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.

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