Theater Camp Sucked

8/15/07

After 5 days of rehearsal, my play, BOTANICAL GARDENS, was cancelled by the producers. Their decision was neither fair nor rational. The way they went about making their decision –one in Scotland, the other in Wyoming — was torturous, leaving the two actors, the director, and myself hanging in the proverbial breeze for 48 hours. The details are not juicy; rather mundane. What can I say? Theater camp sucked.

cancelled play email

Yes, to have my play cancelled is a disappointment. Three things I like about playwriting are:

1. Writing. When I’m writing and the characters finally come alive on the page and begin talking to each. It feels like I’m taking dictation. I wrote PERSISTENCE OF VISION in a weekend. The other plays and screenplays have taken at least 8 months. And, in each instance it was at least 6 months before the characters started talking to each other. Before that happens, I write a lot and throw away a lot.

2. Rehearsals. I get tremendous pleasure watching terrific directors and actors practice their crafts. BOTANICAL GARDENS’ Anne Carney and Malachy Cleary are amazing actors, Rob Urbinati, a successful playwright himself, is a high-powered director. Watching them work together was like watching musicians learn a new piece of music. Within just five days, they were already hitting the right notes for the first 4 scenes.

3. Watching performances. Many people tell me that they catch me laughing during my plays. It’s true. I have a great time at performances.. It’s not because I think the plays are great. By the time they make the stage, it’s been at least three years since I finished writing. By then, I hardly remember having written it. I laugh because the actors are so good. They make me laugh.

How are you doing? How are you taking it? You must be crushed? Are you going to live?

The last one my mother, who has never blogged, asked.

You know when it was painful? When the producers took their sweet time making a final decision. Limbo is an anguishing pain. Once the decision was finally made, you go into emotional damage control. Well, there go eight fabulous weeks in New York. Making that 12 block walk to 78th Street each day, smiling because, at last, you’ve got a play in New York. Just 23 paces from Broadway. But, let’s tell it like it really is. The 78th Street Lab is OFF-OFF-OFF Broadway. But, they do get reviewed by the Times. There was that. Yeah, it could be a lousy review, but the mind doesn’t go there. Instead it imagines a wonderful review and the possibilities that follow. Then the mind catches itself. Don’t go there. It’s bad luck to imagine a good review. Too late, you’ve done it, and you find yourself unable to stop. Now I can stop. Then there were the friends and family coming in from out of town. The dinners to be shared. And then there’s me — the focal point. I may play the modesty card, but who are we really kidding.

Now that future is in the past. Can that be right? (I mean the concept of the future in the past?) You need to notify people. Even though it wasn’t your fault, wasn’t your play’s fault, you still feel some shame and embarrassment. You imagine who might actually enjoy hearing the news. You write the obit. Headline: BOTANICAL GARDENS CANCELLED. You write, ‘ due to a set of extraordinary circumstances BOTANICAL GARDENS has been cancelled.’ You apologize for any inconvenience this has caused anyone. You thank them for their support and interest in your work. You tell them you’ll keep them posted on any future production. Then you stuff your 250 plus email list in the blind c.c. slot and, take a deep breath, and then push send.

If it were only so easy. Your computer won’t send out 250 plus names at once. You must chunk them. This isn’t your strong suit. Gradually you get the hang of and send 20 letters at a time. While you do this you notice your ‘in box’ start to collect mail.

The new emails are from family, friends colleagues, all saying how horrible it is. That your play has been cancelled. You actually get two emails in a row that say, ‘Bummer.’ Good word. Your brother-in-law writes ‘Mallamard dead…. Neidermeyer dead….the producers…. The reference comes to you. Not 100% sure, but pretty sure it’s from ‘ANIMAL HOUSE.’ The next day you’re informed you’re right. The question that most ask is ‘what happened?’ At first you think of the long story. It’s complicated. No one really wants to read the long story. You realize the short story will suffice. You write back, ‘the cast, director, and I were screwed by the producers.’

You write it over and over and over and over. Til every email has been replied. When you’ve finished, you look around and you’re at the airport, and it’s your turn to board the plane. You stop for a moment and try to remember how long it’s been since you’ve been home. 11 days. That’s all?

Thought for sure it was a month. Then you board.

Once you take your seat, you settle in. Relax. You smile because you remember your kids are okay, your wife is okay, and, yes, you’re okay, too. And then you settle back and move on.

9 Responses to “Theater Camp Sucked”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    My daughter just noted, “Todd Logan’s luck has been better than yours so far. At least he had a show to get cancelled. You didn’t.”

  2. davideo Says:

    Remember, Botanicals are a growing sector of medicinals and on everyones minds. Could the producers put it in writing so you could add it to the rejection letter site? Or you change the accents and release it as an independent Scottish film
    or call Jackie Mason and have him shoehorn a scene into his next one man show, name a cheesecake or sandwich after it at the Carnegie. What will you do with all the engraved rubber plants for promotional giveaways…a tree grows in Brooklyn
    this is a test…only a test

  3. lucy dollar Says:

    Just hang in there, They’re probably a bunch of jerks, anyway

  4. John F. Says:

    Too bad you didn’t have 10 investors at 25% each.
    Or…Did You?

  5. admin Says:

    Good point. I didn’t. Maybe the other guys did. Hmm

  6. Norma Rae Says:

    Todd, here is my “Man-Made Natural Disaster Show Biz Story”:

    I wish they would cancel the show I am currently “in rehearsal” for. Now, mind you, there is nothing I enjoy more than embodying a fully-realized character in a very well-written play. And this play won the Pulitzer Prize. But, the performance space is currently under water. Which also means the rehearsal space in currently under water (and untreated sewage). The director took an acting job – in Rockford! and so he won’t “be around very much, and won’t be able to attend the performances…” – but “assured” the other actor and myself that a stage manager may be able to attend one of the rehearsals – at one of the actor’s homes, maybe? – when he is not there. The play is scheduled to open in two weeks. Did I mention that the performance space is very precariously near (in) the Des Plaines River? Did I also mention that my rain dance should also win the Pulitzer Prize (if there is such a thing for dance choreography?) There should be. The river crests at nine feet. I never would have known that before this “process”. I also never thought it would be possible to fill out an Actors Equity Association Application WHILE performing a rain dance. It is.

  7. Jim Shankman Says:

    Todd
    Congratulations! Excellent start to the New York side of your playwrighting career. Seems to have gone off without a hitch. I am green with envy! Jealous to the marrow! How many playwrights get five full days of intense and gratifying rehearsal before their play is ignominiously cancelled by an absentee producer?
    How many playwrights can say, “I was there in the backrow when it all began to gel, the acting, the writing, the direction, the design. And as I sat there I felt the vindication of years of struggle against a dismissive industry, the petty rejections of ignorant hacks, the smug indifference of underpaid assistants, and EVERYBODY’S A CRITIC. Todd, are you sure about that act ending, that opening line, that turn of phrase, that piece of business, that plot point, back reference, complication, underlying theme, that god only knows what they learned about in Film 101. Now all that was past and I could feel myself being heard above the vociferous din of the popular culture, my words, my story, my imagination, which I freely give to the world to make it a better, more understandable place, not for the ‘strut and trade of charms upon the ivory stages,’ not for the glory, the women, the Charlie Rose Show. No! I did it for the general welfare, for the furtherance of the human spirit. In all modesty. I did it for the world. And now it is nearly done, almost finished. I have only to open the doors to the world and invite them into my theatre. Here, won’t you have a seat? Let me take your hat and coat. We’ll be starting any minute. AND THEN THE COCKSUCKERS CANCEL THE SHOW. THEY PUT THE GUN TO IT’S INNOCENT TEMPLE, SQUEEZE THE TRIGGER AND BLOW IT’S BRAINS ALL OVER GODDAMN 78th STREET.”
    My God! What I wouldn’t give for that. I don’t know if I could stand that kind of overnight success. It takes a certain sang-froid, a certain gravitas, an artistic maturity. I know I don’t if I have it. I only hope you do.

  8. Daniel Says:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Theater Camp Sucked, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  9. Norma Rae Says:

    Postcript: I learned – a week before opening – that the play I was supposed to perform in was indeed cancelled…”due to flooding.” I learned this by reading a notice on a community website.

Leave a Reply