Thursday, March 31, 2022

Wolverine State Butler finds the Python


I was a comedy nerd before the phrase "comedy nerd" was even a thing. I was a fan of all the old comedy teams: Laurel and Hardy. Abbott and Costello. The Marx Brothers. But nobody made me laugh as hard as Monty Python's Flying Circus.

I was eleven years old when reruns of this groundbreaking show were first shown on American TV. And I adored them. I didn't always get the humor. Some of the jokes were too British. Other jokes were over my head maturity-wise. But I knew they were funny and I watched them over and over again until I could quote them from memory (the exploding penguin sketch was my favorite).

So it thrilled me to learn that a director in Michigan compared the humor in my play The Butler Did It! to those bad boys. The director is Brad Kenyon and he's directing the show next month for the Athens Community Theatre. The Daily Reporter has the story.

"It's not Bob Hope snappy punchline-pacing, but a delightful blend of physical and verbal comedy that makes it hilarious," Kenyon said. "There's influence from classic Hollywood productions, old-time vaudeville and Monty Python."

The article also notes that the actors contributed plenty of their own comedy nuggets, which always makes me happy.

Check it out if you're in the area. The show may not contain the funniest joke in the world, but I guarantee it'll make you laugh.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Peach State Bookshop gives it away


Another day. Another writeup.

This one comes from the august pages of the Valdosta Daily Times. The Gingerbread Players (love that name!), the youth arm of Theatre Guild Valdosta, is performing The Enchanted Bookshop Musical over the next two weekends. And, as the article makes clear, co-directors Pauline Player and Sandy Parrish and the rest of their crew have come up with a couple of clever twists.

One is that they built doors that are disguised as giant books on the bookshelves of the set, making it appear as though Dorothy Gale, Tom Sawyer, and the rest of the beloved literary characters appear by stepping directly out of their books. That's a great idea and kind of my original vision for the play, but I know how difficult it can be for cash-strapped schools and theater companies to build elaborate sets. I'm so glad Theatre Guild Valdosta was able to pull it off.


The other twist is more of a promotional one. In order to promote reading among its young audience, the theater will give a book to each child attending the performances. Now that's a fantastic idea!

Break legs, everyone! I hope you find all sorts of new young fans--and readers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Saskatchewan Meatballs gets funky

 
Schools and community theaters have made some very creative choices with my plays. But nobody has ever given one a disco spin.

Until now.

According to a local newspaper articleFootlighters Theatre Society in beautiful Creston, Saskatchewan is performing my restaurant farce Million Dollar Meatballs this June--and they're setting it in the 1970's disco era.

Does that mean a glittering disco ball hanging from the ceiling of Chez Monyeu? Bell bottoms on the bus boys? The sounds of ABBA playing between scenes? The article doesn't say. But it does make clear that director Jason Smith is a man of exquisite good taste.

"We looked at a lot of scripts before choosing this one," Smith said. "It's just so ridiculously funny and will be a lot fun for audiences of any age."

This is just their third show since reopening after the pandemic. And they have only one goal.

"We wanted this season's productions to make the audience laugh," Smith continues. "And Million Dollar Meatballs will definitely do just that." 

Sounds groovy to me!

Friday, March 11, 2022

The end of the world as they knew it


I've got exciting news! I've just released a new large-cast comedy that's perfect for elementary and middle-school students and your school or theatre group can be one of the first in the world to perform it!

The play is titled The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct and it's about two dinosaur scientists who try to save the world from an asteroid hurtling toward earth (yes, that asteroid).

Old Far Side fans may assume that the title was inspired by one of the comic strip's most famous panels. And they'd be completely right. (I changed the "became" to "went" to improve the flow when pronouncing the title).

Other people might assume that the play itself was inspired by a recent Adam McKay film. And they'd be completely wrong.

Great minds do what now?

As a matter of fact, I started writing the play in September of last year. I didn't even know about Don't Look Up until November and I didn't see the movie until a week after I completed my final polish on the play.

Still, I'm surprised by the parallels between them. I guess if you're going to write a story about the imminent destruction of the earth by a speeding space rock, you're going to use a lot of the same elements:

A pair of scientists--one highly emotional, one more serious--who first detect the danger and try to warn the world about the risks.

A populace that refuses to heed the risks because they're too wrapped up in the trivial concerns of their daily lives.

A desperate, all-too-late attempt to save the earth.

And a final, important lesson that we can't solve the global problems we face as a species until we start working together.

But they are also some key differences.

Just the facts, ma'am

First, my play is about dinosaurs. I mean, come on. Kids love dinosaurs. And in my research for writing the play, I was unable to find a single other play in which kids get to portray dinosaurs. It's a natural.

For this reason, I crammed as many scientific facts into the play so that teachers could use it as a launching pad for discussing the world of the dinosaurs and how it differed from own.

For example, did you know that grass didn't appear until the Late Cretaceous Period, shortly before that fateful asteroid struck? Or that at the time, Antarctica (where the play takes place) was covered in rain forest? Well, those facts get mentions (humorous, of course) in the course of the play.

Also, there's a lot of talk about the asteroid itself: its size, its speed, even its impact location. All great stuff for post-play discussion.


Smile!

Second, my play has a happy ending.

I know, it's hard to imagine how an asteroid striking the earth could result in anything but misery for the creatures that survived (I wasn't about to change history to make the asteroid miss the earth!).

But there are ways you can slant the ending to provide hope for the characters--and the audience. What I did was show how the Plant Eaters and the Meat Eaters--who spent the whole play fighting each other--finally decided to work together to migrate to a warmer location.

I also think the way I had the Mammals take over the stage--in the ash-induced, half-light that followed the asteroid's impact--makes for the most powerful ending to a play I've ever written. 

After all, we're mammals. And if that asteroid hadn't struck, we wouldn't be here today.

Climate change, schlimate change

Finally, the play isn't really about climate change. It's about mankind's inability to work together. If the parallel to climate change is inescapable, that says more about mankind than the play.

Of course, if you want to address the issue of climate change in your classroom, this play makes the perfect launching pad.

Operators are standing by

The play is easy to produce, with few props and set pieces. I even keep the costumes simple (color-coded T-shirts and ball caps) so you don't have to stay up late sewing twenty-plus brontosaurus and T. rex suits.

Even better, all of the twenty roles are unisex and there's plenty of room for extras so you can be completely flexible in terms of casting.

The play will receive its world premiere in April at Standouts in Wellington, New Zealand, a proud member of my Five Timers' Club which also premiered my play Doggone Detectives in 2019.

If you're interested in doing the play, or would just like to check out the script, email me here and I'll send you a PDF of the script for free. The licensing fee is $50 per performance and you can make as many copies of the script as you want, also for free.

The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct is an important play--perhaps the most important play I've ever written--and a natural follow-on to The Enchanted Bookshop in terms of its humor, its message, and the way it ties into the school curriculum.

I thank you. And your dinosaur-loving kids will thank you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Amateur!

So I finally got around to watching my two-year-old DVR recording of an acclaimed 2018 West End production of Red by John Logan.

It's not that I don't like the play. I actually love it, having seen two local productions before. It's just that there's so much stuff in my viewing queue. And I thought I already knew the play.

I didn't. Alfred Molina's performance as abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko was a revelation. Never had this brilliant yet egotistical figure seemed so bitter, so angry, and yes, so vulnerable, as he railed against the culture and the deluge of younger artists threatening to overthrow his generation of trailblazers.

But as good as Molina was in Red, I have to say his finest work was in this short from the comedy website Funny or Die.

Have you seen this thing? It's almost ten years old now, but I don't think it ever got as much notice as some of the site's other videos. And it's hilarious. Seriously, Molina's facial expressions alone can send me howling.

And don't worry. It's not making fun of children's theater. It's making fun of the pompousness of theater critics who believe only they hold the key to recognizing and appreciating quality theater. (As a former theater critic myself, all I can say is: Nailed it!)

Enjoy!