Pigeons By The Charles Ready For Reading.
Never Fall in Love with Your Idea
For Pigeons by The Charles, the challenge was to get rid of all the extraneous settings and create one location, rather than more than five. My fear was it would hurt the script. I accepted the challenge and with it, I now realized I can always come up with a new idea. In some cases the new idea actually has made the script better. That is what occurred with Pigeons By Charles.
In Pigeons, one of the scenes that was the most challenging was the date between Kurt and Julie. I set it at her apartment. Moving it to The Charles killed a lot of funny stage bits. I thought I needed a setting where Kurt could show how nervous he was. By moving this scene to Charles, I discovered new ideas. I was fortunate that I could keep much of the dialogue. I threw out stuff involving Julie’s Archeology roommate. Moving this scene to the Charles makes sense. When Kurt tries to leave, because he is so nervous, Julie asks him not to, because The Charles river is their spot. Why wouldn’t they stop there before Kurt takes Julie home? Moving it to the Charles didn’t change the tenor of the scene, but what it did calm it down a little. I was able to show Kurt’s nerves in a more subdued manner, so he was not all over the place. This deepened the scene. There is a moment when Kurt is too nervous and he just can’t get out of her presence fast enough. I had Julie calm him down by talking about a Coldplay concert they went to. She sings a lyric to The Scientist to him. He calms down by finishing the first verse. Then they talk about the concert. This portion was just a few gag lines I gave Kurt, but I expanded it to have Kurt talk about what happened to him. He took a tab of acid given to him by one of their friends and went on a bad acid trip, which landed him in the hospital. In the hospital, Julie is there by his side. In my mind, that concert was when Kurt fell in love with her. allow me to do was deepen the scene. In the previous setting, Kurt’s nerves were all over the place. The scene probably was a little too over the top.
Another scene I had trouble moving was the camping scene or the marriage proposal. This is a key scene and I could not ditch it. The original scene we see a horrible camping trip, where if anything can go wrong it does. Kurt’s proposal blows up in his face. I could have kept this scene at the camping spot, but something was gnawing at me to get this story to the Charles. Yesterday, as I was working cutting through act one, that scene came into my head. The dialogue came in drips and drabs and I began to hear a story about the camping trip. I heard the story from both perspectives. I wasn’t sure how to start this scene, then little ideas came into my head that brought it together. I had Kurt and Julie both come down to The Charles after a horrible weekend camping. I used the pigeons as a vehicle so Kurt’s and Julie’s could tell their sides of the story. . I made sure the two characters were unaware they were at the Charles together. On Kurt’s side were the male pigeons. On Julie’s side were the female pigeons,(The female pigeons are new as I didn’t have any before. Julius was the only male pigeon with Julie. As both stories play out, Julies leads Kurt over to Julie. Kurt finds Julie playing with his birthday gift, a telescope. This is a new twist in the script. I had an idea for it, but was never sure how to get Kurt’s birthday in. Moving this scene to the Charles allowed me to do that.
Reworking Pigeons by the Charles has taught me many lessons. The most important one is not to be wedded to your ideas, because you think they are funny. Be more confident in your ability to find a new idea. As a writer I have many. Throw out something that is holding the plot back. Get rid of a line if it’s not moving the script. Make speeches as short as you can make them. In general, playwriting has changed. The days of the long drawn out monologue are gone. Monologues tend to hold back the script. In today’s world of one minute attention span, no one is going to pay attention to a monologue if it doesn’t have a point, or move it along. These are lessons learned, which I will utilize in my writing this day forward. Lessons well learned and lived.
Pigeons By The Charles/Things Are Coming Along Nicely.
Pigeons by the Charles, moved one step closer today to the next phase, preparing the play for a staged reading.
Step one, find an Editor to read it and give feedback. Advice to any budding writers, make sure it is someone you have never met before because they can be more objective. The fact that she also has written some plays, directed and is involved with theatre from time to time also helps. Oh, and I did discover that we do have a connection, a former high school buddy.
Her feedback was awesome. Her first concern was I had too many locations for the play and it was hard to follow. If it has too many locations, she felt it would be hard for an audience to be invested in the characters. She was right, by condensing act one, to one location, I have made the play more readable and allowed the characters to shine on their own. The characters are truly what sell this script and if the characters are well developed the audience will be interested. It’s that old USA slogan I keep talking about, USA where character matters.
Tonight’s homework was simple, find those locales that could be moved to The Charles River. It didn’t take me long as I figured out ways to make the old scenes work better in the new locale. I managed to take two scenes completely out. One scene I merged entirely with another to make it one whole scene. The upshot was that I dropped about twenty pages off act one. Now the act is down to forty-two. Now I am ready to tackle act two. This becomes trickier. At this point, the audience will be invested. I can afford to play with one or two locations. Along with the change of scene location. I cut three characters out of the show. I may possible end up dropping one more at the end of the play and have the last scene take place in The Charles. The character would be a bartender in an airport. This would eventually leave me with six characters. Here is how these characters were dropped and why. I also managed to cut 3 characters completely out of the play. One character and English Dance Major named Felicity had one line and was heard offstage. She went when moved the opening scene from a frat house to The Charles River. I cut a bar scene, which meant I dropped the Married girl that Julie’s boyfriend Blaine cheats on Julie with. I took what happened and used it in a different scene and I changed the concept. This allowed me to play with Julie. She is wallowing in her own self pity while drinking a whole bottle of Baileys. I managed to make this scene funny. The third character that went was Julie’s best friend from high school. Julie talks Kurt into dating her, then she realizes Natalie is all wrong for Kurt, because she has him wrapped around her finger. I dropped the scene and talked about the date in a scene Julie had with Kurt. I changed the concept of this scene again. I took Kurt out of it and used Chet instead. It was here we find out about what happened on the date.
Step two will be to read the crap out of this show line by line to determine what lines are kept and what lines don’t move the story along. Those lines will be cut. Tonight’s homework allowed me to do some of that process tonight.
Step three, will move on to having my editor read the play again and see if the changes I made helped solve some confusion. She will also edited what I wrote and find things I might have missed.
Step four: Finding some actors to perform a staged reading and allowing an audience to hear the show being read. I also will allow some feedback from the audience.
Step five: Moving from that staged reading to workshopping the show and seeing what it looks like on stage. Believe me, workshopping this play is going to seem a whole lot easier now that I have changed scene locations to more or less one locale.
All in all, today’s zoom meeting with Stacy, had provided me with some excitement and hopefully a winning play to put on stage. Something that if we all cross our fingers might be seen soon.
Letters From England/The Tank
This is an English car built in the late ’50s into the early ’60s called a Wolsey. This is not the exact car that my Dad purchased from a former NEC teacher, but the colors are close. This is the car my sister dubbed The Tank. She called it the Tank because it rumbled. We often wondered whether this vehicle was going to get us from point a to point b without breaking down. Sometimes this car wouldn’t start and my Dad had to use this convenient hand crank to start it up. Then he would take it to some garage and have the problem fixed. The interior of this car was not the most comfortable. Sleeping on any sort of long trip would create aches and pains the likes you never felt. I thought I was going to like the little armrest that came down in the middle in the back seat. It seemed the perfect pillow for my head to rest on, but alas, unlike my Grandfather Lowell’s Cadillac, it was not to give me any comfort. There were a few things to like about the Wolsey. Unlike the VW bug we had in the states, the Wolsey was roomy. We could fit a dog and two people in the back. You could fit an aircraft carrier in the trunk. Popcorn often came on our trips and she was happy to sleep in the back. I think she liked the car. I know she always was eager for that morning trip down to the campus. Then again, all you had to say to her was do you wanna go for a ride in the car and she would be wagging that tail at a hundred miles an hour, her eyes would light up and she would pant happily.
This car was amazing. My sister and I may have been embarrassed about being seen in this old jalopy, but it did get us to where we needed to go. We took this car on many trips. One was to Dorset. We saw Corfe Castle. This car made the trip to Wales. It traveled to Warwick in the midlands. My parents took it all the way to the highlands in Scotland. I will admit one thing I did love about this car and I have often wondered whether my Dad did too. I loved the fins. Most of the cars over in England seemed to last forever. I am not sure why, but they did. I suppose one reason is that it rarely snowed in England. There were no rust spots on many of the English cars, so that kept important parts intact. I am not sure how difficult auto parts were to obtain for a lot of the older cars, but if a lot of them were still on the road. Looking at this car, one becomes nostalgic. It reminds me a place like Arnolds’ from Happy Days. You can picture yourself going to a drive-in movie theatre. I always wanted to live in the 1950s. It seemed like such a cool decade.
The next episode deals with this car. I couldn’t resist and I have had this episode in my head from the inception. The day my sister called it the tank. My father was not overly sensitive to that nickname, but he did sort of grouse about it. In later years the driver’s seat was held on by some coat hangers as some metal thing came apart in the back. My poor Dad couldn’t adjust the car the way he would have liked. I think one of the pedals went and he had to find some way of keeping that together so he could drive it. I have no idea how he managed to sell the car when we left for good, but he somehow did. It is interesting to note that my Dad was just looking for a beater, a car to get him from work and back, but this darned tank became so much more to us. It became our identity as a family.
My Dad would often check on the tour, driving out alone with his Wolsey. He became bored and started a travelogue with his tape recorder.(I have a future episode on that.) Dad’s travelogues were narrated by two travelogue reporters that he created. Interestingly enough, these characters also served as in-game status pro Baseball announcers when Dad and I played our tabletop Baseball game. Artie Skirmacorn, Cecil Sidney kept my Dad company. Artie had a high pitched voice while Cecil Sidney had a Texan drawl. We still have these tapes and even though I was not there, I picture my Dad in that Wolsey, driving up some country hill in Dorset, or the highlands of Scotland. I see him with that microphone to his lips and I hear those two lovely characters he created. I also see him on the M1, as he is passed by others. The drivers giving him long strange looks wondering what on earth this mad man is doing. If I were in the car, I would have simply said, he’s just passing the time, while driving to his job, somewhere in Reading, or maybe Stockton Upon Tees, enjoying his Wolsey. It’s a colorful picture. Dad and his sidekicks Artie Skirmacorn and Cecil Sidney painting their own pictures of what they see as they are driving down the road in the Tank. That Wolsey was a great car, I think about it often.
Letters From England/Episode Six
Episode Six of Letters From England is ready. It is an episode that focuses solely on Darcy Livingston. I decided that since this episode is all about Darcy, I changed the title from The First Date to Darcy Livingston Croons Like Joplin. The episode has also helped me determine an interesting place to take Darcy’s storyline. It will involve the promise of fame as she becomes the new lead singer for the band formerly known as Rippled Water. They are now called Darcy and The Misty Blues. I want to thank my sister Lowell N. Murray for being the inspiration behind this character and this episode. The brief musical portion of her life helped create this part of her storyline. As always, I leave a link for the episode for you to read along with the previous five.
Letters From England/Episode Six Darcy Livingston Croons Like Joplin.
As a writer, you always use something from your life, whether it is a story a friend told you or something from your life. Using something from my life helps me to connect to the characters and that creates a better story. Not every character I create comes from someone I know. There have been some characters that came out of nowhere. In Letters From England, I am loosely basing characters on my own family. This is a daunting task as you want to do your family justice.
MEET THE INSPIRATION BEHIND DARCY LIVINGSTON MY SISTER.
Growing up my sister Nancy probably wondered why I kept pestering her and following her around all the time. I did it because I admired her. As we grew up together, the bickering and fighting became less and less and we found a way to respect each other and get along. I think it is true, that the younger sibling always looks up to the older one. That was the case in my house. The younger sibling wants to learn from them so they don’t make the same mistakes. My sister has not always had it easy, she has had to fight hard for the life she has now. There were times when my parents worried about her and the direction she was going in. I never wavered. Privately, I was rooting for this woman. You see Nancy has a lot of my mother’s strength in her. She’s a horse lover and has been all her life. My mother never understood that and it was a constant battle in our family. I remember that changed when my sister’s horse passed away. She called to tell us. My mother spent a good forty-five minutes on the phone consoling her. For the first time, my mother found that Nancy’s sense of loss was hers too. It’s that mother-child bond that never dies. That day, my mother came to grips with the issue and supported my sister’s obsession with horses. I took that lesson and applied a few years later in my own life.
In Episode six I finally have a chance to give Darcy Livingston her own stage to croon on and she does in so many ways. The episode is called The First Date and concerns her first date with Noah Dorset, which does not go according to plan. I start the episode with a new wrinkle. Originally Ned was going to be the main Narrator for the episodes, but I decided to let Darcy speak for herself and write her own letter to her friend Eliza. (My real sister wouldn’t have it any other way.) From the offset, the idea of this letter was hysterically funny. I played with an aspect of my sister’s personality that is spot-on. First, the idea that my sister would write a letter to anyone is laughable. I can’t even get her to write an email to me let alone a letter. There may be a reason for that. You see my sister is a horrible speller. I took the terrible speller aspect and played with it in this narration. First, she spells Eliza’s name wrong and she crosses it out several times before going back to the correct spelling. She does the same with Noah’s name. Then she mixes up the name of the town she went to the night of the date. She calls Bogner Regis, Bugner Regis.
From the beginning her date with Noah gets off to an ominous start. Noah takes her to a dance club in Bogner called Damianos. Noah wants her to hear his friends band called Rippled Water. Wel,l Rippled Water is more like comatose water. As Noah introduces Darcy to his misfit mates, his ex-girlfriend Lucy Swan appears and is not too happy with the way Noah broke up with her. She takes him outside the club so she can have her say on the breakup, which becomes melodramatic and we discover that Lucy is as the British say Starkers. The interesting thing is Lucy was not based on anyone I knew, but for some strange reason, this girl came into my head that I went to school with in England. She had long dark hair. I remembered her personality as extremely hyper and she was loud. I imagined what that girl would have been like if she were 17. The ideas began to flow. So I guess I did base her on an image of someone I knew, but older.
While Lucy has ruined the date for Darcy and Ned, Darcy is forced to deal with Noah’s misfit friends. She isn’t too happy with Noah and not sure she should continue the date. She tries to find out through Noah’s friends how many girls Noah has dated. This creates all sorts of confusion between the friends and they finally admit that they don’t know. This leaves Darcy with nothing to talk about. Rippled Water has now gone from comatose to ruptured water. Darcy can’t take it anymore, and in the true fashion of my real sister, Darcy takes the bull by the horns and takes over as lead singer. She has the band start off with Brown Sugar by the Stones. The minute she belts out the first note, she has floored the crowd. A dead dance floor now becomes a packed dance floor. Then she takes on the Dusty Springfield hit “Take Another Piece of my Heart” which was classically covered by Janis. We discover that Darcy is a huge Janis Joplin fan and she croons it just like Janis Joplin would. She finishes off the evening with the Animals “House of The Rising Sun.” and brings the house down. By this point, Noah has returned to the club and is floored by Darcy’s singing. He does nothing but talk about this in the car on the way home. When he reaches the house, he apologizes for not telling her about Lucy and asks for another date. She readily accepts. I have yet to move into act four and five yet. The first three acts of the episode have been a blast to write and is why I write. There is one true aspect to this story, my sister did sing in a band for a brief period down in Massachusetts. The night she told me she sang Barracuda I was floored. Having seen my sister in a musical when she was in high school(My sister rarely did any acting, but she did do some.), I knew her voice was pretty darned good. Her taking over the entertainment hit me on the fly. It seemed to fit. Here’s to Darcy Livingston, loosely based on Lowell N. Murray. There will be more from Darcy in future episodes, she’s too much fun to ignore.
Pigeons By The Charles A Play With Tamworth and Wonalancet References.
Pigeons By the Charles is a play I’ve been working on for close to thirty years. I have fine-tuned it to the best of my ability. I am proud of the finished product. I believe the characters are richly developed and the humor is it’s strength. I am ready to unleash it locally. I am currently working hard with some local theatres to do a staged reading of the play. If no theatre is interested then I will put together my own stage reading. It’s a show about friendship, love, and the tests that we go through with both. The questions will be asked. Why write a play whose theme has been explored countless times? Why write the same story, unless you have found some new way to examine the theme. I admit, I did not. I believe in this play and I believe the characters, the situations I have put these characters in and the humor sell this. I always believe any writing can always sell itself with humor. I like humor. I find life funny, so I write about those things that are not funny, poignant, or serious and find the humor in those situations to make a topic easier on others.
HOW DOES TAMWORTH COME INTO THIS PLAY?
True, this play is not exclusively set in Tamworth. It’s set in Boston, mostly at the Charles River, where Pigeons become the metaphor for its theme. I do mention Mt. Chocorua as the female lead Julie, likes to hike and I do set an important scene at the Big Rock Cave in Wonalancet. I mention the drive up and the South Tamworth Country Store, where Barry was proprietor for so many years. I do not mention Barry, but the South Tamworth Country Store is in the scene. I also make a reference to Mt. Katherine, named after Katherine Sleeper.
THE CONCEPTION OF PIGEONS BY THE CHARLES.
This show was originally conceived by watching the sitcom Mad About You. I enjoyed that show. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt were so funny in it. One night I was fixated on the relationship between the two characters. I began to realize that these two characters weren’t just husband and wife, they were best friends.
Then bingo, I started asking a question? (Asking a question always means I have the seed for an idea.) When a friendship builds and later turns into a relationship, how does that friendship evolve within the relationship? Does it evolve? Then a further question, when Sex enters the equation of the relationship, how does that friendship change. We know it changes, but how? That question gave me a great idea for a play. Yes, this has been examined before, but I wanted to put my take on the subject.
At first, the title was Just Friends. I hated the title and since a movie by the same name had been done, I worked hard to figure out what to call this darned thing. It took me months. Then it hit me. The two main characters are constantly at the Charles River feeding the pigeons. The pigeons become the metaphor for their relationship. Bingo Pigeons By The Charles just seem to fit.
THE SIMPLE SYNOPSIS
Kurt Denmark and Julie Alexander are both Freshman at BU. Kurt is a Marketing and Business Major, while Julie is studying journalism. They meet at a college frat party. The two of them are at a crossroads. Julie has been dating the soccer frat brother Blaine Morgan who constantly proves how unfaithful he is. Kurt is getting over his relationship with his high school sweetheart, who dumped him over the phone a week before the frat party. Kurt and Julie share a common bond throughout the show, their love of the pigeons by the Charles. They feed them, name them, and watch over them like proud parents.
Through the narration of their two best friends, Chet Brewer and Phyliss Crum, we watch Julie and Kurt navigate the tricky terrane of friendship into love and marriage and how their friendship, love and marriage is challenged by the struggles of trying to have a child.
Chet and Phyliss meet at that same Frat Party. Chet is a Psyche major, while Phyliss is a Political Science major, looking to get into law. Chet is intrigued by this Southern Belle, Phylis’s sexual repression has finally been let loose from the control of her televangelist Father Sanford Crum. Chet thinks he has a chance with Phyliss. Phyliss thinks Chet is an annoyance and tries to avoid him. Through a strange series of occurrences, Chet and Phyliss keep running into each other, sometimes at a bar, sometimes at the Charles, where they become caught up in the pigeons. At every opportunity, Chet tries to gain Phyliss’s attention by Psychoanalyzing her. At first, the Psychoanalysis frustrates Phyliss, but, then begins to intrigue her. After a series of bad relationships with comedic results, Phyliss finally asks Chet why she keeps dating the freaks of society. They are further brought together by their two friends Julie and Kurt. We watch them tolerate each other while trying to keep Julie and Kurt together. In the end, after an odd drunken night, at Kurt and Julie’s wedding, we see what happens between Chet and Phyliss. Is it love, is it sexual attraction, or is it fate?
Hopefully in the future, COVID 19 aside, I will finally see Pigeons by The Charles on a stage. If there is any play I would want to be a worthy follow up to Crossing The Bridge, this is the play. Out of anything I have written, Pigeons is the best piece in my writing arsenal. I am proud of it and I hope when it shows up, you will like it too.
if you wish to read this play and give me some feed back, here is the link.
Letters From England, A New Idea
Yes that is Butlins. I couldn’t resist using it for this blog post.
Today, I had one of those writing moments that happens when you least expect it. I was performing the second edit of Episode five when I reached the last act and there is this scene between Noah and Darcy, followed by a Ned narrative. As I am editing the Ned narrative I began to think of what I wanted to do for episode six, which is the continuation of this date between Noah and Darcy. Then bingo it hits me, why have Ned write this letter, why not Darcy. In fact, why not have Blake tell some stories to his friends back home and Eileen do the same, so you are looking at the whole family’s perspective. This completely spontaneous and that is when I like the ideas to hit me. I had also planned in future episodes to have Marty and Chuck both write back to Ned and they tell a story about their lives.
Letters From England Episode Five. The Secret Passage and The Football Legend.
Episode five, is ready for reading. As always I will post the previous episodes in order. Five will be the last one.
Enjoy the read.