On the way back from lunch a couple of weeks ago, Ken and I drove by a small, new theater that recently opened in downtown Provo. It’s called The Echo Theatre, and I noticed their marquee, which announced their current show, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” (which I have since seen, by the way, and found to be the cause of not a few ugly laugh/snort combos).
It made me recall a script I had written a few years ago called “The Incompleat Works,” about the characters of an unfinished, heretofore undiscovered Shakespeare play who, after centuries of repeating the first half of their play day in and day out, embark on anxiety-filled quest to modern-day Stratford to find this Shakespeare fellow hoping to persuade him to write the rest of their story. Lots of fun to write, even though it took forever to stop thinking in iambic pentameter (or, as I would’ve put it then, I stopped to count the beats of ev’ry line.) But I couldn’t figure out what to do with the script, so I tried a few things without success, and it’s been sitting in a drawer collecting dust ever since.
So I dusted it off and re-read it for the first time in awhile. Sometimes, the first re-read after awhile is a cringe-fest that makes me want to cast my writer-self off a bridge. But this time I found I still kinda liked it. I had met the owners of the theater briefly once, and had just read an article about them, where they talked about their desire to expand beyond the usual fare of Utah County theater, while still being respectful of the values of this audience. Plus, they seemed like nice folk, so I sent a little message asking if they’d be interested in taking a look.
Jeffrey Blake wrote back saying he would, then suggested I consider submitting a play for their 10-minute play festival. I had never written a 10-minute play, but I had just finished a left-brained rewrite of “The First Christmas” in anticipation of a new staging this year, so I thought a small right-brained project sounded appealing. If only I had something to write about. I gave it a think, but nothing occurred.
Throwing in the towel
Ten minutes is a challenge. The concept can’t be too complex. (There isn’t even enough time for songs!) But it’s a long enough chunk that it needs a full story arc, with a beginning, middle and end crammed into the space of where the overture would normally go. I was just about to throw in the towel when I came across an idea Ken had for a screenplay about a dozen years ago (one of many we brainstormed over lunch at Baja Fresh, back when they had outdoor seating right there on Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena — ah, good times). It was fun rereading our synopsis, but I was sad to see we never developed the second half. I was about to throw in the towel again, but then I realized this was a 10-minute play, so maybe there was a slice of the idea that would be a good fit.
I wasn’t sure, but I got sort of excited, like I wanted to dig right in and just see where it went. Normally, I would outline a project first. But since this would only be a few pages, if it fizzled out or got stuck — not the end of the world. So I checked the festival’s website to see how much time I had before the deadline, only to discover that the deadline was 9 pm that night. I looked at my watch. 8 pm straight up. I knew it was only a 10-minute play, but no way could I write something in an hour. So this time, I threw in the towel for real (and by “for real” I mean figuratively, i.e., not for real).
But the idea wanted to be written, so I decided just to plunge in. At the very least, it would be a new first for me — a 10-minute play. The hours flew. I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Carlo and Matteo, co-owners of a young, struggling restaurant that’s about to close its doors for the last time, who notice a prominent food critic, The Fork, sitting at one of their tables. They set out to give him a dining experience that he (and hopefully our audience) won’t soon forget. It’s an exploration of the morally ambiguous stretches that can sometimes occur in an effort to achieve a dream. But really, it’s just about some fun. And a meatball the size of a head. By the time I reached “lights out,” it was well beyond midnight.
I sent Jeffrey a message, explaining that I knew I had missed the deadline, but that if by some chance, they were still looking for a few more submissions, I had one. If not, I was really early for next year. I was delighted to find out that they had extended the submission period another week. So I sent off “The Fork,” a new play by Dennis Agle & Ken Agle.
The good news
Over the weekend, I learned it was one of 18 plays that had been selected for the festival. I also learned that they were short a few directors, so Jeffrey dropped me a line to see if I’d be interested.
Last night we had our first meeting. Several of the directors were there. Among the agenda items was the selection of plays. Another playwright whose play had been selected was there, and he asked to direct his own play, and some of the other directors were disappointed. When I asked to direct my own, there was no such disappointment among my fellow directors. So already “The Fork” is making people happy!
I don’t have a ton of experience directing for the stage, but what experience I do have has taught me this: cast well. So right now, I am looking for Carlo, Matteo (both in their 20s-30s) and The Fork (a fellow of some size, for reasons that will become clear when you come see the show — you’re coming, right?). Auditions are Wednesday and Saturday this week. (Info here. Ignore the note about 10 pm auditions on Saturday. Should be 10 am.)
Odd how an attempt to get one project that I worked on for ages led to another being written and accepted into a festival in less than a week. Well, here’s to line jumping. Looking forward to seeing how this little adventure plays out.