A few weeks ago, a childhood friend recommended a book to me called Red Rising. I read it, and liked it, but couldn’t help but feel like there was nothing particularly original in it. Nearly every character, plot beat, and twist instantly conjured to mind another book or movie that had done the same thing, usually better. It felt like going to one of those New York City cafeteria’s like Bread & Butter, where nearly every food you could ever desire is available, but at a lower quality, and once you’ve consumed all that sushi and pasta and chicken wings and fruit salad to your heart’s content, you feel a little ill. By the end of this giant mashup of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Tooth of Crime, Star Wars, Divergent, Game of Thrones, and Red Faction, I felt like my imagination was left woefully unstretched.
But really, I enjoyed it. In that tub-of-ice-cream-kind-of-way (what’s with these food analogies?? I should go eat lunch… no wait, finish this.) The writing was fantastic, the exposition minimal, and the world-building was vivid. Heck, I’ve been thinking about it so much I even created my second tumblr just as a place to create memes about it. My reaction is similar to how I feel about The Hobbit films– deep inside there is something brilliant just struggling to get out, but man, it’s just not there.
Anyway, why am I talking about a book I read to preface a new play? Well my friends, inspired by my new-found hyper-awareness of common plot beats and character archetypes across dystopic tales, I wrote a satirical play making fun of it all. I tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum and have the play come from a place of genuine love for these kinds of stories– I hope I’ve succeeded. So far the common word I’m hearing from my readers is that it’s “fun.” Good adjective, that.
The last time I wrote a ‘parody play’ was my very first, La Salle d’Or, playing with the way stakes get pumped up in even the simplest stories. I took the story about a boy asking a girl to a school dance and morphed it into a larger-than-life quasi-musical about saving the world.
Nine years after that first play, I’ve decided this is both a comfortable and fruitful territory for me, so expect more genre send-ups in the future!
Dystopiapiapia was written and edited in a mad rush of 3 days (15 rough pages in one day, even dealing with a puppy foster dog!). It’s timely completion was aided very much by Nick Douglas at Slacktory in a Thursday evening of mutually-assured-writing. As I have every year since 2012, I used the deadline of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival to force myself to produce something new. No dice for the last two years, but maybe the third time’s a charm?
I’m actually quite happy with Dystopiapiapia and would love to see it get a production, so I’m going to pursue as many one-act competitions as I can. Ideally, an existing theater group would produce it and I could just enjoy watching it come to life, but honestly, I’m interested enough in making this happen that I would happily produce it through WhAT (like my Sims play) if the opportunity arose. Take a glance and let me know what you think!
I need to write more and submit more plays to more competitions. I’ve been telling this to myself since I came to live and work in NYC nearly 3 years ago. Thus far, the best I’ve been able to do is consistently submit to the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival every year. So yeah, shifting gears from all the board game design and architectural competitions I’ve been involved with over the past few months, I managed to craft a new short play.
This started when Liz and I were talking about how we should formally introduce ourselves to the new neighbors in our apartment building. Liz suggested that she might bake a pie for them. For some reason, my immediate reaction was — “Don’t do that! They’ll think it’s poisoned.” Why did I think they would think that? I have no idea. But it was a fun impetus to start writing about the kind of person that would immediately assume that a welcome pie from some neighborly neighbors was poisoned.
Below is the script as it stood when I submitted it last night, after a few drafts and a couple readings with some very generous friends (Elizabeth Coulombe, Daniel King, Nilus Klingel, Morgan Shaw, Danton Spina, Ian Nicholson). I’d love to keep up readings for future plays– it makes such a huge difference to hear my words said out loud, and it’s also just a boatload of fun.
Anyway, while I’m quite happy with it as it stands, I do think there’s some more opportunity to play with the following:
My very-recently-written play, ‘The Following is Based on True Events (From a Video Game)’, will now be very soonly performed!
On a whim, I submitted it (late) to The Brick’s 2012 Tiny Theater Festival, and they selected it! This is my off-off-Broadway Debut, and the first time Ian, Danton, Dan, and I will be using WhAT (Warehouse Architecture Theatre) as the name of our professional theatre company, despite how it’s still going strong at Syracuse University under the direction of some very fine archies.
This is quite the group effort. I wrote it, then received solid feedback from Kelly Gorga, Arielle Shear, Ian Nicholson, Danton Spina, and Dan King. Now, I’m also directing it. TJ Clark and Michael Finn star as Mortimer Goth and Bob Newbie, respectively. Dan King and I are working on creating an ‘on-demand’ flash file using graphics by Ian Nicholson (color-corrected by Morgan Shaw). This will display various icons above my actors’ heads showing their mood, like in the game.
And yeah, it’ll be performed in less than two weeks. Gulp. Here’s the whole script for your reading pleasure, and for your viewing pleasure, I hope you’ll come see the show!
My first original play to be performed by a non-student-based organization will be ‘Kiosked!’ as part of the Working Theatre Collective’s 3rd Annual Festival of ’20 Erotic Shorts’. Tickets available here.
This play was also performed as part of Warehouse Architecture Theatre‘s ‘Laugh Til You Say WhAT’ comedy showcase for charity in Fall of 2009 at the Schine Underground at Syracuse University. The original version is 20 minutes though, and this production is a shorter, 5-minute version.
But you know what they say, 5 minutes in heaven is better than 1 minute in heaven.