Wednesday, April 12, 2023

How to Enchant a Bookshop to be published

Every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's true even when the story sprawls across several plays.

The Enchanted Bookshop was the end of the story (spoiler alert!). Of course, the play ends with the book characters disappearing into their books as they sacrifice themselves in order to save the shop. No possibility of a follow-up there.

An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas was the middle. It takes place before the original play, and although everyone knows the characters won't disappear, there's still plenty of tension as the audience wonders how the missing bookmark will be found.

But both of these plays hinted at a mysterious beginning, the story of how A Likely Story became enchanted in the first place. Sure, in the original play, Book Fairy provided a vague explanation of why she gave the gift of life to that beloved band of literary characters. But she never explained how she did it. Or how she learned the spell. Or who those first characters she brought to life were.

Which is why I wrote How to Enchant a Bookshop. Call it the origin story of the Enchanted Bookshop universe.

And that leads to an interesting story. I don't think I'm giving anything away by admitting that Pioneer Drama Service originally rejected the script. They were worried it would water down the stories I already had. And I get that. I was a little worried about that too.

But I told them I felt it was a story that to be told. Again, the beginning to the wildly popular middle and end. And they were generous enough to reconsider it.

Under one condition. That I revise it as a one-act play.

It made a lot of sense. Although The Enchanted Bookshop is relatively short for a full-length play, at sixty minutes it's too long to perform during one class period or as part of an evening of short plays. Making it a one-act would allow me to complete A Likely Story's story while opening a whole new market for Margie and friends.

The editing turned out to be a slam dunk. I cut two characters. The first was a customer who satirized those who prefer buying their books online rather than from a friendly, knowledgeable bookseller but didn't advance the plot. The second was none other that Cosette from Les Miserables, who was an interesting addition but never came alive for me on the page.

More importantly, I cut 16 pages, slimming the script from a plump 63 pages to a much more svelte 47. It wasn't as hard as you might think. Cutting those two characters accounted for about 5 of the pages and the rest came from deleting gags that didn't work (I had way too many of those!).

The result? A tight, charming, and hilarious play (if I do say so myself) that's perfect for elementary schools, not just because of its length but also because the story is lighter in tone and most of the new literary characters I added would appeal more to younger folk.

Who are those kid-skewing characters? Well, one is Cinderella, who's described in the script as "not the Disney version". The other two are the answer to that question I posed earlier: who were the first characters to be brought to life in Margie's bookshop?

And here they are:

TOM THUMB: Oh, Hunca Munca! Have you ever seen such a glorious sight?

HUNCA MUNCA: What is this place, Tom Thumb? It certainly doesn't look like the dollhouse.

TOM THUMB: No, indeed. Why, if I ventured a guess, I would say that we're in a bookshop.

HUNCA MUNCA: A bookshop? What, pray tell, is a bookshop?

TOM THUMB: A bookshop is a place where humans store books so that mice like us may dine upon them.

HUNCA MUNCA: Oh, Tom! I should so like to sample these books! They look simply scrumptious!

TOM THUMB: And so many of them! I should think we should feast for weeks!

Give up? They're the titular characters from the Beatrix Potter story, The Tale of Two Bad Mice. And boy, are they hungry!

I'm hoping some schools and community theaters will see the benefit of performing both How to Enchant a Bookshop and The Enchanted Bookshop in a single afternoon or evening. After all, the total playing time will be around an hour and 40 minutes, comparable to a normal full-length play. And they offer roles for two whole sets of casts, adding up to a whopping 41 parts!

I'm excited to see how this new play fares. Look for it to be available for the new school year this fall.

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