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As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, "it's always something."
Sometimes you write a play and although it seems like it has good-bordering-on-great possibilities, it languishes in the maybe-some-day file. The play at issue, "The Lemon", focuses on the trials and tribulations of a woman attempting to get help to remove her car, a "lemon" stalled in a busy intersection blocking traffic.
A 15-minute comedy play-ette as I like to call my short but sweet stories, it has been tinkered with over the years including modifications to strengthen the flow of dialogue. The saga involves the use of a public pay phone and therein lies the problem.
In order to make my plays relevant, frequent updates are done, however - as frequently mentioned in my blogs, it's always the 'howevers' that get you in the end - this is a situation requiring a reappraisal of its viability.
Public pay phones are becoming a rarity and according to Wikipedia, "since 2007, the number of payphones in the United States in operation has declined by 48%. In July 2009, AT&T officially stopped supporting the Public Payphone service. Over 139,000 locations were sold in 2009."
In this play-ette, the main character (Penny) is attempting to convince the user of the pay phone to allow her to arrange for her "lemon" to be towed to a garage since her cell phone is dead. Here's what I mean:
I don't believe this! How many more things can go wrong, today?
SOUND: car horns. PENNY looks off into the distance and makes an obscene gesture with hand
(cont'd. PENNY) 'Blow it out your nose, idiots! You'll get more out of that!' I don't believe it. Get a new cell phone and forget to charge it.
(aside to female in phone booth)
PENNY (owner of car/lemon)
'Scuse me - are you gonna be much longer?FEMALE PHONE USER (FPU)
Do you mind? I'm almost finished. Why don't you use your cell phone?PENNY
Duhhh! Don't you think I would if I could? Humor me for thirty seconds and perhaps you'll understand my dilemma. Over there in the middle of the intersection - see that car?FPU
You mean the orange-colored wreck? You actually own that? I'd keep it to myself if I was you.PENNY
I bought the rusting chunk of junk a week ago and it died on me, today. There's a sucker born every minute the dealer saw a big red "S" right here on my forehead. Desperation causes one to make questionable decisionsFPU
Okay. I looked at your car. Now can I finish my conversation? The more you interrupt, the longer it'll take(FPU turns away - PENNY taps her on the back)PENNY
Perhaps I'm not making myself clear. I'm not a violent person by nature - not at all - but you're pushing my buttons.
Wait - I made a joke...get it? Public phone booth...push the buttons... In my personal angst, I still manage to find humor. I'm a survivor alright.
Gotta take things in my own hands...(PENNY reaches over, disconnects and grabs the phone)FPU
How dare you! You...you...crazy woman. Get away from me!PENNY
How dare I
? How dare I, you ask? How many times did I tell you that I had to make a desperate phone call but did you listen? Nooooooo! Your
phone conversation took precedent over my needs, so I took things into my own hands in the true sense of the word. If you don't mind and even if you do, my phone call needs privacy so block your ears and turn away. Better still, go awayFPU
Excuse me? After the way you interrupted my conversation. I think notPENNY(rummaging through handbag)
Let's see here...where's my phone directory...course there's one on my cell if it was working... The handbag is so big, everything gets lost inside. Aha! So this is where my salami sandwich went. Phew! Would you mind tossing it into the trash over there?FPU
I think not. Why don't you go throw it in, yourself. It's a mere few feet awayPENNY
Surrrre - uh-huh... You think I'm an idiot?FPU
The thought did cross my mind in addition to you being insane.PENNY
I take one step away from here and you jump in and take control over the phone, again. I think not! I'll just put it back in my handbag and toss it when you're gone FPU
That is truly disgusting. You're gonna contaminate the phonePENNY
So then you better not use it. Let's see here - where's the number of my dealership. I should'a filed it under 'losers'. Here it is...
And so their repartee continues, the two attempting to gain and retain control over the phone. The issue is if the play is still relevant and/or if it can be updated and relevant for today's society. Still, when it's all done and written, I do like this short play... As mentioned at the beginning, it's always something.
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Been adding to "Seeds" although not as often as I like or should. Progress is dependent upon sudden brain storms or those rare but very welcome "eureka!" moments that give clarification to the story line.
Somehow, and after reading over what currently exists, there seems to be - at least in my mind - that the direction the play is taking, is too predictable bordering on blech. The subject, an accidental meeting of two people in a park, one of whom seems to have what could be classified an unusual gravitation to pigeons, is interesting. However - as mentioned numerous times in this blog, it's always the 'howevers' in life that get you - it's too ordinary and needed a shake-up. So...
A new character has been added. Elwood P. Dowd had his rabbit, Harvey, and now Sylvia Perkins has joined his league with her friend of a feather, Mr. Bird, a pigeon.
Following yet another run in with Hal, a park supervisor, who wants to maintain cleanliness and limit the appearance of pigeon poo in his territory, Julie feels a moral responsibility to help Sylvia. The two return to Julie's apartment and at the mention of the word "bath" and a failed attempt to remove Sylvia's weather-worn rain coat, Mr. Bird suddenly puts in an appearance, in a manner of speaking. Maybe it'll work and maybe it won't - hav'ta see where this will take me, if anywhere.
Yet another snippet of dialogue from "Seeds." Julie attempts to convince Sylvia to stay for supper and warm up
How about a plain, old American cheese sandwich and a coffee? You can’t refuse that. Indulge me as your new friend. Look – it’s snowing out. Wait until morning. This couch opens up into a bed You’re very kind but I can’t possibly stay. It’s getting late and my friends will be wondering where I am (Turns her head to the side) ‘I know, Mr. Bird. I’m trying to explain our necessity to leave…’ Really, Mr. Bird, one night in a warm bed won’t make a difference in the scheme of things. Wouldn’t that be better than hanging out in a park or building heating ducts? This is getting more weird by the minute… I’m definitely losing it. Correct me if I’m wrong here, Sylvia, but there’s only two people in this room, you and me, right? SYLVIA Recoils in horror and backs away How could you be so cruel? You’re just like all the other humans. No feelings whatsoever for those less-fortunate who have to survive living on the generosity of others and on the cusp of society. You have hurt Mr. Bird’s feelings for the last time. We are leaving (turns her head to the side) ‘I’m ready to leave if you are, Mr. B’ Please – wait. Perhaps I’ve acted too hastily. After all, we’re still at the getting to know you, stage, and I don’t want to threaten our budding friendship with misunderstandings. How about this: you and – um – Mr. Bird stay for supper and I’ll give you a bag of peanuts to take back. Don’t believe I’m actually making a deal that involves a… (turning her head to the side)
‘What do you think? I mean, she is trying…then there is a bag of peanuts at the end… You’re in agreement, then?’ We have accepted your apology
‘That is like…so funny. Where do you pick up those funnies?
(continuing to laugh hysterically) It’s Mr. Bird – he has such a weird sense of humor. He’s especially adroit telling jokes. He wants me to pass along his joke: you can never lose a homing pigeon. If he doesn’t come back what you’ve lost is a pigeon.
(SYLVIA laughs uproariously) You are such a joker, Mr. Bird!’ Mr. Bird wants to know what you think of his joke. It’s one of his best
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In recognition of the up-coming U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.
ZOO DIARY – TURKEY’S DILEMMASCENE: CITY ZOO Thanksgiving eve. The zoo denizens are upset with the zoo directorate having not been included in the Thanksgiving celebrationsOnce again, we’re not included in Thanksgiving celebrationsDid you really expect to? I mean, why should they? Who are we? Merely the tools in which they make money. That’s all - and how do they thank us? Closing the zoo for the day so we can’t even expect extra treats from visitors. This is so typically…human
SOUND: GOBBLE-GOBBLE… GOBBLE-GOBBLE….
Noise? What noise? Are my stripes straight?
‘You are magnificent… Those teeth…those sparkling eyes…’ Maybe if you’d get your face away from that mirror and stop admiring yourself… A person has to make sure that he looks good from every angle. Being the sole representative of the zebra specie in this zoo comes with a responsibility. A daily body examination is necessary to ensure that all my black stripes are evenly spaced on my perfectly white skin. ‘Yesssss! Perfection personified!’ Far be it to burst your bubble, Zeeb… …I am not zeeb - or zebby - or zeeby-baby. I’m a zebra. Z-E-B-R-A!RAT Gotcha Zebby-boy – like I was sayin’ – the way that I see it, the stripe on your upper right leg doesn’t well…match the left
What?! You must be mistaken. It’s not possible… How could this be? I just checked it not two minutes ago and it was perfectly aligned
(MANNY, the boa constrictor slithers in)
Manny – you’re out. Free. Did you eat lunch, yet? Yes Manny – I do hope they’ve fed you some nourishment. I mean, it’s important to keep up your strength. We don’t want you slithering around hungry looking for anybody, heh-heh… That’s the last thing we need - being that we’re your friends and all - that is to say, we don’t want you to experience hunger pangs…
As I remember, I had a nibble a month ago but no in between snacks since then. Sure is quiet around here. No humans to knock on the glass of my enclosure. One day...one sweet day...someone is gonna hit hard enough to break the glass and they'll find out why my knick-name is Mr. Squeeze
NOISE: GOBBLE-GOBBLE GOBBLE-GOBBLE…
There it is again. Sounds familiar-like
(a turkey suddenly drops down from a tree) A tree chicken. How unique. I am a turkey who requires sanctuary Listen chicken sweetheart… …turkey…I am – um – an endangered specie. Yes – that’s it - and am declaring myself on the extinct list thus requiring sanctuary
You must be someone important judging by your extensive vocabulary. All cultured and important species have an extensive vocabulary – and a beautiful body, of course (zebra looks at himself in the mirror) You handsome fool!
I am very important. In fact, I can state with absolute knowledge that I am number one on everyone’s hit list, today(slithering closer) Well I for one, believe you. You do look very appealing – in an endangered species way of course
Wish we could help, turkey, but we live out in the open with nowhere to hide
I could send a protest letter to the Zoos of America if that could assist you in any way(slithering almost directly in front of TURKEY)Well turkey – really feel for you, in the true sense of the word. I just happen to live inside in a huge glass enclosure that has lots of hiding places. Why don’t you come back to my place and check things out? I live alone and there’s nobody to bother or see usThat’s a very generous offer on your part –- Manny –TURKEYMannyAnything for a friend in need. (the two start to make their way to MANNY’s place) The farmer took good care of me up until before Thanksgiving. You can see for yourself when we get back to your pit. Oh I intend to
(cont’d.) Did anyone ever tell you that you have a beautiful, full body. I bet under all those feathers, you have nice firm flesh
Later…when we’re alone…they’ll be plenty of hugging to go around
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Still making progress with "Seeds" but there are signs of a slow down, which is par for the course. It's the point where that distressing word, "blocked" begins to seep through the conscious writing areas of my brain and plant doubts like, "maybe the story line isn't strong enough" or plant questions that include "do you know where you're going with this?"
Rather than plug away and continue to write as is suggested in writing manuals and advocated by writing professionals, I use this as a time for reflection. Translation: time to take a rest and think about stuff. Important stuff like an analysis of the characters names and whether they match their personalities. The issue of "Hal" the latest character addition, is on the analysis block. Initially, Hal was "Chuck" and before that he assumed the temporary name of "Steve." Not that there's anything wrong with any of the above-mentioned names but the names had to have a certain mental image to match the dialogue.
The female characters are also under scrutiny including "Sylvia" who was one of the two players in the original short version of "Seeds" Assessing her character strength and longevity involved walks around the neighborhood repeating her name to decide if the name suited her personality. Did receive some suspicious looks from passer-bys but that's goes with the play writing territory. Somehow, "Julie", was never in question and seemed right - so far.
At present I'm thinking as to whether should there be a head pigeon leading the park pigeons into a rebellion and if so, whether she/he should have a name. Further thoughts require a deep study into a strong pigeon name. Perhaps "Mac" or "Xena"..."Sunny" and whether the pigeons should have the ability to communicate to their humans in English or stick strictly to their well-known, "brrpps."
It's always a good thing to have one's writing priorities in the right place.
My muse paid me a visit this week and it's about time, too. It's been somewhat of a dry spell pursuing the continuing story of Julie, the park jogger, and her chance meeting with Sylvia, the ultimate pigeon lover. The story is slowly developing in an on-again, off-again fashion.
Yet another snippet:
An encounter with Hal the park supervisor, warns Sylvia that more significant steps will be taken if she refuses to cease and desist the feeding of her feathered friends.
Sorry I took so long but my boss called. Hadda explain why I wasn’t back. Course I lied but it was for a good cause. A friend of yours, Sylvia? Introduce us.
I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that judging by your uniform, you work for the parks department
Nice park you have here. I take a short jog through here on my lunch hour. Met up with Sylvia not two hours ago but it’s like we’ve known each other forever. Maybe we were friends in a past life or something. Course not everyone believes in that stuff but I think there’s something to it. Am I missing something? You can cut the silence between you two with a knife
I was just warning Sylvia that she has to stop feeding the pigeons. It’s not like I haven’t told her a thousand times before but I’m getting heat from the director to take more action, the kind she won’t like
I’ve tried to explain the situation to my friends but they don’t listen for whatever reason. Pigeons can be very stubborn when they sense a threat. Don’t think they like you, Hal
Oh I think Hal here is merely doing his job, right Hal? Are you on duty here five days a week? I would have remembered seeing you for sure He’s a threat to pigeons. How come you don’t pick on other birds or squirrels? They don’t leave blobs of white everywhere like your friends do
How do you know they don’t? You’re not here on guard twenty-four-hours a day. It’s a personal thing with you, isn’t it? Admit it! You hate them!
Now Sylvia, I’m sure Hal here is just doing his job. Never met a pigeon lover like Sylvia. Here every day to feed them. Why I don’t know…that is to say, a person has to take a rest now and then to take care of themselves. I was just telling her she’s not dressed for this weather and needs to wear warmer clothes. We were just sharing a hot pretzel and coffee…here’s your pretzel, Sylvia. Probably cold by now but the coffee is still warm
SYLVIA breaks the pretzel into small pieces Don’t even think about feeding that to the pigeons
Of course she’s not. She’s a law-abiding citizen, aren’t you friend? We were about to head for my apartment. Right Sylvia? I need some decorating advice and it seems she has a flair for design.
She’s such an avant-garde trendsetter. Very much in demand and I’m fortunate enough to have met up with her in this very park. Fate I guess
…fit me in your schedule? I’m in no rush. Meanwhile you can offer me advice on wall colors and maybe a few decorating tips. Getting colder by the minute. Better head home. Nice meeting you, Hal. You wouldn’t happen to have a card with your contact number, would you? Never know when I might need help being that I’m a jogger. I could trip and need some assistance, being that I run through here from noon to
JULIE attempts to usher SYLVIA away but SYLVIA
(Cont’d. JULIE) Silly me. You want to say goodbye to your feathered friends. Then we really have to leave
Better leave now with your human friend, Sylvia
JULIE Look at the time! Really gotta go. Don’t you just love these pretzels?
JULIE drags SYLVIA away as she looks back at the
pigeons, her arm extended towards them
"A stage play is basically a form of uber-schizophrenia. You split yourself into two minds - one being the protagonist and the other being the antagonist. The playwright also splits himself into two other minds: the mind of the writer and the mind of the audience. (David Mamet)
Had one of those "eureka!" moments while working on my play this morning and not really a surprising revelation to writers.
Inspiration comes in moments.
Sometimes, too frequently as I've bemoaned in previous blog entries, a writer can sit in front of a computer staring at the white screen to the point of snow blindness, anticipating a flurry of ideas to flood in. For me, it's not usually the result of a lack of ideas but the inability to hone in on one interesting scenario that could be adapted into a play. Dozens of potential story ideas that didn't pan out are currently stored in the "save" file, which hopefully will be scrutinized and reviewed at a future date. Then there are those unfortunately rare occasions when you get that gut feeling that whatever you're writing is sheer genius.
"So given the upbeat mood, one assumes that "Seeds"
is moving along?"
So far it's actually writing itself, in that the characters necessitate further exploration. The story focuses on two females whose paths cross in an unexpected way and place. Good Samaritan, Julie, steps out of her comfort zone and stops to intervene in what she believes to be a fellow individual in need of her help. She feels compelled to intrude in Sylvia's routine of feeding pigeons given the circumstances of their meeting up. Julie realizes that not everyone wants to be helped and that you can't help a person if they don't want to help themselves or see themselves requiring help. Therein lays her challenge and dilemma.
Another character has been introduced in the form of Burt, who works for the park department. In his capacity as park supervisor and in spite of numerous verbal reprimands, he warns her (Sylvia) that he has been ordered to take stronger measures to discourage the presence of her flying friends. The challenge is how Sylvia will respond to Burt's threat and what steps will she take to ensure the safety of her feathered friends? How will this affect the friendship between Sylvia and Julie? BURT
I was just warning Sylvia that she has to stop feeding the pigeons. It's not like I haven't told her a thousand times before, but I'm getting heat from the director to take more action, which she won't likeSYLVIA
I've tried to explain the situation to my friends, here, but they don't listen for whatever reason. Don't think they like you, BurtJULIE
Never met a pigeon lover like Sylvia. Comes here every day to feed them. Why I don't know - that is to say, a person has to take a rest now and then to take care of themselves. I was telling her she's not dressed for this weather and needs warmer clothes. We're sharing a hot pretzel and coffee. Here's your pretzel, Sylvia
And so the dance continues...Sylvia defending her pigeons, Julie reaching out to help a fellow human being and developing a new friendship and Burt about to make his move.
Been adding dialogue and fleshing out the characters in the extended version of "Pigeon Feed" a.k.a. For the Birds. Always amazed while in the writing process, how some plays (few and far between) write themselves and the characters almost dictate the direction they should take.
Meanwhile, here is a snippet from the opening of the play. The best way to describe it would be a comedy/drama, in that as in life, there are elements of comedy mixed with drama. Formatting is strictly to share this piece from the play.
SETTING: CITY PARK
AT RISE: Early afternoon. SYLVIA, dressed in a non-descript, thread-bare raincoat, sits alone on a park bench, feeding pigeons out of a paper bag.
JULIE jogs by SYLVIA, stops, turns around and approaches slowly, still jogging. Talking in short spurts,
she attempts to catch her breath
SOUNDS: Cooing pigeons. Children at play
(speaking in spurts)
'Scuse me...but do...you...happen...to have the time? The battery on my watch died on me for a change. I'm like...so...out...of...breath. Strong...wind! Then again, could be 'cause I gained weight. Neh! Probably just a strong wind
(examines watch, taps watch face, slides watch off her wrist Shakes and hits it repeatedly against her hand)
My former boyfriend gave me this watch for my last birthday, the cheap jerk. Junk is junk is junk. Told me it was a Gucci original. Yeah - sure! Originally for suckers like me who date losers like him. Really cold out! You can smell winter coming, don't you find? (takes tissue from her jacket pocket and wipes nose) The wind is making my nose run. This would be the perfect opportunity for you to jump in and say, 'so go catch it!' (laughs and snorts) My feeble attempt at humor. Obviously very feeble. Guess I'll be running along. Get it? Running along and I'm jogging? Maybe not that funny. Anywaaaay - that's exactly what I'm gonna do now... Just...run...along...
(Takes a few steps. Stops. Turns around and walks back to Sylvia)
Better t'rest for a while. Don't wanna have a heart attack or anything. I mean, go know if anyone passing by would know CPR. A friend of mine? Well...she took a course in CPR and would you believe, one day she hadda save someone having a heart attack. Oh Gawd! Imagine putting your lips on a stranger's lips! Who knows where they've been, if you get my drift. Still, a life's a life and she had a moral and legal obligation. Anyway... D'ya mind if I share this bench with you? If it's a problem I can sit at one end and you can sit at the other. We don't have to talk to each other. Some people are weird about speaking to strangers but not me. Uh-uh! I enjoy the give and taking of sharing ideas with new people. Are you a people person?
(Takes out a package from her jacket pocket)
Here - have some. Not a nut lover, huh? Then wha'cha doin' talkin' to me? (laughs out loud and snorts) Another attempt at humor. You allergic? That it? I absolutely love sunflower seeds and this brand is the best. So where was I now... Anyway, my friend saved the stranger's life but along the way, she somehow broke a few of his ribs. I mean, she's never done real CPR before other than when she took the course, so it's understandable. Right? Had the full media treatment and was treated like a hero. A complete stranger giving the gift of life and all. A month or so later, she receives a lawyer's letter. Would you believe the guy whose life she saved was suing her for breaking his ribs? How's that for gratitude? The guy could have died had she not been there at that right time and place and he sues her!
SOUNDS: Pigeons cooing, flutter of wings
Duck! We're being attacked by pigeon poo! (laughs and snorts) Know what? There's a whole family of pigeons living inside the letters 'B' and 'P' at the supermarket, where I shop. They moved in like the squatters they are Takes - the whole world is full of takers. My finger tips are absolutely numb with cold. Yours?
(Shakes her hands and rubs them together)
I'm Julie, by the way and your name is ? Being that we just met, I should respect your right to privacy. How 'bout this. Let me guess and you can tell me if I'm right - only if you want, of course. You look to be a Vicky or maybe Sue-Ann? Feel free to speak whenever the urge overcomes you. Sorry - didn't mean to come across sarcastic.
(Sylvia stops feeding pigeons momentarily)
I'm gonna call you, Amy, if that's alright? People should call each other by whatever name they think suits the person and you definitely strike me as an Amy type.
Sylvia. My name is Sylvia.
You're a Sylvia? Go figure! Had an aunt Sylvia. Family hated her guts - miserable battle-axe that she was. When she croaked she left us five thousand big one's each. We liked Aunt Sylvia a whole lot better when she was dead (laughs and snorts) C'mon - take some. Share and share alike, I always say
Maybe later...not now
No problem-o. Plenty more where this came from
You...you have a source for seeds? Where? Is it far away?
It's called a su-per-mar-ket. Sorry - I tend to over-dose on jokes when I have an audience. So - like - you come here every day to feed...them?
Pigeons never forget who their friends are. They always come back
Think so, huh? As long as they get hand outs, they will. Don't get me wrong 'cause I'm a bird liker - well at least I don't hate pigeons but the way I see it, pigeons are flying rats with wings. Their friendship will last as long as the food in your hand. I insist we share these
I don't want any but my feathered friends, here, do
Listen - let 'em find their own food supply, 'kay?
(makes pigeon sounds)
Brrrrrppp. Brrrppp They're so beautiful, don't you find?
Just...darling little things. Not everyone can speak pigeon-eeze. It's a gift for sure
JULIE"D'ya mind if I share this bench with you? If it's a problem I can sit at one end and you can sit at the other. We don't have to talk to each other. Some people are weird about speaking to strangers but not me. Uh-uh! I enjoy the give and taking of sharing ideas with new people. Are you a people-person?"
A while back, maybe ten years or so, came across a site that was calling for submissions to a video competition. Having recently completed a new short play, it seemed like a perfect vehicle for the competition in spite of being written in playwriting form. After a short communication with the producer/director, he told me to send it along anyway and he'd give it a look over. The long and the short of it as they say is that even though it wasn't the winner, it achieved a second honorable place, plus it had the distinction of being converted into a short film script.
The plot always intrigued me and over time and frequent read-throughs, it always struck me that there was more to the story then was told. I'm a big believer in timing and what was deemed a finished play can suddenly take on new possibilities when viewed in a new light. Such is the case with "For the Birds."
A comedy/drama, the story focuses on the accidental meeting of two lonely souls whose encounter in a park turns out to be an eye-opener, in more ways than one. At present, the two main characters are getting to know each other with overtures of friendship being more one-sided. How and why this "shorty" play has suddenly taken on a new life is a mystery but as mentioned, timing is everything in life.
OLD SOLDIERS DON'T DIE - THEY FADE AWAY
In recognition of Memorial Day, the first few pages of "OLD SOLDIERS."
SERVICE VETERAN, JOE MCKENNA, SITS AT A TABLE READING A NEWSPAPER, WHILE WAITING FOR HIS BUDDIES TO ARRIVE. A WHITE DOG LAYS ON THE FLOOR BY HIS FEET. BACKGROUND MUSIC SUPPLIED BY AN OLD JUKE BOX
Yup…yup…yup… The way things are goin’, won’t be long before we’re all gone. Poor old, Perce. Died alone without anyone there to see him on his way to the big battlefield in the sky. ‘Here’s to you, Perce! You’ll be missed for sure!’
Lifts glass in the air and lowers it
JOE’S FRIEND, MIKE, DRESSED IN FULL UNIFORM JOINS HIM AT THE TABLE
Freezing out there. Wind cuts like a knife. See you got a head start. Buying us a round? You just got here and already trying to mooch a free drink? When it comes to mooching, bud, you got that covered and then some. When’s the last time you paid?
(pretends to take out imaginary book)
Lemme’ check my diary here…last Wednesday, three in the afternoon. You buying or not?
Not. How come you’re not in full dress?
What for? I don’t need no uniform to remind myself what we went through
Just don’t seem right, is all
Got it stored away in the back of the cupboard, along with a lot of mothballs. Anyway, the jacket buttons don’t close properly
You reek bad, Joe! Obviously, you tried on the jacket. Smell sticks to your clothes
I’ll warn you in advance the next time I try it on. You buying, or what?
Like I told you, not
You are a cheap bastard! I’m stuck paying, again. ‘Vince – two whiskeys’ - Joe here is paying by the way -
- whatever. See you’re in full regalia.
If I don’t wear it today, when then? Take it out once a year VINCE, the bartender, brings over drinks
One of you guys forget to wash?
Joe here uses moth balls to store his uniform Why should I share it with the moths? No insult intended but you’re stinking up my bar. Wouldn’t hurt to go and air yourself out a bit. You paying cash, Joe, he asked hopefully Put it on my tab. Mike here’s as cheap as they come. You’d think for a special occasion he’d spring for a round but noooo…. that would be asking too much for his old friend Nice if one of you would pay cash for a change. Joe - your tab goes back more than a year. Let’s see here …you owe me $1500.34. I’m feeling generous today so drop the thirty-four cents and make an even $1500 You’re all heart. Where d’ya expect me to find that kind of money on my service pension? At least give me something towards it. Anything! I have bills to pay, too, y’know Next check. I’ll give you a couple of bucks. May have to give up some food items and my dog here will have to get used to eating just a few days a week… Why don’t you lay on the guilt a bit more. Listen - about your Daisy… You know I’ve never objected to you bringing her here. She’s a good dog and I like her a lot but as I said, dogs aren’t allowed in bars. I’ve closed my eyes up until now but there’s a new inspector and word has it that he goes by the letter of the law She’s a service dog. Aren’t you girl?
Daisy picks up her head responding to hearing her name
She goes where I go. Calms my nerves and watches out for me
How old is she, anyway? Getting’ on in years What’s the difference? She’s there when I need her She better be legally registered when or if the inspector comes ‘round Don’t worry ‘bout my Daisy. I’ll just explain there’s extenuating circumstances Don’t say I didn’t warn you Mac’s supposed to meet us here Seriously? The man doesn’t drive and uses a walker. How’s he getting here? He wants to join us for Percy’s funeral Amazing. Never lets his condition stop him from doing anything. Sometimes I wonder how he gets around but he manages. Mind over matter I guess. It’s either that or give up and die. Mind you, sometimes when pain takes over, it don’t seem like such a bad idea He just walked in. Poor guy can hardly move. ‘Over here, Mac!’ None of us are peppy anymore, in case you hadn’t noticed. My glass is empty by the way Yeah and? I bought last time So what. You owed me from all the rounds I bought before It’s your turn, el cheapo!
(gasping to catch his breath) Really…windy… out… there – and cold. Hope the wind… dies…down… for later. Hard to get around in this kind of weather, ‘specially with my walker. What times the funeral, anyway?
You really planning to attend, Mac? Not trying to discourage you or anything but it’ll be hard pushing your walker on grass and that wind…
I’ll manage. Old Percy was one of the last few members of our group. He deserves our respect and he’d do the same for any of us. Can’t believe he’s gone… Really cold out You look like an ice cube and your hands are blue. Why didn’t you wear gloves? How’d you get here, anyway? By bus. Took me forty-five minutes if you don’t count standing at the bus stop waiting for twenty minutes. Damn busses never stick to their schedule You shouldn’t even be out in this cold. Didn’t the doctor warn you to stay home in extreme temperatures. This sure qualifies MAC takes a bone out of a bag
(cont’d. MAC) Found it in the trash in back of the supermarket on the way here. Look at it – a perfectly good bone with lots of meat. Probably even good enough for us to eat. You should see all the food they toss out there. Fruit and veggies with a couple of bruises and piles of bread. Cakes too!
DAISY struggles to get up as MAC gives her the bone The dog eats better than we do. You… don’t take things from the trash…do you? I personally don’t but what if I did? There are people in third world countries that wouldn’t think twice about eating it. ‘There you go Daisy. A perfectly good bone for you. Enjoy. ’Ouch…trouble standing up…back is out again. Stupid bus trip didn’t help none Why didn’t you take a cab? You hav’ta be kidding. Like I can afford a taxi? I’m here now so stop jabbering and order me something warm. No – make that hot. Gonna be freezing at the cemetery for sure. Not too many people will show up ‘specially at our age There ain’t that many at our age, left. We don’t get to choose the kind of weather t’get buried. Funeral’s called for noon. No uniform? Can’t do up the buttons, hands shake that badly. At least I’m wearing my cap
And so, the playwright, after many (many) re-writes of her play, ponders the next move assisted by the play characters who have a big invested interest in her decision.
SCENE: Writing desk with computer set-up. Large coffee mug nearby
AT RISE: Playwright sits in front of computer staring at screen, evaluating if/and or what changes are required to play
I dunno. Somehow, something doesn't feel right... Maybe I should just delete this play altogether
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
Say what? You've been re-working this play for how many years and now you want to erase all traces of us as if we never existed? What did we ever do to you?
That's the thing. You haven't done anything to me or for me
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
And that's our fault? Let's not forget who created us in the first place
May I interject?
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
It's never stopped you before. Go for it
Seems to me that she hasn't really created a viable outline, which could offer a direction to follow. We all need guidance, a path that will lead us to enlightenment
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
Oh do tell. And what, if anything, have you contributed in helping her along, other than your bon mots and trite writing quotations
Officially, I don't exist having been eliminated in the last edit but hope springs eternal that I shall be resurrected in a future story line. After all, I am the only male character and the romantic lead
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
Don't be so sure. Given the amount of times the story line has changed, you could just as easily be converted into a female role
Actually...thinking back...two months ago I assumed the role of Prince
A prince? I don't remember any plot involving royal characters
Nothing so regal. Prince was a blood hound in her attempt at writing a dinner murder mystery...
...which ended up going nowhere. Maybe this just isn't going to work. Maybe...I should forget about this play, altogether.
Don't be so quick to give up!
FEMALE CHARACTER 2
Absolutely! You're on to something! This re-write will be the one. Hang in there
It seems that I'm in a constant state of re-writes. Sometimes you have to see the writing on the wall and call it a day
Have you sent out the latest version of the play to theatres?
Yup. Never heard back, as usual. It's getting to the point where I'm questioning whether I have any ability in writing plays. Perhaps it's just hopeful dreaming. Why go on in the face of reality that the odds of my play being produced are probably a gazillion to one, given the number of playwrights who are doing the exact same thing
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
Don't forget that one of your plays did have a reading. That means something
But it's still not the same as a full production in a theatre with an audience.
You're not serious about - you know - that ominous delete button...it was merely a momentary feeling of weakness. Right? You wouldn't do that to us.
FEMALE CHARACTER 1
We're here for you! Hang in there! Our future depends on it, in the true sense of the word
Could I abandon you all after all these years, members of my literary family?
Far be it for me to ask a favor at this point but would you, perhaps, consider re--writing the Prince character? I mean, if it's possible. Barks, growls and tail wagging aren't among my best traits.
Thing is...this play really has possibilities. It has all the essential elements that make it entertaining. Maybe a few changes and edits here and there before sending it out to make its way in the theatre world. Right?
ALL PLAY CHARACTERS:
We're with you all the way, girl!
Maybe just this one more theatre...or two...three at the most
It's been an on-off situation but there has been some advancement in re-writing "Old Soldiers." The characters, first introduced in a short story a while ago, caught my imagination and over the years the quartet of senior service veterans have participated in many theatrical scenarios. However - it's always the 'howevers' in life that get you - somehow there has been a lack of direction as to how their story should play out.
The necessity or impetus for turning it into a play was to enter it the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition a few years ago. The undertaking was made even more challenging since the medium of radio requires sound effects to accompany the dialogue, in place of visual movement. It was a challenge and in spite of a successful conversion, the play didn't win or receive recognition. Still, when it's all said and done or written, it was an interesting pursuit but probably something I will pass on in the future.
My philosophy in as far as rejections are concerned is to moan/groan and agonize the reason for them not recognizing genius when they read it, following which to forget about it for a while. This allows time for introspection and objectivity upon re-reading the play in preparation for the editing process.
To this end, some decisions have or are in the process of being made as to the story line. In the original version submitted to the BBC competition, there were physical transitions to various locales, which were plausible given the medium, whereas the story now takes place in one place being the pub or bar for the entire play.
- in the initial short story, the main character, Joe McKenna had a dog, which has been added in the updated version - so far. The rationale behind including a dog is that as a lonely, elderly and cantankerous service veteran, the dog would be his reason for his existence.
- although most of the original characters remain, a few newcomers are joining the quartet: a food/drink inspector who comes to do a regular inspection of the bar premises, a small group of young punks who take an dislike to the old soldiers, especially Joe
Here is an abbreviated version of the synopsis, which supplies some background on the characters:
"As an ex-army man and soldier, eighty-eight year old Joe McKenna is a man of habit. A widower, he lives in a small apartment with his only companion, a 12 year old dog, Daisy. The aging process is taking its toll physically and emotionally, turning him into a bitter man full of resentment towards society and what he perceives to be life’s injustices. He is a lonely soul with too much time to think about the past and knowing that the future will leave him dependent on the kindness of others.
His main interaction with the outside world is a timeworn friendship with a group of army veterans in the same situation, who cling to each other for support and companionship.
Every year since the end of the war, Joe and his group of army pals gather together in a local bar/pub to mark Remembrance Day and to attend memorial services held in the park. Conversation focuses predominantly on their various physical ailments and debilitations and what they perceive to be a lack of support by the veterans administration. They are relics of another time who regard death as their only escape from pain."
We'll see which direction the story line takes, which always makes the trip more interesting.
As shared in this blog many times before, this started out as a short story, which touched something deep in my writer's soul for lack of a better way to describe it. Over the years...many years and many re-writes, it evolved into a radio play that was entered and subsequently didn't win or even place, in the BBC International Playwriting competition and then back to a play. In spite of many attempts at 'putting it to bed' permanently, somehow, it always calls me back. Maybe there's a message there or perhaps merely wishful thinking on my part. It's still a work in progress.
Be that as it may...here is the latest edit . Changed the venue of the story to one place and gave Joe McKenna a dog. Characters are basically the same but adding a few more as the story develops. Note that there is more spacing than normal to make reading easier.
In the way of background information, Joe McKenna is a crusty, old curmudgeon who lives with and for his dog, Daisy. A few times per week, he and his army buddies drop by the local bar to talk about old times, re-live past glories and complain about their aches and pains.
THE PRESENT. AUTUMN. EARLY MORNING. A PUB/BAR. AT RISE: VETERAN JOE MCKENNA, DRESSED IN FULL SERVICE UNIFORM, SITS AT A TABLE READING A NEWSPAPER, WHILE WAITING FOR HIS BUDDIES TO ARRIVE. A WHITE DOG LAYS ON THE FLOOR BY HIS FEET. BACKGROUND MUSIC SUPPLIED BY AN OLD JUKE BOX
Yup…yup…yup… The way things are goin’, won’t be long before we’re all gone. Poor old, Perce. Died alone without anyone there to see him on his way to the big battlefield in the sky. ‘Here’s to you, Perce! You’ll be missed for sure!’ Lifts glass in the air and lowers it
JOE’S FRIEND, MIKE, DRESSED IN UNIFORM
COMPLETE WITH STRIPES AND MEDAL, JOINS HIM
Freezing out there. Wind cuts like a knife. See you got a head start. Buying a round? You just got here and already trying to mooch a free drink? When it comes to mooching, bud, you got that covered and then some. When’s the last time you paid? (pretends to take out imaginary book)
Let me check my diary here…last Wednesday, three in the afternoon. You buying or not?
You are a cheap bastard! I’m stuck with the bill, again. ‘Vince – two whiskeys’
- Joe here is paying by the way - Whatever. See you’re in full regalia. If not today, when? Take it out once a year. Pee-ew! What’s that stink coming from your direction Throw in a dozen or so moth balls when I store the uniform At least put it out to air a couple days before you wear it. Really reeks VINCE, the bartender, brings over drinks One of you guys forget to wash? Joe here uses moth balls for his uniform So what. Why should I share it with moths No insult intended but you’re smelling up my bar. Wouldn’t hurt to go out and air yourself out a bit. You paying, Joe? Put it on my tab. The man’s as cheap as they come. You’d think for a special occasion he’d spring for a round but that would be asking too much for his old friend Nice if one of you would pay cash for a change. Your tab, Joe, goes back a year. Let’s see…you owe me $1500.34. I’m feeling generous today so drop the thirty-four cents and make an even $1500 You’re all heart. Where d’ya expect me to find that kind of money on my service pension? At least give me something. Anything! I have bills to pay, too, y’know Next check. I’ll give you a couple of bucks towards it. May have to give up some food items and my dog here will have to get used to eating just a few days a week… Why don’t you lay on the guilt a bit more. Listen…about your Daisy…You know I’ve never objected to you bringing her here. I like her a lot but like I told you, dogs aren’t allowed in bars. I’ve closed my eyes up until now but there’s a new inspector and word has it that he goes by the letter of the law She’s a service dog. Aren’t you girl? Daisy picks up her head responding to hearing her name She goes where I go. Calms my nerves and watches out for me How old is she, anyway? Getting’ on in years What’s the difference? She’s there when I need her She better be legally registered when or if the inspector comes ‘round Don’t worry ‘bout my Daisy. I’ll just explain there’s extenuating circumstances Don’t say I didn’t warn you Mac’s supposed to meet us here Seriously? The man doesn’t drive and uses a walker. How’s he getting here? He wants to join us for Percy’s funeral Amazing. Never lets his condition stop him from doing anything. Sometimes I wonder how he gets around but he does. Mind over matter I guess. It’s either that or give up and die. Mind you, sometimes when pain takes over, it don’t seem like such a bad idea He just walked in. Poor guy can hardly move. ‘Over here, Mac!’ None of us are peppy anymore, in case you hadn’t noticed. My glass is empty by the way Yeah and? I bought last time
So what. You owed me from all the rounds I bought before It’s your turn, el cheapo! (gasping to catch his breath) Really…windy… out… there – and cold. Hope the wind… dies…down… for later. Hard to get around in this kind of weather, ‘specially with a walker. What times the funeral, anyway? You really planning to attend, Mac? Not trying to discourage you or anything but it’ll be hard pushing your walker on grass and that wind… I’ll manage. Old Percy was one of the last few members of our group. He deserves our respect and he’d do the same for any of us. Can’t believe he’s gone… Really cold out You look like an ice cube and your hands turned blue. Why didn’t you wear gloves? How’d you get here, anyway? By bus. Took me forty-five minutes if you don’t count standing at the bus stop waiting for twenty minutes. Damn busses never stick to their schedule MAC takes a bone out of a bag (cont’d. MAC) Found it in the trash in back of the supermarket on the way here. Look at it – a perfectly good bone with lots of meat. Probably even good enough for us to eat. You should see all the food they toss out there. Fruit and veggies with a couple of bruises and piles of bread. Cakes too! DAISY struggles to get up as MAC gives her the bone The dog eats better than we do. You…you don’t take things from the trash…do you? I personally don’t but what if I did? There are people in third world countries that wouldn’t think twice about eating it. ‘There you go Daisy. A perfectly good bone for you. Enjoy. ’Ouch…trouble standing up…back is out again. Stupid bus trip didn’t help none Why didn’t you take a cab? You hav’ta be kidding. Like I can afford a taxi? I’m here now so stop jabbering and order me something warm. No – make that hot. Gonna be freezing at the cemetery for sure. Not too many people will show up ‘specially at our age There ain’t that many at our age, left. We don’t get to choose the kind of weather t’get buried. Funeral’s called for noon What’s your pleasure, Mac? I’m paying You’re buying hima drink? What about me? He just arrived. The man needs to warm up and besides, he brought Daisy a bone. Anyone who thinks about my Daisy’s needs deserves a drink on the house Remember I’m your old army pal who stayed with you in thick and thin? I paid you back a long time ago. What’s your poison, Mac? Whiskey like always? Neh. Hot coffee will do me fine With a shot of whiskey t’give it flavor, right? Plain, old hot coffee with milk and sugar Straight coffee? That’s it?
0 Comments on OLD SOLDIERS - an excerpt of updated version as of 1/13/2016 10:55:00 AM
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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: A small zoo. Zebra, Christmas show director/producer/mentor to the lesser talented, is preparing the zoo denizens to put on their annual Christmas performanceAT RISE
: Some of the performers are chatting amongst themselves while others work closely, in some cases too closely, going over linesZEBRA(
...sleigh...bag of toys...jingle bells... What's missing? Hello? Where are the reindeer?REINDEER RANDY
(munching on moss)
I'm here, Zee (burps) There - betterZEBRA
Did your mother not teach you it's uncouth to burp out loud, not to mention very impolite and boorish REINDEER RANDY
Maybe she did if I knew what those words meantZEBRA
Why...why do I agree to do this every year?
(ZEBRA stares at himself in the mirror
) 'You do it for the sake of the theatre, you talented, handsome beast...'(cont'd.)
Where, pray tell, are the others, he asks, afraid of what he'll be toldREINDEER RANDY
They're back in the barn, playing poker. ZEBRA
Say what? The show is about to begin and they're gambling? REINDER RANDY
They're playing for some greenZEBRA
Stop them immediately! The last thing we need is for the zoo to be raided!(staring at himself in the mirror)'
It just never ends, does it, gorgeous beast!'REINDEER RANDY
Not to worry. There's only moss in the pot. Want me to go get them?ZEBRA
Why must I suffer the humiliation of amatoor
performers? Why? REINDEER RANDY
Because nobody else will do it?ZEBRA
Tell them to take their places in front of the sleigh, immediately. I'm a professional... I have a reputation to retain... they need me... without my presence there is no show. Go and bring them here posthaste - that means fast for your edification(ZEBRA stares at himself in full-length mirror. Places a cloth on his forehead)(cont'd.)
I feel a mee-graine
coming on...must control myself
(cont'd.)'My but those stripes are stunning! I would fall in love with you if I hadn't already!' (loud squawking can be heard)(cont'd. ZEBRA)
My head...the noise...Is there no peace for moi
? (staring at himself in the mirror)
'What did I do to deserve to be put in charge of these...these maladroit soubrettes
? Still, the show must go on. I am a professional. Hmmmm
- my stripes do give my very well proportioned body a certain je ne said quoi...What are you doing after the show, handsome...RAT
Excuse me Zeb...but there's a problemZEBRA
...those dark enquiring eyes...those long lashes... Rat! Why are here? You're in the opening scene RAT
Figured you'd want to know -ZEBRA
- we can't afford any more delays. My mee-grain
is definitely getting worse so break it to me in gentle hintsRAT
Well...it has to do with Santa....ZEBRA
- are my eyes bloodshot? There's nothing worse than a zebra with red eyes. People will think I've taken to drink, although I wouldn't blame myself. Is it the costume thing, again? I mean, really, the chicken is quite vain. She assured me she could handle the role. Nobody will even realize that the jacket won't close...just tell her to hold her mitts in front...RAT
...and one of the actorsZEBRA
I sent her to a quiet place to go over her lines with the acting coach, although why the necessity is beyond me. I mean, really, "Ho-ho-ho. I think I hear Santa" Nevertheless - where is she? Thespian chickens tend to be peckish. I'll have to give her a pep talkRAT
Well that's just it...ZEBRA
What's it? Stop speaking in riddles and go get herRAT
Seems somebody offered to give her private coaching in his denZEBRA
That can't be a bad thing. Wait a minute - did you say 'den'
? That Cheetah! I should have known better! Last year it was Mr. Squeeze who got up close and personal with the squirrel and now this. I need some of my special tonic to help assuage my nerves.RAT
Perhaps that's not such a great idea, Zeb. Remember what happened last yearZEBRA
They don't pay me enough greens to direct this Christmas show. Must calm down. Is it...RAT
(holding up feathers)
No! This can't be happening! There's no time for a replacement so I, myself, will be forced to don the red costume, even though it clashes with my stripes and does absolutely nothing for my skin. The show must go on. But first, a dose of tonic....maybe two doses...down the hatch. "Places everyone! Curtain up!" NEXT:IT'S SHOW TIME, IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Once again as has been the case on too many occasions, a rejection slip slipped in my email 'in' box. Somehow, in spite of nice, genteel words of apology by the theatre or whoever is in charge of the rejection notices, it doesn't get easier.
Really, given my former position as a freelance newspaper columnist/writer for many years, rejection slips aren't an unusual occurrence, but receiving playwriting-related rejections is a downer.
This time the recipient of the rebuff was one of my favorite short plays, "The Lemon." A short comedy, it focuses on the trials and tribulations of a woman attempting to contact a towing company in order to get her car removed, while trying to convince a public phone user to make the call. In spite of the usual assurances that the theatre will keep the play for possible future use, it was a disheartening notice. Dejection, as any writer will attest, never gets easier.
Looking back, none of my plays have yet to be produced in spite of witty dialogue, interesting plots and good spelling and punctuation. Look - gotta look for positive points where I can find them! Had high hopes for "The Shrubs", which didn't materialize and my short plays came back home without a successful showing.
Today while skimming through potential submission opportunities, came across a notification that the deadline for the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition is coming up at the end of January 2016. In the past on two occasions, attempts to convert a play and a short story into radio format met with rejection. I'm toying with the idea - that's as far as it's progressed - of trying to convert "The Lemon" into a radio play. Given the fast approaching deadline, starting a new play isn't practical and it would be a personal challenge to see what can be accomplished in a month. Who knows...
Meanwhile, old soldier Joe McKenna and his vet pals are still meeting at the neighborhood bar, waiting for a new direction from the playwright. This play keeps calling me back in spite of self-declarations to let it die in peace. But it won't. There is something about the characters and the story line that is compelling and begging to be told.
"We ain't gettin' any younger," they all keep reminding me.
Neither are any of us, guys. Neither are any of us...
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Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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ZOO DIARYSCENE: A small zoo. Preparing for the holiday performance. At rise
: The residents of the zoo are practicing for the annual holiday performance. It's the last dress rehearsal before the actual production and chaos reigns supreme.ZEBRA
Hello? Everyone? May I have your attention, please? There is far too much cacophony among the performers. I can't hear myself think! Not you my dear...you embody the true thespian soulCROW 1(laughing while watching from a tree)
Uh-oh...zebra says there's too much caca
-phony around here. The elephants have been using the toilets, againCROW 2(laughing hysterically)
Oh Cyril - you're so witty!ZEBRA
You mean, witless. Now where were we? Oh yes...we were discussing your acting abilities, my dear. FEMALE ZEBRA
You think I have talent? My acting coach has offered to give me private lessonsZEBRA
Would your coach anyone I would know? Perhaps we could work together to maximize your performanceFEMALE ZEBRA
That's a very kind offer but 'CH' swore me to secrecy. He doesn't want the whole world calling him and begging for private tutoring> He's a very private personZEBRA
Totally understandable, my dear. Know exactly where he's coming from. I too separate myself from the lesser...well...talent-challenged among us
(ZEBRA admires his frame from all angles, in a full-length mirror)
) 'Perfection!' (whispering
) You can share the name of your acting coach with me. There is a professional code of silence among zebra directors that is adhered to. You said his initials were CH? Hmmmm....not familiar with any coaches with those initials...FEMALE ZEBRA
He calls himself cheetah
(ZEBRA reacts with horror)ZEBRA
Cheetah...you did say cheetah
? Does this cheetah...would this coach live, perchance, in a cage in this very zoo?FEMALE ZEBRA
He would! How did you know? He said that his style of coaching requires getting down to the bare bones of actingZEBRA
My dear, naïve, zebra! Forget about - um - coach cheetah. I, myself, shall take you on as a client, gratis, and as a cost to myself (aside to himself) ...wait 'til I get my hands on cheetah...'
What am I saying? Let's just say, my dear, that his reputation and taste for zebras is well developed. Why don't you go over there in the corner and study your linesFEMALE ZEBRA
If you say so. "I think I hear Santa!....I think I hear Santa....I think I hear Santa...'ZEBRA
Okay...actors - places please! Mr. Squeeze - please tear yourself away from rat? We don't want a repeat performance of last year's incidentMR. SQUEEZE
I was just trying to show him some loveRAT
(gasping for breath
Surrre! Remember the squirrel incident? We lost our Santa Claus on account of youMR. SQUEEZE
We're good friends! Right rat? Who ever heard of a squirrel playing Santa Claus, anyway?ZEBRA
(admiring himself in the mirror and fixing his cravat)
'You handsome devil! Your stripes don't do you justice. 'kiss-kiss....' For the record and given our budget, which is half of last year's, which was next to nothing, he was the only one who could fit into the Santa suit. Who will play the old elf this year?
(a chicken jumps down from the branch of a tree)CHICKEN
I would like to volunteer my services for the causeMR. SQUEEZE
(slithering up close to chicken
Great idea! And my contribution will be to offer my help We can go over your lines in my denZEBRA
Not! Thank you for your...offer but I'm sure chicken can remember "ho-ho-ho..." Now if you will put on the suit, we can start our rehearsalCHICKEN
It's a little tight...jacket won't...fit...over my...breast bone...CHEETAH
Perhaps I can fix that problem ...MR. SQUEEZE
...my particular qualities can definitely fix that...
(both cheetah and MR. SQUEEZE inch closer to the chicken)ZEBRA
Stop where you are, both of you! We will make do with what we have. Please put on the red hat and black shiny boots and get on the sled. The children are arrivingCHICKEN
(smoothing his feathers and pulling the jacket over his breast)
I'm very nervous.. This is my first acting jobCHEETAH
Don't worry my friend. I'll be watching close by...in case you forget your lines, of courseZEBRA
Places people! Mr. Squeeze - you're not in the first sceneMR. SQUEEZE
Just helping chicken get over his nerves. Everyone needs a hugNEXT TIME: THE SHOW MUST GO ON...MAYBE
Open the curtains and let the play begin!
On November 11th, Remembrance Day, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them.
"Old Soldiers" which started out as a short story, came about as a result of an interview with some old soldiers/veterans for a newspaper column that I was writing at the time. Was drawn back to the story over time and as is my habit, tweaked it over the years and somehow the main focus of the story, Joe McKenna, seemed to take on a life of his own, along with his service buddies. One of my many (big on this aspect) re-writes resulted in an attempt to turn it as a radio play that was entered in the BBC International Playwriting Competition. Needless to say it didn't win but thought I'd share the second scene in this blog. It's still in the editing process (so what else is new). Formatting went askew in places during cut-and-paste.
To set the stage so to speak, JOE MCKENNA is a disillusioned old veteran who saw action and is angry with the world. He and his buddies are relics from another era who are afflicted with a variety of debilitating conditions, and the death of one of them hits Joe particularly hard. He decides to make a personal statement to make his views known at a remembrance day service in a park and along the way fate steps in when he meets up with a young boy (TIM) and his mother.
SCENE: A PARK.
AT RISE: Joe McKenna is slowly making his way to where the Remembrance Day service is taking place in a park. His body racked with pain, he stops to sit down on a bench. A military band can be heard in the distance playing band music and the voice speaking through a loud speaker system.
JOE: Look at ‘em all! Sheep – a bunch of bloody sheep!
YOUNG BOY: Mister – where are the sheep? JOE: Huh? What you talking about, son? TIM: You said something about seeing sheep. Where are they? JOE: I meant… No sheep. Just talking to myself, is all TIM: I like marching bands. Last Christmas I marched in the Santa Claus parade with one of the elves JOE: That’s nice. Now you go find your mom… TIM: See her over there? Reading a book? My mom told me that it's important we come here every year. She didn’t tell me why, though… JOE: You better go or she’ll come looking for you, besides, you shouldn’t talk to strangers TIM: She said I could go play if I stayed where she could see me. If I can see see her then she can see me. Are you a soldier? JOE: I was, a long, long time ago. Guess I’ll always be a soldier in my heart. TIM: How come you’re dressed different than the others? JOE: Look sonny boy – I don’t think your mom would like you talking to strange, old men so you better go stay with her TIM: I’ll just wave at her so she’ll know everything is okay. ‘Hi mom! This man is a soldier too! Is it okay if I talk to him?’ JOE: Oh G-d. That’s all I need now. Talking to strange kiddies… I’m out’ta here… TIM: My mom is coming over to say hi so you can talk to her JOE: I don’t think so, kid. Shoot! I’m behind in my schedule! BOY’S MOM (BETH) You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers! We’ve discussed this a million times… TIM: I know mom but he was a soldier, too. Look – he’s wearing a uniform BETH: Why don’t you go play on the swings over there, Tim TIM: But I why can’t I talk to him? What are those ribbons for, mister? BETH: Well…because… Oh look! There are some kids throwing a a ball around. Why don’t you go join them? BETH: Go play, Timmy. Now! JOE Don’t blame you for telling him that. Heaven knows I tried! Look…if you don’t want him talking to me, that’s fine. I got places to go – things to do, anyway BETH: Tim is such a trusting boy. Loves the world. These days that can be a fatal fault. Takes after his great grand-dad, G-d rest his soul JOE: Trust me lady that I didn’t initiate the conversation. I was just sitting here on this bench resting a bit. Your boy was just being a kid BETH: I’m assuming by your uniform that you were in the army. Which war? JOE: Does it make a difference? War is war. Shoot! I’m way behind now… BETH: Didn’t mean any disrespect. It just came out. My grandfather wore the same uniform. Such a strong man but he was never the same when he returned. A fraction of his former self JOE: Weren’t we all. Nice talking to you but… BETH: Have we met before? JOE: Doubt it given the big difference in our age. Do you work in the Vet Hospital, he asked, hoping to get an “in” there… BETH: Maybe we don’t know each other but I’ve seen your face…but where… JOE: I used to play checkers here in the park but that ain’t gonna happen anymore… BETH: Sorry. Don’t wanna keep you. I gotta be somewhere else, myself JOE You don’t look like you’re dressed nearly warm enough to be in a park this time of the year. Maybe you and the kid should go home and put on some warmer clothes. Well – it’s been interesting…you’ve got a sweet and trusting little boy BOY’S MOM Takes after his great-grandfather. Sweetest man in the world, he was. That’s why I’m here – and dressed like this. I’m burying him after the memorial ceremonies. He was a soldier so he’s getting full military honors. In fact if I don’t get a move on, I’m gonna be late ‘Tim – come on. We have to go!’ JOE: Would you mind sharing the name of your grandfather with a stranger you just met? Could be we knew each other BETH: Percy… Percy Albertson JOE: Can’t be…not possible… This is too much. Percy was my best friend in war and in peace. In fact, me and the last of our platoon buddies are gonna be at his funeral. You’re – Percy’s granddaughter? Never even knew he had a daughter ‘til I read his obit in the paper. Is your mother here? Would be great to meet Percy's old lady and I’m sure the others would, too BETH: She passed a year ago of a heart attack. Lived in a small apartment and kept it like a shrine devoted to gramps. Funny thing is they rarely spoke to each other. Some kind of stupid fued or the other and then they separated. Sad. I never had the chance to meet him. JOE: Old Perce was a stubborn and proud man. He should’a gone t’live in the VA hospital years ago but he always refused them. Instead he existed from hand-to-mouth and never enough money to pay for medication. I mean, what are the odds that you and me should meet? BETH: Now I remember where we met. At the pub a long time ago, when I was a little girl! I visited the place a couple of times with my grand-dad. Listen – if you’re alone here, why don’t we attend the funeral together? I know my son would be happy and so would my grand-dad for sure JOE: Thanks for the invite but I…got plans…hav’ta do something…for Percy… BETH: Please – it would make me so happy and my grandparents would have wanted this. I’d like that we get to know each other and maybe you have some photos you could share of him and you during the war. It would be nice if my son got to know his great-grandfather through you JOE: Perhaps we could meet there, after … You’ll have to excuse me. Got an important appointment TIM: What do you have to do? BOY’S MOM: Stop asking him so many questions, Timmy. The man has to go and. that’s that. Maybe we’ll see him later TIM: My mom says we should thank old soldiers for fighting to help us stay free. Didn’t you tell me that, mom? BETH: I did say that – and I meant it. Not only old soldiers – all soldiers. Thank you from me and my son…you never told me your name BETH: You’re “the” Joe? My grandfather spoke fondly of you, all the time! Fate must have arranged for our meeting JOE: Wouldn’t put it past Old Percy to arrange this. I really gotta leave now. TIM: Look – I can salute! I practiced at home. JOE: You do that well. You take good care of your son BETH: Listen – if you have nothing planned after the funeral, perhaps you’d at least join us for a bite to eat? BETH: Of course. I’m just being selfish. Here – let me give you my phone and cell numbers. Give me a call if you’d like to join us JOE: I’m really running late now…Nice meeting you both… TIM: Have a good day! I’m going to salute all the soldiers at the ceramo…cerrro…
Hate to see a straight line indicating nobody has dropped by my playwriting blog, as is the case presently. Actually, this is applicable to all my blogs. As writers, the purpose of sharing our thoughts via a blog is to reach the public in the hope that something we have written strike their fancy or that they see and read as interesting. A straight line means nobody finds the blog worthwhile enough to drop by. Don't like straight lines but it goes as it goes. Anyway...
Still sending out my plays and short play-ettes here, there and everywhere and hoping to hit pay-dirt. Wish I could report some progress but alas and alack, it's still a waiting game. I've to confess that I've been hesitant to enter my ten-minute plays in competitions where a submission fee is required - reading fee as it is called - and no financial compensation is offered. Any feedback on this? It's nice to think that our time writing the play, be it a short one, is worth a token payment.
Came across a theatre recently that was holding a competition for full 2-act plays but they would only accept snail-mail-in submissions. There is a part of me that understands their rationale since having to print up potentially usable plays costs money and most theatres are short of funds these days. If this is the case and at least in my mind, it would be easier then to read plays submitted electronically, no? At least in my case, my plays have been edited so many times that printing each copy would cost a fortune, and then there's the postage...
Amazing how easy it is to come up with complaints about the unfair system. I mean, who else you gonna blame? Oneself? Neh...
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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THE COFFEE QUANDARY
SCENE: COFFEE SHOP. A HALF-DOZEN PEOPLE LINE UP TO ORDER COFFEE. PERSON ENTERS AND LINES UP, ALONE, NEXT TO THE EXISTING LINE.
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Hello? We're all waiting to be served, too
(COFFEE DRINKER 2 IGNORES COFFEE DRINKER 1)
(CONT'D.) COFFEE DRINKER 1
'Scuse me but he line begins and ends here. Feel free to join us - at the back
COFFEE DRINKER 2
I only want to order a coffee! Nothing else
COFFEE DRINKER 1
COFFEE DRINKER 2
You would make me go to the back of the line for just one cup of coffee?
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Why not? That's why we're here but we wait our turn!
(COFFEE DRINKER 2 reluctantly and slowly moves to back of line, talking to people in line as she walks, shaking her head)
COFFEE DRINKER 2
This is so dumb! One lousy coffee that would take less than thirty seconds to order. Ridiculous!
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Not really. A line up is a line up is a lineup. We all gotta abide by the rules. I mean, what would the world be like without structure. Utter chaos. Right people?
COFFEE DRINKER 3
Y'know...I'm not in a rush. You can go before me
(steps aside to allow coffee drinker 2 to move up)
COFFEE DRINKER 4
Me too. Gotta lotta time to kill
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Thank you so very much for backing me up, people! This is a perfect example why the world is in the condition it's in. Nobody cares! Rules are the glue that solidifies civilization!
COFFEE DRINKER 3
Give her a break! You're in front so why do you care?
COFFEE DRINKER 1
That's not the point, my friend. Why do I care you ask? I care because we must retain some semblance of order in society. There are societal rules that are accepted norms and lining up and waiting our turn to be served is one of them. Can you imagine - and I'm sure it would never happen because you people seem civilized - if everyone pushed in and demanded to be served? There would be chaos!
COFFEE DRINKER 2
It's a coffee! That's it! Nothing to go along with it. No danish or pastry or anything that will take more time.
COFFEE DRINKER 1
That's what you say now but how do we know we can believe you?
COFFEE DRINKER 3 AND OTHERS LINING UP
"I believe her..."
COFFEE SHOP SERVER
Can I serve anyone over here?
(people rush over to the other line. COFFEE DRINKER 2 waves and smiles at COFFEE DRINKER 1)
COFFEE DRINKER 1
I tried. Can't teach everyone to have manners. 'A large regular coffee - in a china mug, please'
Only paper cups. Our dishwasher is broken
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Say what? You expect civilized people like me to...to drink coffee out of a paper receptacle? This is absolutely unacceptable. Wash one out by hand, for goodness sake!
Look over there. See the big pile of dishes in the sink? You expect me to wash out a mug for you? I think not!
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Do I have a choice - but don't expect me to enjoy it!
(COFFEE DRINKER 1 takes paper cup and looks for a table. She sees COFFEE DRINKER 2 seated by herself at the only available table)
COFFEE DRINKER 1
Excuse me...but would you mind if I join you? In my discussion with the coffee server person regarding the non-availability of china coffee mugs, it appears all the chairs and tables are taken. You would think that they would keep extra mugs on hand for people who can't tolerate drinking their beverage out of paper.
COFFEE DRINKER 2
Well...now. How about that. Go figure. There is justice in this world. Why don't you line up and wait for someone to vacate a table.
COFFEE DRINKER 1
But that could take a long time. You on the other hand, are all alone
COFFEE DRINKER 2
I like my space
(COFFEE DRINKER 3 approaches the table)
COFFEE DRINKER 3
Do you mind if I join you?
COFFEE DRINKER 2
Be my guest.
ASIDE TO COFFEE DRINKER 1: Like you said, there are rules and waiting our turn is one of them. I think I just may order another one...or maybe two...
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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A small sampling from a play written as a joint project, which started out as an add-to-the-story writing exercise with bits and pieces added over time. Like most of my plays, it's a comedy but with dramatic overtones. Listed only the three main characters in this snippet.
Jeff SlaterBESS MALONE, 50’s, Widow
LEANN WALKER, 17, spoiled niece of Becky WAYNE SMITH, 60’s, physically-disabled old grouch and owner of dilapidated cabin in the woods AT RISE: Bess enters walking at a fast clip, arms filled with small kitchen equipment. Leann lags behind while attempting to use her cell phone, dragging a suitcase on wheels behind her
(stopping to glance back at LEANN) Don’t offer to help or anything. Of course it’s totally understandable. Strain your arms and you won’t be able to iron your hair or whatever you do with it
My cell phone’s not working and I forgot to bring a charger. D’ya have one I can borrow?
Of course! Doesn’t everyone carry a spare phone charger in case a phone goes dead. Just a minute – I’ll check my purse… Good ‘cause I promised Jeremy I’d call him as soon as we arrived. How much longer ‘til we get to where we’re supposed to be? I’m getting hungry
Forget about touching base with Jeremy. You’re far, far away from civilization and there’s not a hope that your cell phone will work here, anyway
I’m sure they’ll be some kind of phone connection at the place we’re staying. Can’t wait to take a hot shower and get out of these grungy clothes. Hey – maybe there’ll be a Jacuzzi, or even an indoor pool
BESS drops the pots and pans at the front door of the cabin
In these parts? ‘Ya gotta be kidding! Where do you think we’ll be staying? At a five-star hotel?
Wha’cha do that for? I mean, let’s get back in the car and get there already
(looking around, panic-stricken)
Tell me this isn’t the place. It’s a joke, right? To teach me a lesson? Of course it is. Nobody in their right mind would stay... here. C’mon – it’s getting dark already and I could fall and break a heel on my new shoes
Be it ever so humble, kiddo! You-you can’t expect someone like…me to stay…in a place like that. I’ll catch a fatal disease or something
You wanna knock on the front door or should I? There’s has’ta be a hotel around here. I’ll even stay in a bed-and-breakfast. Maybe if we go back on the main road…
I didn’t see any buildings for miles around driving up here Look at it this way: it’ll build character and heaven knows you need some of that. BESS searches the door frame for a doorbell and then knocks Moves back and examines the house from all angles (cont'd) A palace it ain’t Nobody’s home. Let’s turn around and call whoever from a hotel LEANN turns around and starts walking
We’re not going anywhere, unless you feel like hiking through the woods alone in the dark with all those bears and mountain lions out there, not to mention snakes I could borrow your car and go get help.
Over my dead body you will! I promised your parents that you’re spending the summer with me and that’s exactly what you’re going to do They’re punishing me for dating Jeremy! Think they can keep us apart but they’re wrong. One phone call from me and he’ll rush up here and take me away from all of…this. You’ll see
Face it, sweetie – there isn’t a cabin or means of communicating with lover boy for miles and miles. From what your parents told me, he drives an old motorcycle and that sure won’t make it up here
Why are you doing this to me? I’m not the type that can survive without my cell and friends and…
Believe me, by the time this is over, you’ll thank me for the experience
BESS knocks on the door again
(Cont.d) Why doesn’t he answer? Wha’cha gonna live on, anyway? Love? Baby girl – love don’t pay the rent or buy groceries or pay your cell phone bill. I understand that Jeremy doesn’t have a pot to piss in
He has job prospects. Last week he had an interview with a company to demonstrate toys in a shopping mall
Real career move that is. Maybe you can join him and the two of you can spend your lives window shopping. Where the heck is Wayne? Hel-lo? How old are you now, anyway? Seventeen next month and we won’t have to worry ‘bout money ‘cause I’ll be bringing in money too
You? Work? Wha’cha gonna do? Be a nail polish tester? Look – I haven’t got the patience to fight with you. I’m too tired and getting more frustrated by the minute. ‘Hello! Wayne!’ Let’s go back, then. Maybe…maybe the person who lives here went away. I mean, what human being could stay in a dump like this?
I understand he’s in a wheelchair so he’s gotta be inside. Not the friendly type either, his son told me so we’ll just have to figure another way to get in Maybe…
Lifts a mat in front of the door and picks up key Why would anyone hide the key to get in here? I can imagine what it’s like on the inside
As bad in the inside as it is on the outside…worse Eeee-uuuu! Tell me we’re not sleeping here
Well sweetness and light, unless there’s a tent tucked away in that designer suitcase of yours, this is home for a while Like…you gotta be joking! There’s no way. I’m calling my parents to come pick me up
First of all, your parents are on a cruise ship. Second, before they left, your mom and dad insisted that I take you with me to experience real life, so I doubt they’d even spring for bus fare, let alone come rescue you. Might as well give up on getting in touch with the outside world for a while Where I live, they would condemn a place like this. Gross!
Were you live, maxing your credit card is considered a hardship I figured this was a shelter for people who get lost in a storm or something
Surprise! A real live person lives here. Go grab that box with the kitchen stuff Darn! I broke a nail and I just had a French manicure yesterday. D’ya have an emery board? I can’t do anything unless I file down this nail. The last thing I need is jagged edges
Oh no! We wouldn’t want that! Hold on a minute while I look through my suitcases here. Shoot! Must’a left it back on my manicure table A nail file no less… Now move it, girl!
She looks around the room. Dirty dishes cover the surface of the table; clothes litter the floor and a torn curtain hangs from a broken rod and blackened pots and pans sit on top of the stove
SFX: person coughingWhoever you are, don’t even twitch or blink an eye. I got a shotgun [pointed directly at your heart so’s you might as well start sayin’ your prayers now
(piling dishes one on top of the other, responding to WAYNE) And you must be Wayne? Geez – when was the last time you washed these? There’s over an inch of mold growing all over them
At entrance of room in front of open door in a wheelchair with oxygen tank
I’m warning ‘ya – I’m a crack shot
Of course you are and I’m Martha Stewart, here to remodel your home. Not a good idea to use a gun ‘specially since yu’re dragging oxygen around with you
WAYNE slowly wheels himself into the room, one hand on wheelchair
control lever and the other holds the shotgun supported under his armpit
You think I don’t know how to use this don’cha, woman? Lemme tell you something lady, this here baby (taps rifle) has seen lots of action over the years. Bagged me plenty of deer in my day and a couple of bears. If you don’t believe me, look up at the wall over there
Glances up at wall displaying mounted bear and dear heads – looks away
Disgusting! Shooting defenceless creatures that can’t fight back It was either them or me. I was defending myself
I bet. That deer looks really vicious. Threatened to nibble your hand, right? If I’m gonna stay here, it’ll all hav’ta gho, along with a lot of other crap you’ve accumulated
Over my dead body!
The way you look pal that could be sooner than you think. Go back to the other room and let me do my thing Just who the hell are you, lady, paradin’ yourself in here like you own my place? You answer my ad for a wife? If ‘ya did, you not what I had in mind. Lift your skirt and lemme see your legs…
Not. Whad’ya think I am? A horse? No – don’t answer that. I don’t know much about guns and don’t take this the wrong way, but one twitch of your trigger finger and your foot is history. God knows you have enough problems without adding missing toes to the list
You’re here to rob me, ain’cha? Heard ‘bout your type. Come on to me all sweet like and then you’ll knock me out and steal everything I own after having your way with me…
…which adds up to a fat zero. For your information, your son hired me as a housekeeper, so we’d better learn to co-exist with each other. Believe me, if I deidn’t need some extra cash… In fact, I’m gonna get in touch with him and ask for more money, especially since it means living here with the likes of you
WAYNE(coughing and choking)
Sure. My money-grabbing kid gets word through the grapevine that I’m an helpless old man in a wheelchair and he sees dollar signs floatin’ in front of his eyes! Damn kids – bring ‘em up to be God-fearin’ Americans and then they try to knock you off... Where are my cigarettes...
You think that your children want to inherit…this? You’re a joke, Wayne! There is no way you're going smoke in my presence so you can forget about your cancer sticks. What else? You can barely talk from coughing, not to mention carrying around an oxygen tank
We'll see about that. Go back and tell my sonny boy, I don’t need nobody’s help and that includes yours. Tell him…I ain’t ready to kick the bucket, yet! Get out’ta here. GET OUT – and take your helper with you. I don't need no old battle-axe tellin' me how t'live my life
SCENE: A BUSY SUPERMARKET.
AT RISE: A LONG LINE UP OF PEOPLE WAIT TO PAY FOR THEIR GROCERIES.
Would you believe how slow this cashier is? I probably could check out myself faster
They should open more cashes They need more cashiers. Can’t open more cashes without cashiers. Only three on a holiday weekend doesn’t do it So true. I mean, you would think that they would have thought of that. I hate waiting
Who likes it
(female customer searches the line ups) I just moved over here from the other line. This one looks like it was moving faster but now the other one is better. Always happens. Wherever I move, the other lines are faster From what I can see, there are hardly any people in the first cash
(they both look over to check it out)
That’s only for eight items or less. I’ve got a lot more than that Maybe they would take you being that they’re so busy everywhere Don’t like to take advantage, not to mention that the customers with just a few items get really upset when you try to push in with a full shopping cart. Can't say I blame them. Tried that a while back and everyone turned on me. “Are you blind?” they all yelled, pointing to the 8 items or less sign accompanied by insults. Wasn’t worth it – very embarrassing. Anyway, I’d lose my place here in line. Hey…you wouldn’t be trying to move up faster in the line here… Just trying to be helpful Why don’t you try your luck at the first cash? Maybe you'll be luckier I’ll wait my turn. You were complaining Actually, I was talking to myself and you overheard me Sorry to butt in your private conversation with yourself
Merely pointing out to myself that they need more cashiers
And I agreed. No ulterior motive intended
Sorry - I tend to get impatient in line ups. Here we want to give them our hard-earned cash and we have to wait to hand it over. Not that I would ever want to be a cashier...
(Throws her head back and looks at ceiling) Would you believe? Now they’re counting cash! This means another five minute delay at least
Nothing we can do about it Why, why does this always happen to me? Why couldn’t they have waited until they finished checking out my food items first? A conspiracy for sure. Relax – getting all worked up won’t make things work faster On top of it all, they’ve put new cashiers on a day like today. I mean, really. Okay, they have to learn but today? Good - finished their cash count. Only one person in front of us, now. Should be out of here in five…maybe ten minutes at the most, for sure. I’ll just get ready to place my items here on the counter…they have some good specials today… I don’t believe it!
Would you believe? There’s no price on some of her items and now they have to do a price check! That’s gonna put us back an extra ten minutes for sure. Is there no end to keep us customers waiting forever? (addresses customer in front of her) ‘Excuse me, but why didn’t you check your items before throwing them into your shopping cart? We've been waiting here for over fifteen minutes, y’know! Some of us have things to do, places to go.’
(male customer moves over to new cash that opens up)
(cont’d.) Hey! I was in front of you You were and now I’m in front of you, first in line. You snooze – you lose. Patience is a virtue
Even though I have a plastic watering container, for whatever reason, punching holes in the lid of a large, empty juice container seemed like a good idea. This got me thinking - one of those "what if" moments: what if everyone reading this decided to do the same and pursue our creation on the "Shark Tank" TV program for financial backing! Would it fly?
SCENE: SET OF “SHARK TANK” TV SERIES. A FEMALE, FOLLOWED BY A LARGE GROUP OF MALES AND FEMALES HOLDING JUICE CONTAINERS, ENTERS. THE FOUR “SHARKS” STUDY HER WHILE MAKING NOTES.
VOICE OVER: “NEXT ON SHARK TANK, A GARDENING AFIENCIENADO WHO HAS COME UP WITH AN INNOVATIVE ALTERNATIVE TO A STORE-BOUGHT WATERING DEVICE. SHE’S ASKING FOR $50,000 FOR 30% EQUITY Hello moneyed sharks! My name is blah-blah and I’ve come up with an inventive and cheap alternative to the watering can. When it comes to buying gardening tools, most gardeners head to their local gardening outlet to buy their equipment. Chances are that you or your maid or whoever takes care of buying grocery supplies buy the larger sized juice containers being more economical (sharks all shake their heads in agreement and take more notes). Once the container is empty, it’s tossed in the recycling pile. But wait a minute! Don’t do that! It can be recycled again.MARK CUBAN Who are all those people you brought with you?FEMALE INVENTOR They’re the CYBER FRIENDS OF FACEBOOK group who are my strongest supporters. They’re also big fans of Shark TankKEVIN O’LEARY Yuck! Juice spilled on my very expensive tie. If you can’t wash out your invention before bringing it here… I’m…FEMALE INVENTOR Wait! Let me elucidate this great concept that’s akin to reinventing the wheel!MARK CUBAN What is this? Says here in my notes that this is about juice containers. Now you’re talking about a new wheel? Give her a chance, Mark. So why exactly have you come to us for big bucks? Are you asking us to fund a juice container with wheels? I don’t get it… FEMALE INVENTOR (visibly nervous) Honestly? All I see there is a used juice container. Maybe this isn’t for me… Okay. I got it together now. Time is marching on, lady. Get on with your pitch! As I was saying…I was about to throw an orange juice container in the recycling pile and suddenly – you know – one of those eureka moments – I get the urge to punch holes in the lid, which I did… …this is painful. So big deal! Anybody can do that! Next! …filled it up with water and then used it to water my flower boxes. No splashing and the perfect system for a gentle watering of plants So let’s see this container of yours I’ve only brought one sample. If you can pass it along… We have to share one lousy juice container and it’s sticky with juice residue You should’a brought enough for all of us and Kevin is right. The least you could have done is wash the juice container All I see is five holes in a lid of a juice container. Anybody… No everybody who buys juice can do that. I’m out Maybe this has potential and maybe it doesn’t. Tell you what I’m gonna do because they don’t call me Mr. Wonderful for nothing. I’ll give you $500 for a 75% equity. That’s more than fair I don’t know…what do you think, people? (she turns and asks the large group of people with her holding juice containers. They shake their heads indicating approval) Better hurry up and decide whether to take my offer. Your only offer Um…I don’t know what to do… (large group of people chant, “take it, take it…”(cont’d. FEMALE INVENTOR) As much as I thank you for your support, I have to decline your offer (laughing) You made a big mistake, lady. Next!KEVIN O’LEARY You are nothing to me! A cockroach looking for leftovers in the juice of life…or something. Leave and take your container with you BARBARA CORCORON Kevin – must you always philosophize when someone tells you and your offer to take a hike? You could be more charitableKEVIN O’LEARY And lose my reputation as Mr. Wonderful?FEMALE INVENTOR FOLLOWED BY HER GROUP LEAVE, DROPPING THE CONTAINERS IN THE TRASH AS THEY WALK OUT
SCENE: WOMEN'S WASHROOM IN THEATRE
AT RISE: FEMALES LINE UP TO USE BATHROOM
Line is really long...hope we have enough time
I was just commenting that there's a lot of women waiting to get in and only a 15 minute intermission
When 'ya gotta go - 'ya gotta go, right?
(moving anxiously from foot to foot)
Don't I know it - and I really have to! Go, I mean
It usually picks up and moves faster when they near the end of the intermission
Hope so... Do you notice how the guys seem to be able to do what they have to do in three minutes?
That's cause they don't have as much clothing to remove and don't stare at the mirror or fix their makeup
Once in dire desperation, I used the men's washroom. I had to. I pushed the door open, screamed 'is anybody there 'cause I'm coming in!'
I held my head down and didn't dare glance at the urinals. Went in a cubicle, slammed the door and never urinated so fast in my life! Thank goodness there was nobody in there, as far as I knowThe line is moving but barely. C'mon people - move quicker!
(behind both of them)
Don't mean to interrupt but there's another bathroom located downstairs. Everyone seems to gravitate to this one for one reason or another
Thanks for the suggestion but if I'll lose my place if I check it out and I don't know if it's an improvement on this.
(ASIDE TO FEMALE 2) Perhaps if you would hold my place...?
Don't think that's a good idea. If you end up returning, they'll attack me figuring you're trying to cut in the line. You have to decide which is the better option
All I know is that I really gotta pee!
Even if I let you in front of me, it's not much of an improvement
It's better than nothing and I would be most appreciative. Things are really getting desperate!
I suppose I could...I mean, I've been where you have....
Oh thank you, thank you!
(FEMALE 1 moves in front of FEMALE 2)
(CONT'D. FEMALE 1) Almost there...just a few more to go...
(moving back and forth from foot-to-foot)
(to female in front of her)
'...such a long line up...oh dear and intermission is almost over... Really, really, have to go...you would do that for me? You're too kind...thank you...'
(FEMALE 1 moves up the line)
A person has'ta do what a person has'ta do...the flush of victory is at hand...
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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POST PLAY DISCUSSION
AT RISE: Two friends discuss a theatre performance they have just seen Decisions…decisions… I just started seeing a dietician but I absolutely adore their chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake… One more time couldn’t hurt. Given that it’s past eight o’clock and the worst time for weight gain, I, on the other hand, will stick to my usual expresso
You’re so holy-holy, perfect, human being Jealousy is futile. It’s my genes. Everyone in my family is thin, going back generations You do realize I could eat whatever I wanted without guilt but I don’t, because I respect my body Hey! Me too! My body tells me regularly, “feed me chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake’ and I’ll make you feel real good!” Anywaaay…So what did you think of the show? You didn’t like it, I take it?
It had its moments
I dunno. Made me laugh – a lot
That’s ‘cause you’re easily amused
Is it necessary to insult me, just because you consider yourself (makes quotation marks with her fingers) “a playwright”?
It’s the words and how they’re put together that interest me Seemed like one great show, overall, in my eyes You didn’t find that the first act seemed to never end? I go to the theatre to be entertained. Period. I don’t agonize over whether the first act is better than the second because really, I don’t care! If the actors can provide a couple of hours of escapism, then they’ve done their job We obviously view the entertainment through different eyes. I’m interested in the flow of the dialogue…the inter-action of the performers…things of interest to a person who writes plays - - remind me how many of your plays have been produced – So? What does that have to do with anything? It’s not for lack of trying. Have you any idea how many playwrights are out there all over the planet, hoping that someone will share them with the world? Gazillions I can tell you – including me! I mean, well known one’s, too! One day – one sweet day – someone, somewhere will read one of my plays and say, “this is the winner we’ve been waiting for!” One day, you and I, will sit here as we do after a night at the theatre, and discuss the merits of one of my plays. You’ll tell me how witty the dialogue was and how it made you laugh and how lucky that our friendship has maintained over the years… So, are we ordering or what? I’m thinking here perhaps it is too late for something heavy like the chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake Good idea - think healthy (waitress approaches to take order)
(cont’d.)We’ll have two expresso coffees, please…
I thought you decided against the cake
The cake is on the heavy side but a small butter pecan muffin wouldn’t even register on the scale. Now about the play…the acting was adequate but then they didn't have much to work with...
Nothing really new to report but for anybody keeping up with the score so far - zero-zero - for the playwright.
Really (she wrote emphasizing the really) made a concerted effort to submit my literary gems (at least in my eyes they are) to various theatres and related opportunities. Received a response from perhaps one with the usual form letter: "Dear Playwright." At least an effort could have been made to address our kind by our given name. I mean, if I'm going to be given bad news, at least relate it personally to me. Don't you think?
Where was I now...oh yeah. 'Dear Playwright, given the huge response to our call for submissions, unfortunately your play will not be among this year's productions.' There is more blah-blah but in the end - who cares. Right? Guess I should be happy that at least I received a response, be it a negative one.
Once the brain acknowledges a rejection, the questions and doubts start popping up like:
- maybe I shouldn't have done re-write # 7,500
- maybe I'm deluding myself into believing I can write plays
- maybe I should adapt my title to "writer-of-plays-that-are-waiting-for-production"
- maybe I'm living in the wrong country
- maybe I'm using the wrong font - that has to be it. Right?
- what happens if I run out of theatres in which to submit?
- what happens if I'm submitting to the same theatres having forgotten to note the lucky recipients?
And so they continue, those insidious doubts that show up in the quiet of the night, filling the mind of the writer-of-plays-that-are-waiting-for- production with doubt and bewilderment. Know what I mean?
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In his playwriting blog, "The Producer's Perspective," Broadway producer, Ken Davenport, shared his thoughts and dispensed some advice to aspiring playwrights. In particular his contention that "new-er" playwrights over-write their plays.
This caught my attention and got me thinking about my own plays and whether they are over-written. Perhaps (speculation number gazillion) this could be yet another reason and rationalization why my plays have yet to see a stage.
Not just long, Ken shared in the blog, but too wordy (my interpretation). There is a tendency to write too much to ensure that the audience grasps what the playwright is attempting to put across.
The problem from my perspective is that it's difficult to know how much is too much. I've strived to keep physical direction to a minimum and to focus upon the dialogue and more importantly, the story line. So if indeed I'm guilty of over-writing, it's difficult to ascertain if and where the edits should be made, having edited various parts incessantly over time.
Contributed my two-cents-worth to the topic in the form of a comment, "frequently, we never hear back again as to whether a play is over-written or whatever else is wrong." As I've frequently bemoaned and shared that the submission process more often than not results in never hearing anything back, period.
On one occasion and to a theatre's credit, part of its commitment to playwriting, a submission resulted in a complete analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the play, including suggestions as to changes that would strengthen its overall quality. How refreshing.
In the end, it's a waiting game dependent upon hope that someone, somewhere, will see the potential. Perhaps - pure speculation (again) on my part - over-writing is involved or maybe it's a case of under-writing. Go know.
Meanwhile, here's the coordinates to sign up for Ken Davenport's blog: https://www.theproducersperspective.com/welcome-to-the-producers-perspective-forum