That title’s a little misleading. My new play is called “For sale – Baby Shoes – Never Worn”, not “Inspired by Hemingway”. Look, maybe I should just tell the story I’ve been telling everyone about this. Whether it’s true or not…I don’t really want to know. This is what I heard:
Hemingway was dining with Dorothy Parker and her infamous Vicious Circle. Naturally they talked about writing and at some point Hemingway asserted it was possible to write a compelling story in only six words. Challenged to prove it, he grabbed a napkin and scribbled “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” and won the bet.
Hemingway is figure who towers in the mental landscape of writers. Many idolize him, ascribing almost mythic powers to him. I didn’t take much to the stories that he wrote, except (if it’s true) for this one. Those six words both tell the story and send your mind scurrying to fill in the other parts – whose was the baby, why did it never wear the shoes? Was there ever a baby? Who bought the shoes, and why must they be sold on? I have certainly spent more time thinking about those six words and all they imply than I have about the rest of Hemingway’s output.
It struck me one day that it would be neat to take the idea at the heart of those words – a dream lost, let’s say – and make a triptych of plays on that theme. Each one would take two words as the title, and the three plays performed together would make up the whole story, as well as carrying the theme. I even wondered who might write such a play. Seriously, it was a day and a half before I realised it might well be me.
The production I’ve written is not as ambitious as Hemingway’s short story. It could be performed by two actors, one male, one female. Staging could be minimal, with mainly hand props and black backdrop. Each actor would play the same character in two of the plays and another character in a third play.
Published for the first time on the 29th May 2013, the play is available through Lazy Bee Scripts. You can read the whole thing online for free, or pay a small fee to download it. I haven’t run it through with any groups here, so I don’t have any pictures of it yet – I’d love to hear from someone willing to stage the World Premiere. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a production planned, or you’d like more information.
Later edit: This play HAS now been performed: By Kilmuckridge Drama Group. I borrowed the pictures of their performance from their Facebook page and added them to my gallery. They got the staging spot on.