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Episode 7


Good morning. Sorry I'm late. I stopped off at the book store.

"I had a feeling you would. I picked up coffee and doughnuts."

Chocolate frosted?

"With sprinkles."

I've been thinking. . . .

"So have I. There's something I need to say."

You first.

"I realized last night that ever since we've been working together, I've treated this producing thing sort of like a game."

I know.

"Well, ever since I found the theatre space a couple of days ago, I've realized it isn't."


"I want to get serious about all of this; producing and building the theatre and everything."

What changed your mind?

"Wandering around that empty building, planning how to fit in the stage and seats and dressing rooms, all of a sudden it was all so real. This is something we can do. You and me, together."

You didn't think so before?

"I never really thought about it before. A theatre was some place you went to see a show. It never occurred to me to wonder why it looked the way it did, why it was arranged so carefully in a specific way, what elements had to be present for it to be a working and workable theatre."

What a theatre is and what it means and represents?

"Yeah. It's a building, but it's more than a building. That doesn't make any sense, does it?"

It makes a lot of sense. Your eyes are opening.

"I want to make a theatre happen. I want to make a theatre exist where one never existed before."

You want to make a hat.


It's from a musical.

"What is?"

Making a hat. It's a lyric. You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?


Okay. You've just impressed me more than you know.

"Why do you do this to me? It's like you're talking in some secret language! It's like there's some big inside joke that nobody will explain!"

Calm down. You want to learn this secret language?

"More than I've ever wanted anything. I realize, just from what you've shown me in this last week, that there's more to theatres and plays and musicals than I ever imagined existed. Teach me, Master Yoda!"

First, there's only one Master and he writes musicals.

"See, right there! Explain what you're talking about."

In a minute. Second, what the hell is a Yoda?

"You don't go to movies?"

Branagh's Shakespeare films are quite good.

"Never mind. All of a sudden I think you need me as much as I need you."

The same thought has occurred to me.

"Is that what you've been thinking about?"

Part of it. First, I've decided I will help you put together your theatre.


But only if we work together. You teach me what I need to know about the architectural and construction side of building in New York City. I teach you what a performance space is. And we make all the decisions together. Agreed?

"You got it!"

But at the same time you've got to learn how to produce plays and musicals.

"You've been teaching me that already."

I've been ordering you around, having you do things without understanding why you're doing them. It's not the same thing.

"Hey, I'm learning."

You've been learning the how not the why. If we are going to work together, it's going to be as equals. I want a full partner, not an associate producer.

"I think I'm getting a little misty."

If you start crying, the whole deal's off. Stop that!

"Whatever you say, partner."

We need to deal with all these scripts you called in. I've done the first cut and returned the junk. We still have 41 plays to read. You are going to read half of them. You have a question?

"I was gonna say I don't know anything about reading plays. But you said you've just come from the book store, didn't you?"

Yes. Very perceptive of you. Here you go.

"Only 96 pages?"

Ninety-six pages chock full of pure wisdom. David Ball's Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays is based on methods he developed while working as Literary Director at the Guthrie Theater. Ball looks at the craft playwrights use to make their plays stageworthy. He shows you how to discover what the playwright considers the play's most important elements, thus letting you evaluate the play based on its foundation rather than its details.

"Say that again."

Let me see if I can explain this another way. You know architecture and construction, right?


Can just anyone take a look at a set of blueprints and understand the construction of a building or what it will look like when it's done?

"Hell no. It takes years to learn how to interpret blueprints."

Can you read blueprints?

"Yes. I'm not as good as some builders are, but I can get a pretty accurate picture of the building by studying the prints."

Think of a play as a set of blueprints. A lot of what ends up on stage isn't on the page, but the basic structure, the framework must be. When you read a play, you need to know how to look beyond all the frills and bells and whistles and see that framework.

"I thought you were supposed to look for pretty speeches and funny. . . ."

That's literature. We're talking workable drama here.


When reading a play the first thing you look for is the framework. Only if it is present and complete and strong enough do you start looking at the other details.

"And that's what Backwards and Forwards is going to teach me how to do?"

Hopefully. Any of these 41 plays without a good strong framework go in the reject pile.

"Does everyone look for structure first?"

No, but I do. I know my target audience.

"Then what?"

We take a good long look at what's left. We may find our playwright for Neverland. We could also be lucky enough to find a play to option for production later on.

"Sounds like a plan to me."

And tomorrow we take another look at your building. But we make two stops first. Make that three.

"Is one of them a book store?"

How did you know?

"Just took a wild guess. What are the other two?

You'll see tomorrow. And afterwards, your life will never be the same. I'm going to introduce you to the two great temples of theatre knowledge and history in New York.

"You're jewish?"

Not that kind of temple, you idiot.

"Okay. Just kidding."

I almost whish I was you.


So I could experience again what you are going to see and feel tomorrow for the first time. You shall know great wonders you never imagined existed in your wildest dreams! Wear comfortable shoes.

Book Image


Backwards and Forwards:
A Technical Manual for Reading Plays

by David Ball
List: $9.95
Published by Southern Illinois University Press
ISBN: 0809311100


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