Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Posts Tagged ‘humor

1.  Senior Moments is going to be presented at the FronteraFest Long Fringe in Austin, Texas, January 22nd – 30th.  Tim Englert, who has been the male role in all the U.S. productions of Senor Moments so far and who recently moved to Austin, will be joined by fantastic Austin-based actor Lana Dieterich.  The production is being directed by long-time Austin actor/director, Douglas Taylor.

Senior Moments will be presented at the AACT (American Association of Community Theaters) Regional Finals at the Bas Bleu Theatre, Fort Collins, Colorado, March 11th or 12th.

Senior Moments is being published by ArtAge, a publisher that specializes in plays suitable for senior actors and audiences.  It will be available in the next few months.

2.  Getting Betta will be premiering at the Theater Company of Lafayette (Colorado), March 4th – 26th.  It will be performed in repertory with Robots Like Us (6 new plays commissioned by TCL) in the Machines Like Us play festival.

Getting Betta will be performed March 18th – 27th at the Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano, California.

3.  Bodice Ripper will have a public reading at the Theater Company of Lafayette April 8th.  The play will be produced by the Second Skin Theatre Company in London, England, some time during 2011.  I’ll be moving to London this summer to work on Bodice Ripper and productions of other of my plays in which Second Skin is interested.  If things work out, I could be there for a couple of years.

Two years ago I couldn’t get anyone to read the scripts of my plays.  (Not even my wife, Rhonda!)  Life just keeps getting betta and betta.

Senior Moments was presented 3 weeks ago as Coal Creek Community Theater’s entry in the Colorado Community Theater Coalition Festival at the Nomad Theater in Boulder.  The production took 3rd Best Production, and Tim Englert won the Best Actor prize.  That’s not bad for a show with 2 actors, a table and 2 chairs; we were up against productions with up to 40 actors and full-stage sets!

Senior Moments will have 6 performances between August 19th and 28th at the Boulder International Fringe Festival.   I’d love to see you there if you can make it.

Each time I finish a play, especially a full length one, I become more or less catatonic.  I can’t bear even the thought of writing anything else; a state that lasts for anywhere from two to four months.

Then, one day, I realize that I’m seeing things, and starting to get annoyed.  Not that I’m not annoyed a good deal of the time every day.  It’s just that now, I find I’m getting annoyed and wanting to tell people about it.  And that’s when I know I’m ready to write again.

I finished the script of “Getting Betta” in mid February.  Fortunately, in this case my catatonia (sounds like a province in northern Spain, doesn’t it?) corresponded with 2 productions of Shakespeare Incorporated, one of Postville, and a gig of Senior Moments.  So at least I appeared to have an excuse for not being productive.

But this past weekend I went to see 3 plays.  One of them had gotten a great review in a local newspaper, and another had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Frankly, the only one I thought was a particularly good script was the third one, which was presented by a group of recent CU grads I’d taken classes with over the past several years.

But the thing that got me going was the fact that all 3 plays used the same dramatic device — the characters taking turns stepping out of the action of the play and addressing the audience.  I think that device was wonderful for the Stage Manager in Our Town, but that was 80 years ago.  Has it become the hallmark for every worthy contemporary piece of drama?

While I was taking a walk this morning, I started thinking about that and all the other things that annoy me about the playwriting business.  And Whammo!,  a play emerged.  (Actually, it happens in the other direction first, so I guess it “inmerged”.)  The working title for the play is “Catharsis,” and it’s about overuse of hackneyed dramatic devices, people who tell you how to rewrite your plays, writing to formulae for commercial success, not being recognized for your true genius, ….  You get the idea.

“Catharsis” is going to be no more than 10 pages, so it should be finished in a couple of days.

Watch out, world.  I’m annoyed and ready to write!

A couple of weeks ago I crossed an important barrier.  Some time during my working career – I think it was about 1980 — I realized that I was getting a sick feeling in my stomach every time the phone would ring or my boss would call me into his office.  It was almost always bad news.  I’d done something wrong, or somebody else had done something wrong, or something bad had happened without anyone in particular being at fault.  But it usually meant that I’d have to work through the night and, more often than not, it signified that whatever I was involved with was in the process of going down the tubes.

Hope may spring eternal in the human breast, but by the time I retired, it no longer did in mine.  Which was just as well, because when I started writing, the trend continued.  Nobody was interested in my work, and most letters, emails and phone calls were to inform me that another one of my plays had been rejected.

Not that this was all bad.  Viewing the world through mud-colored glasses is a good thing for a playwright.  Being a curmudgeon makes for drama, and drama makes for – well – drama.

But then one morning about two weeks ago, the phone rang and I realized as I went to pick it up that I was saying to myself, “Maybe it’s someone who wants to produce Senior Moments.  And it was!  Good things had started happening often enough that, without realizing it, I’d crossed over from the Vale of Pessimism to the Hills of Positivity.  That was a good thing, right?

Not quite.  Crusty Old Fart-hood dies hard.  My first reaction was to bemoan the loss of one of the driving forces of my artistic inspiration.  If I’m not constantly pissed off at the world and everything in it, how am I going to come up with ideas for plays in which pissed off people overcome their problems.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  I’m in London at the moment for the opening of rehearsals for a production of Shakespeare Incorporated.  As soon as the plane from Denver took off, the woman in front of me put her seat back in my lap and stayed there for the next 9 hours.  Sweet!  At Heathrow, we landed at the brand new Terminal 5.  Rather than being an improvement on the abysmal Terminals 1 – 4, it’s even worse.  Delightful!  I got onto the Tube to go downtown; we went 5 stations and the train stopped.  After a few minutes, the driver came on and announced that a train following us was delayed, so in order not to have too much of a gap between trains, they were going to have all trains on the line sit in their stations until the faulty train was running again.  Wonderful!

And so it has gone for the past 3 days.  The weather is typical London grotty.   The air bed I was sleeping on in my director’s flat has popped half its seams, so the bed lies at a 30 degree angle,  and so did I all night.  The 5 year old son of the couple I stayed with last night decided that the world would be better if he head-butted me repeatedly in the groin.  Could life possibly get any better?

So I needn’t have worried about losing my inspiration for a world in which things are constantly annoying and going wrong.  I’m so relieved!

According to Hollywood folklore, the words in the title of this post are what a studio functionary is supposed to have written about Fred Astaire’s screen test for RKO Pictures in the early 1930s.

That quotation comes more and more to mind as Shakespeare Incorporated and several of my other plays begin having some success.  Each of these plays was  rejected — occasionally quite rudely — by quite a number of the theaters and contests to which I submitted them.  I’m also reminded of another Hollywood executive who had an option on the screenplay for ET and sold it to Steven Spielberg.  And of the guy from Decca Records who turned down the Beatles.

OK, so I may not be in the Beatles’ class in terms of recognition any time soon, and Shakespeare Incorporated may never rival ET for commercial success.   But  just in case, I’ve decided to follow the lead of the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, and I’m compiling a little list (they’d none of them be missed).   If Shakespeare Incorporated ever wins a Tony or a Pulitzer, I’ll be ready to look up each and every person who rejected the play and make them eat their words.  Preferably, I’ll force them to ingest the rejection letters they sent me.   (If they ignored me and didn’t even have the decency to send a rejection letter, I’ve saved up some old scripts that should be particularly appetizing.)

Yes, I do take all this very personally.  But hey, I’m a crusty old fart; that’s my job.

I know it’s not the Boulder way.  Instead of being bitter and twisted and savoring thoughts of revenge, I should be grateful for whatever success I achieve, and we should all hold hands and hum and frolic semi-naked in the snow of a Colorado January.  Screw that!  You must be mistaking me with someone else.

Those of you in Boulder, don’t expect to see me any time soon.  No doubt when this post becomes public, they’ll rescind my visa to the People’s Republic.  Again.

“The Code,” the first of the 5 short plays in Senior Moments, will be performed live on Boulder’s Channel 54 Community Television, Wednesday, January 27th, at 7 pm.  After the play, they’ll be interviewing me.  You can watch the program live at http://www.cctv54.org.

A few weeks ago, my 10-minute play “The Code” won first prize in the 2009 Front Range Playwrights’ Showcase at Coal Creek Community Theater in Louisville, Colorado.  “The Code” is the first play in Senior Moments, a series of 5 short plays I’ve written for Tim Englert and Ellen Ranson, two actor friends of mine, to present at senior residences.

Tim and Ellen — they’re “well-seasoned” adults — call themselves the “Silver Circuit” when they tour performing plays for older audiences.  Earlier this year, they told me that they were having difficulty finding two-person plays for one older male and one older female actor to present at senior residences.  They asked me if I’d be interested in writing something specifically for them. I jumped at the chance.

The last two plays I’d written were Shakespeare Incorporated and Postville. Both are large cast, large set, full-length plays and, frankly, I was burned out.  So the prospect of working on short, comedic plays was particularly appealing.  Especially something with strict requirements — one elderly male and one elderly female actor, minimal set and production requirements — and one which would have have more or less guaranteed productions when I was finished.

Senior Moments is now finished and Tim, Ellen and I are scheduled to present it in a dramatic reading at Golden West, a large senior residence in Boulder, on September 24th.  After that, they’ll start to perform it at homes for the elderly up and down the Front Range in Colorado.

Today there was a wonderful article in the Boulder Camera newspaper about Tim, Ellen, Silver Circuit, and “The Code.”  Take a look.