Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A lot on our plate

With a definite nip in the air, 17 of us gathered last night for our final Drama Lab meeting at Black Box Theatre. The MAT is wrapping up their renovation work this week, and we're looking forward to breaking in their brand new performance space next month.

We read 7 plays--a record!--but we managed to get through them at a healthy clip, winding up the meeting just a few minutes past 9 o'clock. Of course, it helped that one of the plays was a 1-minute play and at least a couple of the others were under 10 pages.

There weren't any new writers, but we did have a dad from Tim, Jeff and Grant's novel-writing group and his daughter try us out as readers. They did a great job, and I hope they come back next month.

We started the evening with Jeff Schmoyer's new play Keeping Up Appearances, a 10-minute comedy about a stoner who takes over Superman's job after the Man of Steel crashes through his window. Jeff did a good job setting up the scene transitions to make them easily producible and the play was extremely funny, especially the dialogue between the stoner and his equally stoned friend. Roy and Charlie were suspiciously realistic as the stoners.

That was followed by Sue Bachman's short play One Bedroom One Bath: A Space Odyssey. Based on a real-life couple she knows, the play is a delightful, heartwarming comedy about a once affluent couple downsizing into a small apartment. Some thought the dialogue was too expository, but everyone agreed that the characters were well-drawn, especially the many eccentic neighbors who keep barging in on the couple.

After that we read a rewrite of Tim Phillip's teenage relationship drama, Never Said. Here he got rid of the mother and threw in Dr. Hux, a kind fatherly figure based on Bill Cosby's character in The Cosby Show. Tim's clever idea was to have Seth turn to several 80's sitcom characters for advice in his relationship with Miranda. There was some discussion whether Seth should call on one or several characters, and whether Miranda should have her own spiritual mentor (Roseanne Barr?).

Then we read the next part of Jess Weaver's full-length drama, Georgie's on my Mind. Nora's struggle to help Hoagy learn to talk was powerful, made even more so by the way it kept slipping back into Hoagy's memories of his mixed-race romance with Georgie. Jess was worried that the dialogue might be too corny, but everyone agreed it was very touching. There was one suggestion that the doctor should be made an antagonist to Nora in order to heighten the tension.

We followed that with scenes 3 and 4 from Grant Swenson's full-length comedy And Your Little Dog Too, a version of The Wizard of Oz told from a blues-loving Toto's point of view. Here we got to meet the Scarecrow's Brain and the Tin Man's Heart. These characters' monologues took us deeper than many expected after the lighthearted humor of the scenes we read last month.

Next we read the beginning of my full-length comedy, Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye. People seemed to like the gags and the hard-boiled dialogue, and there was quite a bit of discussion about where the story should go next. My big challenge is to squeeze in the 30 or so roles that most school groups are looking for. Of course, the real reason I wrote it was to see Buck play Baby Bear.

We wrapped up with Jess's second play of the evening, The Meaning of Life. Or, Why? Or, I May Be a Woman But Don't Underestimate the Size of my Balls. And since it's a 1-minute play, that title is almost as long as the script. These kind of plays really need a big punch at the end, and Jess got it as an erudite couple applauds the unintentionally violent end of a theatre performance, thinking it very "avant garde". Sue did a nice job as the more enthusiastic half of the couple.

Everyone who needed to pay their dues this fall has done so. A big thanks to all of you for making this unpleasant part of my job very painless.

See you at our next meeting on Monday, November 11!

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