Just Words Slayed It Last Week

 

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The amazing cast of Just Words From L Shannon Carter; Sam Dressler, and Tom Slater

The cast and directing of Lyn Anderson’s play “Just Words” have been overshadowed by “Jumping” and “Meant To Be.” That’s probably my fault – at least as far as these blogs have gone.
So let me state for the record – such as there is one – that the cast of “Just Words” knocked it out of the park. They did exactly what I asked, and they worked their tails off.
They did great, but I should have done more.
I should have gone bigger. I should have added sight gags. I should have had Sam Dressler do a whole Art Carney routine about getting the scrabble tiles out of the bag; I should have had Shannon Carter really ham it up getting the cork out of the wine bottle; I should have added cell phone sounds, and I should have put Tom Slater in a dress.
Poop, poop, poop!
If I get another change with Tom, HE IS WEARING A DRESS! I don’t care what the role is.
Anyway, it was a great month and a half and am very proud of my cast. I just wanted to tell the world, that although two other shows are going forward to the state competition, my guys were superb, and they got the audience to laugh when they were supposed to. .
Oh by the way – we had a lot of fun. I guess that’s all you can hope for.

 

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One of my favorite stupid short plays

Mrs. Johnson about 50 walks up to a pharmacy window, her hands are full of different things she ‘s bought to pad her order. She quietly puts the items on the counter and organizes them to make it easier for the Diane. She is very reserved – shy. The woman nervously pulls a prescription out of her pocket. The Diane begins ringing up the items

 

Diane

Okay. Spearmint gum. Mouthwash. Spice drops. You know I love spice drops they’re one of those quiet sellers. Everybody loves them, but nobody ever talks about them.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Yeah, I know.

 

Diane

When was the last time somebody said, ‘I had a great spice drop yesterday?’ You know? I mean I don’t think I ever heard that.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Nor I.

 

Diane

Weird huh? Let’s see what else we have? You’re Mrs. Johnson right?

 

Mrs. Johnson

Yes. Surprised you know that.

 

Diane

I try to remember everyone that comes here. You’ve been coming here for years. Customer service, that’s what I’m all about. Dishwashing detergent? A hand towel. What’s this? (beat, shouting) BETH! BETH!

 

Beth (the Pharmacist, shouting back)

WHAT! WHAT

 

Diane

How much are the Trojan condoms?!

 

Beth

WHAT!

 

Diane

Trojans? You know the ribbed condoms?

 

Mrs. Johnson

No that’s okay. I, I, I …

 

Beth

How would I know? You know the last time I needed condoms?

 

Diane

It doesn’t matter. Mrs. Johnson wants them. There not for you. (To Mrs. Johnson quietly) If she could get ahold of the stock boy she’d find them pretty quick.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Okay. I can do without.

 

Diane

Do without? Not on my watch. I’m getting you condoms. I got this. (the Diane gets on the loud speaker). Price check! Price check! (to Mrs. Johnson) What aisle?

 

Mrs. Johnson (in shock)

Nine.

 

Diane

Price check aisle nine Trojan ribbed condoms – color black. Do they have to be black?

 

Mrs. Johnson (quietly)

No uh, any color’s fine. I didn’t notice they were colored. Can I say colored? Should I say black? This is so confusing.

 

Diane

If you want it black, we’ll get you some black. (on the loud speaker) Any color’s fine, but she really likes them black.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Thank you but …

 

Beth (shouting)

Got ‘em. They have lubricant here too. Would you like some lubricant?

 

Mrs. Johnson

I, I, I don’t know. I, I, This wasn’t my idea.

 

Diane

Shoot some lubricant over too!

 

Beth walks over and hands the condoms and lubricant to the Diane.

 

Beth

I brought the regular stuff and the stuff that heats up after you apply it, you never know.

 

Mrs. Johnson

I wasn’t expecting so many choices. (beat) Thanks. I’ll take them both? It used to be easier.

 

Beth

Good thinking.

 

Diane nods conspiratorially

 

Diane

Is there anything else?

 

Mrs. Johnson

Just this?

 

Mrs. Johnson hands her a prescription.

 

Diane (Shouting again)

BETH! We have a prescription; need you over here.

 

Beth walks up and looks at the prescription.

 

Beth

Your doctor called this in already.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Thank you.

 

Beth

Diane can you get this for me? It’s right over there.

 

Beth gives Diane the prescription and

Diane rifles through some bins on a shelf

 

Diane (talking to herself really)

Viagra, Viagra, where is that now. It shouldn’t be that hard to find. You’d think it would just stick out.

 

Mrs. Johnson just watches in horror.

 

Beth

It’ll just be a second. Can you give me your insurance card?

 

Mrs. Johnson starts looking through her wallet.

 

Mrs. Johnson

It’s right here. Wait a minute.

 

Diane

Got it!

 

Diane brings a small white bag to Beth. Mrs. Johnson gets frantic looking through her purse

 

Mrs. Johnson

I can’t find my card.

 

Beth

I really need the card or your insurance won’t cover it.

 

Mrs. Johnson

But, I’ve been coming here for years. My insurance hasn’t changed.

 

Beth

I know that, but I need the card.

 

Mrs. Johnson (Almost hysterical)

And I need those pills. I need to see my husband’s manhood in full flower. The heat of his loins fully exposed. His hardness between, between, between my um, um, um. I (beat) Need (beat) Those (beat) GD pills! And I swear to God I will bring the insurance card in the morning. Do you have any idea how long it has been since I, I, I aaaaaaaaaaaah!

 

Beth and Diane stare at her for a moment

 

Beth

Okay. It’s not that big of a deal. They are only $15 bucks a pill without insurance. How many do you want?

 

Mrs. Johnson

$15 dollars! That’s just a bottle of wine! Give me thirty dollars worth – now. And ring this shit up.

 

Diane moves in and finishes ringing up the purchases

 

Diane

That’s $65. 33.

 

                                                                                    Mrs. Johnson gives her some bills grabs her

                                                                                    bags and runs out

 

Diane

Your change! Your change! (beat) Jeez what’s her problem?

 

Beth

She needs to get laid.

 

Diane

NO kidding!

My Theater Weekend Blog #2 Screaming Into the Surf

I am obsessed – with Veterans reemployment. It keeps me pacing the floors at night. I’m not as smart as Arthur Miller to write some veiled treatise like his Crucible about McCarthyism. Nope.  I have to go to my first instinct – theater of the absurd.

That’s what I did with “Screaming Into the Surf.” I saw a documentary about brigands running all over Europe after the Crusades and wondered what would happen if today’s combat veterans chose a life of crime.

I saw how hard it was for vets to get jobs when they first returned. And wanted to capture that. That’s what “Screaming Into the Surf” is all about.

It got its first script in hand reading several years ago and it sat in my inbox just niggling at my inner conscience when I submitted it to the Reedy Point Players 2018 One Act Festival.

Since it need a director I asked around and Marshal Manlove said he’d do it.

Marshall was a great choice. He brought a wry humor to my absurd script about a guy who gets fed up with having doors slammed in his face and decides to lead a life of crime after returning home. He was in fact going to be a brigand or art thief.

Marshall got it! Bravo!

Anyway, Katie Jerzak played the wife and (returning vet herself) with a depth of emotion that had me choked up as I sat in the audience. She moved across the stage with a tortured gait I hadn’t considered.

Fran Lazartic was excellent as the tortured vet coming to grips with the futility of job searching and the diminishment of his military experience. He was tragic. He too had me twisted in knots as I watched every step and nuance of his performance.

Sometimes it’s a shame there are awards for theater because this show had moments of desperation and deep feeling equal to any on the stage this past weekend.

 

Reedy Point Players One Act Festival; The First of Three Blogs — Jumping

 

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LaTanya Morrow-Cain and Aniela Meinhaldt in Jumping

A funny thing happened on the way to the Reedy Point Players 2018 One Act Festival – I had to write a play – in fact I wrote two.

 

That’s what I do I guess. I am a playwright after all. Maybe not a professional one, but a playwright nonetheless.

I came across this podcast about playwriting and it inspired me to write a story – one that was significantly different than the one ended up with. The only reason I bring it up is that the play I submitted and for which I eventually won a writing award, is way different than the first draft.

My first draft was about an overweight woman wanting to commit suicide after having an affair with her sister’s husband in the cloak room at a restaurant. It just wasn’t right and there was something about it that rang fake, so I wrote it again. I wanted to keep the idea of a restaurant, but it needed something.

Anyway, I worked it from a slightly different and I soon knew I was on to something, because I was no longer writing, but transcribing conversations between the characters. It was weird like that. When I got it to work, it kind of wrote itself.

I took my manuscript to a playwriting group I am in, CSPNext. The folks at Next gave it and me the once over. They showed me some mistakes I made and suggested a couple of line changes. Like any good playwright I took some and left the others.

On my third rewrite two lines popped into my mind from some real-life experiences. One from my wife was, “He is the kind of man you fix your hair for.” The other I picked up in a grocery store in Bozeman, MT when the checkout guy said in response to a beautiful woman walking away, “She could make your wedding smoke.” With those lines in hand I edited it again.

 

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From L: Lance Thompson; LaTanya Morrow-Cain; Me; Lyn Anderson ‘ Aniela Meinhaldt 

Then I did something really smart, I asked Lyn Anderson to direct it.

 

She took it, casted it, and developed the staging. It was superb. In fact, she won best director, best set, and best play. One of her actors, won best actress and the other was a close second.

It was really strange to see someone else bring the work to life. It was all kind of amazing really. I sat in the audience fidgeting with my fingers at my lips like an expectant father. I twisted and swayed with every utterance as the story unfolded in front of Lyn’s bridge suggestive minimalist set.

The strangeness didn’t end with Lyn’s interpretation of “Jumping,” Marshal Manlove took another play I wrote “Screaming into the Surf” and directed that one. I will write about that when I get some pictures.  

First Week Of Rehearsals is Boffo

thumbnail_2018OneActFestivalI’ve fallen bit behind. I wanted to blog earlier, but time got away from me.

Casting community theater shows can be hard; oft times the number and genders of the actors don’t always match the scripts, so one has to be creative.

I am directing Lyn Anderson’s Comedy “Just Words” for the Reedy Point Players One Act Festival on the 16th and 17th of February at the Delaware City Community Center and the script calls for two women and one man. I chose to go with two men and one women – all great actors.

We had our first rehearsal and it went pretty well. The actors delivered their lines well and with the appropriate accents here or there as needed. Even so, something was eating at me, so I went back to the script and on second reading realized there is a lot of tiny movements for which I hadn’t accounted.

You see, the play revolves around a Scrabble game and there is a lot to a Scrabble game to stage. There are pulling tiles; playing words; banter back and forth; and all the other falderal associated with a Scrabble game. On top of that there are hors d oeuvres, napkins, extra plates, and placement of wine glasses needing resolution.

I hadn’t planned all this through when I first took on this show; it’ll be okay.

Because there are four or five plays in the festival, we have to share stage time with the other shows. When we don’t have the stage, we have to use a large community room to rehearse.

That’s where we have to go next week. That’s cool.

My plan is to spend ½ the time working with my actors helping them further hone their skills and the other ½ running lines and helping them through the actual conduct of the Scrabble game.

The problem with staging a Scrabble game is that is can appear static. So fast dialogue I the middle of this particular show is everything.

That’s it for now.

First Auditions — Lots of Talent in Delaware City Last Night

The first set of auditions are under our belts and I have to say it was a great night.
We had guys and gals of different ages, backgrounds, and acting experience come out on a freezing January night to audition for parts in the Reedy Point Players One Act Play Festival set for two shows on the 16th and 17th of February.
The actors were wonderful.
The thing with community theater is you never really know what you’re gonna get, so directors and actors need to be able to rapidly adjust. I am directing a play about a Scrabble game gone awry and the script calls for a mother, daughter, and boyfriend. Depending on the rest of the auditions, I may change it around a bit and have a father, daughter, and boyfriend. Or maybe a mother, daughter, and girlfriend. Regardless, you just have to take the great talent you get and make it all fit.
Frankly that is half the fun.
Back to the auditions.
Every person who auditioned last night was great. There were no weak ones. I loved them all. Each brought something different.
There was a young woman who obviously studies performing arts in college. She was superb and at the other end was an older gentleman – a Vietnam veteran – who was also fantastic.
There was a young woman who I believe never acted before who just transformed into any character she read. It was all quite astounding.
Anyway, tomorrow I will tell you all about the Gordian Knot of who wrote what plays and who is directing what plays. It’s pretty cool to think about.