“The Magic Works!”
The Magic Works!
Cynthia’s Column April 2008
Monday night I taught my screenwriting Masters Class in my home from seven to ten p.m. It’s about a dozen students who have already taken my Saturday class through Willamette Writers and we read and critique a full script of theirs each week. When they’d all gone, I changed to pajamas and my sister Laura and I were about to watch a comedy DVD episode to get a few laughter endorphins before bed, when at 10:25 p.m. the doorbell rang. I can’t remember the last time someone came to my door after ten p.m. unexpectedly. It’s been several decades.
I opened the door and there was Marc Acito, my comic collaborator, standing under the porchlight in his knitted hat and winter coat with a huge grin on his face. I was speechless but I’m sure my facial expression said “Whaaaa…?” He opened his coat to reveal a golden bottle of champagne.
“Is it?” I asked.
He nodded and I started shrieking and screaming and hugging him.
Artists Repertory Theatre has chosen our play, Holidazed, as their winter holiday production. In that moment we became professional playwrights. We had been struck by an invisible magic wand and shazaam! We joined the ranks of my heroes. Tom Stoppard. Martin McDonagh. Alan Bennett. Will, Ben and Kit.
We opened the bottle. Toasted ourselves. Toasted the play. Toasted the Gods of Theatre. Thespis, is it? Anyway we got toasted. Took pictures of ourselves getting toasted in front of framed pictures of our theatre forebears. This event is a watershed, important for several reasons.
1. It proved that we are not foolish amateurs goofing around for two months cracking ourselves up. We are professionals who were maturely creating professionally crafted stage crafty stuff. We were not wasting our time! Our dream that propelled us through those chortle-choked winter mornings came true.
2. We now have a light at the end of the year that can generate warmth and happiness for months! We have great things to look forward to. Casting. Rehearsing. Cast parties. Dress rehearsal. Hiding out in the shadows opening night counting the laughs. Opening night party. Hopefully good reviews. And at least a six week run in the second largest subscription supported legitimate theatre in the largest city in Oregon.
3. We can (hopefully) parlay this into snagging a playwriting agent, possibly a publication deal with one of the top play publishers, (Samuel French, Dramatist etc.) which will possibly lead to other productions in other parts of the country. Our vision is that Holidazed become a perennial favorite Christmas play and give a much deserved break to the massive number of Scrooges and not so Tiny Tims that most regional theatres have had no alternative to re-producing every year.
4. We can wear cool scarves and boots and caps and black turtleneck sweaters and long overcoats and look like Sam Shepard or Diane Keaton in Something’s Got to Give. Well, okay, maybe a little more Wassersteinesque than Keatonish, (I’m talking about me; don’t worry, Marco) but still cool. Marc is already sporting his ultra cool beret.
5. We can field offers to doctor out of town pre-Broadway musicals and offer our wit and wisdom to guys like Mike Nichols who will put us up in hotel suites with unlimited room service while we save their backers’ bucks.
6. Hollywood, which is always short on truly hilarious comic geniuses, will recognize that we are HCGs and fly us down to work on Meet the Fokkers’ Kinfolk III and put us up in Beverly Hills Hotels with unlimited room service and pay us six figures a week to jump on the beds and crack each other up, prior to cracking up the world at large.
7. This means I was totally right to read a play every day for over a year. That writing style and craft can be learned by osmosis. What are you guys waiting for? Hit those libraries immediately! You know, it may even have helped my Theatre Karma to spend weeks gathering stuff and creating the Shakespeare Room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
8. It means that it’s possible to actually create a new writing career over the age of fifty and someone can open their arms and their doors and welcome you into a whole new field. Can welcome you home.
9. We will have fantastic posters to frame and hang on the wall. Have you seen the cool artwork in ART’s catalogues and programs? In fact I should start a whole new wall just for theatre stuff. Programs. Sketches of the set. Costume designs. A model of the stage and set? I could make one. Seriously. Then I’d have to get some sort of plexiglass box to put it in. And maybe a special track spotlight to highlight it. Have I gone off the deep end? Oh one more thing.
10. This means that Joseph Campbell and Julia Cameron and all those New Age gurus were right when they advised us to follow our bliss. This is my bliss. I followed it and it led to my dream opening up and offering itself to me and to the world. All our laughter and joy and happiness in the process seems to have led to more joy.
You are all invited to come to Holidazed next November and December at Artists Rep. It’s the story of a soccer mom whose life gets tossed into Christmas chaos when she brings home a pagan street kid. Hilarity ensues. Seriously. We counted the laughs and kept punching it until we got at least one per page.
I recommend following your bliss. And if you want to, come along and follow ours. Laughter is contagious. And so is joy.