Six Years Ago

As some of you may know, The Marley Show‘s origin was with a short play written for the main project of Joe Echle’s high school Improv class. The full title of the course is “Dramatic Improvisation, Acting, and Writing,” and the big project for the course was to write and direct a play of your own, using your fellow classmates as actors. I picked up the scripts I acted in again today, and I’m still very much impressed by the diverse writing talent that I had a chance to be a part of. The Marley Show may be the project with the farthest “legs”, but there was real genius in the Southern Regional auditorium back in 1996.

  • Jessica Hulser wrote a piece called “Lost Time,” a Neil Simonish work featuring two women on vacation in Mexico, where one of them has fallen in love with a married man. My most vivid memories of this are of Dean‘s gay stereotype tour director and of Alan Smith and I performing with horrendously unconvincing Mexican accents. JR’s play was simple, but fun, and she managed to create really likable characters AND character development in about ten minutes.
  • My friends Meggan and Kristin wrote a dreamlike piece inspired by “The Love Poem of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I played “J”, a professor/poet whining to a psychiatrist about my lost love. Reading it, it’s a bit gappy, and I remember how over-my-head I felt in regard to the material. I also recall trying to figure out what part of the stage would be the beach, the office, the classroom, etc. Half in dialogue, half in loose rhyme, this play challenged me to make it work. Meggan and Kristin also made it a challenge for themselves, and I think it was a good experience to bite off a big literary chunk and see what we can do with it onstage.
  • I was also put on the couch for Mark Fisher’s improv piece. Dean played a psychiatrist and I played his patient, a 15 year old boy named Blue. The play is essentially just a Q&A session with Blue, but it uses some verrrry low key humor. I remember it not being obvious at first how to play the part, but eventually found that the straighter is the better for this piece. Mark wasn’t too controlling a director, but he did keep asking us for less. It was a switch-up; Dean and I walked over from playing the broadly-drawn Bill and Slim to playing very dry, honest, subtle characters. I really love reading this script, and I would love to see it done by subtle actors. (My face gives too much away: I don’t think I could say lines like “I know a lot of bright kids who aren’t very smart at all.” without letting on that it’s the punch line.)

And six years later, what’s become of these authors? Mark and Kristin are both finishing up accomplished undergraduate acting programs at Syracuse and Monmouth, respectively. Are they writing? I don’t know, but they could. Dean hasn’t written much after The Bill Show, but he is still the master showman. Though instead of acting or writing, he is doing most of his showmanship on the web. Meggan has done some acting and writing on a small scale (as far as I know), but has already graduated and has a job. But she’s still uncertain as to a career. And I wish I knew where JR Hulser was now. She was fun to act with (our first Eva) and wrote a solid piece, but didn’t sign up for Advanced Drama and Improv. All I have left is “Lost Time”.

And me? I’m just an internationally produced and published playwright. Bet I wouldn’t have expected that from myself six years ago; I probably would have pegged me as “jobless college graduate.” But that won’t be me for about four more weeks.

Moving back to the present, Arcadia is all set to go for a second weekend, so if you can make it Thursday-Saturday, MAKE IT!

Remember those three full-lengths I’m constantly picking at? Two are currently fighting for dominance. For one, I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to structure it. (Each outline seems to be written in sand.) For the other, a structure finally occurred to me this morning, and it may just work! (An outline is being written as we speak in another window.) But I don’t know what issues are at stake. I feel bad, because most of my plays, good or bad, are lightweight, and I want to play with some meatier stuff! So I need to find some meat for this play’s structure, or hammer something onto the meat I already have.

Also something to add to the rip-off department; the structured play currently features a grown man and woman fighting over a stuffed animal, and an exasperated man fighting with his insane, visionary father. I’ve tread this ground before; what substance can I till it with this time?

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