Friday, October 1, 2021

Belmont mystery: Final draft done!



It's October 1--the day my contract with Belmont Day School said the final draft was due--and I'm glad to say I just got it in under the wire.

I turned in the first draft back on August 23, but with the multiple challenges of starting up school under new COVID guidelines, my contacts at the school weren't able to provide their inputs on it until this Monday. Fortunately, the inputs were few.

One of the reasons the school wanted to commission a play was because they'd struggled to find a play with plenty of strong female roles and no cultural insensitivities. I've always striven for both in my plays, but I was surprised and a little dismayed to find that even with my best efforts, I managed to include a couple of things that weren't completely sensitive. What's more, they distracted from what I was trying to achieve with those characters. So I'm really glad I was able to get feedback on the play.

I guess it just goes to show. A lot of the biases we deal with are so ingrained in our culture we don't see them even when we're looking for them.

On that note, I also changed the gender of one of the roles--a touchy-feely guru type who turns out to be something else--to a woman because I needed another female role and I wanted to break this particular stereotype.

Other than that, co-director Chris Parsons and Susan Dempsey think the play is terrific and can't wait to start rehearsals next week.

Oh, we have a title now! I'd originally proposed It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Mystery. I thought it captured both the genre of the play and the crazy energy of the plot. And, as a callback to a certain 1960's caper film, it passed my smile test. Chris and Susan, however, wanted a shorter title and felt that kids wouldn't get the reference. Which I'm sure is true, but I was hoping at least some in the audience would get it (I figure that few of my cultural reference jokes are understood by everyone).

I may end up reverting to that title when I submit the play to my publisher. But for Belmont's production the title will be a much more svelte It's a Madhouse! I was a little worried that this too might be considered a little insensitive. I mean they're not called madhouses anymore. But the saying is so commonly used that I think the word has lost its original meaning and now only ever means a place where confusion and chaos reign.

And to make the title more meaningful, I changed some of the dialogue to give "madhouse" an entirely new, third meaning (a kind of pun, really).

Chris and Susan still need to read and approve this final version but we're almost there. Now's the fun part: putting the play on its feet.

I can't wait.

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