Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Belmont diary: The finish line

So last week I received notes from director Christopher Parsons on my "final" revision of Bringing Down the House. I'm always a little nervous when I'm waiting for notes because I fear that the changes are going to be many and painful. You know, like juggling the order of events. Or changing the ending to something more uplifting. Or making the main character a goat instead of a duck.

Fortunately, that hasn't happened yet. And Chris's notes were especially benign, as he requested only 12 minor line edits. 

I won't list all of the edits here, but there were a couple that I'd like to discuss as they raise some interesting issues with respect to theater and playwriting. 

The first is that early in the play I had Sidney, the show-within-the-show's book writer complain about the theater they rented saying, "It looks like it hasn't seen a show since Macbeth. And by that, I mean the original production."

I thought that was a funny line. But beyond that, there's a lot of things that go wrong in the show-within-the-show, and my idea was that this violation of one of the theater world's most pervasive superstitions--the uttering of the word "Macbeth" onstage--was what set the bad luck in motion.

But Chris felt uncomfortable having the word said as part of the play, and it occurred to me that a lot of other directors might have the same objection. Besides, the line would be just as funny with the title of any other play that's known for being old. So I changed it to Romeo and Juliet.

No, I don't have a trigger now for all of the disasters that happen to our happy troupe, but I also won't have any directors passing on the play because of a single word.

And besides, I think the new line may be funnier.

The other note is that at a later point, I had Cameron, the temperamental director, address the cast with, "All right, listen up, guys." Now to me, "guys" is a gender neutral term. It refers to both males and females. But I grew up in the Midwest where that's common usage. And apparently it's heard in Southern California as well because Legally Blonde: The Musical has the song,  "Omigod You Guys," which is something Elle says to her very female sorority sisters.

But Belmont School is in Massachusetts and that sense of the word may not be standard there. So no worries. I changed the script.

Still, I'm thinking of changing this and a couple other lines back before submitting the script to my publisher.

Oh, yes. There's another thing worth mentioning? The one line I thought for sure I'd have to change actually made it through the school's DEIB review.

It's when the show-within-a-show's lyricist Elliot informs Cameron that they're changing the show to a pirates vs. aliens thing. The new title? Invasion of the Booty Snatchers.

Anyway, I accepted all of Chris's change requests so my work is now largely finished. All that's left is to wait for the production in March, and to make one final, final revision based on Chris's last batch of notes from actually mounting the show and on my own viewing of the play (nothing like audience reaction to learn which gags work and which don't).

But it feels really good to reach this milestone, and to provide a script that Chris and crew are now eager to produce.

Wish them luck.

Oops. scratch that. Wish them broken legs.

I've got to brush up on those theater superstitions.

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