Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Questions

It’s Friday Question Day, and weekend three of my play GOING GOING GONE at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. Hope you can see it and realize that the half-price ticket offer makes it well worth it to fly to Los Angeles from wherever in the world you are.  And tonight, there will be a meet-and-greet before the show.  Just go here for tickets and information.

Wayne starts us off:

Going to see your play next week. (Now THAT’S the way to get your FQ answered.)

What is the running time of a full-length play?

What is the page count of the scripts?

Lengths vary. Some are as short as an hour, NICHOLAS NICKLEBY was something like twelve hours. Bring a sandwich.

Generally plays are in the 90 minute to two hour range, but not necessarily. Eugene O’Neill tends to go long. I've teased him about that. 

And musicals are generally two-plus hours with an intermission. They always talk about the “11:00 number.” That’s the big wind up show stopping song, and if you do the math – if opening curtain is at 8:00, there’s a fifteen or twenty minute intermission, and then the show ends around 11:10 – that’s close to three hours of performance.

My play runs 90 minutes with no intermission. That’s sort of the new trend – eliminating intermissions, playing straight through. For my comedy that all takes place over one night in the same locale, that’s ideal.

What’s interesting to me is that many theaters prefer no intermissions. You’d think they’d want the break to sell more concessions. It’s not like they could have vendors going down the aisles during HAMILTON yelling, “Peanuts! Get yer peanuts, here!” (Although for my play about baseball that might work.)

In the play format each page is about a minute. Mine’s a little shorter because it zips along. GOING GOING GONE is 81 pages.

Here’s another theater question from an Anonymous reader:

I'd be interested to hear about the business end of playwriting.

Say I'm 22 and newly arrived from Genesco, Illinois. I've got the most brilliantly written piece of art since Deuteronomy. I've got an apt in the dumpy heart of Hollywood and 12-year-old Toyota. Now what? I don't know anybody in LA and I don't make friends easily. Nobody back home knows anybody in LA. I'm ready to knock on doors but where are the doors? How does this business work? It's not like there's an ad on Craig's List for "Playwright Wanted." What, at the most basic fundamental level, do I do to get started?

First off, use your name. Plays written by “Anonymous” rarely get produced.

Then join ALAP, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. They’re a great organization with many events and chances to network.

Check to see what theater companies in town have playwrighting units; support groups that hear and critique each other’s work.

See if there are extension courses at UCLA. The idea is to meet people and become a part of the theater community. Go see a lot of small theater. Often the playwright or director will be there. They’re usually accessible if you tell them you loved their play. Even if you lie.   I know it works with me.

But ALAP is your best first bet.

Andy Ihnatko wonders:

As the author of the play AND an experienced booth announcer, which is harder: watching an actor make a choice with your character that you didn't originally imagine and don't immediately agree with, or watching an actor choose to do things that look perfectly normal to anyone in the audience, but make you want to scream "WE NEVER BLOW ON OUR COFFEE CUPS THE COFFEEMAKERS ARE ALWAYS SO ANCIENT THAT THEY BARELY CAN MAKE ANYTHING WARM!!! SO FAKE!!!!"?

I can always express my concerns to the director, and that generally clears things up.

Yes, it’s frustrating if an actor makes a choice that to me doesn’t ring true. But often an actor will make a choice I hadn’t considered and it’s better than what I had envisioned. So you take the good with the bad, but generally there’s way more good.

And finally, Steve has a television question about unforeseen circumstances.

What do you do if a death or other event happens between taping a show and broadcasting it makes some of the jokes seem in questionable taste?

Hopefully you can get the network to change the airdate to allow some time to pass. Or, if you do have some time and it’s worth it (because it’ll be expensive), go back and either edit out the sensitive material, or replace it if you’re still in production.

Unforeseen circumstances occur more often in dramas than comedies. World events such as plane crashes or terrorist attacks that mirror events on some entertainment shows often result in the shows being forced to scramble or postponed until enough time has passed. That happened with the 24 pilot as I recall.

What’s your Friday Question?


MikeNJD said...

Hi Ken,

One note on the 11 O'clock Number. Back in the early days of Broadway, performances usually started at 8:30. The 11 O'clock Number was more reasonably placed within the show, and would be equivalent to 10:30 today. About ten minutes for denouement after, and you're at about the typical 2.5 hour musical, with intermission.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

HAMLET was Shakespeare's longest play. 30,000 words. 3-4 hours
Didn't do too badly in previews, from what I hear. Though the guy playing Ophelia in the original was a real drag. :)

Unkystan said...

Recently during a Simpsons episode there was a continuing joke about Arnold Palmer and his drink. Withiin literally minutes after the broadcast his death was announced. (That freaked me out). I saw the show on the east coast. I was wondering if FOX acknowledged his death during the west coast feed.

Terrence Moss said...

regarding Steve's question, usa recently faced such a situation with its new series "the shooter" (which, with that title in this day and age, should have been better titled) in having to postpone the show's debut to November (with the same title) due to the Dallas shootings in July

we need to stop making these type of shows for awhile.

Jack said...

For what it's worth, musicals today are generally at a maximum 2 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds, as the staff go on overtime at the 3-hour mark. If a show is running a tiny bit long, the conductor can expect to get a frantic call from the stage manager asking to cut the curtain call music... this can at least keep the musicians' call under 3 hours.

Also, for the 11:00 number, shows used to start at 8:30, so this would be the 10:30 number (or 9:30 number on Tuesdays) in today's musical world.

OrangeTom said...

I noticed this week that one of my favorite sitcoms--almost criminally underrated if you ask me--The Middle has been moved from its Wednesday time slot of seven years to Tuesday. Is this ever a good thing for a show late in its run or is it more of a gentle hint from the network to the producers that time is not on their side?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Unkystand asked: Recently during a Simpsons episode there was a continuing joke about Arnold Palmer and his drink. Withiin literally minutes after the broadcast his death was announced. (That freaked me out). I saw the show on the east coast. I was wondering if FOX acknowledged his death during the west coast feed.

On Twitter that night, the Simpsons' ShowRunner/EP AL JEAN, was asked this very question.
@AlJean @TheSimpsons Will the joke be cut from the West Coast feed out of respect? #Simpsons #arnoldpalmer

His response: @leedeschenes @TheSimpsons of course I wish I could but it's too late. One if the all-time greats in any sport.

Jahn Ghlat said...

Would it be too "precious" to have a peanut vendor at some point walking the aisles? A writer in the pressbox could order:

"Hey! Two up here!"

(toss) (toss)

"No Charge for The Press!"

Brother Herbert said...

Unforeseen circumstances occur more often in dramas than comedies.

They happen in game shows too. CBS was running summer repeats of THE PRICE IS RIGHT when Hurricane Katrina hit, and they ran a show where one of the Showcase prizes was a trip to New Orleans. CBS caught it in time for the west coast broadcast and ran a different episode.

Jahn Ghalt said...


My son is not a sports kid/fan. He could not care less about sports and sports figures.

However, he does like The Simpsons and knows "Arnold Palmer" - orders it frequently at restaurants.

I didn't see the episode, but suspect that I might smile fondly at the running gag (and so might THE MAN if he had seen it).

Unknown said...

I think it would be more appropriate for a beer vendor to go through the crowd at the play, and the announcers buys a few. Brings back memories of Harry Carry in Chicago, when he would be sloshed by the 8th inning.

Norm said...

Regarding intermissions: I believe one of your reviews said the play could have been cut down to 60 minutes. I don't agree with that and thought 90 minutes was fine. We all sit through (generally) at least two-hour plus movies, so what is the big deal about a play running that long? Congrats again!

Wayne said...

Thanks for advice on play length.
I'm glad comedy plays aren't bloated in length like too many comedy movies like 119 to 143 min Anchorman 2

D. McEwan said...

Actually, Nicholas Nickleby ran eight hours. You usually saw it on two consecutive nights, though on matinee days, you'd see the whole thing on the one day, with an hour dinner break halfway through, in addition to two other intermissions. I saw it at the Ahmanson all on one day, and it was a glorious day.

Anonymous said...

Frasier had an episode referencing American flight 11 which is the same airline and flight number David Angell and his wife later died on a few years later on 9/11. The reruns still retain the airline and flight number.

"The Watch" was originally called "Neighborhood Watch" but was changed prior to its release due to the Trayvon Martin case.

The release of "Gangster Squad" was delayed after the Colorado theatre shootings. It was originally one of the trailers that ran prior to the "Dark Knight Rises".

An episode of Family Guy was postponed and shown at a later date, due to a joke about the Boston Marathon, right after the bombings occurred.

Unknown said...

I seem to remember cartoons featuring the title of the episode or half-episode at the beginning. I recently satrted watching PITCH and I noticed an episode title under the show title. It seems that this practice is almost non-existent in live action shows.

Why isn't this a more prominent practice?

Andy Rose said...

Speaking of The Price is Right, there was a 1989 episode where one of the prizes featured was a trip to "beautiful Beijing," and it wound up airing shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Unknown said...

The "Buffy" episode, "Earshot" had to be postponed for months because of Columbine. In the episode, Buffy sees a student head to a school bell tower with a gun and assumes he wants to commit a mass murder. It turns out he planned to kill himself but the plot was still too close to the headlines for the episode to be broadcast.

Bryan Thomas said...

Friday question—and you may have answered it but I missed or forgot—you talk about the 5 A.M. all night rewrites. When that happens, what time are you due to report in the next day? Do you get to come in late or have to show up again at 10 or 11 A.M. to start up again? Given driving times in L.A., if that latter, can you even go home?