Zombie Wedding day 2: Skipping leg day.

Well, I did it.  I went and failed and at maintaining a daily blog after the first day.  So in truth this is day three of the ZW race to NY.  At least I’ve slept (and woken, then slept again) on what I had to think about on Wednesday.  And now it’s Friday and NYE I won’t be getting much work done tonight either.  Probably just enough time to write a little blog about what hail Mary solution I have to the ‘Dream Wedding / I Do’ problem.

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Zombie Wedding Day 1: a Dream Wedding ‘think piece’

Messy intro

Hey,

So Zombie Wedding had a week long table read/development a week ago and with it came notes and feedback.  Which was nice.  There was lots of feedback, requiring a return trip to the drawing board.  And quickly, mind, as I am going to New York in a little over two weeks to be part of a two week intensive development workshops for the show, in which time there will be much more rewritting.  To that end I’m going to have to ration what I can work on in the next couple weeks so I can actually produce something.  I’ve chosen to attack the two largest chunks.  They are actually related.  Let me explain.

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Rethinking the scenes

This blog post  has come about after dicking around with the existing scene list in the previous blog.  Basically I wanted to move two scenes with the same two actors so they wouldn’t be so back-to-back.  They aren’t truly back to back as there is a scene with the other two actors in between, but that scene is so short and weak that it doesn’t really make any impact and makes those characters seem weak.  Those other characters aren’t weak, it’s just a weak moment in the plot for them, and that can’t happen.  All I wanted to do was even out one character’s arc, and here I am having to reinvent the whole bleedin’ show.  Trey annoying.

Here’s the current scene outline in “act chunks” colour coded for pleasure.

  1. Meet all characters and their wants
  2. Meet Michael and Pippa and set up plot
  3. Meet James and Emily and set up plot
  4. Pippa’s want
  5. Emily’s fear and “the quest begins”
  6. Michael at the urinal
  7. Crossing the road with James and Emily
  8. Pissing against the wall
  9. Blagging with James and Emily
  10. The Jerusalem
  11. The poster
  12. The return home
  13. The Dukes

The pink and the green know exactly what they’re doing, but the middle is a bit lumpy.  The first two beats are fine (I think) but then there is a soft belly of not-really-defined set pieces in between.  The easiest thing to do would be to simply cut the ‘crossing the road’ set piece all together.  Which is a shame although it might be the weakest set piece.  One thing that there isn’t really is a moment when James decides to take charge, but I suppose if the ‘crossing the road’ thing  were romved then that beat would also be removed.  It could be replaced in the ‘return home’ with a taxi ride that Emily aces.

Thanks for listening to my ramble blog.  Sorry to anyone trying to read this.

James’ Structure

Oh muses I’ve done a bad thing.  I’ve fallen in love with a plot.  See what you are supposed to do is have a rough plot that you use to help you develop characters, and then once you have those characters down you let them tell you what they want to do.  Well I have my characters strong, and they are telling me they don’t want the story I have for them.  In particular James.

 

James is a surprise.  He was supposed to be the fourth and least interesting character, acting as a foil to the main (surprise main) lead Emily.   But in a way he’s now carrying the heart of the piece.

Here’s his journey beats as I have them in my head, and in the current script-ish:

  1. Meet James.  James is popular in a ‘cool’ way, but not in a warm “real friends” way!
  2. He accidentally outs himself as a blagger.
  3. He realises that the people who have invited him out might be “real friends”!
  4. He does something charitable out of the bliss of his newly discovered friendship.
  5. Crosses the road.
  6. He realises that he has been used.
  7. He dismisses the friendship and tries to undermine the night as revenge.
  8. He reconciles that he might have been responsible via his false image and forgives.

I’m wondering if he would need a “I wish I had real friends” beat or if just the tearful realisation that they like him, and him remarking on that is the setup and the payoff in one.

I’m also wondering if the crossing the road song shouldn’t happen earlier as an example of him taking control (this will make zero sense for anyone reading this).  Right now it’s a set piece that has to happen right after the blagging song, which is also a set piece, so it would be two James songs in a row which ain’t good.  You know what, I’m going to address that right now.  Okay I’ve just whip-crack changed that in the plot and now its caused all sorts of damage.  I’m going to have to write another blog just to sort this fuss out.  I’ll do that now.  See you in the future.

Jame’s journey

Oh muses I have a problem.

I’ve just started this new project and have the plot sketched out nicely.  And only last night I wrote out the first rough draft.  Forty pages of not un-readable outline and dialogue.  But here’s the rub;

I have an outwardly confident character who has loads of friends, and goes on about his VIP status in the city.  The secret is he is a blagger with no friends and no VIP access.  And near the end he discovers that the people that had invited him out, the people he had started to think were his true friends at last, only did so for his VIP access, which he doesn’t have.  His responses from this realisation is thus:

  • He is sad that what he thought were finally  friends aren’t really friends (he let his guard down)
  • He is worried that his lie about his VIP access powers are about to come unstuck.
  • Oh a gesture from another character saves the day for James and his VIP dilemma, so whatever we learn about him the other character (Emily) has to also know it.

So how do I make these moments feel earned and emotionally invested by the time we get to his eleventh hour?  I’ll brainfart about the first one bullet point first.

So James (may as well) has a bluff that he has loads of mates.  We need so understand that he hasn’t loads of mates.  In fact he’s chuffed that someone has asked him for a night out at all.  Then it dawns on him that he was invited out just to get the people access to some VIP lounge.  And at the start we have to believe that he is someone with loads of mates.  Then we have someone perhaps question a thing or two about him.  Then we could have a song where he almost willingly tells us that he’s a blagger.  Then we have a moment where he remarks on what it’s like to have real friends and he’s having a great night out and enjoying it all.   I think that’s doable.  I have to admit that I had earmarked a really promising comedy number that I now have no idea where to put and I’m running out of room in James’ journey for a non-character development comedy number.  Sigh, I was really looking forward to it too.

Cool, I feel a little charged.  Now, how does he ‘work out’ that he’s been used?

I’ll lay out the shop.  Pippa’s favourite celebrity is in town (Mary Berry) and she’s at the local club’s VIP lounge (it could happen!) and Pippa calls up that bloke from work who’s always banging on about how he knows everyone.  But Pippa is thoughtful enough to not want James to think that he is being used for that purpose.  Although in fact he is.  I initially had the idea that he would stare up at a poster and then hear an echo of something Pippa said, but I’ll leave than on the maybe pile as something a bit half-arsed in a musical to use a film trope.  A big flaring problem is that he has virtually no communication with Pippa after the opening establishing scene.  He does correspond in a way, though reading social media posts from Pippa that she leaves as breadcrumbs.  Perhaps he gets illated when he reads “having great fun with Micheal and my new mate James”, then one gets a bit oninous like “Who likes Mary Berries?”.  James wouldn’t know what Mary Berry’s are.  Perhaps the response of seeing “friends” makes him beam, to which Emily is like “don’t you have loads of friends already?”.  This might be okay if I dress it up with some reprise here and there.  There would definitely need to be a hint of something before Pippa lets the cat out the bag, reprising his “real friends” tune.

Thanks for listening muses, I have worked it out-ish.  And sorry to any poor sod who attempted to read this.  This really is futile content for a blog.

Forever your fool,

Donnelm. I mean Daniel.  Daniel!

Back, but no promises

So I’m back after a year, but no promises about regularity.

I do have some cool news however.

About six months ago we (R.C. and I) had a staged workshop for One Way Ticket with FTG Productions in London that went great, and are currently in rewrites for a potential off-Broadway outing for Zombie Wedding in 2016.

As for the 10 Minute Musicals project I began last year, I probably won’t be continuing with the Urban Legends form as I’ve come to realise that they are somewhat American form, and I wanted the project to be something I could do locally without having to borrow context.  To that end I have another project I started about a month ago.  I’ll talk about that soon.

 

 

10mm Dog’s Dinner Script part 1

Sorry for not writing for two weeks. Dad came down again and we spent all last weekend doing DIY. Ditto all last week end this weekend. It has become quite the headache.

Tonight I’m going to take the first act scaffolding and turn it into a full script draft that leads into “Comfort”.

Here is the scaffolding for what happens in act 1:

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He says it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

I reckon that some of these points will be swollowed up into just a couple lines of dialogue while others will take up loads. Remember that the bullet points only identify the bits where the action changes in the scene. Remember this is just a swift once through to get something down. It’s always easier to edit than write afresh.

(Obviously this is not in musical theatre script formatting)

————- START SCENE —————-

Act 1 Script first draft

It is dinner time in a restaurant in modern day South Korea. Lights up on Brits Mike and Holly who are sitting left and right respectively at a table center-stage. In-between them and facing out to the audience is their dog Max who is also sat at the table. An unnamed waiter is putting drinks on their table.

HOLLY
Thank you. We’ll just need a few more minutes to look at the menu!

Mark is playing on his smartphone.

MIKE
You know they’ve even got 4-G out in the streets.

Max barks at the waiter as he walks away. Mark doesn’t respond.

HOLLY
Sorry. Mike will you please shut that dog up.

MIKE
Not listening
Saw someone watching tv in the underground.

HOLLY
MIKE!

MIKE
Hmm?

Max barks at Mike. Mike playfully barks back at Max.

HOLLY
I don’t believe this. I do not believe it. Not enough that you bring him into the restaurant, you let him make all that racket!

MIKE
Aww don’t listen to her mate, she’s got sunstroke and was up all night on the bog.

HOLLY
Why can’t you just tie him up outside?

MIKE
Holly this is South Korea. Do you know what they do to dogs?

HOLLY
Its bollocks.

MIKE
Max doesn’t leave my sight.

Max barks at Holly.

MIKE
To MAX
No he doesn’t leave my sight does he? And Holly can roll her eyes and fold her arms but if she insists on dragging me half way across the world to look a…

Triangle.

MIKE
… Buddhist temples!

Triangle.

MIKE
Folk Museums!

Triangle.

MIKE
Or Royal gardens!

C7th?

MIKE
Then I have a few stipulations of my own.

Into song “COMFORT

 

————- END SCENE —————-

Right I will now read it back to myself without changing anything. Back in a minute.

Back. Read it though twice. Part of me thinks it’s a bit long but it is after all the opening scene so that probably is allowed to be long. Saying that it might only run to about a minute is it is acted snappy. Just re-read it with a stopwatch and it’s a minute exactly.

It reads okay. I think it’s coming through that Mike is a bit of a dick and Holly is annoyed. That’s all the character development I think they need at this point. The only bit I’m not to sure about is when Mike says:Then I have a few stipulations of my own.”. That seems a bit too much like he answering a question that nobody has asked, like something out of a clever old-time musical where everyone is smart and wordy. Stipulation isn’t too clever per se, it just seems to focused. This song isn’t really about the dog, it’s about comforts. The dog can be the final comfort. Perhaps in the song it looks like he is going to imply that his chief comfort is Holly, but instead it’s Max. I suppose “Requirement” is a better word that stipulation. I’ll change it to that.

Other than that change the scene is good enough for me. I might add a stage direction to tell Holly to roll her eyes and cross her arms as Mike says she is, that would be a nice sight gag that tells the audience that they are in a long-term ‘I know all your moves’ relationship. Hopefully that will make Mike slightly more sympathetic if we can see that Holly is a bit of a nag.

I’ll add those small changes into the second draft.

—————– start scene ——————-

Act 1 Script second draft

It is dinner time in a restaurant in modern day South Korea. Lights up on Brits Mike and Holly who are sitting left and right respectively at a table center-stage. In-between them and facing out to the audience is their dog Max who is also sat at the table. An unnamed waiter is putting drinks on their table.

HOLLY
Thank you. We’ll just need a few more minutes to look at the menu!

Mark is playing on his smartphone.

MIKE
You know they’ve even got 4-G out in the streets.

Max barks at the waiter as he walks away. Mark doesn’t respond.

HOLLY
Sorry. Mike will you please shut that dog up.

MIKE
Not listening
Saw someone watching tv in the underground.

HOLLY
MIKE!

MIKE
Hmm?

Max barks at Mike. Mike playfully barks back at Max.

HOLLY
I don’t believe this. I do not believe it. Not enough that you bring him into the restaurant, you let him make all that racket!

MIKE
Aww don’t listen to her mate, she’s got sunstroke and was up all night on the bog.

HOLLY
Why can’t you just tie him up outside?

MIKE
Holly this is South Korea. Do you know what they do to dogs?

HOLLY
Its bollocks.

MIKE
Max doesn’t leave my sight.

Max barks at Holly.

MIKE
To MAX
No he doesn’t leave my sight does he? And Holly can roll her eyes…

Holly rolls her eyes.

 

MIKE
…and fold her arms…

Holly folds her arms.

MIKE
…but if she insists on dragging me half way across the world to look a…

Triangle.

MIKE
… Buddhist temples!

Triangle.

MIKE
Folk Museums!

Triangle.

MIKE
Or Royal gardens!

C7th?

MIKE
Then I have a few requirements of my own.

Into song “COMFORT

—————– end scene ——————-

Cool. In the next blog I will start drafting the song “Comfort”. See you then.

10mm Dog’s Dinner Scaffolding

Scaffolding? Scaffolding? What the devil is scaffolding?

I remember Tim Saward wrote a Facebook update once in which he said something like ‘I can’t get this song down, all I have is the scaffolding’ and then someone, probably Jennifer Toksvig, said ‘hey, don’t stress it, the scaffolding IS the song, everything else is just detail’. I vowed then that I would make it my mission to find out what scaffolding is. To date I’m still not entirely sure, but I have my own system that works for me, and I call that scaffolding.

Scaffolding (my definition) is pegging down the shape of the song or musical; or whatever. Pegging is in fact a better analogy than scaffolding because when you peg you are putting in the earth the places you intend to dig and eventually start building. Scaffolding on the other hand is something you do long after any design has been signed off. Nevertheless, scaffolding is what it’s called. Now by ‘pegging down the shape of the song’ I mean you actually write down in list form everything that has to happen in the drama. Every emotional turn and every little inclusion of plot and character has to be put in the list. From the list you can chart where a song might begin and even what its first verse might concern itself with. In fact lets go a little deeper, at this point you are scaffolding to decide whether the songs are even going to be verse/chorus or verse/verse/bridge/verse songs.

Verse/chorus vs verse/verse/bridge/verse songs

There are both useful in their own way of course. Consider that all songs make their ‘point’, which is usually the title of the song, either at the end of the chorus with v/c songs or at the end of each verse in v/v/b/v songs. This means that there is more space to put ideas before you have to get back to that bit in the song where you have to repeat the name of the song.

Verse/chorus songs have a fair amount of space between chorus end and chorus so they are good if you have a lot to say. They do however, tend to want the whole chorus to be repeated almost identically each time. A good example of a v/c would be Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita.

Verse/verse/bridge/verse songs however have their repeating idea at the end of each verse. This means that you are going to have to keep your wordplay keened up and think of a song title that you can come from at every which angle. A good example of a v/v/b/v song would be (there are hundreds of course) Losing My Mind from Follies.

In my works to date I have found the verse/chorus shape more useful, perhaps it’s time to force myself into a new groove?

Anyway, back to business.

 

Scaffolding Dog’s Dinner

This might end up being a long blog as what I am going to do now is stream-of-consciousnesses style list and annotate my musings and thinkings as I go. Jeez, this is going to be like writing a script but of everything. I better get started. No. Cup of tea first. No it’s too late for that (11pm GMT). But then again I did have that 1pm-8om nap. No. No Daniel you are just going to start and see where you are in an hour.

Quick review of the plotting.

Okay. There are five acts and so far two, two-and-a-half songs decided. Another song probably find itself at some point. The acts are: meet the couple and dog and sing comfort, look at the menu, talking to the waiter, wife takes photos and sings status, food arrives and they sing comfort again. Cool. I will now peg out the first act.

First pegging

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • We see the couple. Lets call them Mike and Holly.
  • Mike says he is annoyed about being in this restaurant.
  • The dog starts barking.
  • Holly is annoyed at the situation.
  • Mike sings his comfort song to the dog and vicariously to the wife.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

Okay. That looks to me like everything that I had in my outline, plus a few ideas I had as I wrote. I will now nb areas that I feel need more detail.

Querying the first pegging

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • We see the couple. Lets call them Mike and Holly.
    • Are they already sat?
    • Do they already have drinks?
    • Have we met or seen the dog yet the dog yet?
    • Could they not come on from off-stage and that is how the scene is framed?
  • Mike says he is annoyed about being in this restaurant.
    • He can’t just say it. What provokes him? Could Holly say something?
  • The dog starts barking.
    • Is this the first time the dog barks. Perhaps Holly could be angry and Mike takes pleasure from it.
  • Holly is annoyed at the situation.
  • Mike sings his comfort song to the dog and vicariously to the wife.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

Not that many notes really. I suppose it’s only really about a minute or less of drama. One of the questions I had is if they are already sat or do they come in. I would really like Holly to be sipping wine during the reprise of ‘Comfort,’ so that means she has to have wine already. We don’t want them to have any serious iterations with the waiter before their scene with him so they cannot order drinks at the start. That would if anything require three occasions with the waiter: the ordering of the drinks, the returning with the drinks, the ordering of the food and the bring back of the food. If the scene opens with them already with drinks at the table or with the waiter just leaving the table after dropping of the drinks then I can live with that. Either way it settles the question of whether they start at the table or not.

Another question. ‘do we see the dog or not’ is one that might inform the rest of the piece. I don’t think we can very well have a reveal that there is a dog under the table. It’s just too silly. If the scene started with the dog barking at the waiter who has just brought the drinks over then it sets up there is a dog at the table, Holly can react with embarrassment and Mike can react with pride. This little question has just set up the opening of the piece better than any exposition dialogue.

I will now write up the second pegging.

no the dig ain’t safe out there

Second pegging

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He says it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

That seems pretty good. I’m never sure how fine you can get with the details in scaffolds before you are writing script and lyrics out and out. If I were just working on the piece and not writing for illustrative purposes I might just keep tweaking at the same messy list until it evolved into a script. There really are no rules.  I could probably break up the ‘comfort song’ into a song scaffold but no more than that really.

(As you can see I made a little note about the sort of song I think the ‘comfort song’ could be.)

I will continue from the first act all the way to the end of the piece.

Whole piece first pegging.

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He tells her it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.
Act 2 – Reading the menu
  • Holly tries to decipher the menu like a trooper
  • Mike reads out the menu with silly talk
  • Holly tells him off
  • the waiter arrives
Act 3 – The waiter
  • Mike asks if they have pizza
  • Holly is allergic to prawns and
  • No tomatoes
  • We had chicken last night
  • chicken? Holly does a noise like a chicken.
  • I want beef. Moo.
  • That’s a cow. Well what does a beef sound like?
  • Look we’ll have the special.
  • Holly: Oh and can you take the dog?
  • Mike protests
  • Holy: It’s alright Mike, the waiter is going to take the dog, give him some food and then bring him right out.
  • Holly: Dog – food. Dog = food.
  • Holly doesn’t even let the waiter protest, she just hushes him off.

Act 4 – The status

  • Holly gets her mobile phone out and starts taking duck face selfies, checking each one before taking an other.
  • Mike can’t believe this: more photos!
  • Holly asks Mike to smile as she closes in on him.
  • She sings status as she is taking the photos
    • Perhaps the song can have a ‘cheese’ punctuation?
    • Perhaps her rival had 56 likes for her engagement ring status update and she needs to top it?
      • That can be “the bit”

Act 5 – The food

  • The waiter returns and puts food in front of them
  • Mike recognises the bowl in front of him. It’s his favorite dish in the world. Curry.
    • Set up curry in his comfort song
    • The food arrives. They begin to eat. It’s the husband’s favorite. It’s curry. As he tucks in she find a dog collar in her food. She pushes the plate aside and he grabs it. He sings as he eats and she joins in. They toast to comfort.
  • Holly recognises the dog’s collar in her food.
  • Mike ask’s what she’s got, and if she’s going to eat her dinner. Holly hands hers over and gets her camera out.

Cool cool. I think I lost it there in the bit with the waiter and started pitching dialogue when I should be thinking about scaffolding. That’s okay though. The lines are blurred after all and perhaps my little deviations into script will say more about how I want the scene to go down tonally than by describing it verbosely. That last scene seems a little short. Perhaps it will have the dramatic feel of being longer when it is staged. Or perhaps it will change some more.

Querying the whole piece first pegging.

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He tells her it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.
Act 2 – Reading the menu
  • Holly tries to decipher the menu like a trooper
  • Mike reads out the menu with silly talk
  • Holly tells him off
  • the waiter arrives
Act 3 – The waiter
  • Mike asks if they have pizza
  • Holly is allergic to prawns and
  • No tomatoes
  • We had chicken last night
  • chicken? Holly does a noise like a chicken.
  • I want beef. Moo.
  • That’s a cow. Well what does a beef sound like?
  • Look we’ll have the special.
  • Holly: Oh and can you take the dog?
  • Mike protests
  • Holy: It’s alright Mike, the waiter is going to take the dog, give him some food and then bring him right out.
  • Holly: Dog – food. Dog = food.
  • Holly doesn’t even let the waiter protest, she just hushes him off.

Act 4 – The status

  • Holly gets her mobile phone out and starts taking duck face selfies, checking each one before taking an other.
  • Mike can’t believe this: more photos!
  • Holly asks Mike to smile as she closes in on him.
  • She sings status as she is taking the photos
    • Perhaps the song can have a ‘cheese’ punctuation?
    • Perhaps her rival had 56 likes for her engagement ring status update and she needs to top it?
      • That can be “the bit”

Act 5 – The food

  • The waiter returns and puts food in front of them
  • Mike recognises the bowl in front of him. It’s his favorite dish in the world. Curry.
    • Set up curry in his comfort song
    • The food arrives. They begin to eat. It’s the husband’s favorite. It’s curry. As he tucks in she find a dog collar in her food. She pushes the plate aside and he grabs it. He sings as he eats and she joins in. They toast to comfort.
  • Holly recognises the dog’s collar in her food.
  • Mike ask’s what she’s got, and if she’s going to eat her dinner. Holly hands hers over and gets her camera out.

10MM Dog’s Dinner Plotting

So you’ve just read the previous blog where I run on about what I’m looking for in a 10MM. Now I’m going to try and come up with an outline / scaffold for one. Plucked from the list at random is the Urban Legend ‘Dog’s Dinner’.

In case you are unfamiliar, the story goes that a couple are traveling to a far-flung part of the world, probably in East Asia. The couple have been staying in this particular city for a spell and while they cannot decipher the menus, they vaguely recognise the hieroglyphs and know that they don’t want another bowl of “house, tree, square-cat-foot” or whatever the letters of that nation’s language look like. The couple also have a companion dog that they take everywhere with them. When the waitress comes over they manage to bridge the language gab with hand gestures and volume that they wan’t something special. Something off the menu. They then hand the waitress the dog and sees that the dog also ‘gets food’. The waitress returns with two bowls of ‘food’. It is the dog obviously. In some variations of the story the couple find out by discovering a dog collar in their food, in others they find out by the waitress plainly telling them. So there’s the story in case you hadn’t come across it.

I do like the general shape of the legend. It’s concise, it’s tightly staged and you half-know what is going to happen from the outset. There are also two protagonists and that means there are two people sitting opposite each other for the whole ten minutes. This just screams out for conflict. Lets imagine these are typical tourists in a far off land. Lets make the land Korea because I’ve been there. Lets make the tourists Brits because I am one. And Brits make exceptionally bad tourists. Lets have one of them utterly reluctant to eat out anywhere unfamiliar, insisting that they had sworn they’d seen a KFC down an ally somewhere. The other half of the coupling can be more open to the local cuisine. Now we have conflict. Oh and don’t forget the dog! There’s a dog in this. Right, now we’re talking. Let’s make the one who doesn’t like to travel a man (only for the sake of he/she demarcation, I reckon this could work any way really) and all he wants is his home comforts. And that is why he brings the dog along. His partner (wife?) hates the dog, the fact that he brought the dog on a holiday and that all he will not stay out of his comfort zone. There. We have the characters set up nicely. Now they have to scale the menu and decide that they don’t want anything on it. That’s simple.

Now the waiter arrives. Here there will be some lost in translation ‘business’ that ends with him being handed the dog.

Then the couple are left for a moment until the food arrives. Something probably has to happen here. Perhaps the wife takes a photo of them. Perhaps that annoys the husband and he thinks that all staged photos are useless. The wife can insist that everyone loves to look at photos of people sitting in restaurants.

The food arrives and they eat it. Wife finds a collar in the dogs dinner. The husband loves it and it reminds him of the great curry place they have round the corner from where they live. We can add that idea in earlier. We can set up that the husband only likes his favourite curry and his dog and they bring him comfort. So there our hero sits, almost crying in the comfort that surrounds him. The wife is delighted that the dog is gone and joins him in his elation.

That plot feels pretty good. It will be tight to squeeze it into ten minutes but that’s the craft I suppose. I am most happy with how the characters have developed. In the original story the husband and wife just ate the dog and, we assume, found out later to disgust and tragedy. Now its a little ironic and schadenfreudest. It will be cool to have the wife a little gleeful, but that would have to be earned by having her hate the dog and be really annoyed with her husband.

Scaffolding Structure

I will now bullet point my outlined rambling into something more like a scaffold-ed structure.

  1. Couple are sitting in a restaurant. Husband doesn’t want to be here, he want KFC. He lets the dog sit at the table. The dog barks and the wife shudders. The wife hates the dog and is at her whits end with her husband. He tells the dog (telling the wife vicariously) that if he is going to be dragged around the earth he needs his comforts, namely his rottweiler puppy.
    1. A Little Comfort
  2. They look at the menu. Some business with the funny glyphs that is interrupted by the waiter. This can illustrate the disinterest of the husband to the whole travel experience as he reads it out in “ping-ching-ting-tong” racist language to rial up his wife. It works.
  3. The waiter arrives to take the order. They manage to stress “special” and then the wife hands the dog to the waiter and asks that they feed it round the back. This is to the husband’s protests.
  4. The wife takes a photo, this annoys the husband. This is her theme. Perhaps her Facebook friend/ status rival had x many photos of their trip to Vienna so she has tp up them.
    1. Status.
  5. The food arrives. They begin to eat. It’s the husband’s favorite. It’s curry. As he tucks in she find a dog collar in her food. She pushes the plate aside and he grabs it. He sings as he eats and she joins in. They toast to comfort.
    1. Comfort Reprise

I have broken up the drama into 5 acts and put in a couple of song suggestions. Each act will want to have music in it in some form or another. As these are 10 minute musical there is always the option of having them sung through. My instinct is that for this particular story it might be more impactful to have a naturalistic (in a Sondheim sense) ebbing between singing and talking, saving talking for either emotion or set-piece comedy.

The ‘Comfort’ song is definitely the workhorse of the piece and it should land quite nicely in it’s reprise. The ‘Status’ song can be a character number of sorts for the wife. It’s the only time she isn’t concerning herself with the dog. The other moments in the story, the reading of the menu and the order with the waiter can be either set to music, thematic weaves between dialogue and singing, or just plain spoken. I think spoken would save time but hey, this is a musical after all.

As for a note on style of music, I don’t have any ideas yet expect that I don’t really want anything to be slow or ballady. A pet peeve of mine is high-concept musicals that are just stuffed full of ballads to earn a sort of earnest truth or worthiness. I want songs in which the actor has something to do. It’s also way more fun to have a character say what they are thinking but not saying it than to just have them stand upstage and tell you for five minutes. We don’t have five minutes anyway!

 

In the next blog installment I will be writing about scaffolding.

As always, give me your comments. I want to know if anyone’s out there. Please no comments about spelling and grammar, as I have written time and again, I am an idiot.

 

[Time for a bit of honesty time. I actually began writing about the Dog’s Dinner urban legend as an example of one that I felt would make a bad ten minute musical. Then as I began to deconstruct it I convinced myself that it had all the elements right there. I think I was put off by the dog that would have to be a played by a puupet. There are also the vaguely other-ist idea of going to a foreign country to eat dog. I have been to South Korea where they do indeed eat dog. I suppose it’s no different to South Koreans coming over to the East of England and watching in disgust as we chomp our way through bale after bale of sampha, a plant treasured as a noble guardplant and lapflora in the Eastern peninsula.]

Urban Legend 10 Minute Musicals – Dog’s Dinner

So I watched a few documentaries about urban legends, read Snopes from page-to-page and opened up a few of Neil’s classic (who am I kidding, they are all classic) publications of Fortean Times and threw together a shortlist of all the legend I thought had something that you could to on stage. Note that I didn’t necessarily just consider ones I thought I could musicalate, not just yet. For now it’s just the ones that I think could be done on stage. Done on stage With a small cast. And no budget. And probably no access to the lighting rig. Hey, times a tough, and festivals seem to think that drama is something that can be done just as well in a living room as a proscenium arch threatre. It’s your Andrew Lloyd Webber theatrical spectaculars that have sent ‘serious’ people into a mindset that real drama is in fact hurt by stagecraft. Poppycock says I. But who am I? Sat in an attic of a derelict house writing blogs about ten minute musicals at half ten GMT.

Anyway. On with the Blog.

So I threw together a list of about thirty ideas. Here they are:

  • The Birthday Suit
  • The Lie Detector
  • The 13th Floor
  • The Baby Monitor
  • The Fancy Dress Sex Party
  • The Killer Is IN THE HOUSE!
  • Mind Control Computer Game
  • Bloody Mary
  • The Door-To-Door Salesman
  • The Ventriloquist Dummy
  • The Hitcher
  • The Backseat
  • Lover’s Lane
  • The Policeman (Who Isn’t A Policeman!)
  • The Kidney
  • The Snake In The Coat
  • Buried Alive
  • The Salmon Moose
  • Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Lights
  • Tech Support
  • The Delivery From Grandma
  • The Student In The Asylum
  • The Fake Suicide
  • Santa Up The Chimney
  • Call Me Grandma
  • The Diet Pill
  • The Cursed Boot
  • Urine Test
  • Dog’s Dinner
  • Bloody Mary
  • Tanning To Death
  • Data Implant By Big Corporation.

So there you go, a big list. Now the first thing I am looking for in this list of idea cues are the ones that suggest a story or character motivation. They all include people, but not all of them have a central protagonist who’s actions move the story. Some just have a victim for whom the story just wraps around. That’s okay though, because you can always give them a story.

The second thing I am looking for are the ideas that actually have an interesting ending from the perspective of the actors. I hope that at the end of the ten minutes (I do hope they time them) the audience clap, but I really would like to avoid an actor looking contemplatively out into the upper circle and having that be the ending. Or the plot just running out of steam. These little musicals need to have an ironic twist or reveal. And the reveal has to be dramatically interesting. The Urban Legend of Big Phama or CocaCola putting chips in everyone’s brains so they want a coke more often isn’t really a reveal because the very fact would have to be ‘told’ to the audience. I want ‘Show’ not ‘Tell’.

I don’t think there are any more refining qualities for my ten minute musicals. Good character motivation and a twist ending is more than enough to keep one occupied. Let’s pick one at random and I’ll start decon/reconstructing an outline.

[See next blog]