Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Well that was interesting

So I walk into the rehearsal hall, sit on the table in the front of the room, and tell my cast that the show we've been working on for the past month and change is cancelled.

Yep - no show. No payoff for all their hard work. They'll get the paycheck they were contracted for, but they won't get to finish the process, they won't get to share a real stage with their castmates, they won't get to hear the applause.

And about half of them knew it was coming. When we cancelled rehearsal Tuesday night and called for a company meeting Wednesday, the questions started flying. I told my Stage Manager what the deal was, and obviously I told Suzy to stop working on any props or costumes. Then we made the announcement last night, and then I invited the cast out for a beer on me and a last hurrah, and told them what the deal was.

The party line that we announced in the meeting was that the script needs a ton of work and the decision was made to pull the play because of it. And a lot of that is true. The script does need a ton of work, and it wasn't going to be able to happen in the two weeks we had left to work on it.

The other part of it was that the writer hated the interpretation I had taken of the play, and the producers didn't have much faith in the play as it stood. They agreed that I could make a funny show out of it, but they felt that the play wasn't strong enough to stand on its own. I can't disagree with them there.

I gave them several options for how to proceed. We could do the show the way I was going and piss off the playwright, which isn't the best tactic for a company that is built around developing new works and becoming a haven for local playwrights. We could do the show the playwright wanted, and piss off the actors and director (me) by having us all change direction after a month's worth of work. They could fire me and bring the playwright in to direct the show (which would not have upset me very much at all). We could have the playwright give me very specific changes and I would try to incorporate those into the play and make a compromise.

In the end, we decided that the weaknesses in the script and the distance that the playwright and I were from anything resembling the same page made for an untenable situation, and the producers decided to pull the show.

I feel lousy for my cast, who have worked very hard to make this show happen, with rewrites galore and changes in "the plan" coming at them frequently, but now they're not gonna get to put it onstage. Which sucks, but I think it was the right decision. Ultimately, the show that was going to get presented was not going to fit the vision of the writer, and in a company that is based on supporting local playwrights and putting their ideas on stage, that just can't happen. So rather than put something out there that either wasn't going to fulfill the mission of the company, or that was going to be lousy, they pulled the show.

For the record, I think the show I was directing was going to be funny. It wouldn't have ever won a Pulitzer or a Tony, but audiences would have enjoyed it. I had a great cast, and they were working their asses off for me, going anywhere I asked them to go. I don't think the play worked the way the writer envisioned it, and I think it would have been a terrible flop had it gone on in that direction. My show would have made the playwright angry and audiences happy, and his show would have made him happy and audiences bored. And therein lies the root of the problem.
So it was a rough decision to make, but ultimately the right one. The only thing that pisses me off about the whole thing is that if we'd cancelled this fucker two weeks ago, I'd be leaving today to fly down to Key West and party with my degenerate friends.


Craig Cunningham said...

Sorry to hear about the misery. I don't know anything about the industry, but maybe that is why Directors fight so much for their vision or whatever, that they are the key ingredient in pulling it all together. Hope the next project turns out better.

Astin said...

This is why I liked writing sketch comedy years ago. A small group, generally working WITH the director on scripts and seeing pretty much your vision as a writer on stage, knowing the director was also happy.

The fact is that writers generally don't get a lot of credit for their work, and their vision is often changed significantly by the time it reaches an audience. This is because most writers have no idea what an audience likes or what works outside their mind.

So if you want to appeal to the masses, you need to work with someone who does know these things. Too bad you two couldn't reach a compromise, but it doesn't sound like your heart was in it to begin with, and the writer didn't care enough to get involved earlier on. Not a great combination.

Jim The Knife said...

What a crock of shit. MOST writers are thrilled to see their work performed or published.
Why the fuck didn't he put a "forward" in the script, outlining his vision?
No 2 people think alike and it is unrealistic to expect any director to know exactly what a writer thought.
AND the producers should rot in hell. They acquired the script, presumably READ it and chose to produce it. To pull it because the author didn't like the interpretation..... that's S H I T.