We held what was supposed to be the very absolute, no-matter-what final script meeting last night, and, of course, things aren’t finished.
The problem revolves around the Christmas show, a show we were told initially we didn’t have to worry about. In the standard season for this company, there is one musical in the summer designed to include the kids between school semesters. This dovetails at times with the theatre’s youth “camp.” Also in the season is the Christmas show, and it was specifically not in our catalog of open slots to fill with our chosen scripts. Until about a month ago.
Amongst the committee members is the woman who is nominally in charge of both the annual kids’ show and the Christmas shows. The kids' show also takes place during the summer as a sort of community babysitting project. They just did Velveteen Rabbit wherein the talking horse commands the audience to chant “find the rabbit.” Your Sister and I, however, chanted “find Bob Cratchitt” and “find Bob Saget.” If either of them had appeared onstage, the show would have won 1 million cool points. Alas.
But again, we’re back to the Christmas show. About a month ago, she decided she couldn’t make the decision by herself, and the committee was passively drafted to help. This added another show and the accompanying round of reading for each script to consider. The first was The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s a fun play and, if we can get the rights, a lock to run this year or next. The other holiday script was The Christmas Bus which I read this past week. It’s strictly for a young audience, and I am too old and bitter to embrace it. Two Christmas scripts. Two Christmas slots to fill for this year and next. Seems like a no-brainer.
Because Bus is a musical, the Christmas director said she didn’t like the idea of director two youth-centered musicals in one year, including the youth show that would run the preceding summer. This is what she said, and I have to couch it this way because what she said changed as the meeting went on, which is why I want to punch a horse.
We’re trying to mount the best season possible. We need money to renovate the new building. We want to grab the largest audience we can. That means we need shows with name power. As one of our brainstorms, we suggested that, instead of a traditional Christmas show, we instead present a show that has Christmas in it, but isn’t about the holiday. That would include Bell, Book and Candle (a witchcraft comedy), My Three Angels (a kinder Marx Brothers-style comedy), or Annie.
Now, Annie is a show that draws a crowd both onstage and off. Little girls love the show. They love to be in the show. The show is so popular that there’s an Annie Junior show designed to be easier for kids who aren’t quite ready to star in a full-fledged stage show. I know of no other show with an official tyke-friendly version. We’re talking a popular franchise here.
But the Christmas director said that the bylaws demanded a Christmas show be a Christmas show. It has to center on the holiday, she says. That drops the above three shows. But she so likes the idea of doing Annie that she’s willing to junk the summer youth show if we can do Annie for the Christmas show. She was almost giddy at the notion. But what about that bylaw? Well, that could be ignored, she supposes. Conveniently, I might add. So what about the other two plays, Candle and Angels? She doesn’t like them. Says they’re not family–friendly. I agree on Angels; it involves murder by snake. And Candle is a show for adults but hardly vulgar or shocking. It’s just not a show that will placate the children. We even considered moving The Rainmaker to Christmas. Rename it The Reindeer Maker. The Snowmaker. No, she wants Annie as the Christmas show, and we’ll shrug off the bylaw (if it exists; a quick read of regulations didn’t produce it).
But the committee chair isn’t convinced we can do that. Instead, we are now reading a third Christmas play, the musical version of It’s A Wonderful Life. No, I didn’t know one existed either. There is a problem here. One of the Asheville theatres has staged a radio version of that play for two consecutive years, and I am 80 percent positive it has become their annual tradition. Script publishers restrict the distribution of their plays. If there is one publisher of the Life script and this other show has it annually, we can’t do it. We’re too close to them geographically.
Despite this very significant hang-up, we are passing around the script. Because I leave for vacation in two days, I get first crack. I pick it up from the theatre warehouse tonight, read the whole thing by Thursday evening, and drop it off before we leave town Friday morning. I’m not happy about this. This will be my thirty-ninth script this summer. It’s a play we probably can’t get the rights for, and we already have two Christmas plays in hand to cover this year and next. We’re doing someone else’s job because she doesn’t like the regulations she agreed to nor can she be definitive about her preferences about the shows we already have.
I suspect she’s mad because her favorite show didn’t make the cut. Early on, she espoused A Perfect Wedding, a wedding farce which just happens to be dull and aggravating. It’s written by the same man who wrote Don’t Dress for Dinner, a much stronger farce, and the one I vocally advocated. She and I butted heads about this in previous meetings. But the committee consensus agreed with me, and Wedding is out.
Here’s what we picked, and this is all tentative to location, director, and rights granted by the publishers. We picked alternates for those reasons:
October: Night Watch, a fairly contemporary thriller. It would be presented around Halloween. The Mousetrap would be the back-up. Both plays have simple sets, convenient for our pre-renovation stage space. There’s concern about what shows our pool of directors will agree to, and I was asked if I wanted to direct this show if need be. I again cited my rookie status to this theatre, and there’s no fucking way I’m helming a show in a new space so desperate for repairs. This would be a situation I can write a farce around. And I might.
December: Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge or Christmas Bus or It’s A Wonderful Life. Again, all this is in the air until we either settle the bylaw debate or secure rights for two of the plays. And again, this wasn't part of our job to begin wth.
January: This would run in the gated community where we presented the spring murder show. Apparently, that audience loves farces in winter and can be depended on to buy lots of tickets. Don’t Dress for Dinner is our first choice, followed by Home Free (an affair-juggler with the rare female lead).
March: The same stage would have a mystery/thriller. The Premature Corpse (the modern-day noir) or Murder By Natural Causes would get the nod.
May: The theatre holds an annual new play competition and presents the world premiere of the winning script. Another committee handles that honor.
July: Either the youth show, the annual musical, or neither depending on what happens with the #!%@ Christmas show.
August: The Rainmaker or My Three Angels. I was told flat out that I can’t direct Rainmaker because I need to be in the show. I’m cool with that. Starbuck is a great role.
October: Bell, Book & Candle or Critic’s Choice (a sharp marriage/career comedy). This would be the first show in the completed new building. We need a show to flaunt the new digs. These would do that.
December: To be decided later.
A lot of good shows didn’t make the cut. We have been told that we’ll catch shit for shows that were promised for this year’s season by the previous committee. That’s outside their purview, but I’m sure some vocal folks will want Glass Menagerie or a similar dour drama that allows hams to yell and cry onstage. But the shows we picked have enough meat to them to satisfy open-minded actors.
We’re mostly done. We should be completely done. I’d like to start my vacation with this all behind me. That’s not going to happen now. Therefore, I shall drink a lot.
EDIT: Forgot to mention. I was asked about attending Board of Director meetings at noon (could I get off work to meet?) and becoming the new publicity director. I said I had to mull them over.
Picture of the Day
I have to cram my mouth full to keep from yelling.