The Play is the Thing.
“Why don’t you write a play?” Marianne asked me.
“I like writing screenplays,” I said.
“Take one and turn it into a play.”
“To get a chance to see it performed.”
That was my “Ah-ha Moment.” If I simply rewrite one of my screenplays as a stage show, I might actually get a chance to see it performed live. I have three screenplays on the shelf, which may never be lucky enough to be turned into celluloid, but now, one of them, at least, has a chance of making it to a stage someplace.
We were in Jake’s bar, at a post-show party with Larry Kirwan, the playwright, and several members of the cast of Hard Times, a terrific musical which we had just seen at a theatre called The Cell, around the corner on 23rd St. Lilly, the barmaid, had just placed another pint of Jake’s Wild Ale and a plate of sliders in front of me, so I was having a good time.
About 30 years ago I started writing my first novel, Two Ships Passing…One Failing. It grew to 600 pages and was still far from finished, when I decided to try it as a screenplay instead. The standard screenplay is 120 pages long, so I already had 5 times what I needed. I figured that editing what I had down to a mere 120 pages would help show me the heart of the story. I read Screenwriting for Dummies to gain a little insight into screenwriting, and then I sat down to write. It worked. It actually worked. The first draft of the screenplay practically wrote itself. I was done in three weeks. Plus, now, I knew where the heart of the story was. I knew what to leave in and what to leave out of the novel.
Only thing is, I never went back to completing the novel. Instead, I worked on another screenplay, Bless Me, Jack. Then I wrote another, Miles to Go Before I Sleep. Now, I’m working on sequels for all three of them. I love writing screenplays. The trouble is that nothing I have ever written has gone beyond the printed page, though. I just print them out, put them in a binder, and find a place for them on my bookshelf. So, I have almost no chance of ever seeing any of them performed. Now, however, through Marianne, I have a very good connection to many Manhattan Theatres, and I just might have a fairly good shot to have a play performed there. Of course, I just moved out of New York and into Lancaster. Isn’t that how Murphy’s Law works?
Of course, I know that playwriting is a craft that requires a lot of study. So, I just went to Amazon and ordered “Playwriting for Dummies,” hoping that would help me to become the playwright I want to be in a few short weeks.
I also tried to immerse myself in the art form by going to another show, Devil Dog Six, at a theatre on 36th St. The Play was about horse racing, and I loved it. So, I was bitten by the theatre bug. A playwright was born.
It helped that I was a little high. I went to the show with my friend Maria, and we started the day with brunch. We drank our official drink from the Vegas trip, Geralinis, which are simply Bellinis with more sparkling Prosecco wine, and less peach nectar, and we had bacon that looked like the slab of ribs in a Fred Flintstone cartoon. It was so thick, we both needed steak knives for the bacon.
Suffice it to say that we were well greased by the time we got to the show, and we got caught up in it, right from the beginning.
That’s the amazing thing about a stage production. This was off off off off, way off Broadway. It was on the third floor of an office building on 36th Street. There were no sets. Actors played the horses, and the same actors played people. There were no car chases and nothing blew up. To enjoy the play, you had to use your imagination, and I had another “Ah Ha moment.” This was a two-way street between the audience and the stage. The more we used our imagination the better the story got, and the better the story got, the more we got to use our imagination.
I think I learned the secret. It isn’t to give the audience what they want, it’s to give the audience enough for them to get what they want by themselves. So, give my regards to old Broadway…and tell them I should have something ready in about three weeks.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,