Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Back to school

As local students head back to school this month, our members have too, in a way, with last night's meeting featuring a couple of older scripts that were recently finished or polished anew. We read four plays in all.

Attendance was decent, with 12 people showing up. However, one member was recovering from throat surgery and another was there just to listen, leaving only 10 people to perform (9 if you exclude the writer, who usually listens). This made it tricky when we got to my play, which had a whopping 19 parts. But we made it work.

We opened with the latest entry in Sue Bachman's series of popular Stella & Mavis plays. This one was Stella & Mavis at the Casino, and it had the same rapid-fire wit and hilarious misunderstandings as the previous entries. Everyone agreed that the dialogue flowed very naturally. Much of the discussion centered on additional gags Sue could add, including a risque mishearing of "Blow on my nickels."

After that, we read a couple of scenes from Grant Swenson's adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, titled And Your Little Dog Too... The play places Toto at the center of action, portraying him as a kind of hip jazz musician from the 1950's. In the first scene, a rewrite, Toto interacts with the three farm animals who later become Brain, Heart and Courage. The audience liked the characters but felt that the mouse did not seem dumb enough here (she's the one who transforms into Brain).

In the second scene, taken from Act Two, Heart gives an inspiring speech to motivate the townsfolk to help them fight the Wicked Witch. The audience agreed that the speech was very inspiring but felt that it should be simplified to reflect the more straightfoward language that Heart would use.

Next up was Jeff Schmoyer's reality show parody, And the Winner Is... It was a play that Jeff had been working on for a while and he was finally glad to be able to bring to the group. In it, a husband anxiously waits for a reality show to announce its season winner, only to have the announcement interrupted again and again by wacky commercials. Jeff was worried that the play didn't have enough of a plot, but the audience assured him that it didn't need one (as I've always found, humor covers over a multitude of sins). The audience did suggest, however, that Jeff up the tension by making the wife more sneaky in her attempts to change the channel.

Next up was the finale of my fairy tale comedy Wicked Is As Wicked Does. Here, the Wickeds make one last attempt to stop Prince Intolerable's wedding to Snow White by poisoning the drinks they toast with. One person liked its brisk pace, but it soon  became obvious that there were a couple of flaws with the piece. First, it felt satisfying for the ending to focus on Magic Mirror when he wasn't that important to the plot. Second, and this is a biggie, the other princes basically got away with murder, suffering no punishment even though they tried to help Prince Intolerable feed the dwarfs to the dragon. These will be fixed.

After the meeting, everyone stuck around for about 20 minutes to discuss the latest on the Intergenerational Theatre Workshop. Joye Cook-Levy will manage the workshop for TheatreWorks, while Mitchell High School drama teacher Holly Haverkorn will supply the students.

All meetings will take place on the UCCS campus, not Mitchell as originally reported. We will meet one night a week for six weeks starting in early October, concluding with a staged reading or script-in-hand performance at the Kraemer Family Library in late November or early December. When polled, the Drama Lab folks said that Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday would work best.

Joye, Holly and I agreed on a theme of "violence in our community" as we felt that it was extremely topical and should allow for some meaningful exchanges between the generations.

Joye had proposed that the writers work together on the plays, with the actors not getting involved until much later in the process. However, the Drama Lab folks felt strongly that the actors should be involved from the beginning and that the writers should work with them rather than the other writers. I promised I would take this back to Joye and would arrange a meeting for all involved, if needed. (Update: Joye responded to my email after the meeting by agreeing to run the workshop the way the Drama Lab folks prefer.)

We got out of the meeting around 8:45pm. That was a lot of ground to cover in an hour and 45 minutes, but we did it.

I hope to see everyone at our next meeting on Monday, September 12--which just happens to be our 5th anniversary!

And they said it would never last.

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