Category Archives: Play in Focus

Still Boldly Going On….

IMproved

A long, long time ago* I wrote a short play that was a spoof on the old Star Trek trope of the guys in the Red Shirts getting killed. It’s not an original idea, but I like to think that my take was fairly fresh at the time. Best of all, it’s a three hander for two males and one female, with minimal set and no expensive special effects…much like the original Star Trek series.

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Like many of my early short plays, the performances have been scattered, and I haven’t managed to see one. But this week (in November of 2017) I got in touch with Send Amateur Dramatic Society (See their website here) and Karen there was kind enough to send through some pictures, which I have placed in the Gallery here on the blog. From the pictures, it looks like the people in Send put more effort into the production than I did into writing the script – I hope their audiences were appreciative of the excellent job they did!

You can read the full text of ‘Strange New Worlds” here, and if you want to see that trope taken a giant step forward, read “Redshirts” by John Scalzi.

 

 

*Yes, I could look it up, but I’m not going to. Sorry. I’m on lunch and time is precious. PRECIOUSSSSSSS!

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The Female Lead

cagney

Cagney and Lacey ran from 1982 to 1988. According to Wikipedia, “For six consecutive years, one of the two lead actresses won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama (four wins for Daly, two for Gless), a winning streak unmatched in any major category by a show.”

Having seen the outrage and fiery passion ignited by the Wonder Woman movie, I found it amazing to consider the success of Cagney and Lacey, which was, obviously, back in the “bad old days”. It’s surely no coincidence that the success of the show didn’t spawn dozens of similar shows with two female leads. In fact, the closest I can think of is the TV show “Scott and Bailey”, which did not begin until 2011, 23 years after Cagney and Lacey ended. When you see the proliferation of similar shows that burst onto the screen when the originals are proven successes – Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Wire – it’s surely only entrenched patriarchy that prevented a flood of female-lead cop shows.

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What others can we point to? There’s the excellent “Prime Suspect” that places Helen Mirren in command, fighting the prejudice of her fellow officers as much as she tries to unravel the crimes. Again, it won awards, garnered mountains of praise, ran for seven seasons and produced…What? There seem to be few imitators or successors.

When I started out to write a police procedural for the stage, I wanted to have a female lead. Originally she was going to be channeling advice from a fictional P.I. , but I soon realised that I wanted her to be working on her own, solving things herself. The second lead character shouldered her way into the spotlight a little unexpectedly. After she appeared, I went back and re-wrote the beginning, so that she – Maylee – could be a balance for Alice, the detective.

With all that has come to light in the past two weeks – Harvey Weinstein and the morass of sexual predation in Hollywood and elsewhere – it feels less appropriate than ever for me to be writing a play about the struggles of two women. White, middle class, middle-aged men have had more than their fair share of the spotlight these last few hundred years. I have no doubt there are women out there who could write a more personal, more real account of Maylee and Alice than I ever could. Odds are, there’s a better story than mine already published.

But here’s the thing: I’m a writer. I have an idea, and I have to write it. It might take months, or years, or it might be done in a day, but they turn up and get written down. I can choose which ones get my time and attention, but I can’t choose which ideas occur to me. If I could, I would write the things that follow the current market, whatever they are.

Writing is a profession that is full of people with Imposter Syndrome. Writers mistrust their own opinion of their work, they doubt themselves and they second-guess reactions to what they write. I already spend enough time doubting that what I produce is worthwhile, or readable. Since I don’t intend any disrespect or denigration to women, I don’t fear criticism for what I’m writing. As I said above, there are people who could write these things better than I could, so I would welcome any constructive criticisms. I’ll continue to write what it occurs to me to write, and I’ll listen to any objections that anyone has to offer.

You can read the full text of “Alice and the Cold Case” here. Many of my other plays contain strong female characters. You could try readingThe Kitchen Skirmishes“, orThe Red Balloon“, orDigging up Edwin Plant“. There’s alsoA Time for Farewells“, andLove in a Time of Zombies“.

Gallery

Waiting for Twist Stiffly – RPI Players

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I was delighted to get a Tweet from the RPI Players this week, telling me they had completed their run of “Waiting for Twist Stiffly” and enjoyed the play very much. They had the very talented Demetrius Green (photographybydegrees.com/) on … Continue reading

It’s not the end of the world….

Missing lynxAccording to the stats page of this blog, someone has been looking for the script to my sketch “It’s not the end of the world”, but the page they looked at included an old link that doesn’t work anymore. Rather than contact me (or, I guess, Lazy Bee Scripts), the person has come back a few times to check if the link has been fixed.

Since it takes a while for me to get a hint, I’ve finally fixed the link today. It works on the original page and here too.

If you spot any other missing lynx…er….links, please let me know so can fix them!

New sketches available (at last!)

Frog Man's mild-mannered alter-ego, the millionaire playfrog....

Frog Man’s mild-mannered alter-ego, the millionaire playfrog….

The Amazing Adventures of Frog Man and Amphibian Boy

The Non-Emergency Call

Minimum Security Holiday

For all my talk earlier this year about knuckling down and producing more stuff, I feel like I’ve been running behind. April was the month for editing “Eddie and the Kingdom 2”, and while I’ve done the proofreading part, I haven’t managed the re-writing, or finding a cover artist. Should be publishing it, actually am not…yet.

But this week I got a welcome series of emails from Stuart at Lazy Bee Scripts saying that three of my most recent sketches have been published, giving me the necessary kick up the ambition to get on and complete my latest one act play idea this month.

Yes, I may be building a stormtrooper helmet too….

It will look better when it's finished, obviously...

It will look better when it’s finished, obviously…

…but I’ll be knuckling down to work on “Under the Hood” any day now.

Ooh! Something shiny!

Two newly published plays

In the final burst of the latest publishing round from Lazy Bee Scripts, two of my latest one act plays have reached the light of day.

Digging Up Edwin Plant” works either as a standalone piece, or as a sequel to “The Kitchen Skirmishes“. It features Bernard and Lucy, now well adapted to their roles as parents, but Bernard has developed an unhealthy curiosity about what happened to the boy who used to bully him at school. Based in part on personal experiences and featuring more poetry than you might expect for a one act play, this piece looks at how we remember people who have passed out of our lives, and who, exactly, forgiveness is for.

The MACT production of "The Kitchen Skirmishes" (See "Gallery" page for more details and images)

The MACT production of “The Kitchen Skirmishes”
(See “Gallery” page for more details and images)

I wrote this after seeing a group had produced their own play based on the works of a local poet. This seemed like a fine idea, so I dug out the mysterious poems of Edwin Plant, after checking there’d be no copyright issues, and used them to help tell the story I was thinking of : Bernard, unable to track down the bully, finds only some poems written by someone with the same name. Is it the bully? What do the poems say about the person who wrote them? Bernard sees regret, and a possible explanation for the behaviour of the boy he knew, but Lucy isn’t convinced.

“The Poems of Edwin Plant” e-book is available on Amazon Kindle.

The other play to be published this month is “The CosPlay“. A recent addition to my many hobbies, my family and I have thrown ourselves into the world of Cosplay after attending the Vancouver Fan Expo ( See here, and here for more details….)

This play has a small group working hard to prepare a vital presentation that might save their department from being downsized, but it’s also the weekend of HeroCon, and at least two members of the department are determined to be there, in costume, for the big photo. The whole department turns out, with varying degrees of costumed success, but the revelation of dressing for your inner hero brings about a few character changes in the office…

Love in a Time of Zombies – Vagabond Alley Productions

The flyer for the show - you can still get tickets!

The flyer for the show – you can still get tickets!

On Saturday I drove Mrs Dim down to Seattle. For the first time in years, a play of mine was being produced within driving distance, and I was determined to see it in person. Despite having over eighty scripts available, and those plays being bought and produced somewhere in the world every month, it’s rare to get a chance to see a production.

Susan (D'Arcy Harrison) nearly brains Brian (Jason Sharp) as he comes home from foraging.

Susan (D’Arcy Harrison) nearly brains Brian (Jason Sharp) as he comes home from foraging.

D’Arcy Harrison, the Producer and one of the actors in the show, had been in touch a number of times to check details. Since the script was very British, there had to be a number of adaptations for the North American setting D’Arcy planned to use. I was keen to see how this turned out. Mrs Dim was keen to spend a night in a hotel and get the chance to visit Seattle.

When we were checked into our hotel and were dressed for Seattle nightlife, Mrs Dim and I met a couple of friends in a place opposite the venue. We shared a great meal and a lot of talk – one of the friends was at school with me, and his wife is great fun and a Seattle native. They came to the show with us, and we took seats in the front row.

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The performance space is downstairs, provided by Pocket Theater. It was black walls and bare lighting bar, with the simple set only separated from the audience by a couple of feet – no raised stage. The whole thing felt very intimate. There looked to be seating for about forty people, and the seats were already half full. The director, Amelia Meckler, came over to shake hands and say hello. She was very excited and a little nervous, which made two of us.

It’s been a few years since I wrote the script, and I haven’t re-read it recently, so I was interested to see how much I would remember, and whether the little changes that had been made would stand out for me. But the lights went down, and the soundtrack started up, and I forgot all about comparing the script with the show. The soundtrack was a mish-mash of radio broadcasts showing the spread of the Zombie Apocalypse. Not something I’d written, but a device concocted by VAP, and it worked brilliantly. The mood was set, and when a hand came through the blinds of the window at the back of the set, the audience was hooked.

Brian isn't as pleased as Susan when a handsome and apparently NOT dead visitor (Robert Hankins) comes to call.

Brian isn’t as pleased as Susan when a handsome and apparently NOT dead visitor (Robert Hankins) comes to call.

VAP used a simple set, just the sofa, a suspended window, a table and chairs and a stairway behind a curtain. The entrance to the house was a blocked off door, but the door wasn’t there – just the heavy chest that blocked it. Everything was neat and spare and worked very well. Jason Sharp opened the play as Brian, entering after another day’s hard foraging and fending off zombies, and he was welcomed home by D’Arcy Harrison as his terrified wife, convinced he’s either a zombie or a hostile survivor.

The dialogue flowed brilliantly, with the pair communicating as much through their expressions and body language as with their words. They were clearly a long-married couple with many unresolved issues. Those issues were already a problem before the handsome stranger, Harry (played wonderfully by Robert Hankins) arrives and pushes things over the top.

It was a terrific evening. The show was captivating, and came with the bonus of enthralling Mrs Dim. She has never seen a play of mine that I wasn’t acting in. It’s one thing to say to people “My husband is a playwright.” and to see the royalties come in from time to time, but it’s quite another to see people cheering an applauding a production that he wrote, to hear from the actors how much they loved the script, how much fun they had.

For me, it was what I imagine authors feel when they see their novels in the bookstore. This is what my scripts are for. Although I write them, they aren’t complete until they are performed, and it’s the actors and directors who bring the words to life. For that, I will be forever grateful to them.

The show is still running, playing on the 14th, 21st and 28th of June at 2220 NW Market Street, Seattle. See the rave press reviews here: 

http://www.dramainthehood.net/2014/06/love-time-zombies/

http://www.heedthehedonist.com/this-one-act-zombie-apocalyptic-romance-not-to-miss

http://www.thehorrorhoneys.com/2014/06/love-undead-style.html

For more information, check out Vagabond Alley Productions or see the online trailer.