Allison Page, reminding us how it’s done. Also that today is actually the day for her blog.
This is the life cycle of a play. Specifically, my play. The content of the play itself isn’t particularly important, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t even know which play it is. Process is interesting to me, so here’s one experience and how I reacted to it along the way.
One day, I had an idea.
And then I didn’t write shit about it for at least a year. Not a damn word. I just sat around and brooded about it. For the record, I don’t necessarily recommend this. It’s just what happened.
I started jotting down notes, bits of scenes, but mostly character descriptions and vague plot outlines. Thought of a title right away.
I met with someone about producing it. Yes, that means I met with someone about producing it before it actually existed apart from the most scattered outline ever. That person, though fairly positive about the project, ended up not following through.
Then the play just lived inside my body for a year and a half. I shoved it away in a drawer but continued to think about it, because the drawer in my brain wasn’t actually closed.
Unable to give up the ghost, I met with a director and we decided to produce it ourselves come hell or high water because otherwise my sanity might be at stake. Thank goodness for collaborators.
THE HARD PART
For six months I actually worked on the damn script. And by actually, I mean that sometimes I did and sometimes I just pretended to. “I’m gonna stay home and write!” often means “I just watched 6 seasons of Frasier and I want to live in the ground with some moles.” but sometimes it means I’m actually writing. Usually for an hour at a time, and then a long lemonade break. And then another hour, and then I get too invested in a youtube video and it all comes crashing down.
And then we did a first reading…with an unfinished script. I don’t mean that it needed more drafts (yes, it did) but I mean that it didn’t even have an ending. And it was 60 something pages. At this point we thought it’d be a 90 minute no-intermission play. LOLZ.
The play is brought to a producer several months later who agrees to take it on. Now the director and I aren’t producing it alone. This is amazing. This is surprising. Oh dear god now it better be good…or at least finished.
THE HARD PART AGAIN BECAUSE THE HARD PART IS ALWAYS
Many more months of writing and not writing and writing and not writing and napping when I should be writing and drinking when I should be writing and watching tv when I should be writing. Still not finished though. Still missing the final scene. Three drafts in and still not a final scene. Approaching 100 pages. Surpassing possibility of having a 90 minute zero intermission show. Avoiding ending like the plague.
Two roles are pre-cast. Oops. Now one of those actors has to be on the other side of the country. Now one role is pre-cast. Auditions happen. They take 3-4 days and are exhausting but we end up with our cast of 5.
THE HARD PART AGAIN BECAUSE DID I MENTION THE HARD PART IS ALWAYS
Finally, mere days before rehearsal has started, I write an ending. A good one. I THINK. Wait, I know. I know the ending is good, and now I begin to wonder if the entire rest of it is terrible.
In-house publisher at the theater would like to publish the script. Naturally I’m all for that. Oh god that means I have to send them a finished script. I turn it in on the exact date of the deadline. This endears me to the editor, who says most people don’t manage to get it in on time. I high five myself but only for that.
Rehearsals for five weeks. Relatively mild revisions during first couple of weeks. But those revisions fuck stuff up for printing in spite of/perhaps because of, locking the pages in Final Draft. Stage manager saves the day.
Opening night. Good feelings. Not perfect, but good.
Boom. Got it. Feels fantastic. Hit its stride. Not a terrible piece of shit. Thankfully this is when the critics came, though only one of them actually had a review published. It was a really good review. This felt great and lucky because you very much cannot win ’em all.
Thursday audiences are stupid. Not tiny, just sleepy. But the cast probably is too. What I really mean is that I hate doing Thursday performances and I probably will always feel that way. Consider whether we can change Thursday to be called Pre-Friday to give it a better association. Abandon that because it’s stupid.
Good. Good. WHAT. Closing night, a sudden not-great show. Lucked out with great shows the other weeks, suddenly closing night is this confusing occurrence.
Indescribable feelings. Not quite like sadness but not unlike it either. People keep asking what’s going to happen with it next. Uh, I don’t know. We did it. I did everything that I was going to do. Show’s over. Got it out of my system. Pried it out of my mind and flung it off of a spoon onto the eyeballs and earballs of several hundred people. Isn’t that enough? But it’s published, so now it’s this thing that people can buy and do. College students can mount shitty productions of it. Some director in Idaho can set it in 1940s Amsterdam. A company can do an all-nude version of it in a cornfield — but I’m not going to pretend I have control over that, or that any of those things are my hopes and dreams for it. To be honest, I don’t know what my hopes are for the damn thing. My biggest possible hope was to just get to DO it. And we did. And it seems almost foolhardy to want more for it. It’s lived such a good life with the people who love it and it’s nearly arrogant to think I can say “And now it’s going to do THIS, AND THIS! MY CHILD’S AN HONOR STUDENT AT THE ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC FARTS!” So I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m not out in search of more opportunities for it. I’m happy with it. I’m comfortable with it.
But if it gets a shitty college or all-nude production I will absolutely fly there and watch it because that’s my baby up there.
Allison Page is a writer/actor/comedy person in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage and you can buy the script of her play HILARITY on amazon.com.
That damn “What are you gonna do next?” question. It’s like when you graduate and – after years of studying your ass off to walk across the stage and get a piece of paper – people ask you “What next?”
God forbid one respond with “Have a burrito, watch ‘Mama’s Family’, and be glad I no longer have years of studying ahead of me (I hope).”