Everything Is Already Something Week 55: The Birth, Life, and Further Adventures of a Play

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.

CONCEPTION
One day, I had an idea.

INCUBATION
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.

SLOW GROWTH
I started jotting down notes, bits of scenes, but mostly character descriptions and vague plot outlines. Thought of a title right away.

FALSE LABOR
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.

HIBERNATION
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.

INDUCTION
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.

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FIRST GLIMPSE
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.

ONBOARD
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.

MORE BODIES
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.

PAPER
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.

WORK
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.

EMERGENCE
Opening night. Good feelings. Not perfect, but good.

SECOND WEEK
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.

This is what he DIDN'T say. Phew.

This is what he DIDN’T say. Phew.

THIRD WEEK
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.

FOURTH WEEK
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.

AFTERMATH
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.

Theater Around The Bay: SUBMISSION CALL FOR PINT-SIZED V!

San Francisco Theater Pub is pleased to announce that our popular PINT-SIZED PLAYS event will be returning for a fifth year and that we are now accepting script submissions from Bay Area playwrights!

PINT-SIZED PLAYS is an evening of short plays that take place in a bar and involve people drinking beer. The 2015 PINT-SIZED PLAYS Festival will happen August 17, 18, 24, and 25 at PianoFight in downtown San Francisco.

The Rules:

* Plays must be no longer than the time it takes to finish a beer. This means plays may be as short as a few seconds, but no longer than eight pages.

* Plays must require no more than three actors.

* At least one of the characters in the play must be drinking a beer during the scene, and the play must end when someone finishes their beer.

* Plays must take place in a bar. This is for both thematic and logistical reasons. The plays will be performed in the bar space of the PianoFight building and the only set items we can guarantee are tables, chairs, and beers.

* Plays must respect the bar space. PianoFight is incredibly supportive of this festival, but in return, we need to be worthy of their trust. Don’t demand that actors do anything in your play that you wouldn’t do in a bar yourself (with some degree of sobriety).

* Submissions should be emailed to theaterpub@atmostheatre.com, with the subject line “Last Name, First Name – Pint-Sized 2015 Submission.” Attach the script to the email as a PDF or Word doc. All scripts should include playwright’s name and contact information.

* Submission deadline is midnight Pacific time, May 15, 2015.

Selected plays will be announced in June 2015.

The Suggestions:

*We especially like: plays that can be cast flexibly (with actors of any age, race, or gender); plays with good roles for women; plays that have fun with style, language, or genre.

* We especially dislike: plays that promote stereotypes or clichés; plays that have been previously produced; plays hastily rewritten to fit our parameters.

The Legalese:

* Open to residents of the following counties ONLY: San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, Monterey, or San Joaquin. You must be able and willing to prove your residence and identity upon request.

* There is no fee to submit a play for consideration in Pint-Sized.

* Selected playwrights will receive a small stipend and the opportunity to have their play produced by San Francisco Theater Pub for four performances in August.

* San Francisco Theater Pub will handle all production responsibilities for the selected plays. We reserve the right to choose a director and actors for each play as we see fit.

* The submitted plays, whether chosen for production or not, remain the intellectual property of their authors. San Francisco Theater Pub makes no claims to these scripts and will not cut, edit, or otherwise change the playwright’s dialogue without the writer’s express permission.

* If you have additional questions, please email theaterpub@atmostheatre.com.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Moliere- Made to Order “Wile-U-Wait”

Dave Sikula, writing us from the directing chair.

I’m directing again. I enjoy directing. I’m not bad at it and the results are almost always worth the time it all took. There are, of course, occasional exceptions to this, but Dirty Work at the Crossroads and Damn Yankees will go unmentioned in these pages. (Though I will give you a full debriefing if you get enough alcohol into me – though there’s not that much alcohol in the world …)

But I digress.

I’m directing, and this time, it’s a unique experience for me because I’m directing my own script. Now, let me clarify that. It’s my script, but it’s neither original nor wholly my own. It’s an adaptation of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid, written in collaboration with, primarily, my long-suffering wife and, secondarily, the cast.

When I toured the theatre at the interview, I knew it was going to be a small-scale production. I could see I wasn’t going to be able to fly in chandeliers or helicopters, and my royalty budget was going to be minimal, so I started thinking of what I could do that would fit the budget and the space. That’s fine. In the last decade, I’ve become more of a minimalist, and do what I can to get by with metaphor and suggestion. I was given carte blanche on what script to select, and after some brief thought, I remembered how two of the funniest productions I’ve ever seen were of Invalid, and that it might be time for me to try some Moliere. And if I was going to do Moliere, well, why not do my own translation? I mean, there would be no royalties at all, so the script would say exactly what I’d want it to, and it could be fun. Regardless, it would push me out of a comfort zone and force my creativity into an unfamiliar direction.

Pushed out of a comfort zone, or off a cliff?

Pushed out of a comfort zone, or off a cliff?

Now, I know I’m not unique in this. Playwrights do it all the time – the proprietor here is a prime example. But there’s a lot to do. It’s not as complicated as acting in a show while directing it, but it’s no walk in the park. We’re three weeks into rehearsal (and I’m already on my third ingenue. Don’t ask …), and it’s a constant battle to watch staging, add business, and course correct while simultaneously wondering if something is phrased correctly, gets the point across, advances the plot, and sounds right. And, most importantly, there’s no writer to blame if any of those script factors are lacking.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do during this process was to give the actors a literal voice; to make sure that not only are their ideas implemented, but that my deathless dialogue feel organic to them. (I can’t really call it Moliere’s deathless dialogue because A) it’s not in 17th century French, B) it’s not in rhyming Alexandrines, and C) I’m pretty sure Moliere never included references to Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, or Taylor Swift.) That’s the beauty part; even though Moliere’s point was that all doctors are quacks and frauds, and that none of them are to be trusted (which is ironic, because this is the play in which he suffered a fatal seizure while performing), we’re able to take his basic characters and situations and make them do whatever we want. (And, of course, since Moliere himself was adapting commedia archetypes and making them say and do whatever he wanted, I feel no qualms about doing that to him.) In my case, it means ribbing both “natural” medicine and hard-core evangelicals, among other targets. Given the time, and a desire to stick to the basic structure of the play, I wasn’t able to take it as far as I wanted to, but I neither wanted to really insult people nor lose the lightness of the original. It’s a dumb comedy about a rich hypochondriac who gets fleeced by con men, and that’s the story I wanted to stay with. All the rest is layering and dressing.

That whirring sound? Moliere spinning in his grave.

That whirring sound? Moliere spinning in his grave.

The thing this whole experience has pointed out to me is how back to basics it all is. It’s not quite “two planks and a passion,” but it’s not lavish. Jeebus knows that none of us do this for the money, but this is an extreme case of that. We’re taking a story and telling it in a fun and light manner. We don’t have much in the way of sets or costumes or props; we’re not skimping, but it’s not a show about the trappings. It’s a show about a company getting together, playing multiple parts, and entertaining an audience, and maybe giving them the slightest of messages to take home with them.

Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush. Not in Moliere's original.

Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush. Not in Moliere’s original.

It’s something I’d recommend to any director. Sure, it’s a privilege to work with big budgets and be able to get anything you want, but it’s truly bracing and challenging to have limited resources and make your creativity work rather than writing a check.

It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: “It Looks Like (Pause) A Small Controversy. Bad Luck to It!”

Dave Sikula, king of controversy.

I ended our last meeting with a question from the estimable Eric L. of Oregon:

“How do you think this incident compares to the Beckett’s objection and legal action against Akalaitis’s production of ‘Endgame?’”

I’m glad Eric asked me the question, since I’d forgotten that particular incident.

Musing it over (thinking isn’t good enough, of course), I have a few thoughts and observations.

In 1984, Ms. Akalaitis was hired to direct a production of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” for the American Repertory Theater in Boston. In spite of Mr. Beckett’s well-known insistence on his plays being done exactly as he had written them, Ms. Akalaitis determined that the play not only needed to be moved from its creator’s stark setting (“Bare interior. Grey light. Left and right back, high up, two small windows, curtains drawn. Front left, touching each other, covered with an old sheet, two ashbins”) to what the New York Times described as “an abandoned subway station, layered with trash as well as a derelict train,” she also added an overture and underscoring by minimalist composer Philip Glass (coincidentally, her ex-husband) that was, to quote the Times again, “peripheral but supportive, a fierce scraping, like the sound – to extend the underground imagery – of a subway car careening off the track at high speed.” Hardly the post-apocalyptic wasteland Beckett describes.

 ART's "Endgame."

ART’s “Endgame.”

It’s unclear from my research whether Mr. Beckett was asked in advance if the changes were permissible or learned about them by reading ART’s publicity — the Times, in the review linked to above, summarizes the production as “Nuclear Metaphor ENDGAME,” so the cat may have been out of the garbage can well in advance – but, regardless, when he found out what Ms. Akalaitis intended to do, Mr. Beckett hit the metaphorical can lid and filed suit to stop the production. A settlement was ultimately reached, and a statement from the playwright was inserted into the program:

Any production of Endgame which ignores my stage directions is completely unacceptable to me. My play requires an empty room and two small windows. The American Repertory Theater production which dismisses my directions is a complete parody of the play as conceived by me. Anybody who cares for the work couldn’t fail to be disgusted by this:

As the author intended.

As the author intended.

Beckett also objected to black actors being cast in two of the play’s four roles, which caused Robert Brustein, the then-artistic director of ART to bemoan the playwright’s apparent racism:

I was really astonished. Beckett was a playwright who we revered. We were shocked. We had black actors in the cast playing the parts of Ham and Nagg, and we were most upset about his objection to that.

Was Beckett a racist? Who knows? Given Beckett’s boycotting of apartheid-era South Africa and his concern for human rights, the charges are doubtful. Critic Thomas Garvey of the Hub Review defends him, noting:

Beckett always disapproved of productions of his plays that “mixed” the races (or the genders in ways not specifically described), because he felt that power relations between the races and genders were not a part of the artistic material he was trying to present, and so he wanted to leave them out entirely, as he felt they would inevitably draw attention in performance from his central concerns. He was happy, however, to see all-black productions of his plays – or all-female productions of single-sex scripts like “Waiting for Godot.”

"Waiting for Godot" in New Orleans -- heaven only  knows what Beckett would have made of this one.

“Waiting for Godot” in New Orleans — heaven only
knows what Beckett would have made of this one.

(At this point, I’ll just note the cross-gender casting in Alchemist’s “Oleanna.”)

It should also be noted that Mr. Garvey didn’t have much use for Ms. Akalaitis’s production, saying that she’d “pasted her usual dim downtown appliqué onto ‘Endgame’ – she dopily literalized its sense of apocalypse by setting it in a bombed-out subway station … it proved to be bombastic and, well, stupid).”

Now, with all of this in mind, two things occur to me – but, since I’m 600+ words into this – and am beginning to enjoy my reputation for taking forever to get to the damn point – I’m going to deal with them next time.

Everything Is Already Something Week 40: Sorry I Didn’t Go To College Pt. 2

Allison Page, going back to school. Sort of.

Sorry guys, I still haven’t gone to college.

A little over a year ago I used this blog as a platform to tell the story of my first 4 1/2 years in San Francisco, being poor – really, really poor – and trying to find work that paid enough to feed myself and pursue my artistic life. That was harder than it could have been because, uh…I didn’t go to college. As you may have figured out.

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A lot has happened since I wrote it and I’ve been meaning to write an update. Now here we are, in August 2014. ’Tis the season for people to go back to school, so it seems only fitting to talk about it now. Lack of education has also been rearing its ugly head lately. January 31st I was laid off from the cushy job I enjoyed for two fleeting years and which pulled me out of poverty and sleeping on floors. It wasn’t just me who lost a job. 314 or so other people were laid off the same day I was. It was a strange day to say the least. Aware that some people seemed to go into conference rooms with a manager and then immediately exit, looking like they had just had lobotomies, meant that whatever happened in that conference room wasn’t something I wanted to happen to me. I tried not to make eye contact with the manager in hopes that if I were about to be laid off/get a lobotomy and he didn’t look me in the eye, he would forget and I’d get to stay there/keep my brain function. When I got an overly gentle tap on the shoulder, I knew what was going to happen. I was losing my job. No one wants to lose their job, not so much because that job won’t be theirs anymore, but because that means now you have to go find another one, and you remember how much work it was to get this one.

They pretty much looked just like that.

They pretty much looked just like that.

I’m sure everyone was feeling a little overwhelmed and worried when they were given the news. The whole building felt tense. The people being laid off were shocked and sad, and the ones not being laid off were some combination of not being sure they wouldn’t still get the ax by the end of the day, and trying not to look happy that they were spared because that would make the sad people hate them. I couldn’t help but feel a little different. The truth is that most, if not all, of the other people who got laid off, will probably end up with the same position at a similar company. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had new jobs waiting. Job poachers wait outside that building when news of a layoff starts to spread. They have business cards and yell out “ARE YOU AN ENGINEER? WE NEED ENGINEERS!” So many people leave with their belongings and a possibility of future employment at the same time. These jobs are what they do for a living – the thing they know the most about. The thing for which they went to college and are passionate about. But I got my job there (game writer/narrative designer – basically the person who creates the fiction of a video game) based on a number of lucky things coming together. I have no educational background in that, or really anything else apart from the time I spent in cosmetology school in my home town’s technical college, from which I didn’t graduate. Otherwise I’ve just been acting and writing my entire life without proof that someone showed me how to do it. And you better believe none of the job poachers were outside the building shouting “ARE YOU AN OUT OF WORK WRITER AND FORMER HAIRSTYLIST WITH NO EDUCATION AND A COMEDY AND THEATER BACKGROUND? WE NEED THOSE.”

All I could think was “Well, Allison, say goodbye to making any money. You lived on easy street for two years. That’s amazing. Now say farewell to the sweet life and say welcome back to the hustling days of yore, because you’ll never have it this good again.” In my mind I went from rags to really, really nice rags back to rags again. And I had all these plans for the future. I was going to produce my own full length play. I had intended to just save up and pay for it. Now I would have to think about a fundraising campaign during a time when I wasn’t sure how I’d be making regular money for my own expenses. The good news is, I got a good severance package. Good enough that I decided to not pursue a job immediately and instead devote my days to writing. Doesn’t that sound magical? I thought so.

But I couldn’t write shit.

Most days I stared at my laptop in dismay and worried about the future. This was not helped by everyone always asking “What are you going to do in the future?!” (Thanks, EVERYONE IN MY ENTIRE FAMILY) After a few months of sitting on my couch eating sad sandwiches, or drinking an entire pitcher of sangrias in the union square sun, something weird and unexpected happened. I became Co-Creative Director of a theater company. I threw myself into it head first. It’s been crazy, exhilarating, awesome, and only slightly complicated. “Now,” I thought, “It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a degree. I already have the job!” Well…yes and no. The Managing Director, while working on funding strategies sends me a text:

He: “Hey, where is your undergrad degree from?”
Me: “I don’t have one.”
He: “HA! Ok. Just trying to make us all sound more qualified for this grant.”

Ah-HA! It’s come back around. Now it may be a granting issue? Even though the company has been around for 18 years and in the few months the other Co-Creative Director and I have been in charge we’ve gotten more done than most people would think could happen in a year? What if we didn’t receive some kind of funding because of my lack of a degree? Ohhhh that would be a bad day. I’d have to pour a pitcher of margaritas down my gullet just to swallow the shame pill. I haven’t heard more about this since he brought it up, so I’m going to take the pleasant road and assume he didn’t send the grant and a receive a response that just said “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU’RE SO DUMB, GO TO THE DUMB STORE, WHERE YOU’LL FIND LOTS OF CLONES OF YOURSELF HAHAHA.”

The theater community in general is pretty chock full of people with fancy educational backgrounds. And it’s the same with the specific group of people with whom I most frequently associate and collaborate. I’m the quaint loose cannon from the middle of nowhere who has never used Viewpoints and hasn’t read The Cherry Orchard. It’s actually amazing to me sometimes that my friends in the arts are…my friends in the arts. They actually listen to me sometimes, which in light of the stuff I’ve never studied or cared about, is kind of crazy. (Cut to next week when they’ve all read this and decide “Yeah, why do we listen to her anyway?”)

I’ve also managed to land myself a steady stream of freelance writing gigs. Mostly working on scripts for web commercials. Hey, it keeps me from getting evicted.

Actually, that’s my biggest piece of advice to both college students and life students. Not that I’m prone to giving advice. Anyway: don’t beat yourself up for making a living. I’m still just as dedicated to my artistic pursuits as I’ve ever been (possibly more so) and I don’t feel bad about using my skills to pay the bills. It doesn’t make me a hack or a sellout – not in my eyes, anyway, but feel free to call me either of those if it makes you feel good. I think It just makes me an adult who knows that to be able to nail my artistic endeavors, I gotta eat lunch. Many of the artists (theatrical and otherwise) I respect the most, have other jobs to keep them afloat in this workaday world. On the upside I think it gives us a broader view of life.

I know, I hate myself for using this picture too.

I know, I hate myself for using this picture too.

I could sit at home and torture myself into writing all day, or I could go out into the world and have experiences worth writing about. Even if that means I’m writing jokes about the effectiveness of a certain kind of Bleach®.

So, how do I feel about not going to college, a year later? I feel pretty good. I feel just like people who did go to college in that I can’t predict the future. But I feel prepared to deal with whatever that future holds. Even if it means I end up selling shoes or sweeping chimneys…hey, are chimney sweeps still a thing? Maybe they bring that up at Harvard. Damn.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/co-creative director in San Francisco and you can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Whose Play Is It, Anyway?

Dave Sikula asks an important question that comes up again and again in the theater community. Can he answer it too?

In our last thrilling installment, I’d been asked at a “Farnsworth” talkback why we hadn’t just added a prologue and/or epilogue debunking Aaron Sorkin’s presentation of the historical record.

As soon as that question was asked, I was immediately reminded of two stories I’d just read involving theatres and directors playing fast and loose with the scripts for their plays.

Now, before I begin this saga, let me state that I don’t think there’s a director working who hasn’t either altered the script s/he’s working with or, at the very least, thought about it. It’s not right and it’s not legal, but we’ve all done it. Most of the time, the changes are minor and banal, done strictly for logistical reasons. A character can’t be told to stand since he’s already standing, or is standing next to a table rather than the chair indicated in the script. It could even be something as simple as an actor’s height or hair color differing from the one in the text.

Me, directing. Looks exciting and glamorous, doesn't it?

Me, directing. Looks exciting and glamorous, doesn’t it?

But to the stories I’d read. The first story concerned a production of “Hands on a Hardbody” that had opened at Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars, or TUTS for short. The musical, by Doug Wright, Trey Anastasio, and Amanda Wright, is based on a documentary about a group of people who were trying to win a new pickup truck by keeping their hands on the car. The last person with a hand on the truck would take it home. The show flopped on Broadway (28 previews, 28 performances), but will probably have some sort of life in regional companies.

Doesn't look real enticing to me, but who knows?

Doesn’t look real enticing to me, but who knows?

TUTS was the first of those companies (as far as I know) to present the show. The director, Bruce Lumpkin, invited Wright and Green to opening night, but neglected to tell them he had made changes to the show, mainly involving cutting sections and reassigning lyrics and songs to the characters for whom they were intended.

To quote Howard Sherman’s recap of what happened:

Green described to me her experience in watching the show. “They started the opening number and I noticed that some people were singing solos other than what we’d assigned. As we neared the middle of the opening number, I thought, ‘what happened to the middle section?’” She said that musical material for Norma, the religious woman in the story, “was gone.”

When the second song began, Green recalls being surprised, saying, “I thought, ‘so we did put this number second after all’ before realizing that we hadn’t done that.” As the act continued, Green said, “I kept waiting for ‘If I Had A Truck’ and it didn’t come.” She went on to detail a litany of ways in which the show in Houston differed from the final Broadway show, including reassigning vocal material to different characters within songs, and especially the shifting of songs from one act to another, which had the effect of removing some characters from the story earlier than before…

Describing her post-show conversation with Lumpkin in Houston, Green says, “When it was over, I was flabbergasted. I had been planning to go to the cast party, but I couldn’t. Bruce came over to me and said, ‘I know you’re mad and I know you hate it, but you know it works better’.” Green continued: “He was pressuring me to make a decision and say I liked it. So I left.”

Amanda Green, in happier days ...

Amanda Green, in happier days …

After much back and forth, Samuel French pulled the right for the show and made the company close down the production.

Now, bullying of Amanda Green aside, what Lumpkin did – and he’s apparently well-known for doing things like this with the shows he directs – was both hubristic and stupid. It’s one thing to make wholesale changes and hope you can get away with them. It’s another to do it and invite the creators to see how you’ve “improved their work,” which in Wright’s words, they’d “spent years building and honing … and had very specific character-driven moments. People didn’t just say things.” But it’s in a whole other level to demand that those creators approve changes. As of this writing, Lumpkin still has a job, but I find it hard to believe that any licensor will rent him a show without, at the very least, keeping a close eye on the product in progress, let alone the final production.

As usual, I’ve hit a critical mass of verbiage before coming to a conclusion, so I’ll leave matters here until our next meeting.

Everything Is Already Something Week 38: How To Submit A Submission

Allison Page wants you to submit… to her will.

I’ve been on both sides of the writing submissions game. Either way, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. Here are some things I’ve learned livin’ on both sides of the fence.

HOLY SHIT, LEARN TO READ:
You would think that writers know how to read. I would say it’s assumed. Expected. Necessary. And yet…I find that the simple, straightforward directions laid out in the submission announcement have been largely ignored. Maybe you’re thinking, “But Allison, were they actually simple and straightforward or are you biased?” I’ll let you decide that. I asked for one 3 page sketch in PDF form. What have I received? MP3s, spreadsheets, word docs, pictures – ya know, things that aren’t PDFs.

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Yes, some writers have done it properly, thank goodness, but many haven’t bothered to pay attention to the specifics of the submission requirements, which doesn’t leave a good first impression. In this particular case, I’m looking for people to add to our collaborative writers room, and if you can’t even bother to follow these simple instructions, how can I expect them to adhere to more challenging guidelines?

MAKE IT EASY:
On the other side of the fence, if you’re about to open the floodgates for submissions it’s important to get what you need, but if you overcomplicate the specifics, you might end up alienating writers who might actually be a great fit. I can hear you saying, “Hey, if they’re not willing to jump through all my hoops, I’m not interested!” Fair enough, but just know that along with the lazy people you’re weeding out, you might be weeding out a good candidate. A good idea is to accept submissions in formats that people have heard of and weren’t just invented yesterday and need to be downloaded and installed.

KEEP IT SHORT, YO:
Each submission is different, obviously, but when you include a bio about yourself, maybe don’t make it a novella. Keep it simple. Give me the highlights. I’m already swimming through piles of writing in search of sunken treasure, don’t add too much more to that stack. It’s cool to know things about you, but a life story is kind of unnecessary, and then what will we have left to talk about at the bar after writers meetings?!

SIMPLY THE BEST:
When I read someone’s submission, I assume it’s a piece that they feel shows them in the best possible light. I assume it’s the shiniest, brightest diamond at Kay Jewelers.

Eh, I've seen shinier.

Eh, I’ve seen shinier.

And it should be. Send something that shows off your strengths and showcases your unique perspective and talents. Break out of the pack.

SUCK IT UP AND SEND IT OUT:
I hate submitting things. It feels stressful to me. I don’t like taking the time. I end up spending an hour after I’ve gotten everything together, just staring at it to make sure that I’ve properly followed the instructions and haven’t somehow typed a nonsense word into the body of the email, or attached a photo of my butt. (I don’t actually have photos of my butt all over my laptop, but so paranoid am I about doing something wrong, that I am convinced that it’s possible I’ve taken a picture of my butt without my own knowledge and attached it to an important email.)

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Thankfully, when I finally do submit something, I feel a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that I am, in fact, allowed to be a writer now. Which isn’t to say that you’re not a real writer if you’re not submitting things. That’s totally not accurate. But it does make me feel good on the occasion that I do send something in, even if (as happens most frequently) I don’t ever hear a damn thing.

Submissions can be tough on both sides, but the reality is that it’s an avenue – however flawed – which can lead to your work being performed or published or, at the very least, read. And that’s a good thing for everybody.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/hustler/Co-Creative Director/brunch-eater in San Francisco. You can see her perform in Killing My Lobster Goes Radio Active August 13th-23rd. Tickets available at killingmylobster.com You can also follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage