Under The Hood

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Finding a way through the woods..

This week has been a little busier than most, since Mrs Dim launched off to the UK with Tiny Weasel for a whistle-stop pre-Christmas visit. There was a lot to organise before they left, and, strangely, even more to organise once they’d gone. But despite the pressures of laundry, cooking, shopping and work (all of which, now I come to think of it, I was doing anyway) my latest play* “Under the Hood” was published by Lazy Bee Scripts.

The play is about Rose and her husband Mark. Mark works at a job he hates, because he has a heavy workload that his boss doesn’t understand. Rose is an aspiring actress, and she’s just secured a role in a small production that has a lot of prestige attached – it’s directed by theatre legend Cain, a man so awe-inspiring that he’s known by just the one name. This could be the start of big things, even though the production is a new interpretation of “Little Red Riding Hood”.

As Rose learns more about the part, Mark is finding his limits with his work situation, but the mortgage rides on his salary. Tempting him all the while is the chance to risk it all on a startup with his friend Mike. The payoff could be huge, or it could be disaster, and his company have a yellow dog policy that would prevent him profiting from any idea he had on company time, so he’d have to be underhand…

Things come to a head on Rose’s final night in the play, as the couple finally find their way through the woods and come out on the other side to face the future.

You can read the complete script here.

*It’s not the latest I wrote, just the latest published. I wrote it, but it had some issues, and in between writing it and rewriting it, I wrote another play and it got published first. THAT’s my latest play, chronologically speaking. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to explain.

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Still Boldly Going On….

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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!

FanExpo Vancouver 2017

It’s that time of year again, when fans of tv, film and comics come together in Vancouver to celebrate the things they love. We’d booked tickets for the Sunday of the three day event, which turned out to be a good thing because Middle Weasel’s film group were shooting a short film in our house and it turned out to be a longer and more…crowded… process than we expected.

I left Mrs Dim wrangling the dogs, and Middle Weasel wrangling the crew, and I took Tiny Weasel, Eldest Weasel and three others to Fan Expo.

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One of my charges wasn’t in costume, so our team for the day was a Dalek Interp, Paddington, and Ruby and Yang. I was dressed as Clark Kent, but seriously, that did not warrant a photograph.

Walking the floor when I wasn’t in costume was one thing. Wearing the Shakespearean Vader costume last years was a very different experience. What was really funny was walking the hall behind Ruby and Yang because EVERYONE loved them.*

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This was my view for most of the day: Grinning as other people went nuts over the props and costumes and asked for pictures.

But I didn’t spend the whole time photographing photography. There were so many cosplayers to photograph instead…

The range of costumes is always impressive, but it’s funny how certain looks come and go. A couple of years ago you couldn’t move for Sailor Moons and Deadpools. Elsa and Ana were big hits too. This year I only saw a couple of Elsas and Anas, and only the one Deadpool:

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Maybe he only came because Elmo wanted him to?

And I can tell I am getting old, because the number of truly excellent costumes of people I cannot recognise is only increasing. Tiny Weasel showed me over twenty photographs she had taken and excitedly identified them. I was none the wiser. These following pictures are mostly people I DID recognise. Mostly.

As always, I admired the immaculate uniforms and gear of the 501st troops. They walked the floors, posing for photos and being friendly and accessible – have you any idea how weird it is hearing a stormtrooper wishing someone a good day?

It was a great day, not least because it was Ruby’s first experience of a Con and she was a hit. It was great to see how well she handled the requests for photos and the compliments on her costume and the scythe she carried without complaint throughout.

Already looking forward to next year.

 

 

*I had not heard of RWBY before today. I still have no plans to watch it, but it’s clear lots of other people do.

The Buzz from Lazy Bee Scripts October 2017

Here’s the latest newsletter from my publisher, Lazy Bee Scripts. You may notice a few live links in it because TLC Creative have finally published our version of Sleeping Beauty! Our first pantomime in years.

Halloween is out of the way, time for the next dramatic challenge.  If you haven’t yet sorted out a festive play for December, then there’s still time.
Many Christmas shows involve large casts of children.  This often involves the need to keep them quiet and entertained backstage.  That was part of the thinking behind the card game ‘Dame of Thrones’ from TLC Creative (put together with pantomime in mind).
We have plenty of festive plays, both religious and secular (mainly focused on Christmas, but other festivals do get a look-in.)  By the way, you can separate out the religious from the secular (if you are looking specifically for one or the other) using the “Religious and Moral Plays” filter in our search engine.
Amongst our new scripts, the contribution to the season comes in the form of a new adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (and also a revision of a previously-published version).  As usual, you can find all the new scripts via the “what’s new” link from the Lazy Bee Scripts home page.  Talking of which…
Sketches, Skits and Short Plays

‘Sketch’ tends to be used in British English for a short comedy piece, whereas US English tends towards ‘skit’.  I take a slightly different view.  I think that a skit treats a known theme with an element of parody.  By my definition, here we have two short plays, a sketch and a skit.  (You can make up your own mind.)

  • In Oh Frabjous Day (1M, 1F) from Maeve Edwards, Mark finds out he has a daughter he never knew about, and who could be the bone marrow donor he needs.  It’s a bit of a weepie.
  • For ancient tales of a Biblical bent, check out Ian Sharrock’s David and Goliath (2M, 1F), in which a Philistine soldier and serving girl witness the famous showdown.
  • Robert Scott’s Just Good Friends (2M, 1F) is an easy to stage relationship comedy.  After Jane’s latest break-up, Tim is waiting to console her.  But is this his chance to step out of the friendzone?
  • The Colonel’s Wife (2M) by Bob Hammond features an army officer who’s been caught with, well, the colonel’s wife.  His confession gets a very different reaction from what he expects.

Plays for Schools and Youth Theatre

In the September edition of The Buzz, I mentioned that we had published several new plays with Greek themes.  That trend seems to be continuing slightly…

  • If you want to know all about Greek tragedy but never managed to finish the Iliad (it is a big book, and the text is really small), you need Nicholas Richards’ A Brief Guide To Greek Tragedy (6 Either).
  • Adventures in Wonderland (35 roles, a minimum of 20 actors with doubling, of whom at least Alice is female) is a faithful Lewis Carroll adaptation from Bob Yelland, and an ideal choice for large youth theatre productions.

Musicals and Musical Plays

We had previously published Nicholas Richards’ piece as a play (and it could still be performed as such), but, in our view, it works better as a musical piece.  (Generally aimed at secondary school ages.)

  • Nicholas Richards’ Hunting Death (5M, 3 Either) is a short musical retelling of the Pardoner’s Tale from the Canterbury Tales, and can also be performed as a verse play without the music.

One-Act Plays

Previous winners include Damian Trasler, Richard James, Geoff Bamber and Cheryl Barrett.  This time, Robert Scott seems out to get the largest number of mentions in this newsletter.  But never mind the quantity, we are very enthusiastic about the quality of his writing, as are audiences around the world.

  • Robert Scott wins our award for most prolific author of the month (and his plays are good as well as numerous!), bringing us The Babbling Brookes, a trilogy following one family:
    Rags to Richie (3M, 3F, 2 Either) introduces us to Richie Brookes, who’s so much of a liability that his wife won’t leave him alone without a responsible adult.
    Next up is Ed and Breakfast (3M, 2F, 2 Either), in which belligerent son Ed is at loggerheads with mum Lynda.
    And in Keep Calm and Kerry-Ann (3M, 3F), Grandad Joseph shows up, sending the family into more of a spin than usual.
    The three plays work as stand-alone pieces, but they could also be played in one evening as a trilogy.
  • Serious stuff in Warm Crayons (2M, 3F) by Ashley Harris, in which a schoolteacher is accused of a vile abusive act.  Is he innocent, or has he been hiding his deeds all along?
  • For something lighter, try Richard Charles’s Dead Loss (4M, 2F).  Aging rock star Trevor Loss has debts to pay off and the police after him; the drastic measures he resorts to make this a thrilling comedy.
  • Nickers (1M, 4 Either) by Robert Scott – yes, him again – is not about smalls, but a gang of thieves who all have their sights set on a priceless diamond…
  • Another classic is adapted – and abridged – in Martin Prest’s A Christmas Carol In 60 Minutes Or Less! (1M, and up to 28 others).  We should probably also credit Dickens for this one.  It’s an unusual treatment in that Martin wrote it as a one-man show, but with 29 roles it could also be played by a larger cast.  We published it some time ago, but Martin has tweaked it based on experience of a recent production.
  • Welcome Home (2M, 1F) is an original drama from Roger Lee.  Jimmy is finally out of prison after twenty years and returns to a hostile reception from his son.
  • How else would we end this section but with another Robert Scott play?  Jim Jam (2M, 1F) is about the familiar situation of being stuck in a traffic jam… and your kid needing the loo.

Pantomimes

There are four broad flavours of pantomime: the core folk tales (Cinderella, Aladdin, etc.), adaptations of other stories, amalgams of multiple stories and completely original stories. (Richard Coleman thinks we should have a section of the Lazy Bee Scripts web site just for the third type, although I suspect that is mainly because he has written several in that vein.) We have so many versions of the core stories that we are cutting down on new publications – picking out just the truly exceptional.  Hence on this occasion that category is represented just by TLC Creative’s adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, whereas Sharon Hulm raises her flag in the original stories category.

  • Double Trouble (4M, 5F, 8 Either), an original panto by Sharon Hulm, follows a pair of twin Princes.  A true love’s kiss will release them from a curse, but can those true loves recognise which prince is which?
  • And then we have TLC Creative’s take on Sleeping Beauty (4M, 7F, 8 Either).  It’s a classic tale, here littered with extra doses of malicious fairies and outright silliness.

Full-Length Plays

Another very varied selection of full-length plays, with a couple of adaptations and three original pieces together touching on comedy, drama, history and thriller.

  • Another take on A Christmas Carol – well, the festive season is fast approaching – comes courtesy of Michael Morton, whose full-length version (37 roles, with a minimum of 3M, 3F, and eight of Either with a lot of doubling) is a faithful adaptation of the Dickens classic.
  • End of the Ban (6M, 3F) by Anne Graham is a comedy set in 1980s Nottinghamshire.  Miner Les is already drifting apart from his family – and then he gets trapped down the mine shaft.
  • Richard Hills has adapted Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women (4M, 7F).  With their father away in the American Civil War, four sisters must support the household as they grow up.
  • In Death’s Desire (3M, 4F) by Robert Scott, therapist Lawrence has a worrying new patient who confesses to murder… and who knows a surprising amount about Lawrence’s fiancée.
  • Two families are brought together by the engagement of their children in David Allan’s Happy Families.  They immediately warm to each other, never get into any conflicts, and none of them hold any secrets.  Just kidding.  (4M, 5F)

Murder Mysteries

There is a variety of ways of executing dinner theatre murder mysteries.  Different options will suit different theatre companies. Our latest two both have scripted dialogue, but Geoff Fulford’s piece requires the cast (working from character briefs) to be interrogated by the audience, whereas Eileen Clark wants the audience to decide whodunnit purely on the basis of what they have seen on the stage.

  • Just as a country hotel is about to close for refurbishment, one of the last guests to leave is found dead.  The audience must figure out whodunnit in Eileen Clark’s Murder at Morpeth Manor (3M, 4F, 1 Either).
  • In Some Anniversary! (3M, 5F, 1 Either) by Geoff Fulford, Clark and Barbara Seville are celebrating thirty years of marriage – but several guests hold grudges against Clark, who won’t make it to thirty-one.

Theatrical Paraphernalia

When we publish musical pieces, we try to offer recordings (at least backing tracks) as an optional extra.  Sometimes we add things at a later date…

  • For the new version of Sleeping Beauty by TLC Creative, there are high-quality backing tracks (familiar music, new lyrics) created by Sound-Board.com
  • The CD for Nicholas Richards’ musical version of Hunting Death has a complete (25 minute) backing track/underscore and also a vocal demo of the whole piece.
  • At a customer request, we’ve made available MP3 downloads for the backing tracks and vocal demos for Greece – The Musical by Sue Gordon as an alternative to the CDs.

If you want more frequent updates, then follow us on Facebook or Twitter (where we announce every new publication); more details on the contact page of the web site.

Stuart Ardern
Lazy Bee Scripts

The Female Lead

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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“.

Back to the Bard

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One of our rituals for rounding off the Summer Holidays is a visit to Bard on the Beach. Sometimes we get to take visitors along with us, and one memorable year we tried to go on Sunday, only to discover we’d bought tickets for the Saturday and missed it completely.

This year it was just the five of us, and we were off to see one of our favourite plays, ‘Much Ado About Nothing.” Why is it such a favourite in the Trasler household? Well, for Mrs Dim and me, it’s been a frequent theatre staple. She took my to see it for my 21st birthday – a trip to London together to see Mark Rylance and Janet McTeer in the starring roles. We introduced the weasels to it by showing them Kenneth Branagh’s beautiful movie version, and we watch it again and again – it’s great in winter, when you can almost feel the heat of the sun from the tv….

They didn’t take to Joss Whedon’s version, bang up to date and set in LA, but the Bard troupe had opted for 1950’s Italian cinema. They made some subtle changes to the dialogue, changing the Prince into a Director and the soldiers into actors, but it worked out really well. The comedy timing was amazing, and the  heavier parts of the plot really caught the audience. As always, I felt sorry for Claudio, not because he’s duped so easily, but because his entire character comes across as a bit of a wet hen. This is no fault of the actor portraying him, who did a cracking job (tears in his eyes as he denounced Hero) but because that’s the way he’s written.

We didn’t mind the rain coming down – we need it here, after all – and it was a happy way to spend a cold afternoon in September.

Thank you for another great performance, Bard on the Beach. We’ll see you next year.

Books I’ve read this month Aug/Sept 17

Summer in BC is great for reading, especially those lazy days when you can’t go outside because of all the smoke from the rest of the country being on fire.

In the car I’ve been listening to John Scalzi’s “Agent to the Stars” . It’s light and fun, but has a good message tucked away inside. Like several of Scalzi’s audio books, it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, and I think this is a good thing. The story is about a movie agent who is contacted by aliens. They’re the traditional green blobs who are worried that their appearance might prejudice the Earth against them, so they want an agent to work on their image problem.

Since it’s a fun book, I listened to it way too fast, and now I’m neck-deep in “Lords and Ladies” by Terry Pratchett. It’s the third in the “Witches” series from the Discworld, but it pulls in some familiar faces from Ankh Morpork in the shape of Archchancellor Ridcully, Ponder Stibbons, the Librarian and the Bursar. If you haven’t read the Witches series, start with “Wyrd Sisters”, and don’t forget to tell your friends about them.

Outside of the audio world, actual physical books have been read too. I started with “The Magpie Murders“, even though it was written by Anthony Horowitz. I have an unreasonable dislike for him, thanks to a radio interview I heard a long time ago. Maybe he’s changed since then, maybe not, but this book is very good. For one thing, it’s a book about a book, and you get to read the book that the book is about, which is great. Maybe I should explain.

The story is told by a literary agent or editor (I forget which). She’s taken delivery of the latest – and last – in a series about a Poirot-style detective, and she’s planning to read the whole thing through. but the last chapter is missing. While she hunts for the missing chapter, she discovers the author is dead – probably suicide, but maybe not. And there are disturbing parallels between his life and the fictional village he wrote of in his series. To find out the truth, she has to solve the murder in the book and in real life.

I’m glad I read this book – now, if I ever meet Mr Horowitz in person, I’ll have something nice to say to him.

Having enjoyed one mystery, I went straight on to another. This one was “The Zig Zag Girl” by Elly Griffiths. It’s based on the real-world idea of magicians being used in the Second World War to confuse the enemy using stage magic principles. Now, years after the war, it looks like someone is targeting the “Magic Men” and killing them off. Since one of them is a policeman, it’s his job to find the others and try and solve the murders before he falls victim too. This is the first of a series, and I’ll be tracking the others down soon.

My final offering for this month is a non-fiction piece. “Blood, Sweat and Pixels” is a recounting of the effort it takes to get video games from conception to completion. I like games, though I don’t get to play them frequently enough to recognise more than two or three of the ones mentioned in this book (and I’ve not actually played ANY of them) and worst of all, the book ends with the sad story of the now-legendary “1313”, the Star Wars game that never was. When you read the stories, you wonder why anyone even tries to make video games, let alone how they reach the markets. You also, if you’re me, wonder if there’s ever going to be a playable release of 1313.

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