Recently, I celebrated the first birthday of my semiautobiographical play.
That’s certainly no rare event in the Twin Cities, the undisputed world capital of unproduced, unasked-for, appallingly-bad, small-town-based play scripts.
But when I bought a birthday cake for my play, and decided to throw it a party, my friends reached for their therapists’ business cards quicker than you can say “Fringe Festival.”
Patiently, I explained to friends that my script was an extension of me, and that it was only fair I do something for it after the year it had been through.
For example, the first time I let a friend read it, she said she liked it, but wanted to see the main character die a horrible, painful death by the third page.
Undeterred by this “constructive criticism,” I began sending the play around town, hoping some big-shot producer/artistic director (Joe Dowling of the Guthrie) would whip out his checkbook, and make me a very wealthy woman.
Instead, I received even more profound feedback from many of the Twin Cities’s fine creative theater assistants, such as: “I fell asleep reading it”; “The stage manager’s dog threw up on it”; and “How the hell did you get Joe Dowling’s cell phone number?”
The topper was when one friend who read my script—a romantic drama about a suave Welshman and a strong woman falling hopelessly in love—told me he deeply suspected both characters were gay.
That night, I asked for the opinion of my best friend, Jeff. Frowning, he looked up from a Cosmopolitan quiz he was taking concerning the many shortcomings of a best friend.
Jeff said, “Well, I didn’t think the characters were gay, but are you sure you don’t need to come out as a lesbian?”
This, of course, came as a rather stunning query (pardon the expression), and caused an acute identity crisis. Even worse, I also felt as if I’d failed as a writer. I contemplated cheerfully heaving my play off the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.
But when I arrived at the bridge, I found another playwright doing the same thing.
“Couldn’t think of anything original, huh?” he sneered, as he fed to the fishes his action-adventure play about a sarcastic, wisecracking cop stuck on an escalator with a deranged gang-member from Anoka.
So, I kept my script, deciding that maybe it simply needed more love, attention, and—most importantly—a birthday party.
I ran straight to the nearest bakery, where, without even blushing, I asked the lady behind the counter what cake would be best for a play’s birthday party.
“Something layered,” she replied, without batting an eye.
Thrown, and in desperate need of any kind of attention, I asked if she thought it weird that I was throwing a party for my play’s script.
“Honey,” she said, “I just did a Bundt cake for an actor celebrating the 11th anniversary of his audition for a Preparation H commercial—and he didn’t even get the part.”
Returning home with my layered cake, I tracked down a few agencies, and invited them to bring their scripts over for a little celebration.
After they arrived, we sat around like a bunch of old ladies talking about our grandchildren’s achievements—or, in this case, the lack of them.
One friend, whose play will soon be 12, even pulled a photo from his wallet showing him and his script, which he had named Dennis, on vacation in Mexico.
“Dennis and I were celebrating out 17th rewrite,” he said, getting misty-eyed.
Later, looking around the table at all our plays, each wearing a party hat, I experienced a tinge of pride that might have had something to do with the half-bottle of Wild Turkey I had just consumed.
Jeff sat patiently watching this spectacle unfold, as we playwrights traded war stories about how our scripts were conceived (interestingly, mostly on city buses); the nights our printers gave birth (“my DeskJet was in labor for eight hours”); and our scripts’ first trip to Kinko’s (“Dennis got stuck in the copier—it was so embarrassing”).
Later, after everyone left, Jeff volunteered to vacuum up the mess, which amounted to pushing cake crumbs around with his very old Hoover. I reminded him that the vacuum had never been that great in the first place, and that Sears was probably having a sale.
“Not interested”, he said. “I’ve had this vacuum since I was 23, and I’m going to have it when I’m 73.”
Consider the source here, but I know how he feels.
Bye for now.
Kiss, kiss. Julie Dafydd