Sunday, September 26, 2010

Prudence and Pepper: Act One

Julia Jarcho and Brian Thorstenson's class STRANGE DAYS, STRANGE PLAYS will be held six Saturdays starting October 16th. To kickstart the creative juices, they have co-written a Blog Drama in Two Acts. Act One appears here - stay tuned for Act Two later this week!


A Play in Two Acts
By Brian Thorstenson and Julia Jarcho

Act One.
The curtain rises on a sinister grotto. Lithe, shadowy FIGURES scurry around. Are they waiters? Probably.
PEPPER TH├śRRSSTEINSS├śN sits at a table, heads in his hands. An enormous, inedible SCONE on a plate before him. From time to time he raises his head and eyes the scone, then drops back into his original posture.
After this has been going on for a while, PRUDENCE CONSTANCE SORROWFUL enters hurriedly, hat and coat askew. She drops into the chair opposite PEPPER.

PRUDENCE: Well?
(Without looking up, PEPPER nudges the scone towards her. She picks it up, examines it, and replaces it on the plate.)
I've told you, I don't engage with pastry. Pepper, for God's sake look at me. It wasn't easy to get away, I can tell you.  What's the [she pronounes it, badly, in French:] catastrophe?

PEPPER (raising his head and looking at Prudence for the first time): Why the hat? Another new hairdo gone awry?

PRUDENCE: Tick tick tick. I don't have time for your obfuscation.

PEPPER: More like we don't have time.
(He carefully looks around. No one. Then he takes the napkin from his lap, carefully unfolds it, and covers the scone.)
Put on your sunglasses.
(PRUDENCE does. PEPPER pulls an envelope out of his pocket and hands it to PRUDENCE)
I've already unsealed it.

(PRUDENCE pauses, holds the letter aloft.)

PRUDENCE: So you still don't...

PEPPER: No.

PRUDENCE: And I'm some sort of...

PEPPER: Pandora.

PRUDENCE: --Cassandra, Angora... --Hare?

PEPPER (losing patience): Tortoise.

PRUDENCE (voluptuously, toying with the letter): Hmmmmmm. What's in it...
(Pause.)
... For me?
(PEPPER strikes the table with his fist. The scurrying FIGURES stop dead in their tracks and conspire in a foreign tongue.)
Don't cause a commotion!
(In a raised voice:)
I was ooonly kidding.
(Things go back to normal. PRUDENCE takes the letter from the envelope. PRUDENCE reads:)
Dear Pru. Hmm. Familiar

(The enormous scone starts vibrating)

PEPPER: Oh no.

(From the scone a barrage of news stories start being broadcast)

PRUDENCE: Server? Server, we're finished with this.
(No response from THEM, whoever they are. To PEPPER:)
Ten years in fine dining and you can't bus a table? 

PEPPER: Seven tours in the shotput nationals and YOU can't--
(PRUDENCE hurls the scone offstage. It continues to broadcast faintly from afar.
PRUDENCE crumples the letter and hurls it after the scone. She rises to go.) 
Wait.

PRUDENCE: Make it good.

PEPPER: It's ... it's ... it's been a strange day and ... I ...

PRUDENCE: Now, now, now, now.

PEPPER: I think there's been an attempt.

(PRUDENCE freezes in an attitude of horror. PEPPER looks beseechingly skywards. The OTHERS imitate them and giggle. Curtain falls: End of Act One.)


To read more about Brian & Julia's class, visit: http://www.playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=224
 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Inspiration, Deadlines & Candy Corn: Musings by Erin Bregman

After a weekend up in the California foothills, PF asked one of our Resident Playwrights, Erin Bregman, to write some thoughts about her writer's retreat. This is a sweet response, pun intended. 
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When asked the dreaded question what inspires you to write?’, I immediately
pull out my ready-made, slightly scrappy retort: Deadlines. But if the
latest (and first!) Resident Playwrights Retreat reminded me of anything,
it’s that my oldest writing companion is not plain old last minute panic. It
is last minute panic infused with a faithful yet unpredictable
companion--Sugar.

My relationship with writing on Sugar began in college, when my
writing-on-a-deadline routine started with a quick trip to the corner store
where I would purchase a small bag of jelly bellies. Thus armed, I would
return to my room and write, popping a jelly belly every time I got stuck. I
got stuck often. The test was, could I finish the assignment before the bag
was empty, or would I be left feeling sick on Sugar without having produced
anything worthwhile?

As my Productivity to Sugar-sick ratio dropped, I all but abandoned the
routine, replacing the jelly bellies with popcorn, then cereal, then tea. On
the occasions when we did tackle a project again together, Sugar and I were
always either one of two things: wildly successful, or absolute failures.

So it was that I sat myself down in front of a large bowl of candy corn at
the latest (and first!) Resident Playwrights Retreat with more than a little
trepidation. Now, I know candy corn is perceived as an untouchable to many
food-consuming people out there, but for some reason I find it irresistible.
I opened my notebook, and popped a candy corn. Sugar and I were back.

The thing about writing on Sugar is that it facilitates, at its best,
writing quickly and without over-thinking. Such a strategy can either write
your play for you in record time, or write you straight off a cliff. Sixty
minutes into my candy corn frenzy, I saw the cliff. From about 10,000 feet
below. It was abundantly clear I had gone in the wrong direction with this
draft, and would have to start over. That seemed like a lot of work for the
moment, so instead I grabbed another candy corn, stood up, and went to ask
the wise Jonathan Spector for advice.

My candy corn experience at the latest (and first!) Resident Playwrights
Retreat may have felt like a complete failure in the moment, but looking
back I would have to call it a huge success. In a mere sixty minutes I
scrapped an entire draft, and made the not so easy decision to go back to
the beginning and start over. The result? I now have a vastly improved,
completely re-worked play that is one giant step closer to being finished.
Thanks, Sugar. I owe you one.


***************************************************************
Erin Bregman's play TVA KAMILA premiered at the 2010 Bay Area Playwrights Festival this past summer. To read more about Erin, and about our Resident Playwrights, visit: http://www.playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=72