Monthly Archives: September 2013

Danny G Writes Plays: Forging the Team

Okay. That last post has held the front page long enough. Time to move past sad tales of past failures and resume my look through my old scripts–oh. Right. Well at least these were mistakes I did learn from.

Ladies and gentlemen, Forging the Team.

What’s it about?

Ed, Amy, and Les have been collaborating for years. Their goal? To one day produce their own comic book. Ed writes plots, Amy scripts, and Les draws. Ed also acts as the gang’s agent, and he’s landed a pitch meeting with Impact Comics. They’re going to have their chance to pitch their own super hero team: they just need to decide what that team’s going to be. Ed thinks they should sell a team he came up with: The American Freedom League, greatest heroes of the 1950s.

Les is obsessed with visuals, too tied up in what looks good on the page to have any idea what makes for good characters or stories. By way of a for instance, Les creates The Sketcheristo, a hero whose drawings come alive. His name isn’t the only problem: he’s also an unrepentant Nazi war criminal.

Amy is busy tearing down the few characters of Ed’s that Impact has liked, trying to subvert standard comic stories and inject more feminism. She finds Supreme Avenger too derivative of Superman, thinks the sexual tension between occultist The Blue Witch and scientist The Astounding Professor Night too cliche, and resents that Blue Witch is the team’s only woman and is called “sultry” right off the bat. Ed worries that her less crowd-friendly ideas might put off Impact, but she fights him at every step.

Ed must not only assemble the perfect team of heroes to pitch to the company, he must also find a way to forge the three friends into a true creative team.

See what I did with the title, there?

Whew. No Premise Beach at all this time. Okay. Good start.

So why’d that happen?

Short answer is “It was my final project for playwriting class in University,” but that’s a dull answer.

It’s likely no surprise, given how many opinions I have about Batman, that I’m a comic book geek. I was also running a superhero-based role playing game with my friends. So, needing a subject for a one-act play (final project and all that), I decided to tap into that world. Play around there. And for super hero character concepts, including many of Les’ hilariously bad ideas, I looked no further than my role players. After all, these were the people who, when asked to make characters for a super team in pre-civil rights Cold War America, came up with an African prince, a Nazi war criminal and a Russian communist named Glastnost Guy.

Comic gold, even for people who don’t follow the Justice League.

How’d it turn out?

For starters, I had never seen our teacher laugh as hard as when Les pulled out Sketcheristo. So I’ve got that going for me.

The premise is solid, and many of the jokes work great. The actor who played Ed in the two festivals I entered this in has been bugging me for years to remount it, so clearly the script has its strengths, mostly the comedic beats. And it got me an A, or at least an A-, in the course, so it can’t be all bad.

However.

Amy’s feminism is played as barely more legitimate than Les’ terrible character ideas. Her desire to fill the team with something other than burly white dudes is an obstacle Ed must overcome, even though he does ultimately concede and the fifth character that they add to the team is a second woman. In today’s age of rape threats being lobbed at any feminist critic who dares to claim there is gender inequality in comics or video games; a time when accusations of “fake geek girl” get lobbed at women for trying to express their love of geeky things; a time when Batman has four comics to himself, Superman has three, Wolverine is in more comics than actually exist some weeks, but Wonder Woman can’t get a second book unless she splits it with Superman, Amy’s portrayal is… jarring. Uncomfortable. These controversies weren’t in full bloom when I wrote this 14 years ago, but comic books were still a massive boys’ club, and the fact is that Amy is raising more valid points than anyone else in this script. And yet Ed is our noble protagonist.

It’s a cute story with a few great laughs, but it aged badly in ways I did not anticipate.

Would you stage it again?

The core concept works, and many of the jokes are funny, but I would be hesitant to bring this one back to the stage without some overhauling. First off, I no longer buy Ed as the protagonist. I’m not saying he couldn’t be, but right now, reading the script, I’m not sure I buy it. If he’s the glue that holds the team together, I should be able to see that sooner than the very end.

Second, the play is split into four scenes: one prior to the initial pitch meeting, and three others set in the 20 hours or so between that meeting and the follow-up where Ed needs to present a full team. This means that every time some sort of conflict begins to arrive, Ed calls for a break and we flash forward a few hours. This… does not work. Not really. If I were to take another spin at it, I’d instead say that Ed has landed a pitch meeting with Impact Comics, but it’s in one hour. They have one hour to get this done. Let the looming deadline turn up the pressure from minute one, then let the cracks start to form, instead of cutting to black every time the story gets out of second gear.

And last… maybe Amy should be the protagonist. She’s the one challenging the team to do something new and interesting, while Ed just wants to parrot what already works and thinks that’s something to be proud of. Seriously, every time Amy says one of his ideas is unoriginal he comes back with, basically, “But we’re in comics, so it’s okay.” I make… I make so many troubling points in this script. It’s confusing and unsettling to realize.

At the very least, I cannot play Amy’s desire to see some attempt at gender equality in the comic she herself is being asked to write as something that’s holding the team back. The way it’s written now is at best ignoring an opportunity to attack the various misogynist attitudes plaguing geek culture. At worst, it’s condoning those attitudes. And that’s not the side I want to be on.

Also Amy and Ed’s opening argument over which book is better, Justice League or Avengers, might establish their “writer vs. artist” dynamic but it uses specific stories from the late 90s as examples, and as such reads hella dated now. Might want something more abstract there.

Repeated theme alerts

  • “Man and woman cannot be friends.” In the play’s final 30 seconds, Les realizes that Amy once had a crush on him, but since he didn’t seem interested she moved on. Something he now considers a great injustice. Not sure why that’s there. I mean, the play was basically over. Where did that come from.
  • “Writing about writers.” Two thirds of the characters in the script are writers. It begins.
  • Debatable Simpsons quote on page 45. Definite Simpsons quote seven lines later. Still doing that, huh?
  • My wordplay has a definite style at this point. Just… not a great one.

Next time, an attempt to recapture the Trigger Dandy spirit with apathetic superheros. Bite down on something, it’s gonna sting.

An open letter to long ago

So the other day I officially entered my late 30s. It’s… it’s a complex thing to process. And tends to spark a certain amount of reflection. We’ll get to how I moved from writing about plays to writing about comic books soon. But for now, I hope you’ll forgive me if I switch gears and allow shit to get real for a moment.

Feel free to skip this and come back next time. For now… if you’ll bear with me, there’s an old pain I’d like to try to let go of. An old friend to say good-bye to, even though she will almost certainly never, ever read this. Anyway. Let’s begin.

A long, long time ago

Has it really been nine years since I first saw you? In the parking lot outside the theatre. I don’t know that we spoke. Not for long. But there was something about you, even then. I liked you right away. Not that I told you that. Not that I could tell you that. I can jump out of a plane, I can give a group of people something I wrote and watch them tear it to pieces so I can improve, and time and money permitting I would happily hit the airport and jump on a plane to anywhere with an hour’s notice. But I cannot run a marathon, climb Everest, start a conversation with strange women or tell someone that I like them. Never learned how, and while the process seems easy enough to pick up (just run now and again, and each time try to run a little further, how hard is that), I can’t get past the notion that the training process is going to be savagely unpleasant. Seems so valid when I say it. Never seems as valid when I hear it.

I didn’t talk to you that time. Or the time after, at your coffee shop. But then you were in the show, and I got to see you three times a week. At least. And we’d talk. We’d bond. I liked you the moment I saw you, and I liked you more as I got to know you.

I should have told you.

I should have hugged you when you were sad about being stood up at a performance. I should have driven you home from the wrap party like you thought I was going to. But more than that I should have told you how I felt. We talked until six in the morning one night, I should have said one thing that mattered. The only thing that mattered.

Because you deserved to know. Because hiding it was dishonest. Because keeping it to myself was killing me. The vending machine and the bear. But back then, sometimes it seemed like I was only happy when I was talking to you. Seemed a shame to ruin that by inducing the gut-churning terror of even thinking about telling you I was falling in love with you.

But I should have told you. Before it was too late. And I believe, I do believe that there was a time before it was too late. A time of hugs and hangouts and extremely late-night chats. A time when I could have taken you out and gone for the kiss and I think I might have succeeded. But there was most definitely a time when it was too late. And a time when it was way too late. And that’s the time I picked.

And now you’re gone. Far away. Not too far, a person could drive there in a day if they started before dawn, but it feels farther than it is. Because it’s not the physical distance. It’s the fact that I can never talk to you again. Over four and half years later and it still stings sometimes. I wish I could call you. Text you. Visit you. Know how you’re doing. But I can’t. And I have no one to blame but myself, my own cowardice, my own failures.

I don’t think of you often. Not every day. But sometimes. And I miss you when I do. I never wanted things to end this way, with sudden silence and a farewell you’ll never see, and yet somehow I managed to do everything necessary to make sure it couldn’t end any other way. And if our friendship had meant something to you, and I think it did once, then I took that away from you.

So I’m sorry. I’m sorry for lying, if only through omission. I’m sorry for hiding behind excuses. I’m sorry I didn’t give you the respect you deserved. I’m sorry that I hurt one of my best friends enough that I’ll never see you again. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t even be bothered to learn something from this and did it all again two years after I lost you forever.

Some regrets haunt you, kids. Some regrets haunt you and you’ll never really be free of them. And it’s the things you didn’t do that really get to you. Guess that’s the moral.

Next time something fun, I promise.

Danny G Writes Plays: Pride and Prima Donnas

If this were an “inside baseball” examination of plays I have worked on, the actual performances, this would be when the story gets dark. This would be when my first theatre company split in two, like the Mystics and the Skeksis in Dark Crystal. Fortunately it is not. Just talkin’ about the scripts. So, without further ado (my stores of ado are low today anyhow) here’s Pride and Prima Donnas.

What’s it about?

Okay. New leaf here. No angels, demons, or shadow governments. Just normal people with normal people problems. Shouldn’t need Premise Beach at all.

Director David Locke has returned to his home town after a stint in New York, and is back working for his old theatre company alongside his producer friend Jacob Garrison. For David’s first show back, Jacob’s picked out something special… Dance Into the Fire: The Duran Duran Rock Opera.

PREMISE!

Here we go.

So close. I was so close. But, since we’re here… Doctor Simon Duran builds himself a love android, Electric Barbarella, but then falls for Rio, who he sees dancing on the sand. In a fit of jealously, Electric Barbarella kills Rio, then Duran, then herself. A tragic love story set to synth-pop hits of the early 80s. What’s not to like?

Anyhoo, before long David’s been introduced to his crew, stage manager and loyal soldier Caitlin Markov and tech director Ted O’Shea, and has to assemble his cast. As Doctor Duran, Monroe Morrison, veteran of the dinner theatre circuit prone to clowning around and ad-libbing. As the Baladeer, arrogant Method actor Shane Thompson. As Rio, former chorus girl Lena. And as the android, Tiffany Neuworth, whose bubbly, cheerful, seemingly airheaded exterior masks the fact that she’s a gifted performer and possibly the smartest person in the company. It doesn’t take long for the cracks to form.

Shane and Monroe hate each other immediately as their acting styles mix like cheese and diesel. Jacob is trying everything he can to get in bed with Tiffany, or at least get her naked on stage. Lena and Ted start an affair that quickly turns sour. And David has difficulty masking his contempt for the show and everyone in it. Well, except Caitlin and Tiffany. Tensions build to a head as rehearsals continue.

So why’d that happen?

David Locke was my first spin at an archetype I’d play with a couple more times over the next few years: the guy who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and expresses that through hopefully amusing angry rants. I’ll cover why I gave that up later, but at the time, David served as a vehicle to satirize the theatrical process.

Write what you know, they say, and theatre was what I knew, what I’d known for nearly all of the 90s. I’d seen shows threatened when the lead actors broke up, last minute recasts, successes and failures of differing acting techniques, and the beautiful miracle of a cast coming together and making something wonderful. So I decided to try writing about it.

As to the show within the show. My musical upbringing was… difficult. I missed out on the popular music of my youth as my parents were trying to raise me on country and folk music. My rehabilitation was… difficult, and involved some regrettable choices in the late 80s, but the point is that I didn’t actually get into the pop music of my youth until university. Toto, Soft Cell, Thomas Dolby, maybe I’d heard them here and there back in the day, but they were all like new discoveries. And my favourite? Duran Duran. So I conceived a musical based around their hits to serve as the backdrop for the script.

How’d it turn out?

This is another script that’s been put up a couple of times. As such, it’s had some revisions, but unlike Apocalypse it was ultimately a case of adding rather than cutting or replacing. Additional moments to further flesh out the cast and crew. Additional chaos to the end of act one, where everything truly begins to collapse. The scene had opened with four simultaneous arguments, each taking turns playing out, a device better suited to television or movies, something where cuts and edits can happen, rather than stage, where people have to stand awkwardly until it’s their turn to talk again. So I blended the dialogue together, making them all flow into each other. Much better effect, but way harder on the cast. Which one day I might be persuaded to care about.

Ultimately I think it works well. It’s not a full on farce; too many breaks in the pacing, especially with the new material. In order to fully explore the characters I needed to take the occasional breather from rehearsal antics and just let the cast talk to each other. And, reading it now, those are some of the better scenes, so trying to push it to full farce would be a disservice. It’s the moments when David stops yelling at his cast and starts being a person, revealing his passion for theatre, that the audience gets any investment in Dance Into the Fire being a success. And without that I’d just be wasting everyone’s time.

So by and large I’d still call it a success, but there is one detail, one flaw I refused to see throughout both productions. For the climax, I included a montage of scenes from the musical to show that they’ve pulled off the show. Various people suggested cutting it over the years. I didn’t listen. It didn’t help that one of the primary voices suggesting the sequence be cut had a tendency to equate “simpler” with “better,” the same logic that led to a blown sight gag when I directed Two Guys the season Pride was remounted. After letting that logic screw up the horde of ninjas, I was in no mood to hear anything remotely similar to “don’t do it, because it might be hard.”

In addition, one other factor drove me to include the scenes from the play. In Kevin Smith’s film Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck steps forward at a town hall meeting to deliver an impassioned speech to the townsfolk. As he starts talking, his voice fades out and the music swells up, and his big speech is not heard, but simply implied in the reactions of the crowd. Which to me felt like cheating. Cheating, and a little bit of cowardice. I was convinced that to make a show about a Duran Duran rock opera and never show any of it was like doing a Star Trek movie with no spaceships in it. However, after the second run was complete, another writer friend, whose first novel is great and available for purchase right this second, explained my error.

In the end, the show goes spectacularly. So everyone claims as they rush off stage to the sound of applause. By deciding to show clips from the play, I put the responsibility of earning that conclusion on the show’s cast. In short, the selected scenes actually have to be spectacular or the entire ending feels hollow. Whereas if we don’t see the actual production, it can be every bit as amazing as the audience can imagine. So, yeah… the smart thing would have been to use cheering and applause as a sound cue, and let the assume assume it all worked out.

Would you stage it again?

Probably, yeah. I’d revisit David’s dialogue a bit. If he must be angrily ranting at the cast the whole time, I’m convinced it can be better. And I’d take all the scenes from the show within the show and scatter them throughout the rehearsals. That way, we still get to see bits of the show, avoiding that feeling of copping out on the premise, but still leaving the final product up to the audience’s imaginations.

Overall though, I’m still fairly happy with it, and it’s part of a cycle of connected plays that starts with Two Guys and continues through two more scripts we’ll be talking about down the road, all sharing characters who are part of the theatre group staging Dance Into the Fire.

This show also tends to spark interest in seeing the rock opera itself. I’ve never given it a whirl, but that has less to do in my interest in writing the show and way more to do with my interest in not getting sued by Simon Le Bon. If I thought there were a way to stage it with the blessing of the band (and their label, who likely hold more sway over the song rights), I might go for it, as I do have a vision of how it might go. The actress who played Caitlin (both times) had a different vision, and took a shot at getting the rights to make it, but it proved a stickier wicket than she’d hoped. I think she used an internet site to apply for the rights to use the necessary Duran Duran songs, but got told that the rights to the works of Queen were unavailable. An answer that’s like the movie Tree of Life: confusing and of no use to anyone.

Repeated Theme Alerts

  • “Man and Woman Can Never Be Friends.” It’s not enough for David to respect Caitlin professionally, he has to ask her out in the end. She says no. He takes it well.
  • “Plays about plays.” The second time this trope reared its head, and the only time where none of the characters are writers. I can only assume it’s because in 1999 I hadn’t yet become a devotee of Aaron Sorkin and his fondness for writing about writers.

Next time in this series… the superhero/supervillain period. It starts better than you’d think.

Danny G Writes Plays: Apocalypse Soonish

I accidentally forgot to blog for like two weeks after my “I’m a white dude and here’s why I’ve failed to care about non-white dude problems” post. Clever, Dan. Leave that one up just as long as possible. So to make it up to you, gonna try to burn through a few “Danny G Writes Plays” posts all quick-like.

Also I want to rinse Illuminati in Love out of my brain. Blurgh.

And so, ladies and gents, Apocalypse Soonish.

What’s it about?

Twin siblings Michelle and Gerhardt “Gerry” Olin-Gellar learn that they are the Gog and the Magog, destined to lead the forces of Heaven and Hell in final battle at the end of time, scheduled for Thursday around 4:00.

PREMISE!

Again with this nonsense, Gibbins?

Alright alright alright. We’re currently at the apex of my “wacky premise” period. Anyway. The angel Uriel and the demon Uziel descend/ascend to Earth to inform Michelle and Gerry (and Michelle’s amorous best friend Steve) of their roles as Magog and Gog respectively, and introduce them to their generals: Azrael, the Destroyer, head of the Heavenly legion, and Kraken, the Other Destroyer (the perils of being introduced second). However, the prophecy is unclear over who is fighting for which side, and both sides find that they’d rather have the driven, focused Michelle and not the goofy slacker Gerry. Thus Michelle must choose which side she will fight for, with Uriel and Uziel trying to sell her on Heaven and Hell and Steve trying to convince her that neither side should get to rebuild the Earth in their own image.

Also, Azrael and Kraken are totally hooking up. Have been for decades if not centuries. I’d just seen Shakespeare in Love for the first time and was in the mood for some star-crossed romance.

And the Horseman of Death, referred to as Mr. Black, is keeping an eye on things.

So why did that happen?

I cannot deny the influence of David Belke’s Blackpool and Parrish. I want to. I have tried. I made the mythology more complex (the Gog and Magog angle having come pretty directly from the classic graphic novel Kingdom Come), created my own character dynamics, ensured that each character was my own creation and not resembling anyone from B&P… but there are still two people learning they’re leading the Apocalypse later in the week, and still a normal human caught in the middle trying to get the whole thing called off, and I even borrowed the (false) realization “I’m the anti-Christ” as a punchline bit that I’d loved when Belke wrote it, so… no. I cannot deny the influence of Blackpool and Parrish.

In the end I just thought the biblical apocalypse shenanigans were going to be a fun playground to write in, and I was basically right. Also, after Trigger Dandy, the Two Guys and their superspy Dirk Rhombus, Gary asking for dating tips from the Devil, and Alex Payton ruling the Destiny Syndicate, I decided it was high time for a female protagonist. A strong one if possible. I concocted an idea where a woman falls for and starts dating her best friend’s guardian angel, but it never really clicked and I abandoned it. Instead, Michelle Amy Georgia Olin-Gellar, MAGOG for short, came into being.

From there, it was about developing an angle, which eventually became primarily about free will, and the thesis that it cannot truly exist in a world of pure good or pure evil. From there, I found ways to make Hell seem more sympathetic than you’d expect, and Heaven much less so, while never quite painting either as a good choice for rebuilding the Earth.

How’d it turn out?

The first flaw people pull out is that “Gerhardt,” correctly pronounced with a hard G, would not shorten to “Gerry” with a soft G. My bad. After Gary and Greg in the last two plays, I was short on G names and needed one to spell “Gog.”

At the time people loved it. Said it was the best thing I’d ever written, which felt great as I was then unaware just how low the bar was. It’s still very jokey, and there are still pop culture references*, but less easily dated than Illuminati. Hell, we were able to remount this one almost three years later without having to rewrite every single pop culture reference to be more current.

But I did have to do some polishing for the 2002 production. I cut some of the jokes, smoothed out some bits that had made me cringe, added more free will stuff, and cut the Star Wars monologue in half, keeping the bit about the importance of choice and losing all the fluff and nonsense that had preceded it. And the director cut the Dragnet-esque “What happened to everyone” bit I’d had at the end on day one. The end result was smoother, sleeker and funnier, and created at least one decade-long fan.

Neither production ever played Mr. Black (Death) the way I’d envisioned. I’d always intended, as I wrote in the stage directions, that Mr. Black basically look like Agent Smith from the Matrix. Dark suit, very formal, slow and precise in speech. But since stage directions are the first thing any competent director throws out (I ignore stage directions that I, myself, wrote down, so why shouldn’t anyone else), both productions went the full Grim Reaper robe-scythe-hidden face route. That’s nothing to do with the script, just thought I’d mention it.

I dunno. In the end it’s… okay. Moderately funny, and funny is 90% of what it’s trying to be. It’s awfully talky, but then everything I write is fairly talky. It’s how I roll. Usually I make it work. Some of the ideas are neat, but the jokey feel to the dialogue is a bit smothering. It’s a distinct improvement over the last two, but looking back there were clearly still miles to go.

Repeated theme alert: “Man and woman can never be friends.” Michelle is and remains happy just being friends with Steve, but he wants something more. In this script, Steve’s hopes of a romantic relationship end up presented as harmless. To Michelle, anyway. Not sure I’d be able to play it that way again.

Would I stage it again?

A new feature I hadn’t thought to include before now, since the answers seemed so obvious to me. Trigger and Two Guys? I would and have remounted them both. Angel and Illuminati? No way. Apocalypse Soonish?

I once said that I wouldn’t be done staging this script until I’d played all the characters I could. See, after the vanity project that was Date With an Angel, Coffee With the Devil, I adopted the policy “Never write a character you wouldn’t play yourself,” and after giving it a whirl in Illuminati in Love I think I came way closer to pulling it off here. They’re all fun in their own way.

But I don’t know. The dialogue is just kind of awkward. I’m not certain how well the story or the climax holds up. In one script we’ll get to soon, I decided to only way to fix it was to burn it down and start over with the core concept, but I’m afraid that if you strip this one down you’re just going to end up with Blackpool and Parrish.

I’m way more fond of this script than the two that preceded it. But it’s still a clear product of my early period, before I learned some important lessons about humour, story, and character, and I’m not sure I’d want all those old bad habits dragged back out for people who’ve started to actually respect what I do to see. I think this script is like the old friend you meet for a coffee then don’t talk to for another 11 years. You don’t have anything against them, but… you’ve just moved on since then.

Next time… we encounter a whole new Danny G trope, “plays about making plays.”

*This time I made it all the way to page 54 before throwing in a Simpsons quote. Progress?

Danny G Writes Plays: Illuminati in Love

Okay. Now it gets real. Trigger Dandy and Two Guys have been performed enough and enjoyed enough I feel justified in calling them “classics,” and more to the point they’ve been done recently enough that I can remember them pretty solidly. But that’s over for a while. Now we’re at the point of my writing career when we’re not only talking about plays I’m less than fully proud of, but I have to read them first to discuss them properly.

Because I no longer have a copy of Date With an Angel, Coffee With the Devil, that’s why I didn’t read that one first.

Right. So. Illuminati in Love.

What’s it about?

We are solidly into the “wacky premise” period of my writing. So, here goes. Alex Payton is the current chairman of the Destiny Syndicate, a group of five people who form the shadow government that secretly controls the Earth. Alex rules North and Central America. Ariana Rigaldi rules Europe, Arcady Rachmaninoff controls Africa and the Middle East, Kimiko Takahashi handles Asia, and Vincent Hoffman gets what’s left of the southern hemisphere.

PREMISE!

Wacky premise, anyone?

In terms of my classic story structure, 1) Establish premise; 2) Hijinks ensue; 3) With sexy results, it goes like this. 1) Alex is secret ruler of mankind, a fact that is giving his best friend Greg an ulcer; 2) Alex meets Janice, a prosecuter, and they have their first date right as an unknown country tests a weapon of mass destruction unlike any the world has ever known; 3) Alex tries to win over Janice while discovering which of the Syndicate allowed this weapon to exist.

Hoo boy.

So why did that happen?

Two reasons. First, I wanted to create a character for Chris Munroe, who’d proven to be a comic asset in Two Guys and Date With and Angel. Specifically, I wanted to create a brandy-swilling Eurotrash supervillain type character for him, and that became Arcady.

Second, I wrote this back in 1998. I was not yet 22. But there’s more to it than the foolishness of youth. Two factors influenced this script. First, in my early 20s, I was deeply into conspiracy theories. Not in a paranoid, “they’re out to get us,” “chemtrails are mind control” way. I was just fascinated with the idea that the world might be weirder, more complex, and more exciting than we give it credit for. Second factor? I had just founded my own theatre company, which I was learning would put up whatever I wrote. So, I wrote this.

How’d it turn out?

I made it to page three before the cascade of references to pop culture and 1998 current events started to make me queasy*.

I had a problem with pop culture references for a long time. I thought they were funny. I saw Clerks and thought monologues about Star Wars were great writing. I was wrong. So wrong. I know that now. I did not know it then. I never thought about “will this script still work in twenty years,” just “will it be funny in six months.” And even then some of the pop culture references got stale between first readthrough and opening night. It took a while to give up that crutch completely, but it was never worse than this script. I think. I hope. And there are other problems as well.

Years after this, a friend taught me the difference between jokes and humour. Humour is creating a situation that’s inherently funny. A joke is taking a moment and giving it a punchline you hope is funny. Arrested Development is filled with humour. Two and Half Men relies on jokes. These days, if I want a scene to be funny, I go for humour. Back then, I really depended on jokes. Lots of jokes. I wish… man, but I wish more of them were funny.

Also Alex narrates chunks of the story. I have never really mastered narrators. And if I’m barely competent at it now, 15 years later? Just imagine how bad I was at it then. Actually no. Don’t imagine that. At all.

The meet-cute is weak. I put way too much stock in instant attraction (I was engaged to someone at the time, and it was very much a “love at first sight” story) and had little idea how to build an actual romance. And it shows from every step of this thing, from the fact that I’m assuming this relationship is worth fighting for when they’ve only had two-thirds of one date to the rushed way I get them back together in the end.

Yes, in the end she takes him back, thanks in part to a heartfelt speech in a gibberish language from a newt-like alien named Quoxl. Yeah, you read that right. Quoxl the newt-man. Weak sauce deus ex machina, yet possibly the most fondly remembered part of the whole show. Also Vincent built the super-bomb. The southern hemisphere guy. It’s painfully obvious it was Vincent from the moment he’s introduced and I don’t know why I ever thought it wasn’t.

So there we have it. My second solo script? I giant wad of easily-dated references to current events and pop culture surrounding a barely written rom-com. Ultimately I would call this a cautionary tale of every single habit I’ve worked to shake since. We had fun with it at the time, but it was mostly due to the cast. Several of the cast were great. I wish more of them had stuck around. But given the material we gave them I guess I can hardly blame them.

When next we visit this series, things improve with the end of the world.

*Made it to page 30 before I hit a Simpsons quote. That’s something, I guess.