Friday, March 18, 2011

3 excellent plays

I put out a call for plays in January on the NYCPlaywrights web site. I'll never do that again - at least not in this way. I asked for excellent 10 minute plays so I could write another article just like this one

But most of the plays were really bad. There were a few that were OK, not excellent. And some that were just gross. It's a tossup for me which was grossest, the one about the librarian dominatrix and the guy with the foot fetish, the one where one guy offers the other guy alot of money if he will perform a "nut fumble" on his own father, or the one about the woman sitting on a toilet - center stage of course - and she refuses to get off the toilet, has been refusing for weeks. This last one, I take it, is believed by the author to be cutting edge.

The best part of getting submissions is when the playwrights include a list of all the awards won and/or productions given to the play they are sending me - sometimes the list is right at the beginning of the script itself. This reminds me of the bit in "The King's Speech" when discussing the King's medical advisors:

LIONEL
They're all idiots.

BERTIE
They've been knighted!

LIONEL
Makes it official then, doesn't it?

I am not the least bit impressed by awards that plays have won - most people who give awards to plays cannot discern shit from Shinola. I can't count the number of award-winning plays I've seen and/or read that I thought were crap.

Out of the 85 submitted, I could only find 4 that I could stand at all. And three of them I didn't actually care for much - it was going to be a stretch to come up with a reason for why they were excellent. So I put six of the plays from my 10-min Playfest in with the four and had members of NYCPlaywrights read them aloud at one of our meetings and give me their opinions. And two of the plays that were most popular with all four judges were from the 10-min Playfest. So both of those and only ONE out of 85 was selected for the article.

Nope, never doing that again.

So far my call for plays that have something to do with Shakespeare has only produced two half-way decent plays out of the 24 submitted. The one I hate the most of that batch so far is written by an Oxfordian - so instead of a play having something to do with the life and work of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon he sent me a 10-page scene between Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth, and it fails for three reasons:

  1. It's a conversation between two people - nothing happens

  2. It's Oxfordian swill

  3. It opens with Queen Elizabeth, on her deathbed, farting


I will never do a play having anything to do with the latter stages of the digestive system. I don't care if that makes me less than open-minded. Tough shit.

But at least for this contest, the play selected doesn't have to be excellent to meet the stated criterion. It can just be merely playable so that we can video-record a reading of it and it won't cause the actors or myself too much shame.

One of the three plays selected for the "excellent" play contest is HOT APPLE PIE by Michael Jalbert - see clip below.

I was reluctant to select another play by Mike - his LOVERBOY was in the first "How to write an excellent 10-minute play" article. But PIE was by far the most popular choice of the four judges, and I think it's a terrific play - I've produced it several times as a reading.

I have yet to hear a completed full-length play by Mike, although he is working on one. But he sure has a knack for 10-minute plays. Another one of his, HERBERT, is based on a story by H. G. Wells and is also excellent - I would have been happy to use that for the article too.

Of all the writers who have come through NYCPlaywrights, Mike is the only one (besides myself) whose work I consistently like. And it's funny - I knew him first as an actor - I cast him in my HUCK FINN as the evil slave trader. He also played a riverman on the Mississippi and the scene for that character was one of my favorites in the entire play, because it got some nice laughs - and most of the dialog was my own original work, instead of taken directly out of Twain's book. Not that Mike and the other actor, who shall remain nameless, did a bad job - they were very good. But I don't think its success was entirely due to the actors:

BOB

You reckon they’ll catch that runaway slave that killed that boy, what’s his name?

JOE

Whose name? The slave?

BOB

The boy. Crazy old Finn’s boy.

JOE

I don’t remember. Except it was a strange kind of name. It was some kind of fruit.

BOB

Some kind of fruit? Who would name a child after some kind of fruit?

JOE

I’m pretty sure it was some kind of fruit. Like “Crabapple.” Yeah, that sounds right. Crabapple Finn. His pappy’s a terrible drunk – maybe he was drunk when he named him. And now that old drunk’s gonna get all Crabapple’s money. Some people have all the luck.

BOB

How much money did he have?

JOE

I heard it was a million dollars. They took it right off a pirate ship.

(Bob whistles in amazement at the sum of money. Huck, now on dry land, enters.)

BOB

Well now young fella. What are you doing out and about so late at night?

HUCK

My ma and pa and I is camped out down the road apiece, and my ma wants to make a fire for our breakfast in the morning, but we ain’t got no matches.

JOE

Say no more. Here you go.

(He tosses a box of matches at Huck.)

HUCK

Thank you sir. I’m mighty obliged. Say, do you know how far it is to Cairo?

JOE

Cairo? I don’t rightly know. You know Bob?

BOB

She’s somewheres along the river, that’s all I know. Say, boy, Joe and I was sitting here talking and I says “Getting along towards the long days and the short nights now.” and then Joe up and says –

HUCK

I’m sorry mister, I can’t stay. My ma will be worried.

BOB

That’s too bad because it’s pretty funny.

HUCK

Good-bye.

(Huck exits.)

JOE

Bob, quit beating that dead horse.


If memory serves, Mike played "Bob." Nick Fondulis was Huck. Speaking of which...

Here's the clip from HOT APPLE PIE, performed by two cuties, Brett Holland and Nick. I certainly hope Mike, who has just as much of an appreciation for masculine pulchritude as I do, appreciates my casting choices for his play. And I hope Nick's agent doesn't have a problem with this.

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