Saturday, May 25, 2024

Belmont diary: Third time's a charm?

Just kidding with that blog title, of course. Because I feel like my first two at-bats with Belmont Day School went very well indeed.

Theater Director Christopher Parsons must feel that way too, because he just emailed me that the school has approved a third playwriting commission for me.

This one is different. Way different. Instead of a full-length for their seventh- and eight-graders, they're having me write a 20- to 25-minute one-act for their sixth graders. And while the first two plays required massive casts--like 38 to 40 actors--this one calls for a much more economical eight.

The set and plot requirements are particularly loose. The school had laid out very specific guidelines for what became It's a Madhouse! and Bringing Down the House, but for this one they're only asking that the set be minimal (no backdrops or complicated set pieces) and that the story be in the fairy tale or fantasy genre.

Ironically, though, that makes the writing tougher. The story requirements for the first two plays acted as writing prompts for me, and I only had to toss a few ideas around in my head (and at the dinner table) before I was able to break the story.

Not here. Fairy tales present an extremely large canvas. Do I write an original one or a parody? If it's a parody, do I base it on a well-known story, a more obscure one (hello, "Hans-My-Hedgehog"), or a mishmash of several of them? And which ones do I choose?

Another challenge is related to the reason Belmont Day School hired me in the first place. DEIB goals are a big deal for them, as they should be for everyone, and in the past, Chris had difficulty finding plays that met those goals.

So they're a big deal on this play as well. There can't be any gender, racial, or cultural stereotypes. But the classic fairy tales are built on stereotypes. You've got the brave prince. The helpless princess. The foolish peasant. And on and on.

Well, I've got to figure out a way to subvert all those. Or maybe not subvert them, because even playing with them can reinforce them in a way. No, what I have to do is bypass them entirely.  

Oh, there's one other difference with this commission that I should mention. The school won't be giving the play a full production. They'll only be using the script in class to practice their performance skills. This frees me up to submit the play to my publisher as soon as it's written (it should be completed by the end of August).

So that's good. But if I ever want the play to get a full production, I'll need to make it work for a broad spectrum of schools and theater companies, maybe even as a competition piece. 

Whew. This is going to be a toughie. But that's okay. I love a good toughie. 

If you'd like to hire me to write a play for your school or theater company, you can find all the deets on my Work With Me page.

I look forward to collaborating with you!

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