Everything Is Already Something Week 48: I MADE IT!

Allison Page, sliding under the finish line.

You’ve heard it before: “I can’t wait until you’ve made it and I get to say I knew you back when…” Well, I am happy and proud to say that everyone who’s ever said that to me can cash in on that statement because I MADE IT, BABY! That’s right. I have reached the tippy top goal. I have climbed the mountain and am standing at the top with a flag pole and the flag is waving in the wind with my visage printed proudly on it. And what is the goal? What have I accomplished? Am I on Broadway? Or in a Scorsese movie? Or in a Broadway adaptation of a Scorsese movie directed by eight of my personal heroes?

US director Martin Scorsese poses during


I’m working on things I’m passionate about.

OH SHIT THAT’S SO DISAPPOINTING, ISN’T IT? Sorry, cab driver from two years ago who is waiting to brag about my fame – that’s my version of making it. I don’t have those other goals. All I want out of being a theater artist is to be a theater artist. Would a trillion dollars be cool? Yeah, obviously. I’d love to fill a yacht with caramel sauce – who wouldn’t? But I am in no way, shape, or form attempting to make that happen. I want to work on things I care about…and that’s all. I just want to always do that. But nobody wants to hear that. That’s not sparkly and fun. And it’s maybe a little too easy, some might think. I mean – it isn’t – so those people are stupid, but they’ll still think it along with “I wonder what mud tastes like.”

I’ve felt this way for quite a long time. I doubt I’m the only one, either. But it sure seems hard to understand if you ask my grandma. (Other things that are hard for her to understand include “Why won’t you eat my sauerkraut salad?”) Every person working in some sort of artistic field goes home for the holidays and has to answer some questions. Except those few people that come from a family of other artists who totally get it, and even then they’re still your family so there’ll be something somewhere they don’t understand about your life. But the truth is, grandma, I’m doing exactly what I want to do right now.

I heard this great/cheesy thing yesterday: “Don’t wait for someone to discover you. Discover yourself.” UGH, SO CHEESY.


But I totally agree with it. Everyone’s got their own goals and dreams and hopes, but I’m not trying to climb any ladders. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do that, if that’s what you want to do. And that also isn’t to say that if some giant thing came along I wouldn’t do it. If Scorsese comes knocking, cool. But I’m not waiting for that. How awful would that be? If I spent my whole life waiting for something to happen when in reality I fully have the power to just do shit myself? And that isn’t the sound of me settling either. I can see how someone could say that (GRANDMAAAAA!) I actually am truly fulfilled doing the small and mighty things, because they don’t feel small to me, they feel important.

Oh God, this is too inspirational. I can’t go on much longer. The point is – I MADE IT! Someone play a trumpet for me! Roll out the old bath towel – we can’t afford one of those long red carpets to walk down – and let’s get this party started!


No, but really, I have to go figure out how to raise a few thousand dollars for this show next year otherwise the set will be made out of cardboard. Heyyy, cardboard set. Not a bad idea.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director/person who exists in real life as well as on Twitter @allisonlynnpage.

Theatre Around The Bay: From Stage To Screen

Just in time for the Oscars, guest blogger Kirk Shimano muses on the differences between writing for the stage and screen.

Last year, with the help of PlayGround, I had the opportunity to adapt my short play, “Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos,” into a short film. It’s the story of a downtrodden school librarian who changes her life by entrusting all her decisions to the flips of a coin.

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos at the 16th Annual Best of Playground Festival, with Lisa Morse, Cathleen Riddley, Roselyn Hallett, Michael Asberry, Lauren English and Maryssa Wanlass.

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos at the 16th Annual Best of Playground Festival, with Lisa Morse, Cathleen Riddley, Roselyn Hallett, Michael Asberry, Lauren English and Maryssa Wanlass.

I had written short films before (including my student film opus, “Shoe and Rock: The Adventures of Shoe and Rock,” starring a shoe and a rock), but this was my first experience in adapting a short play. It’s been nearly a year since our film was first shown to audiences, but I still find myself mulling over the experience, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share four of the most memorable lessons I learned along the way.


If you take a look at any screenplay, you’ll find that the pages are filled with “slug lines” that tell you where and when each scene takes place. A page will start with:




I used to think that the prominence of these slug lines was just an organizational tidbit that helps the assistant director keep on track, but it turns out they can have a big influence on all of the writing that follows.

My original script began Miss Finknagle’s journey in her home (on stage, this amounted to a nondescript table and a chair). My earlier drafts kept the same location for the film, but thankfully our intrepid director, Amy Harrison (more on her later), suggested that we instead move the opening to the school library.

Director Amy Harrison and Production Designer Alex Dixon putting far more thought into the library location than I had.

Director Amy Harrison and Production Designer Alex Dixon putting far more thought into the library location than I had.

What I had forgotten was that our movie audience would be seeing more than just a table and a chair. Picking a unique location was the first step to putting the audience in a unique world and got me thinking more about how our characters would interact with the world around them.


My stage script opened up with this:

(The stage is divided into two areas. Although MISS FINKNAGLE often enacts the events described by the teens, the two spaces remain distinct throughout the play)

It was intentionally ambiguous, because in the space of ten minutes I didn’t want to spend too much time establishing specific locations.

It turns out, in a movie it’s pretty difficult to keep that level of ambiguity. The actors aren’t walking into a blue-tinged spotlight that represents the outdoors – they’re walking past actual trees and actual cars in actual streets (well, for those of us productions that can’t afford soundstages and green screens, at any rate).

Jessica Hecker and Haley Anderson as BFF's Kaylee & Tiffany in a real life, non hand-wavey cafeteria. Set photos taken by Leo Robertson

Jessica Hecker and Haley Anderson as BFF’s Kaylee & Tiffany in a real life, non hand-wavey cafeteria. Set photos taken by Leo Robertson

The point is that movies have a certain literal quality to them, which provides the immediate you-are-there magic of omigod-I’m-with-Sandy-Bullock-on-a-space-station but also makes it more difficult to leave amorphous images for the audience to decipher on its own.

I found that I had to tool my script to make the relationships between the scenes more concrete. Where we used to have two ambiguously connected locations, we now had the teens definitively driving a narrative that had cutaways to support their descriptions. It did mean sacrificing a bit of the fairy tale feel I had liked about the original script, but it made for a much smoother flowing audience experience that I’m glad we adopted.


Here’s how the original stageplay started:

So, like, Miss Finknagle was home alone.

Well, duh, she’s always alone.

That’s not the point of the story dork-face.

Does she even have a home? I heard that when all the kids leave school she just stays in the library and sleeps between the computers and the encyclopedias.

Here’s how the screenplay starts:

Oh. My God.

Kaylee takes something from her purse and SLAMS it on the table. It is a COSMO-LIKE MAGAZINE.

Omigod Kaylee –

What used to be a few lines of dialogue became just a few words. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. One is that movies provide the ability to replace character-establishing dialogue with a single reaction shot. Another is that stage dialogue has to carry more of the expositional weight, explaining that the nondescript table on stage is supposed to represent a house. I also suspect that audiences in a theater are more willing to listen to long stretches of conversation, because you’re watching two people talk in front of you instead of light flickering on a screen.

But whatever the explanation, I found that long passages of dialogue that used to sound breezy on stage now seemed leaden on film. Of course, it could just be that those lines were always a drag and everyone was too polite to tell me, but I’m choosing to interpret this as a life lesson to keep movie dialogue short and to the point.


As a playwright, I can’t help but notice that plays tend to belong to the playwright (as in John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar) while movies tend to belong to the director (Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street). Of course, any production is the result of a collaboration between many people, but screenwriters seem to have less ownership than playwrights.

I can’t speak for every movie, but ours definitely belongs to our director / producer Amy Harrison.

In a small film like this, the director is called upon to do a host of tasks that would be delegated in a Hollywood studio film – things like negotiating for locations or keeping a constant eye on the budget – but even if you remove all of those additional responsibilities the director’s contribution is by far the one that makes the biggest impact.

On stage, the audience watches the actors bring the script to life, giving them a direct line to experiencing what was originally written on the page. But in a movie, every moment is filtered through a thousand more directorial decisions. Do we watch the person speaking or see a reaction shot instead? Does the music quietly underscore the entire scene? Is the entire world viewed through a warm haze of soft focus?

Camera Op. Tyler Cushing readies the shot as Production Designer Alex Dixon and Design Assistant Roary Racquel set the stage

Camera Op. Tyler Cushing readies the shot as Production Designer Alex Dixon and Design Assistant Roary Racquel set the stage

I was amazed at the difference between our first rough cut and our final version and the script didn’t change at all – just the directorial and editorial decisions. I’ve had the privilege of great relationships with directors in theater who have helped to shape the script and bring the cast and crew together, but in a movie every second of the audience’s experience has been crafted by the director.

Of course, that might be undervaluing the contribution of the editor, the sound designer, the cinematographer, or any number of other people I haven’t thought to mention. So maybe trying to figure out who “owns” a film is the wrong approach altogether. What’s important is to appreciate how many collaborators put their stamp on bringing this story to life. The end product was better than what I had initially tried to put on the page. I’m glad I had the chance to be part of a moviemaking team and would recommend it to any playwright given the opportunity.

Lisa Morse as Miss Finknagle, ready for the camera.

Lisa Morse as Miss Finknagle, ready for the camera.

‘Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos’ will next be screened at the Portland Oregon’s Women Film Fest, March 6-9, 2014. For all the latest information, follow https://www.facebook.com/missfinknagle