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Episode 21

AND THEN . . .

"What's going on here?"

Shhhh, whisper! Thanks for coming by. I wanted to personally hand you the signed lease on the theatre. Here it is, all proper and legal, Mr. Landlord.

"You could have mailed this. I didn't need to come by and pick it up. What are you up to? What's going on? Who are all these people?"

The people on stage are actors. Drema Paige was kind enough to put together a quick, informal reading of your libretto for Neverland. Nothing fancy you understand, we just wanted to hear it straight through. We've already discovered a number of places to spot the songs. I'm talking to a couple of composers and lyricists who may join the project.

"That couple over there. Are they - "

I invited Betty and Adolph to sit in and give me their opinions. They seem to like it so far.

"Comden and Green?"

Yes. Unfortunately, Jerry couldn't make it tonight. Be quiet and sit down. They're going into the next scene.

Scene 6

Anybody who knows Billy Finn will tell you he never ran away from a problem. But, this was more than a problem. This was a situation. You see, Rosalie - she's the girl in this story - Rosalie kept on telling me that I was a good enough singer and dancer to get a job in the chorus of a Broadway musical. And when Rosalie tells you something - she's got these big brown eyes that stare right into your soul when she's telling you something - you want to believe what she's saying more than anything. Well, that's how I ended up letting her drag me to this audition. See, that's the stage door of the theater right over there. And you know what, I made the first cut. And so did she. And then, after waiting around for a while, they looked at us again and we both made the second cut. It looked like our dreams were coming true.

ROSALIE (offstage)
Billy? Billy, where are you?

That's Rosalie. She'll be coming out that stage door any second now looking for me. And she's going to be mad because I disappeared on her. They want to hear Rosalie and me read a scene out of this script - it's a big show and they tell me all the chorus are going to have to play the small parts - and I can't do it. I just can't do it.

ROSALIE (offstage)
Billy Finn, why are you hiding on me?

I read the scene they want us to act and . . . I can't say these words. You see, Rosalie doesn't know . . . I haven't told her yet . . .

ROSALIE (at door)

Over here.

Billy, what are you doing out here? They're almost ready to hear us read. You had me scared to death.

I'm sorry.

If we hurry, we can still run through the scene once. I'm so excited! Are you ready?

I can't.

Astonishing, isn't it, to hear the words you've written come alive on a stage? I'm glad you're here to see this, even though you're not actually involved anymore. I've often thought this, the first reading, is where the magic really starts.

"Shhhh, I want to hear this."

I can't.


I know how much this means to you, but I -

Of course you can. Don't be silly. You've been helping me run my lines for months. I know you can do it. I've heard you.

That was just fooling around. This is -

Billy, you're good. You're a lot better than you think you are. Trust me? Please?

Do you think, if I ask, they would let us read a different scene?

"The kid playing Billy, he's not doing it right. His reading is all wrong. There's no irony in that line. Billy's suppose to be too naive at this point to understand asking to read a different scene - "

Shhhh. It's just a read through. It's all part of the process.

Are you crazy? Let's just read this scene through real quick. I don't want to hear of your nonsense. You're a young soldier in a field hospital. I'm the nurse. I come in and wake you from your nightmare. You have the first line. Let's go.

I can't.


He's talking about the battle and his best friend dying in his arms.

It's a great speech.

Have you ever had someone you loved die in your arms?

No. That's why it's called acting.

Rosalie . . . you don't understand . . . I can't.

Billy. Where are you going? Billy, come back here. They're ready for us. Billy. Billy! Come back.

"No, no, no, no, no. That's not the way this scene needs to be played. Rosalie is supposed to - "

Shhhhh. You're disturbing people. Come on, if you want to say something, let's step out to the lobby.

"Let's go. I want you to know your plot is not going to work."

My plot?

"Getting me here under false pretenses, hoping to get me involved with this show again."

I assure you, nothing was further from my mind.

"Yeah, right."

Besides, your contribution is finished. The composer and lyricists take it from here. After they pull what they need from the libretto, it'll be easy to find someone to tighten up what's left.

"No. I wrote a serious play, not the book of a musical. I won't have it chopped to pieces. And judging from what I've just seen in there, I'm not sure you're the right producer for this project. If you want to use my play, I want a production of it as a play first. Then we'll talk about making it a musical."

Dear boy, you really should read the contracts you sign. Remember last week when you were moving all your stuff out of the office? You were in such a hurry, you signed every piece of paper I put in front of you. Here, you didn't take your copy of the contract then, so I thought I'd bring it to you tonight. Read it and you'll see you've signed over everything to me. I now own this play lock, stock, and barrel. I don't even have to give you credit as the author if I don't choose to. After all, weren't you the one who said you didn't want anything further to do with the play, with me, or with the theatre?

"You can't do this!"

Look again. I just did.

"You fuckin' bastard!"

Well, yes, that is part of a producer's job description.

"My lawyers will have something to say about this."

By all means show it to them. They'll find it ironclad and watertight. I've been in this business long enough to know how to put together a good contract.

"I don't believe you're doing this."

I would prefer not to conduct business this way. However, you made that impossible by walking out. Oh, and this was delivered for you after you moved out. It looks like an interesting book. Even though you're no longer interested in writing for the theatre, you might want to read it.

The Playwright's Process: Learning the Craft from Today's Leading Dramatists is the first and only manual for playwrights ever designed to draw directly from the wisdom of leading contemporary dramatists. Interwoven with hundreds of quotations from the author's own in-depth interview series at the Dramatists Guild, in New York City, The Playwright's Process offers a fresh and lively discussion of the indispensable ingredients of strong dramatic writing. Every essential step the writer must take to create a well-written, stageworthy play is examined and explored. Also mining his own experience as a dramatist and a teacher of playwriting, author Buzz McLaughlin details the entire process of developing the kernel of an idea into a fully realized play - from the writer's very first jottings to the readings and workshops that lead to a professional production. A resource for beginning and experienced writers, The Playwright's Process is a virtual guided tour of the dramatist's challenging and often mysterious creative process, chock-full of specific techniques, practical exercises, and candid observations on craft and method straight from the mouths of working, award-winning playwrights.

The Playwright's Process: Learning the Craft from Today's Leading Dramatists
by Buzz McLaughlin
List: $18.95
Published by Back Stage Books
ISBN: 0823088332


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