Saturday, June 5, 2021

Belmont Diary: Out of the blue

You never know where a play might lead.

When I was writing "Babka Without Borders," I almost gave up halfway in. At that point, I knew it would take me a couple more months to finish and the fear started to gnaw at me that the play would never get published. Or if it did, nobody would produce it. Its costumes were too challenging (it's set in the early 1900's), its language too stilted.

But the story wouldn't let me go. The characters begged me to bring them to life. So I took a gamble and finished it.

It turned out I was wrong on both counts. Pioneer Drama Service snapped up the plat and, while it hasn't gotten a ton of productions, it's done all right (11 productions in its best year). And it is, so far, my only play to have been performed on the African continent (Knysna, South Africa).

Most importantly, the schools that have done it really love it. Its themes of love, world peace and pastries seems to resonate with a lot of people. 

Which leads me to Belmont Day School in Massachusetts. They liked the play so much that they arranged for me to do a Zoom call with the students (the first hour is always free for schools and other theater groups that perform my plays!). I had a great time meeting the cast and crew and they had a great time firing questions at me, like where do I get my ideas and what is my favorite flavor of babka (chocolate, of course).

That was a couple years ago. And I hadn't heard anything more until this week, when out of the blue, Christopher Parsons, the school's theater director, emailed me. He He explained that the school has very specific diversity requirements, and that he's had a terrible time trying to find a play that meets those requirements. Would I write one?

I only needed about a half second to answer that one. It's been four years since I've developed a play in partnership with a school, and I miss interaction. Not only do I get feedback that helps make the play better, but the sheer energy of the staff and students pumps up my writing.

They would pay me my usual fee and I would own full rights to the play after they perform it. The only challenge was the time frame. They originally wanted it done by August 10.

Now I'm a slow writer. I usually take four to six months writing an hour and a half a day to finish a full-length play. Even if I squeezed an extra half hour of writing in each day, the soonest I could get it done was October.

Fortunately, they were willing to give me until the first day of that month as the absolute drop dead date. Of course, I promised to send them partial drafts along the way so they could start planning sets, costumes, that sort of thing. And having a deadline will force me to stop wasting so much time second-guessing myself in my writing.

Deal done.

Now all that's left is to discuss are the parameters of the play: Cast size, length, possible themes. But that comes next week.

I can't wait.

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