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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Missteps (Not a '50s Singing Group)

It may have seemed, up to this point, that the writing of this series has been nothing if not a breeze. Like Alexander of Macedonia before me, I glide from victory to victory until all the world bows before my glory. The truth is this: Hardly.

I have now been working on scripts for this series for over two years, and I have seven complete scripts to show for it. Now, the biggest reason why usable scripts have accumulated so slowly is that I've had to hold down full-time jobs while still finding a spare moment or two in which to spend time with my wife and son. Writing scripts has been relegated to the same kind of level that some people reserve for things like building a ship in a bottle: it's been more of a hobby than a job.

That being said, I've also followed some scripts down blind alleys while I figured out, through trial-and-error, exactly what this series was going to be. There were three major diversions from the path, each abandoned for a different reason, each with a different future.

First, there was something called "The Amazing Three-Man One-Man Show." Originally, I had put it together as a possible corporate show for myself, my former writing partner, and another guy to do. (We had been a trio doing mainly audio comedy for a time. The comedy team had died by the time I put the draft of this script together, but I had thoughts of trying to revive it. However, I found out, rather painfully, that dead is dead.) It featured sketches and songs, and I figured I could cut it down to take up one episode of air time. I also thought about doing it live (the rest of the series will be taped and edited together like a movie) to give it the feel of a theatrical review. In the end, though, as the series veered away from sketch comedy and toward the telling of coherent stories, I decided to drop it. Maybe someday it will pop up in some form in a small theatre or cabaret, but that only time will tell.

The second dead end I followed was a script called "Such Is Life." In this case, I was adapting some TV scripts I had written (and rewritten) throughout the '90s and into the aughts. On its face, this scheme seemed like a natural. Everyone who has read the TV scripts has loved them. They have good dialogue and characters and an involving story. Unfortuantely, as I adapted the first episode into a radio play, everything that had been wonderful in the TV script evaporated and was replaced by material that was slow, talky, and sententious. This is an idea that wants desperately to be on the tube (and I mean TV, not the London subway system), and I intend to pursue making that happen. Once I can get "Next in the Series" up and running, that is.

The third dead end was with a script called "The Quality of Marcy." This is an idea that I stole from my wife. She had told me about an idea that she had for a rather dark short story that concerned a married couple dealing with a visit from the wife's ne'er-do-well sister. It struck me as being a great idea for a play, and a play with a lot of comedy in it, at that. Over time, Stephanie lost interest in the story, but mine continued unabated. Finally, she told me to go ahead with my idea, as she didn't think she would ever write the story. I'm still hoping that someday she will write her version. I think it would be quite good and very different from mine.

At first, I had started "The Quality of Marcy" as a stage play, but then decided to give it a try as a radio play. This is a script that has always come in fits and starts. I wrote the first seven or eight pages in one go (a huge amount for me) and then it lay fallow for weeks. Then another chunk came. And then nothing. Following this pattern, I was able to complete one entire episode and started off on the second.

I was actually a good distance into the second episode when I stopped work on it. I did so because, even though there is a lot of humor throughout it, the script had a very dark underbelly. This dark tone clashed with the tone of the other scripts, and I had to admit to myself that I wanted "Next in the Series," especially this first series of it, to be straight comedy. Since "The Quality of Marcy" was turning into the closest thing to a drama that I'm capable of producing, I decided that it was best to set it aside for the time being. I think I'm going to take what I've got (about an act-and-a-half of a three act play) and put it in stage play format. I think I was right in the first place: This story needs to be seen in a theatre.

These were the major digressions along the way, so far, and the amount of script I turned out on them is impressive. (At least to me.) I've written about 90 minutes worth of material, all of which is now held in reserve, waiting for another time, another medium.

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