Letters to Holly

Wednesday, July 23

Script Meeting

After a much easier interim period when I had just one play to read, we met last night to begin the wrap-up sessions. We've read from about 55 plays. Some were dropped after one person read them and scored them low. That's what happened this week. My play wasn't worth further consideration, and it was shelved. It's the best tact; we have to sort the plays we all like and choose our overall winners. We need to pick six plays in some combination of murders/suspense, comedies, farce, drama, and light drama. At the end of the meeting, we were given a list to score the remaining 25 plays. That gives us a week to individually choose the plays we prefer, and we'll meet next week to compare the lists.

Unfortunately, we have to consider the capability of the theatre for each play. Can we cast it? Can we mount it? Are there too many props or costumes? One of us, who just finished directing the annual kids show, is exhausted to the point of nihilism. She doesn't see much hope in the plays other than the ones she espouses (a drama and a farce). We've already butted heads over her farce choice. I think it's the weaker of two similar plays. She also continues to focus on how recently we've performed a play. She thinks we risk boring our audience with a recent rerun. However, we're also considering a recent survey where audiences told us what shows they wanted. The top vote-getter, The Moustrap, was performed eight years ago. Do we bring back a crowd-pleaser even if it's a relatively recent production? I say yes. Eight years offers a lot of audience-member turnover, and we need to make money this year. We need to do high-profile shows, and Mousetrap is the most popular mystery play ever produced.

The problem is we probably can't mount it until the end of the season when construction on the theatre space winds down. That space construction weighs heavily in our debate. The current building is essentially a shell and a floor. We need to replace everything -- wiring, stage, curtains, floors, bathrooms, etc. Because the season has to start soon, the above person wants to announce a comedy to start the season. And with a shrinking window to find a director, cast, rehearse, and perform the play, she wants to pick now. Luckily, we have a play that needs the barest of sets: an unfinished apartment. When presented with this, she plays the casting card. Who would act the roles of the young leads? I volunteer to do it. She's surprised. I unintentionally make a speech. In for a penny, in for a pound. If we like a play this much, we have to see it through. We have to pitch in. Also, it's a fun script. Why wouldn't I do it?

She did this last week too, calling my bluff on directing a play, and again I jumped at it. She's pooped. She just ran a play loaded with kids. We're not adversaries; I'm new enough to have an optimism unmolested by bureaucracy and backstage carping. We are on the opposite poles. She suspects a show can't be done. I suggest how we could.

What we're thinking now is this: We produce Bell, Book, and Candle for the October show. It's a comedy about witches and would run right at Halloween. Then we present the Trial of Ebeneezer Scrooge for the Christmas show. That's two light, fun shows to start the season. We save the drama for later in the season.

There's an arithmetic at work here, and I think we are, in general, trying to make the best season instead of pushing our personal faves. We've each seen a handful of advocated plays fall to the junkpile. We're very near to finishing this committee and cranking up the theatre machine. I have one play to read this week, and I'm halfway through. The others are exchanging plays to pad out the scores. I have read virtually everything already. I can take it easy.

I'm sincere about hopping into that apartment comedy if need be. There's even a role or two I could try in Bell, Book, and Candle. I'll be involved somehow in most plays this year. Just a question of how.

Picture of the Day
They're rehearsing the opening ceremonies in Bejing.

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