisters (well, three out of four of them) complaining about how miserable the holiday is going to be. And admit it. When you thick back to the multiple movie versions, that's the scene you think of first.

 Of course, the natural choice would be Jo as she seems to be everyone's favorite sister (she's definitely mine). But Jo is too close in personality to Dorothy, and I didn't need two clever, headstrong leader types.

Meg and Beth seemed a little dull for what I was looking for. That left Amy. Fans of the book have some pretty strong opinions about this youngest member of the brood. Some consider her the most admirable of the four because she knows what she wants and isn't afraid to take it. Others resent that she often does so at the expense of her sisters. Still others (writers mostly) will never forgive her for what she did to Jo's manuscript (of course, I had to include a gag about that in the play).

Greta Gerwig's 2019 film went a long ways toward redeeming Amy in the eyes of many, but even in that film she remains very much a brat. And that made her perfect for my purposes, as she lent a smart alecky tone to the proceedings.

Of all the characters, I had the most fun writing her, and I think she got many of the best lines. Will she make an appearance in a future installment? You'll have to wait and see.

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favorite stories growing up. The way this ratty old stuffed animal came to life at the end really stuck with me, so I knew I had to include him. But reading the story again as an adult, I was stuck by how--well, emotional--he was. That gave me a fun personality play with.

Of course, the fact that the toy was contaminated with scarlet fever provided a couple of gags, one of which involves a bottle of hand sanitizer (which I thought up before this whole COVID crisis, I swear). An additional advantage of including this character is that as a rabbit, he can easily be played by a boy or girl.

Although this story isn't normally identified as a Christmas story, the rabbit was originally given to the Boy as a Christmas gift so it worked well. I had my third character.

Then there's the Little Match Girl, who would provide sweetness and light (and make a perfect counterirritant to Amy with her constant griping about being "poor"). This one was a bit of a cheat because the original Hans Christian Andersen story actually takes place on New Year's Eve. But who can forget the image of her peeking through the window of the rich family's home at the huge feast laid out for them--something we normally associate with Christmas?

I also had to include that well-meaning couple from O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. Do you remember their names? They're James and Della Young, and while they play a smaller role here, they get some of my best lines as well as one fun scene where they seem destined to repeat their ill-fated gift-giving forever.

Of course, Ebenezer Scrooge had to show up as the curmudgeonly antagonist. One early version had him going through his famous transformation behind the scenes over the course of the play and while that was an interesting concept, it stole the focus away from the main plot. Still, a hint of that remains in the play, and Scrooge ends up a much nicer, more compassionate figure than he was in the beginning.

All that was missing was the fat man himself. I didn't want to include the actual Santa because that might suggest that Santa himself is no more than a literary character (didn't want to go there). So instead I had one of the characters make a surprise appearance dressed as Santa. I think this will be a big hit for audiences and put everyone in the proper holiday mood.

One set of characters that didn't make the cut? The lively denizens of The Elves and the Shoemaker. This isn't always thought of as a Christmas story but does take place at least partly on Christmas Eve. I would have loved to include them but the large number of elves got a little unwieldy in practice. I ended up giving them an equally crucial role in the story, being the characters that, in their book at least, inspire Annabelle to believe in Christmas.

So there you have it. One new play, seven new literary characters come to life.

Whether you're putting on a special Christmas performance this year, or holding off for another year, I hope you'll buy at least a perusal copy. I truly believe it'll warm your heart.

And isn't that really what we're all looking for these days?