After nearly nine months of being on a playwriting hiatus — productions, publishing, and other things, like work intervened — I am in the midst of not one but two new pieces. One is a short piece inspired by a Secret Santa Title Exchange with some of my fellow scribes called “The Christmas Commercial Conspiracy,” and the other is what will probably be a full-length entitled “Cabana Boy,” wherein a young man named Mitch gets a summer job working at a high-end resort in the Florida Keys. Since it’s the off-season, he’s looking forward to a quiet and pleasant twelve weeks. Little does he know…
What I love the most about playwriting is how the characters take over, making my job mostly stenographic and getting their lives and stories sorted out so they are presentable on paper and then on stage. Sometimes all it takes is a sentence or two — sometimes even less — to get an entire scene going and then let them take over and see where it takes us. My job then is to take what comes and guide it so the thoughts and actions they’re going through makes sense and follows what I like to think of as something the audience will pay attention to. As a director once told me, “Tell us a good story and the rest of us will follow along.” That’s what I’m trying to do as Mitch’s story comes out. Most of the time, it works and voila, the play and the characters come to life.
There are times when I know what I’m writing will not end up in the final version, or at least the one I put out for others to read. It’s called filler, or in some cases, a bridge between two scenes you know are essential. But thanks to the Florida Department of Transportation and a bit of roadwork I came upon a week ago on the way to the car show, I have a new term for it: emergency scene. It’s something you keep in the back of your mind and drop in to hold the place while you listen for the real thing. Once it’s done, the sign comes down and you move forward.
So far on this new play, it’s come in handy; I spent an hour last night writing the real thing while the sign was up, and now it’s ready to go in. I’ll be doing some more work this weekend.