In the wake of the recent Houdinifest, I felt moved to take a look at my Houdini plays in order, not only to read them for the first time in years, but also to finally turn them into a virtual script rather than actual letters typed onto actual pages.
It wasn't quite this primitive. It was an electric typewriter.
I haven’t done it yet, though. I have a feeling that I’m going to go through the thing, shake my head, and say “Well, that’s not funny” or “I thought this was good?” At the same time, though, I contradictorily think it’ll probably be better than that. Not that they won’t need rewriting – I’m sure the first play in the trilogy will need massive revisions – but I’d imagine they’re not totally lame. I had a similar reservation/realization a couple of years ago when I was visiting Eugene and dug my masters’ thesis off the shelves of the University of Oregon library. I skimmed through it, knowing it was probably the first time it’s been consulted since my committee read it in 1995. As dismal as I thought it would be, it actually wasn’t half bad. There are formatting problems (it was the first thing I ever wrote on a computer, and I somehow printed the whole damn thing boldfaced) and some minor things that needed fixing and rewriting, but the content itself wasn’t bad – and I highly recommend it to the hordes of folks who are looking into Chekhov’s influence on Irish playwright Brian Friel. It was less about the content being bad than it was about my being a different person with different experiences, opinions, and conclusions than that guy two decades ago. (Gulp!)
Knight Library. Final resting place of my thesis.
I’m guessing that my Houdini plays themselves aren’t really that bad – I mean, the first one (the one that I’m thinking needs the most help) got a staged reading the first time I submitted it anywhere. The reception was good – my writer friends will understand that feeling when something you wrote gets an intentional laugh (always a good sign in a comedy) – and all the signs were encouraging. I know where it needs fixing (at least from my memory of it), and I’d actually like to resubmit the trilogy in the hopes of seeing an real production. I know there’s nothing – well, nothing other than money – to prevent me from producing them myself – though I would have to find an actor capable of performing some Houdini-esque feats of legerdemain (a couple of escapes; no disappearing elephants or getting out of locked milk cans). It’s more of wondering if I really want to collaborate with my mid-20s self (talk about throwback Thursday …) any more than I’d want to collaborate with my mid-40s self on rewriting my thesis.
Know any actors who can do this?
Speaking of looking for actors brings up the other thing on my mind. It’s something I’m putting off by the act of writing this – my upcoming auditions this weekend.
It’s not that I’m not looking forward to directing this show (“The Farnsworth Invention” at Palo Alto Players) – about which I’m sure I’ll be writing for the next few months – but that the whole “audition” thing is such a draining and hectic process. Over the next four days, I have to see 40-50 actors audition by performing monologues, determine if they’ll be suitable for the show (and for which roles), figure out who to call back, choose sides for them to read, contact them with those sides, schedule them, pair them up, see them do the callback scenes, make some tweaks, cast them, make sure they’re all contacted and have accepted, and then (if necessary) start digging up alternate actors to fill the roles I wasn’t able to in the original audition. And I’d like to get it all done before April 8th, when I leave to go to the TCM Film Festival in L.A. (I do have a little wiggle room in that I don’t have to start rehearsals until the 22nd, but I’d like to not make this a last-minute thing.) And, of course, I have to fit all this around “The Speakeasy” and starting the new job next week.
Nothing against this guy, but I hope he doesn't
show up Saturday. (The perils of using stock photos.)
I’ve picked the six scenes I’ll want to see at the callback, but I still have to type them up to edit them to a manageable size (a task, as I said, that this writing is delaying). I’d really rather not make the actors do seven-minute scenes when I (and I think most directors) can see if I’m getting what I want in the first 30-60 seconds. Granted, it gives the actors something to do and work with, but it’s tough to watch the same scene over and over – it’s easy to lose perspective in the repetition.
I have a love/hate relationship with auditions. The planning and prep – whether I’m the auditioner or the auditionee – is time-consuming (see above) and psychologically draining. I love seeing what actors can do (I never cease to be amazed by what they can do) and I love knowing that I’m about to start a new project, but it’s like knowing I’m going to have to climb a mountain (not that I’d do that). There’s just so much work to do to get it all right.
But I think I’ve put off the inevitable – and ritualized – typing of the sides long enough. Time to get to work.