Introduction

I’ll call writing plays a hobby but it’s been a serious one, spread over thirty-plus years. Here you will find ten more or less completed scripts, with a synopsis, link to the full text, some Excerpts and some 2017 comments on each. I kept my day job as a lawyer - which paid me considerably more than I’d make as a playwright. I don’t remember a moment when I ever even thought, “I’ll chuck it all and become a waiter.” (My hat’s off to those rare individuals who have made a living as a playwright!)

That said, and with a little more time on my hands in retirement, I can look at this stack and think which are “Ready to Go”, which need “More Work” and which are “Fondly Remembered”.

Feel free to replicate the Synopsis and Excerpts with credit to the author. The full text is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the author’s permission.

Ready to Go

Blind Dogs at the Meat House Door

Ladies Night at the Forest Bar

Jack and Bill

51st State

More Work

Eleanor and Franklin Let It All Hang Out

Hamlet and the Pirates Lay Over in Calais

Jesus Does Stand-Up

Fondly Remembered

Rex the Horse

Loon Lake Lodge

Jesus Retains Counsel

My Life at the Theatre

I’ve enjoyed attending the theatre since I was a teenager. This morphed into a more serious interest in seeing some of the early Passe Muraille plays in Toronto in the 70s. The Farm Show was particularly moving. I had several “I-can-do-that” moments watching the fun—the writing, never the acting.

I made several trips to New York before I moved there for graduate school in 1978 and had more wow moments. I had written one play, Rex The Horse, before I moved to NYC. Going to theatre and writing was a major part of those sabbatical years. (See Blind Dogs, 1980.)

When I returned from New York I fell into a libel case for the cast of O.D. on Paradise, a Passe Muraille play by Linda Griffith. The Toronto Star accused them of smoking real dope on stage. Not so. It’s a good yarn. The end result was a good settlement for the cast, by which I became the biggest fund-raiser in Passe Muraille history! And ended up on the Board of Directors and later President. I’ve seen struggling small theatre close-up.

For a time I was the chair of the Theatre Committee of Hart House.

Over the years I’ve made regular trips to Shaw and Stratford and NYC and London for theatre.

I’ve kept a list—a mere list—of plays that I’ve seen that is more-or-less complete. See Theatre

There is a lot more theatre writing that is in the database that was never intended for anyone but me.

Blind Dogs at the Meat House Door

1980

Full Text (PDF)

The hippy, the feminist, the president and the social worker meet with their two lawyers outside the Court of Final Judgment. “The docket is jam-packed today. Here’s the deal,” says St. Peter to the nervous crew waiting in the hallway. “Bring me one guilty plea—just one—and the rest get a pass through the Pearly Gates.”

All they have to do is agree among themselves, with the assistance of their lawyers, on who should take a dive.

Can there be agreement which of the four is the real rotter? Not so simple!

Excerpts

The lawyers rehearse the plea for mercy on behalf of the President.

Corona

Here is a man who served his country…

Burns

Ah, 7D. I love 7D.

Corona

…in fields of battle, in industry and government.

Corona

Here is a man who served his country …

Burns

Ah, 7D. I love 7D.

Corona

… in fields of battle, in industry and government. Here is a man whose selfless dedication is legend, whose wisdom is an anchor, and whose charity is the standard of a generation. And not for any greater glory for himself. Oh, no. Why? Because he was a humble man doing his duty.

No doubt there are petulant detractors, (motioning to Burns who hangs his head) whiners, malcontents, who criticize and complain… Of course this great man made mistakes, many more more mistakes than those self-same Elijahs who never err—because they never did anything.

Perhaps there were a few personal indiscretions… He gave to friends and country all that they demanded and everything they deserved… Surely this man has won our eternal gratitude.

Lights up, music ends

Burns

Gee, that was swell, Mr. Corona. Just swell. That’s one of my favourite speeches. I have a video of you doing it for Rasputin… You’ll get another golden gavel for sure.

There are just two little things.

Corona

You can tell me. Go ahead.

Burns

(checking his notebook) “Those self-same Elijahs”. Try for a little more resonance. “Self-same Elijahs”

Corona

That’s helpful.

Self…self…self…

Burns

The other thing. It’s a tissue of lies! Don’t you really mean— He gave vassalage to the obsequious, napalm to the Vietnamese, and bribes to the Koreans. He put his finger in every pie, his hand in every pocket and his pecker in every hole.

This man should get what he deserves—The Pit!

My Comments

I wrote this while I was in New York at grad school 1979–1981. I had a rehearsed and directed reading in approximately 1983. I have had several fun readings over beers in the 80s and 90s. I updated it in in approximately 2015 and the updated version is posted here. The politics are light–the slacker/hippy, the earnest feminist, the mothering bureaucrat and the vain, bossy alpha male battle it out: who’s worthy and who’s not?

I recall struggling to find an ending for these characters in 1980 and eventually going with “the Gilbert and Sullivan ending”—long-lost children of…etc. This nominal ending works well enough. The real ending is…can the characters agree who’s good and who’s not!

The virtue of the play is the “face-offs” of the characters. Each gets to have an “argument” with the other and each gets a soliloquy of self-justification. It’s great meat for comic actors.

When I was discussing an Improv/Reading of “Ladies Night” by the Working Actors Studio in New York in 2016 I suggested this play as a better one for an “Improv/Play”. My insight was that these four stock characters and their two lawyers in their various one-on-one arguments and soliloquies were a perfect structure for good improve actors. I did a structure map of the play omitting the detailed dialog. I think it would work well for some classy improv artists and cure the chronic problem of Improv: no plot.

I have always thought this was production-worthy. All the readings have been happy. The set is simple.

“Blind Dogs” was originally conceived as the first part of “the Judgment Trilogy”. In this first play the four stock characters face final judgment but can’t determine who should “get the pit” and they go in to face St. Pete as a family, inextricably bound together. What else! In the sequel, “Final Judgment” we see them judged in the form of a zany quiz show, and when that’s over we’re still not sure who “won”. In the third play, “Heaven or Hell”, the same characters have arrived at where they think they should be but we still can’t tell whether it’s heaven or hell. Be careful what you wish for! And guess what? At the end of this play, the four characters are still fighting…and find themselves back outside the courtroom waiting for Judgment. They are back where they started—a family so estranged they don’t, or can’t, recognize one another. (2017)

Jack and Bill

1998

Full Text (PDF)

Who is the more culpable killer, Jack or Bill? Kinky sex with a serial killer morphs into euthanasia in the wilderness. The ruthless one turns chicken and caring. The weakling proves clever and selfish.

Altogether cunning and profound.

Excerpts

Bill hires Jack, a serial killer, to murder him

Bill

I don’t want to go in a tangle of tubes in some pastel hospice surrounded by fat weepy fags. Can’t believe my luck I actually found you.

PDF pp. 32-33

Bill

I don’t want to go in a tangle of tubes in some pastel hospice surrounded by fat weepy fags. Can’t believe my luck I actually found you.

Jack

Fat fags are disgusting.

Bill

Warriors embrace. I want it. It’s the only thing I want now. It’s the last thing I want.

Jack

There must be other ways.

Bill

In the woods be OK—the way you planned—but this would be way better. Win-win. We have to leave in a week.

Jack

Why?

Bill

I can feel the fuzziness starting in my brain.

Jack

This is too weird.

Bill

You can’t be chicken!

Jack

Definitely not.

Bill

Been thinking you might do it any session.

Jack

Fuck, man, you got nerves of steel.

Bill

You always promised you would take me out in the woods and do it. I want the ocean. That’s all. Surely a guy like you can’t care where!

Jack

Wild space would be good.

Bill

So, it’s my big day. I get to pick the place… To be utterly overwhelmed by man and nature; to go to sleep with memories that will last eternity. It’s eternal life. …

Jack

I don’t know. I mean you wanting it changes everything. Spoils my thrill, if you know what I mean.

Bill

I promise I’ll fight like hell! … You’ll collect a fat fee. Otherwise what’ll you get? A few more sessions and a cheap laptop.

My Comments

I think this is a great play. (That’s not very modest but the truth hurts) The first half is funny and dangerous and the second act dangerous and profound. It asks how far can we go to arrange our own death for our own satisfaction, whether pleasure or revenge.

In Act One the two characters spar and scheme—the seemingly lonely fag and the wicked serial killer. Neither is what they seem. The production is not explicitly S/M but can and should titillate. This just introduced the second act I want to die in pleasure And what will that be? I suspect the second act dialog on euthanasia can be refined. Visually I love it—evolving from the darkness of Internet and covert sex to bright light and fire of finale. (2017)

Loon Lake Lodge

1981

Full Text (PDF)

Sex, money, death and betrayal in the all-Canadian family. At the cottage! Is the Canadian bourgeoisie ready for a drawing room drama? Can we possibly be that interesting? Who’s the real villain in this classic family drama?

My Comments

I wrote this as I leaving New York in 1981. The characters were easy. I didn’t write a word until I decided who would die at the end. Good call. Once that was in place I wrote it in ten days.

I observed that New York loved “regional family drama”, Tennessee Williams being a prime example. A fucked-up family in some atmospheric locale get together and shout at each other. That more or less sums up great drama mid-century. Others examples might be Little Foxes, Landford Wilson’s plays, August Wilson’s Pittsburgh plays, many Albee plays, Osage County. The Humans, a recent and fun Thanksgiving play broke all the rules by moving the action to a New York slum.) It seemed obvious there could be a Canadian version of this—set in mythical Canadian Shield.

The problem in New York, of course, is they think, by definition anything Canadian is boring. How could Canada be anything close to Georgia or Texas or Pittsburgh. The problem in Canada—where grand drama is most usually set in the kitchen—we can’t imagine we’re worthy of a family set-to in a grand salon.

This text is too many pages because I included elaborate stage directions for an elaborate set. Because that’s what it is. A fancy set imitating a great cottage is intended to come off as the Canadian equivalent of a grand “drawing room play”. It would make perfect sense in New York or London—if it weren’t about Canadians!

I re-read it in 2015 and loved it. The family war rings true.

I’m usually pretty good with catchy names. Loon Lake Lodge is not quite up to standards. Nothing better has come to me.

I rank it “Fondly Remembered” not because it isn’t worthy but because it’s “too big” to even hope it could be produced and it can’t be shrunk. (2017)

Ladies Night at the Forest Bar

2015

Full Text (PDF)

Full Text, New York version (PDF)

Red and Gran run a male strip bar on the edge of the Grimm forest, where Red’s old gang, Snow White, Goldilocks, Cinderella, now grown-up, successful and very rich, gather most nights to do what the very rich do: spend their money on booze and loose men. Wolf, Hands, Prince and Jack toil on the runway to please the ladies. Definitely hard work!

And in Act II they guys fight the giants and the ladies watch and take the plunder.

Excerpts

Red offers Goldie a sex adventure with Wolf

Red

(salacious) …Yeessssss…let’s start you off…with Wolf. Mind you, he’s a bit of rough trade but…but for old times’ sake—why not! … You could meet up by accident, just strolling in the forest. … (Wolf)(basso) “Hello, little girl.” … Or…or…he could follow you home… In his pick-up truck. After choir. You pull into the drive…the truck pulls in behind…

Hands tells his double booking troubles to Prince

Hands

My ex got my boys. I don’t even got no access…because of my thing with the witch, which was totally self-defensive. And I still gotta pay, which is really unfair.

Prince

That’s fucked up.

Hands

What can you do? Hence my part-time employment at the club.

Prince

Hey, I have an idea. You could handle some of my clients on the busy nights. … Here, try on the jacket.

Hands

(puts it on - admiring himself in a make-believe mirror) Me? A prince! Do I look alright?

Prince

It’s you! Perfect.

Hands

Really?! I’m a Prince! I’m a Prince! It’s like I’m a fairy tale. So, what do you say—I say—before you, me…fuck, a princess?

Prince tells his double-booking troubles to a jealous Hands

Hands

Red is my parole officer.

Prince

Really?

Hands

Ya. She’s pretty cool. Giving me a lot of opportunities with which to get me properly into good integration with society for to be of service. A life of service to the greater good.

My ex got my boys. I don’t even got no access…because of my thing with the witch, which was totally self-defensive. And I still gotta pay, which is really unfair.

Prince

That’s fucked up.

Hands

What can you do? Hence my part-time employment at the club.

Prince

Hey, I have an idea. You could handle some of my clients on the busy nights.

Hands

You serious?

Prince

Try on the jacket. You’re about my size.

Hands

Me, a prince!

Prince

Go on. Wear it, dude! Seriously, I need help. It’s all in the costume.

Hands struggles to get into the jacket. He is much larger and it barely fits. Prince admires him.

Prince

Perfect! Perfect! It fits. You look good. Really.

Good ass! Where’s the hat?

I can’t handle all the work. Red’ll be OK if she gets her cut. I’ll steer a couple of the Princess’s your way. You’ll be doing me a big favour. Cinders! Can you handle the collection issue? I mean, if you can…major, major, pay day. Big time. Want to try on the shoes?

Hands thinks, nods. Prince grins and kneels to put the shoes on Hands. They fit. (An absurd tableau.)

Hands

(admiring himself in a make believe mirror) Me? A prince! Do I look alright?

Prince

It’s you! Perfect.

Hands

Really?! I’m a Prince! I’m a Prince! It’s like I’m a fairy tale. So, what do you—I—say before you, fuck, a princess?

Prince

What do you usually say?

Hands

(hesitates, embarrassed) “Look at that sausage, baby!” … (suddenly worried, confidentially,) Ahh…how big is yours?

Prince

(laughing at his patter) Say, “Madam, no one but you has ever before seen this wild thing.”

Or… “there is no measure of my love.”

Hands

You really can say shit like that?

Prince

I went to Princeton.

(giving him another “Prince” line) “Just you and me, just you and me, my darling!”

Hands

(trying it) “Just you and me,…babe! Unless you wanta bring your sister.”

Prince

(laughs) Dude, let’s go catch some fish!

Hands

Yeah!

Prince

Leave the jacket here.

Hands

No! I like it. I’m a Prince!

Why?

Prince

Fish like guys in their underwear.

Red offers Goldie a sex adventure with Wolf (PDF p. )

Red

(salaciously) They do exactly what you wish Daddy Bear would do. Wolf could, for example, stay awake past ten o’clock. Wolf is a “what-a-long-tongue-you’ve got”, kind of guy. Red knows. And why not! Doll, they do what you want. That is the point of being rich! And… how-much-money-have-you-in-your-bank-machine is how long they do it!

Goldie

Daddy B is very traditional.

Red

(droll) And letting you mind the little ones while he goes to football camp is so sweet.

Goldie

(defensive) He took the older ones.

Red

Honey, boring is only sexy when he’s rich and you’re not!

Honey, you need something on the side, maybe both sides, and, you came to the right place!

(confidential)I could set you up with Wolf? For old times sake.

Goldie

(evasion, naïve) This is delicious.

Red

(salacious)… Yeessssss…let’s start you off…with Wolf. Mind you, he’s a bit of rough trade but…but for old times’ sake, why not!

(Red does several voices here)

Red

You could meet up by accident, just strolling in the forest.

Red

(Wolf)(basso) “Hello, little girl.”

Red

Or…or…he could follow you home…In his pick-up truck. After choir. You pull into the drive…the truck pulls in behind.

Red

(as Goldie) “Oh my gawd! That truck’s been following me…since I left…the church!

Red

You want a black BMW? Red? I can the same all-in price. For you.

Red

(Wolf) “All the better to see you…”

Red

(Goldie) “Who is that?”… “Oh, my! Oh, my!… What a nice…voice you have.”

Red

Check out his tongue. Trust me!

Red

(Wolf) “All the better to lick you with, my dear.”

Red

Daddy Bear’s at football camp!! The big bed! Do it in the big bed! Wicked!

Goldie

In the big bed!? (fingering her hair, hesitant) Does Wolf shed?

Red

(deflated/annoyed) Well…I guess…yes, he probably does. Is that important? (recovering) We could book you in upstairs! (Checking her reservation book) And what do you know… Number 3 is free all tonight! “The Bear Pit”. Honey, I swear. A total coincidence. Totally.

My Comments

I noticed one day that there were hardly any men in “fairy forest”, especially the Grimm version. That’s not strictly true. There are indeed a couple of princes who come into the forest to rescue the beautiful girls and take them away, somewhere else. And there are definitely a lot of bad step moms. And about this time the Hollywood variant of feminism seemed to admit the possibility of girl villains. Whether that is the ultimate liberation we can debate another time. The next thing I knew, I had a strip bar with the sex roles reversed—bad women and abused boy strippers. The idea was and is—rich women will be no nicer than the rich men have been to their sexual subordinates.

I had one reading of this in Toronto with some real actors. It seemed to go well, especially the second act.

Then I had a second reading in New York organized by a friend who ran the Working Actors’ Studio. The idea was to do half the play as improv and half as a reading. In my view the improv half was better than the reading. The cast they recruited in mid August were not good readers but the improv was a riot. The characters are easy and the actors seemed to have fun.

I think this works well as comedy. I’d like to get it produced. Maybe a problem is the large cast. (2017)

The 51st State

2017

Full Text (PDF)

The Simpsons are typically Canadian: fabulously rich, brilliant, charming, tolerant, exceedingly polite, hospitable—and battling the Yankee takeover to the last drop of the cognac at the cottage.**

Reset! Reset!

It turns out, for the purpose of an argument, these Canadians play dirty. But do they play dirty enough to win?

A fantasy.

Excerpts

Daft Daddy Simpson takes a nap and dreams the dream of Canadian resistance.

Henry

Where are my guns? …

Dorothy

They’re just teasing you, Henry. They’re very clever like that. You’ll find them when the water goes down.

Paula

Mrs. Simpson, what do you mean, “when the water goes down”?

Henry

Mom, what do you mean, “when the water goes down”?

Dorothy

Well, as part of the new NAFTA. America needs fresh water…for your cities.

Dorothy

Instead of giving you our dollar reserves and the Chinese taking our water, we thought…we’ll keep the money and give you the water. It’s just sitting there. In Lake Superior.

Deb

We’ll flush away Chicago for you.

Dorothy

And St Louis. It’ll just take a day.

Ethan

Actually, it’ll take three days.

(Don [Simpson] sleeps in his rocker, stage left. Henry watches over Ethan’s shoulder as plays a video game he invented)

Henry

That’s a game I’ve never heard of. UN Peace Drones.

Ethan

It’s Canadian. The drones fly over and drops Laura Secord gummy bears.

Henry

Ha ha. Perfect for Canada.

What happens when you give those guys blue helmets.

Ethan

Which guys? Those?

Henry

These

Ethan

They’re Blackwater mercenaries from Kentucky. Not a good idea.

Henry

They look like Canadians.

Ethan

Do not.

Henry

How can you tell?

Ethan

They’ve got guns! These are Canadians! In the bunny costumes.

Henry

(he splits a gut laughing) And this…is very cool. A blizzard buries Buffalo! Very realistic. Very. You wrote that! I’m impressed.

Ethan

Mom’s idea. Look at this.

(Henry looks over his shoulder as Ethan shows a few clips. Henry goes ballistic.)

Henry

Holy fuck! What the… Look at this, Paula! Washington just sank into the sea!

Ethan

Nine Richters.

Henry

Jesus!!!!

Deb

Personally I don’t do games. Too nerdy. But that’s a great one!

Henry

Paula. Paula!

Deb

I play it with Nadia’s brother in Yemen. And her other brother in Beirut. They’re both excellent. Really, really nice guys.

Ethan

Here’s fourteen Richters. Five time more on the R scale but you get 10 times the tidal wave. Awesome!

Henry

Jesus H…

Deb

(to Paula) One time the cousin in Yemen sent me six hundred pounds of Turkish toffee.

Paula

(suspicious) Was it good?

Deb

Gross. Inedible! But I didn’t want to say anything.

Henry

Tell me about this cousin.

Ethan

Nadia’s cousin? In Yemen. Originally Iran. He’s a nuclear geophysicist who specializes in the deep storage of spent fuel cells.

Paula

What did you do with…the toffee?

Deb

Gave it to Nadia.

Henry

What did she do with it?

Ethan

You can stick it anywhere. Like chewing gum. Under a chair. Or a bed. But Nadia gave it to her friends.

Dorothy

Not under my bed! Children. And, please, not in the green Room.

Paula

Her friends?

Deb

Her FaceBook friends.

Henry

Do you still have any of this toffee?

Ethan

There’s tiny, tiny bit under your bed., Uncle Hank.

Deb

The rest is in Poppy’s car, at the marina.

Distant explosion

Henry

What was that?

Ethan

Sounds like a car at the marina.

Dorothy

I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s a pretty old car.

A series of similar distant explosions. Henry goes nuts.

Deb

Do you think, maybe, Poppy parked it too close to the gas pump!

Dorothy

(looking over at him asleep) The old fool! This is not good. How will Peter get over to the island when he arrives?

Deb

We can go and pick him up any time, Gran. Our boat’s not at the marina. it’s down at the boathouse.

Very loud explosion from Stage Left

Ethan

Not any more.

Paula rushes off stage. Henry now nervous, upset, checks his shoulder holster for his gun. It’s gone. He freaks, turning to Deb.

Henry

Where is my gun? Whadda you do with my gun. You little … !

Deb

The Glock or the Berretta?

Henry

Which one! Which one! You…#!~@@&!

Dorothy

No rude talk at the cottage. Always be nice.

Deb

I’ve never seen either of them.

Dorothy

They’re just teasing you, Henry. They’re very clever like that. You’ll find them when the water goes down.

Paula re-enters

Paula

Mrs. Simpson, what do you mean, “when the water goes down”?

Henry

Mom, what do you mean, “when the water goes down”?

Dorothy

Well, as part of the new NAFTA. America needs fresh water…for your cities.

Dorothy

Instead of giving you our dollar reserves and the Chinese taking our water, we thought…we’ll keep the money and give you the water. It’s just sitting there. In Lake Superior.

Deb

We’ll flush away Chicago for you.

Dorothy

And St Louis. It’ll just take a day.

Ethan

Actually, it’ll take three days. Ethan wiggles his trigger finger at Henry

Deb

(to Paula Chicago votes Democrat. This will be good for you in so many ways.

Paula and Henry are in hysterics looking at Ethan’s screen

Ethan

There goes St. Louis. New Orleans coming up in ten.

Light fade on all but Don, who is smiling and sort of laughing in his sleep Henry approaches him

Henry

Dad, dad…have you been sleeping here all night! Wake up. Looks like you’ve been having a pretty good dream.

Don

What… What…

Oh… Yes…actually… Pretty good… (sniffing) What time is it? Did I miss the bacon?

Henry

No, there’s lots left.

Dad, we need to have a talk about Ethan.

Don

Great kid. Great kid. Future of the country is in his hands.

(Don wiggles his fingers menacingly)

Lights

My Comments

Alternate name—The Canada App

Here I’ve brought the great Canadian family up-to-date. At the cottage, naturally. Fighting an American take-over in the Trump era. This is a short version for try-outs. If I could get a full production I’d add a scene or two at the end.

I’m completely confident Canadian audiences would fall off their seats laughing. It nails our ambiguous love-hate with the Yankees, which is the serious subject matter of the play. I would be interested whether Americans could laugh at this. I doubt it. (2017)

Hamlet and the Pirates Lay Over in Calais

2002

Full Text (PDF)

Claudius rejects the pirates’ ransom demand and they realize too late they made a big mistake keeping Hamlet. He’s a wimpy, whiny jerk. Plan B: Make him over into a puppet hero and use him as a front man for regime change in Denmark.

Act One—Good luck with the makeover!

Act Two—Back in Denmark: Be careful what you wish for. Who’s using who?

Unforgettably ridiculous.

Excerpts

The pirate captain discovers the stowaway (PDF p. 3)

Captain

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, won’t you be worth a pretty penny!

I’m Captain Jack Flash. Boys call me Captain. And this is Smee. … And how’s that uncle of yours? King now, is he?

Hamlet tries to make up his mind what to have for breakfast (PDF pp. 26-27)

Patti

What would you like for breakfast, Prince. You have to choose.

Hamlet

Choose! Choose! Please don’t make me choose! Oh that this too solid flesh would melt… My dad used to have Shreddies, but I sort of like Corn Flakes…but not all the time. Oatmeal is good. So is bacon. Marmalade can be good or bad depending on the kind of oranges. What do you recommend? …

Gertrude gives Claudie shit (PDF p. 49)

Gertrude

(rises from under the covers of the royal bed. Claudius is too scared to come out.) … And what choice do I have? I, Gertrude, Queen of the Danes! “Just passing through. On my way to Poland.” So he says! “Passing through!” With a thousand troopers! “Peasant rebellion, my ass!” And you say—“Right this way, Prince Fortinbras. … Come on in! My castle is your castle! … Stay the weekend! Try the wenches!” What a wimp, Claude! What a wimp! You know what Denmark needs, Claudie, what Denmark needs is a Prince with some balls! …

My Comments

This was such fun to write. It started with the idea that, really, Hamlet was a dithering jerk, not someone to pity, no matter how eloquent his whining. Once I got going I set out to satirize all the big scenes in the original. The scenes on the pirate ship as the pirates try to make Hamlet over into a “man” worthy of being king—or at least a passable stooge and puppet ruler for their looting of Denmark—are terrific. I am especially proud of the repartee for four voices—very hard to perform but operatic. The scene in the brothel might needs to be cut. The duelling scene in Act II is great farce.

With some significant help we organized a rehearsed reading of this. And invited a small audience. I learned the obvious: farce doesn’t “read” well. Non-theatre people judged the readers as performers, sometimes too harshly. The farce scenes made no sense to them.

If I were re-writing this I’d revisit the brothel scene. And I would stick some more contemporary politics into Act Two as Hamlet “takes over”.

I love the silliness of it. Perhaps it’s an issue whether silliness sells but I think it does. It needs a great comedic director. (2017)

Eleanor and Franklin Let It All Hang Out in a Remote Location

2005

Full Text (PDF)

Eleanor and Franklin weren’t married. They were at war. Who knew? Who won? The one who had the most lovers, that’s who. Do you have enough fingers? Based on a true story.

Excerpts

Eleanor’s opening statement

Eleanor

When I told Franklin that I’ve decided to become a play writer…and stage performer…a monolog-ist…and that my subject matter would be own life…as a sexual adventuress…with the she males, as he called them, …and my boy toys, as you call them today. A “bodyguard”, by the way, is a muscular male person who looks after the body of another person. And that I would omit from my monolog all that milk-of-human-kindness crap that the publisher inserted in my auto-biography. A “tell-all”, Franklin, honey-darling, about the vain, dullish, crippled stamp-collector, who just happened to get to be President while his wife was …

(PDF p. 10)

Eleanor

When I told Franklin that I’ve decided to become a play writer…and stage performer…a monolog-ist…and that my subject matter would be own life…as a sexual adventuress…with the she males as he called them…and my boy toys as you call them today…and bodyguard…a “bodyguard” is a muscular person, usually male, who looks after the body of another person…that would omit my my monolog all that milk-of-human-kindness crap that the publisher inserted in my auto-biography… I have only myself to blame… No…a “tell-all”, Franklin, honey-darling, about the vain, dullish, crippled stamp-collector, who just happened to get to be President because…

Franklin

(not listening, working on his stamps) Marvellous, marvellous.

Eleanor

Something more up-to-date. … About the woman who shaped the modern age by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (to the audience) I wrote some pretty scorching letters and you know, it’s a shame Lorena burned all the best.

Franklin

(not looking up) You wrote too many letters.

Eleanor

If people like me didn’t write letters, people like you wouldn’t have stamps to collect. … I mean at least you are exposed in the history books as a glad-handing, two-faced, dissembling, philandering, bum-pinching, light-weight, momma’s-boy.

Me? I’m just too dorky. That, I’m going to fix!

My Comments

This was the only time I attempted to be true to history. I love the material–Eleanor Roosevelt’s sex life—but I don’t think the script in its present form is good enough. The text has footnotes at the end referencing various incidents referred to. What intrigued me was the arc of Eleanor’s life, from the gross oppression of her girlhood to the triumph of adventurous adult sex life and her relentless progressive politics.

I first heard that Eleanor might have been a lesbian in the early 90s. I’m embarrassed now that my reaction was titillation. I did a lot of reading about the Roosevelts’ personal lives and politics and came to admire Eleanor intensely. She moved from a disastrous childhood of extreme Victorian oppression. She was unattractive. She survived an ultra-conservative marriage0—and betrayal—by her husband. Late in life she developed her own radical, and occasional lesbian, relationships and politics. She became a political power in her own right. She maintained her own circle of friends in the White House that would scandalize our modern world. And she carried on as an influential political operator after her husband’s death.

This was a fun history project.

Perhaps it could be re-written as a monolog.

I have the idea that it could be backed up with pics and clips from the family albums. There are some pic at the end of the play text. This might help tell a complicated story on stage. That technology is beyond my current skill level. (2017)

Jesus Retains Counsel

2012

Full Text (PDF)

Rising from the dead doesn’t just happen. Somebody had an agenda! And my thesis is that Jay could have avoided a lot of trouble if he had had a lawyer at the first trial, but that’s water under the bridge by the time they get to the appeal. And here’s what happened.

Jason of Nazareth is the first son of Mary Virgin and the dispossessed, unrecognized King of the Jews—also a drug-addled goof off. He yearns to escape the curse and boredom of the high office his very ambitious mother wants him to claim. Mags, his girlfriend, is an off-book anesthesiologist who fakes his death with her wonder drug, Serro-Floxy-Moxy-Hydro-Carbon. The gameplan is for him to sign over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in his capacity as King of the Jews, to his boyhood friend Omar and take off with Mags for Aruba. So far so…very, very bad.

My Comments

I think the mythology of Jesus is great material for spoof. That’s hardly original. I have had several ideas—too many—on this subject. As a lawyer I think he was wrongly convicted. A small point. I had a reading of this which I organized myself. The readers were friends, not actors. It didn’t work. It needs pros with skilled voice control.

Trying to see beyond that specific problems I think in retrospect that legal issues of J.C.’s conviction are more interesting to me than to non-lawyers and not exactly funny. The rest is of the story is good to great.

Is there method in this madness?

This script contains a lot of intense scripted babble/blather/banter/argument. Is it stream of consciousness? Yes. Is it “word salad”? Yes. Is it proper drama with solid continuity and linear logic? Definitely not. It is hoped some people will find the satire in poor taste but laugh so hard they can’t remember why and the rest will listen so intently so not miss a word and they may never laugh. This is a fourth play of this sort, which hang on a familiar myth/meta-story (the others being Hamlet, Judgment Day, nursery tales, the trial of Jesus etc.) Something “deeper” is being mocked or analysed.

Nothing wrong, according to my theory, that this comes off like farce or sometimes like stand-up comedy—as long as the totality is more than a set of one-liners.

If I need to declare a “deep intention” here, it is to make fun of any and all arguments that “God gave me this land”–or that has done anything good for anybody except fuck us all around the block. (2017)

Jesus Does Standup—The Come Back Tour

2017

Full Text (PDF)

After eight thousand years of non-stop touring on the stand-up circuit trying the get same old message across, perpetually at odds with his manager, totally exhausted and broken, J.C. finally takes a break—his first holiday in eight thousand years—and goes home to Nazareth to join the family from hell for Christmas.

Excerpts

The Miracle Tour—a good idea at the time

Jesus

Did you see me in The Miracle Tour? …Seemed like a good idea at the time. Great concept. But it turned out…the thing is…I mean once you start raising the dead the people weren’t coming out for free fish. Miracles weren’t the draw they used to be. …More or less wiped out by Laser surgery…and Prozac…Fuck Prozac! …and Penicillin! Penicillin was a real killer…for me.

Mother Mary—Welcome home Jesus

Mary

I thought I heard a familiar voice.

Well, look at you! Just look at you! Where have you been!

You staying for supper? Don’t argue! Always, you argue. So skinny! Look at you! The robe, darling, too peasant. You look like Mel Gibson! Did you sleep in it? It smells. Leave it in the hamper, darling.

What, it’s been eight thousand years…plus. …what…fifteen? I wasn’t expecting you till Armageddon. Your real dad said you were on tour. How’s that going for you?

Joseph, don’t look at me like that! That’s what he said.

(PDF p. 5)

Jesus

Folks, I admit it, things have been a little…thin at the box office… My first tour…maybe you heard of it… All the Fish You Can Eat, strictly local produce…it was huge before the thing. Thousands! A fan base Madonna couldn’t touch! … Did you see me in The Miracle Tour? … Seemed like a good idea at the time. Great concept. But it turned out…the thing is…I mean once you start raising the dead the people weren’t coming out for free fish. Miracles weren’t the draw they used to be… More or less wiped out by Laser surgery…and Prozac… Fuck Prozac…and Penicillin! Penicillin was a real killer…for me.

Mary welcomes Jesus home after 8000 years PDF (p.27)

Mary

I thought I heard a familiar voice.

Well, look at you! Just look at you! Where have you been!

You staying for supper? Don’t argue! Always, you argue. So skinny! Look at you! The robe, darling, too peasant. You look like Mel Gibson! Did you sleep in it? It smells. Leave it in the hamper, darling. I think I can find you something nice that’ll fit.

What, it’s been eight thousand years…plus…what…fifteen? I wasn’t expecting you till Armageddon. Your real dad said you were on tour. How’s that going for you?

Joseph, don’t look at me like that! That’s what he said.

You look a little puffy under the eyes. They’re still fabulous eyes. Aren’t you sleeping? Is that girl keeping you up late? I warned you! Didn’t you tell her! You’re married to me!

Look at you!… I’m so surprised to see you. You never write, you never phone. And…poof…here you are! Little Poof! You were so cute.

It’s been a long time. That was so terrible in Jerusalem. Let me see your hands. They are…almost, all better. It wasn’t so bad. I mean weighed against what you’ve got going now. So famous!

Maybe King of Jews would have been better, but what’s past is past. I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed, back then. I had high hopes. You could have been King of the Jews. It’s a pretty good job. Most days. Where’s the nice suit I bought for you! History is history. I’ll only say it once, but…but…you could have apologized. To Caesar. You could have! It didn’t have to end so badly. I would have apologized. If it were me. Make peace with Rome. Take it from me, there are advantages. And stop with that raising the dead. Nothing but trouble.

My little Jesus could have been King of Jews.

It was that lawyer. Wasn’t it?! They’re all the same.

“Don’t talk. Right to remain silent. Say nothing.” They think they should talk and everybody should listen…to them! That’s what wrong with the world, the biggest thing, talking lawyers.

Anyhow, darling, where did you go? I was looking for you…after “the thing”? In the garden. It was that girl, I’ll bet. I never trusted her! But there’s a bright side to everything. You’re sitting pretty now! Joseph, don’t you think…Joseph! Don’t you think he’s sitting pretty? Us too. My son, a God. Who knew. Me, the mother of the son of God which makes me—mother of God—I think—don’t argue. Anyhow, it was a different God. For the goyim. But still. And Joseph! Well, what does that make you! Aren’t you glad—now—that annulment didn’t go through.

You’re still adorable, in a Scandinavian sort of way. Joseph, don’t pout. Look at him! I got lucky. That’ll all.

This one! So sensitive. Because he listened to his mother.

Well, I better go and fix the turnips. You talk to Joseph. Joseph, talk to him. Tell him, tell him…his Real Dad is out back.

Play your cards right, Joseph. We’re sitting pretty now! You don’t want to be a carpenter forever!

My Comments

Alternate Titles—But You Knew ThatAfter the thing in JerusalemThe Virgin Betty

In this monologue Jesus complains about his years on the comeback circuit preaching the word. “God” responds to his complaints in the voice of a drummer. It’s not really a monolog, it’s a dialog between an actor and a drummer. I think it’s hysterical but then I can imagine and hear the drum part and that sounds in my head totally perfect. It might not read as well. I’ve never found a drummer to try it out.

The play morphs into a mock dinner party drama—Jesus goes home for Christmas dinner. The family from hell!

I think it stands well enough as is but if it works the way I think it does I could add another scene or two and blow the roof off. (2017)

Rex the Horse

1978

Full Text (PDF)

Rex the Horse really does dive off platform twenty feet in the air and young lawyers really do “Free Hughie Newton”.

My Comments

This was my first effort. It was loosely based on some facts from my early “hippy/rebel” law practice. The famous Hughie Newton was indeed detained at the Toronto Airport as he was passing through and our intrepid senior partner set out to “free” him, while we worried about other stuff—did Rex The Horse really jump off a twenty-foot tower into a pool of water?

My opinion: I love it for sentimental reasons but it’s definitely dated. (2017)