As you may know, I took a break from writing plays, at least in a deliberate, focused way, to concentrate more on fiction. The last few weeks have brought me back around to playwriting again, and it feels absolutely fantastic to work on some projects that I began and then put on haitus. This is one of them, a poison pen love letter to the trend of "talkbacks" that seem to always go hand in hand with new play development. They must serve some wonderful purpose, but I rarely see them yeild much of anything worthwhile for the play's process.
In any case, here's the first few pages. Enjoy!
For Magda, because she has endured so much bad theatre on my behalf, and because she insisted.
Meg: The Playwright. Has had a bad feeling about this production for some time.
Skip: The Director. Has had a very good feeling about this production for some time.
Placenta: The Actress. Senses things did not go well, but feels it was not her fault (although, in fact, she was the only performer onstage)
Henry: Placenta’s boyfriend, who designed the set, lights and costume. Perpetually annoyed that he must sometimes work with people, not just sets, lights and costumes.
Delilah: Meg’s best friend.
Noah: Attends essentially every event at this theatre. Used to be an actor, now works in food service, totally fine with no longer being an actor. Totally, totally fine with it.
Jane: Dating Jim. May have slightly over-exaggerated her knowledge of the theatrical arts to him prior to this event.
Jim: Brother of Meg. A man of discernment.
Clarence: Reviewer for local paper.
Marianne: The talkback moderator and theatre artistic director.
The lights slowly come up on a tableau of an audience of everyone except Marianne and Placenta, staring ahead (facing the real audience) at a performance of Meg’s new play, a one-woman show. Henry, Meg, and Skip are seated in the back row. They are viewing the last 5 minutes of the piece as we see them in the half-light of the theatre, staring into the void we cannot see. Meg is particularly horrified. Each shares his or her inner thoughts.
… If they didn’t want to use a disco ball, why did I have to go out and find one on a Sunday night?
…Maybe a hot dog. Ooh, yeah. I feel more like a hot dog. I hope that place is still open. Oh! Shit! There’s a talkback after this. Maybe it won’t go on for too long. I swear that this time I will not say ANY thing.
I remember when I used to understand at least 70% of what I was watching on stage. Ibsen. Wilder. Williams. Never at sea with their plays.
Although I guess they could still use the disco ball. In the last 30 seconds? Like the mother in True West?
PURE. GENIUS. Wait until they see the final tableau.
I really don’t know what this is, at all. I have no idea what’s going on, on-stage. It must be really, very good.
This is even worse than that adaptation of Moby Dick she did a few years ago. I have no idea what to say about this. Jane must think my family is absolutely nuts.
Meg sneaks a peek at Jim’s face.
I guess I could say that I’ve never seen anything like this.
Look at Jim’s face! I thought it was bad, but not that bad. He looks more blank than he did at Mo’ Moby, Mo’ Dick.
No disco ball yet. But bubbles. Ok. Sure, bubbles.
These people are ENTHRALLED.
DELILAH (Singing DeeLite’s “Groove is in the Heart”) “My supper dish, my succotash…” what is it? Is it “dish” again? That doesn’t seem right. Fish?
The FOCUS in this audience is AMAZING.
“Wish!” That’s what it is – “My supper dish, my succotash wish!” God, love that song. What ever happened to Dee- Light? (sings) “I couldn’t live for another… ba ba ba ba baaa…” Oh! Crap, something’s in my eye. (She begins digging around in her eye).
Now. Hmm. What did I say last week? Last week was a rout. The time before that, that piece, with the sheep? I didn’t like it if it was the sheep. So that’s two negative reviews. Hmm.
I think that that woman’s CRYING.
CLARENCE I guess this one is a rave, then. Brilliant new visionary. What’s the program say? (He reads the program, ignoring entirely what is happening on stage)
NOW? As the lights are coming up? Now they put on the disco ball?
I’ll say, “I’m always proud of you.”