Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Feast to famine

Okay, that might be overstating things a bit, but last night's abbreviated meeting (it was barely two hours) certainly felt like a famine after the lengthy meetings of the last few months.

The problem wasn't the quality, of course. The scripts were as good as ever. The problem was the quantity. We only had five scripts to read, and one of those was only 2 pages long.

The shortage of material was due to the fact that several people were traveling on vacation--I guess it's still summer for some of us--while others were in rehearsal for Craft Production Resources' upcoming Our Shorts Are Showing 3. And that hurt our actor turnout as well. Only nine people showed up, and five of those were playwrights so a lot of the writers pulled double duty last night.

And while we're on the subject, next month is expected to be even worse as all of the Our Shorts Are Showing people will be in rehearsal on the second Monday, and that includes almost all of our members. For this reason, I'm postponing the meeting to the following Monday, September 21.

We opened the meeting with August Mergelman's The Magpies, another in his series of short plays exploring various theatrical traditions. This one takes a look at Greek comedy. In it, we see the famous muses of Greek mythology trick Orfeo into signing a peace treaty. August explained that the muses were not part of the original story, but that he added them in order to pad out the cast for female-heavy high school theater departments. They worked well, and everyone liked the humor and the fast-paced dialogue.

Next up was a rewrite of the end of Sue Bachman's family drama Torn. This scene features the alcoholic son prodding his AA partner to apologize to the woman whose son he'd killed in a car accident. Sue rewrote it in order to better portray the reality of restorative justice today, and while there was some discussion about what the mom knew or should know about her son's death, everyone agreed that the scene was more powerful now and the mother's reaction was more genuine.

We then read Chuck Cabell's short play Something Like A Star. It's about a high school AP class discussing Robert Frost's poem Choose Something Like A Star. The characters were well-drawn, with unique viewpoints and strong personalities, and the dialogue brought out some interesting points about the poem. But some wondered whether it was really a story, since the characters don't really change or grow.

After that we read the ending of Tim Phillips' Prohibition-era romance When I Met You. Here, Paul the piano player's ex-fiancee Iva returns to reveal a picture of their 2-year-old daughter, convincing Abigail that she should let Paul go to Hollywood without her. Everything wrapped up nicely, although some thought that Abigail should show more emotion when she learns about Paul's child.

We concluded the meeting with another section from my old-time radio farce, The Last Radio Show. These pages gave us our first show-within-a-show, Good Doctor Goode, a parody of those hospital dramas featuring a man with a pineapple growing out of his head. The audience seemed to like the humor and the rapid-fire pace, and there were several suggestions for ways to punch up the gags.

If this month's meeting showed us anything, it's that we can always use more members. I've already invited a new writer to the group, and I expect to get one or two others. Please invite any actors you know to join us as well. We're open to all!

Oh, and for an extra treat this month, here's a fantastic podcast from one of my favorite blogs, The Producer's Perspective. In it, Ken Davenport interviews Theresa Rebeck, author of the 2011 Broadway play Seminar and creator of the TV series Smash. Enjoy!