Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare Incorporated

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!

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.

I heard yesterday that my “Postville” play was selected as one of the winners in the 2009 Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region playwrighting competition.  The competition was open to writers from the 23 states west of the Mississippi River.  During the Showcase (some time from August 5th – 8th), “Postville” will have a staged reading at the Curious Theatre in Denver.

The award is certainly comforting after the flagellation I got from the activists and superannuated playwriting professors at the reading at StageWest in Des Moines.  From the audience reaction I knew the play was better than that, but it’s still nice to get some recognition like this.

The other good news is that “Shakespeare Incorporated” is going to be produced in London, either this Autumn or early next Spring.

Last summer, when “(Not) At Home” was being produced at the Boulder International Fringe Festival, the Fringe folks contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to house some out-of-town artists.  I looked at the list and noticed that some of them were from the U.K.  Maybe I’ll make a contact that will help in marketing my work in the U.K, I thought.  So I agreed to house a Brit.

Sure enough, I made contact with Andy McQuade, a wonderful actor and the Artistic Director of the Second Skin Theatre Company in London.  I gave him a copy of “Shakespeare Incorporated,” and he loved it.  About 6 weeks ago he contacted me, and we’ve signed a deal for him to produce “SI” in London.  He’s looking for a suitable theater venue now.  I’ll post more when things are finalized.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

In case you didn’t recognize it, this is my happy face.smileyface