Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hey, wanna see my new play?

Individual tickets go on sale today!  Here’s where.  Or you can call 1-818-955-8101.   I know this means a whole lot to you folks in Norway or Tuscaloosa. But if you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area or God forbid you live in the Los Angeles area, would love for you to check it out. I’ll be there most nights (I’m the one in the back sweating) so it’s a good chance to meet.

Rehearsals have begun and so far it’s looking great! (Okay, first rehearsal was yesterday… but still.) It’s a two-character romantic comedy that explores the difference between the same two couple if they were lovers or co-workers. Sex, office politics, passion, ambition and lots of laughs along the way. Writing Sam & Diane for all those years on CHEERS was good prep work for this.

I must say, I love playwriting. (Let’s see if I still say that after opening night but…) I love writing dialogue and the theatre values that the most. Words are more important. Movies are more visually oriented and television is … whatever some network executive says it should be.

What excites me as a writer is exploring human behavior and interaction. Jokes that stem from character and advance the story. Moving the audience through emotional moments not orgasmic special effects. And for me, as the writer, actually hearing the laughter and seeing if the poignant moments land.

Other reasons why I prefer to write for the stage:

I enjoy the freedom in storytelling. With features and certainly television, you need to outline the story in a very detailed fashion. In television you’re always confined by the clock. Movie outlines can be so extensive that storyboards are drawn to show shot-by-shot. I work off a much simpler outline when writing plays. I know where I’m going (generally) but allow the characters to tell me where they want to go. Sometimes wonderful unexpected surprises come about as a result.

Of course, in my case, that also means a lot of blind alleys and writing tons of pages that I toss out. But even the discarded pages are beneficial. The more I write the characters the more I learn about them. It’s all part of the process. Never feel that the stuff you don’t use was time wasted. It’s most certainly not.

The first draft of my new play A OR B? is considerably different from my current draft. For one thing, I threw out the entire second act and started again. Then I had a reading and from that I replaced two whole scenes and made extensive changes throughout. What’s exciting now is hearing it on its feet, getting director and audience feedback, and continuing to fine tune.

Now I just have to figure out how to do revised pages with Final Draft.

Subscriptions still available!
The other great thing about writing for the theatre – actually, the GREATEST thing – is that no one can change a word without the playwright’s permission. This is in marked contrast to films where the writer is just below the honey wagon maintenance crew in the pecking order. Anybody and everybody can manhandle the screenplay. In television the showrunner can change your script, the staff can change your script, the network, studio, standards & practices, and lawyers can change your script. Even Chuck Lorre doesn’t have final say. At the end of the day, Les Moonves does. But a playwright makes the call in the theatre. Imagine getting notes you don’t HAVE TO take! It’s very liberating.

Yes, there are downsides. You make practically nothing. Submissions to theatres or companies take as long as a year to receive a response. And if no one wants to produce your play you might have to produce it yourself, which could get expensive. But come on, that’s quibbling.

The final argument for live theatre is just that – it’s LIVE. Real people performing for a real audience. A one-to-one connection. And when it works, it’s thrilling… for all concerned – the actors, the audience members, and even that poor guy sweating buckets in the back.

As Neil Simon puts it:

I always feel more like a writer when I'm writing a play because of the tradition of the theater ... there is no tradition of the screenwriter, unless he is also the director, which makes him an auteur. So I really feel that I'm writing for posterity with plays, which have been around since the Greek times.

My play plays from Oct. 15-Novembe 16.  Lots of tickets have already been sold to subscribers.  So don't wait.   Come see it so I don’t have to write teen coming-of-age movies on spec. Thank you.

26 comments:

Hamp said...

A shame I live on the wrong coast. It bet it will be a great show to see.

emily said...

I'll have to wait until it hits Broadway next year.

Break a leg Ken.

Bill Jones said...

Congrats again. I don't live near LA, but best wishes for good sales and good reviews.

This opens up a whole new field of Friday questions about plays and playwrights... maybe you can answer at your leisure. Do playwrights write a play first, then shop it around to producers or companies, or do producers/playhouses ask a playwright to come up with something? Are there even such things as producers, or is it always a playhouse or company? Are you asked to change or punch up a script? Do most playwrights do it for the love of the craft, or because they want to get into movie/TV writing? Can one make a living from it without being a Neil Simon-level name? And most important, why is it called "playwright" and not "playwrite"?

MikeK.Pa. said...

Garry Marshall, who owns the Falcon Theatre, debuted his own original play "Billy and Ray," based on Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler and the making of "Double Indemnity," there earlier this year. It debuts next month off-Broadway. Maybe "A or B?" will follow suit.

Charles Warn said...

seeya there...live 10 minutes from theater... #brakaleg

Dodgerdog said...

Congratulations! See you there.

Scooter Schechtman said...

"I love the legitimate theayter."
(Dr. Zaius nunmber)

Gene P. said...

Ken - at some point it would be really instructional to see the different drafts. Maybe when the run has ended (and you've made millions) you can share them with us - along with some commentary on what worked, what didn't and how to tell the difference.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

That's keen! Wonderful! Good for you!

Johnny Walker said...

I arrive in LA on the 17th of November. Nice timing, Ken!!! :-P

I hope you have a very successful run! Good luck and congrats!

estiv said...

@Bill Jones, it's "wright" because the term is from an old word meaning "craftsman." A cart-wright made carts, a wheel-wright made wheels, a play-wright made plays. Okay, okay, I'm a language nerd...

Dan Ball said...

What do you say to playwrights instead of "break a leg"?

"Break a wrist?"

Looking forward to hearing how it goes, Ken!

When I took a stage/screen directing class in college, that's the first time I got really acquainted with plays and how they differ from films or TV. It seems like a very freeing medium, almost like prose, but with a performance of the written word.

Ken, what you said about dialogue being the key element of a play really inspires me. I've always loved writing dialogue since I was a freshman in high school and writing a play seems like a fun challenge. Maybe after I knock out the comedy noir. :)

Jerry Krull said...

If I get to LA in that timeframe I'll try to score a ticket from the scalpers out front. (How many tickets did you give David Isaacs and what did you expect him to do with all those anyway?)

I'll be the guy in the audience who gives away the fact he doesn't see much live theatre by commenting loudly, "The 3D effects are amazing here!"

Seriously, best of luck with the run!

Cap'n Bob said...

At our age we say break a hip.

Nevin ":-)" Liber said...

Friday question: in season 7 of M*A*S*H BJ Hunnicutt grew a mustache. Was that something requested by the production team or by Mike Farrell? If the former, was it for looks, better humor/stories, etc.? If the latter, who has the final say-so: the actor or the production team?

D. McEwan said...

I avidly await seeing it.

I just read, yesterday, Charles Edward Pogue describing his experience writing a Sherlock Holmes TV-movie for British TV, one that starred the magnificent Ian Richardson. He said writing for American TV and movies hadn't prepared him for classic English theater actors respect for writing. Here were all these immense talents he'd idolized, and they were coming up to him on the set asking if he'd Ok their making a slight change in a line, a small word substitution. He was "only the writer," not the director, but no one in that cast (Lots of RSC actors) would change a syllable without his personal OK. Needless to say, he loved that!

(Hmm. The Word Verification, "Prove you're not a robot" number for this posting happens to be a photo of a street number painted on a curb, and it's MY address!!!)

George said...

We live just south of the theater near Qualcomm Stadium, so we just bought 2 front row tickets for opening night. Hope to see you there! You mentioned making changes as you go. How close to opening night do you have to lock it down, or will you be fussing with it throughout its entire run?

Paul Duca said...

Don't worry, Ken...any playwright worth his salt has second act problems.

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Marija said...

Hi Ken,

Break a leg at the premiere! I wish you all the best from Belgrade, Serbia, so sorry we'll never have the opportunity to see it. Hopefully you'll publish the screenplay or make it available online at some point.

It seems to me you reached a wonderful point in your life when you do things for pleasure instead for money :)

Marija

Kathleen said...

Congratulations, Ken, and best of luck. I hope you start sharing your play writing experiences and insights, as I know I would find them very helpful. You've influenced my writing with your constant reminder to focus on character development and let the humor flow from characters and their interactions. I wish I could see your play.

RCP said...

Congratulations, Ken.

I'm looking forward to your play, and hopefully to shaking your hand.

BigTed said...

Ken, what did you think when you learned that your play "A or B?," a romantic comedy in which the title letters stand for the couple's names, would be starting at about the same time as the TV sitcom "A to Z," also a romantic comedy in which the title letters stand for the couple's names?

Will people be coming to your play expecting to see Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti -- or will they be wondering why your name isn't in the credits of the sitcom?

DrBOP said...

I love reading books about the old Broadway.....Hart, Kaufman, etc....and it always knocked me out when they would describe the process including "......and we threw out the entire second act."

"You don't need pills.....you need THRILLS!"

Enjoy the journey.

Cheryldee said...

Sick with the flu, I send congratulations to you on your new show!

Sally said...

I'll come from China to see your play, so I hope to also meet you after the show! Looking forward to it, Sally Yeh