OKAY, WHAT WOULD YOU NAME IT . . .
"Thanks for stopping by. Here's your hard hat."
I got your message. Do I really have to wear this thing?
"Yes. This is a construction site, remember. Everybody wears one."
How do I look?
"Like a guy wearing an expensive suit and a silly yellow plastic hat."
Just don't let me walk out of here still wearing it.
"This is what I wanted to show you. If you go by the original blueprints, this is only the second floor. But if you count the mezzanine (our balcony) as the second floor, then this is really the third floor."
And with the dropped stage floor, the actors would have to climb two and a half floors of stairs to get from the stage to their dressing rooms, and vice versa?
"That's bad, right?"
"There is an elevator, but it doesn't work. If we could get it running and certified, would that solve the problem?"
Is it accessible from the stage door?
"If we put the stage door entrance right next to the theatre lobby, yes."
Could we have a door between the outer lobby and the stage door vestibule?
Then this sounds pretty good. Let's do it. What else?
"Take a look at all the offices on this floor. I've had the crew clean them up and slap on a coat of white paint so we could see what we have."
But there's . . . do all these rooms have a sink in them?
"It looks like this floor rented as doctor's offices and examining rooms in the 50s and 60s. We have eight 12 foot by 18 foot rooms, each with a window and sink with hot and cold running water. What would you think of using these as the actor's dressing rooms?"
12 x 18 gives 216 square feet per room. If you figure a minimum of 16 square feet per person, which means that each dressing room can accommodate 12 actors. 12 actors times eight dressing rooms theoretically give us space for 96 actors.
"You want to put a dozen people in a room this size?"
No. But legally we could if we wanted to. What about toilets?
"Two rest rooms at that end of the hall, each with a toilet and sink. At this end of the hall we have two rooms which were probably the doctor's offices, each with a private toilet and sink."
Could you put a couple of cheap plastic shower stalls in each of these offices?
"Easily. Why showers?"
Nothing makes an actor feel loved as much as a hot shower.
"We would need to put in a couple of hot water heaters for the showers."
Okay. That gives us two toilets and showers for the men and the same for the women. What are these other rooms down here?
"Looks like the doctor's reception rooms. No sinks."
Big rooms. We could use one of them as the Green Room.
"What about the other one?"
Costume Room if we can install a washing machine and dryer.
"That would mean running more plumbing. Would we need another hot water heater?"
Tap off of one of the shower heaters. They won't be in use at the same time.
"Shouldn't be any problem then."
What about electrical?
"It's all old ungrounded. Cheaper to abandon the existing wiring and put in all new grounded service."
"We're going to have to rewire the whole building anyway. It's all going to be surface mount which should save us a little money."
Can you run the wiring for the speakers at the same time?
Each one of these rooms and the hall needs a speaker connected to the Stage Manager's call desk near the stage. We also should run a video feed to a monitor in the Green Room, taping off of the stage camera. If it's not too expensive, we might want to run the sound through the dressing room speakers so the actors can listen to the performance in progress.
"What other sort of communications do we need?"
Let me get in touch with a couple of people I know to see what they would recommend. I'll get back to you tomorrow.
"Sooner the better."
So what's the big problem with all this? It all looks very straightforward to me.
"If we use this floor for the dressing rooms, we won't have a fly space over the stage."
That's right. You originally planned to remove this floor above the stage, didn't you?
"But it makes more sense and is a lot cheaper to do it this way. Can we do without fly space?"
What's the stage height now?
"28 feet floor to ceiling. If we subtract three feet for the stage platform and another four feet for an independent hanging grid, that only leaves us with an open height of around 21 feet."
Well, the set and lighting designers will hate us, and the technicians won't be too happy. But, I've seen off Broadway theatres work with less. At least we get an excellent dressing room layout with this option. I'd say go with it.
"Sounds like a plan to me."
Have you given any thought to the name?
What are you going to name our theatre?
"Uhhh . . . we do sorta need a name, don't we?"
"What would you name it?"
No. This is your baby. You decide on the name.
"Theatres are named after somebody, aren't they?"
Most of the time, yes.
"Somebody in the business, like actors or writers, right?"
"I don't know."
Think about it. And, by the way, I have something for you. It's your second playwriting book.
"But, I thought you said . . ."
That I wouldn't give it to you until you finished your credo, yes. You left the draft on your desk in the office this morning. I read it.
"It's not finished. I've only been working on it for about a week now. I need more time."
A week ago you didn't want to write it all.
"A guy can change his mind, can't he?"
Certainly. What changed yours?
"I don't know. I didn't want to write it. Nothing was coming until I started thinking about what makes me mad. Once I started writing about what makes me mad, I couldn't stop."
I know. Fifty pages and you're still going strong. I had no idea you felt so strongly about people who take advantage of other people, predators as you call them. How does that work with your theory that Billy Finn's problem is that he doesn't trust people, doesn't fit in anywhere?
"Isn't it obvious?"
Maybe, but I want to hear you explain it.
"Billy is keenly aware of what you could call his disadvantaged childhood. This, coupled with the loss of his brother at an early age, which makes it difficult for him to ever trust anyone, makes any relationship almost impossible for him. He doesn't believe that anyone could really like or love him for what he is. And, having been hurt himself, he finds it almost impossible to attempt a relationship because he can't face the possibility of hurting someone else if the relationship doesn't work. He can't stand the thought of causing anyone else emotional pain. He doesn't fit in because of his fear of turning into an emotional predator. Does that make sense?"
I can see how it could make sense. But it needs a lot of work.
"I know. Where do I go from here?"
The Elements of Playwriting by Louis E. Catron.
"Is this the same guy who wrote the last book?"
Yes. In the first one you got the background you need. The Elements of Playwriting is more specific about how you structure your ideas to make them stageworthy. You're ready for this book now.
Louis Catron, the highly regarded teacher, author, and playwright, has created an exceptional book. Addressing both the artistic and the utilitarian with equal regard, the book presents the basic principles of writing stageworthy plays, such as plot, dialogue, and character development, along with practical guidelines on working with actors and directors, getting produced and published, and finding an agent. It explores both how to write plays and what it means to be a playwright - from turning ideas into plays and structuring a play's action to creating dimensional characters and understanding the varying demands of monodramas, one-acts, and full-length plays. Throughout, the author emphasizes creating stageworthy plays and favors concrete advice over theory. In addition to insights on what producers, directors, actors, and audiences look for in plays, he includes numerous examples from classical and modern plays, exercises the budding playwright can use to sharpen and develop skills, directions for typing a script in the proper format, and advice on a subject too often neglected: evaluating and revising the play. At once inspirational and practical, The Elements of Playwriting is an essential reference for beginning and experienced playwright alike, and an invaluable resource for anyone involved in the art and craft of theatre.
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