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Script Tease

Script Tease is an improv show in which a playwright provides the first six pages of a new play, and six performers improvise the rest of a full two act show. I'd never seen the show before and really hadn't seen any long form improv in general, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I asked Catherine Blake Smith, one of the event's producers, for some advice on how to write for this format, and she suggested to make sure I provided strong motivation for each character. The director, Dave Clapper, suggested that leaning on a single narrator could be tough for that actor, so I resolved to provide more than one character who could address the audience. I knew I had six actors to write for; I didn't know the gender balance.

In the week leading up to the shows, Dave and the cast rehearsed by taking pages from a few of my shows, including Balconies and Duel of the Linguist Pages, and then launching into improv exercises from there. In theory this gave them familiarity with my voice.

My contribution for the 7/8/2016 show is as follows (the 7/9 script follows after with commentary):

*****

A Little Slice Of Paradise

Carlton faces the audience and addresses us directly. Meanwhile, Gloria addresses Carlton’s adult children, Suzette and Grant.

CARLTON: Selfish. Fucking. Bastards. I’m talking about my children.

GLORIA: Let’s get this over with.

CARLTON: My name is Carlton Seeley.

GLORIA: This will be the reading of the last will and testament of Carlton Seeley.

CARLTON: I’m not dead.

GLORIA: Made in sound mind blah blah and so on. I will now read the document.

CARLTON: My children think I’m dead, because fuck them.

GLORIA: “My beloved children…”

SUZETTE: Oh suuuuuure.

GRANT fake coughing: Forgery.

GLORIA: Shut your ignorant faces, I’m reading.

CARLTON: Suzette is my oldest, Grant is my youngest.

GLORIA: “My beloved children, Suzette and Grant, if you are hearing these words, then I have shuffled off this mortal coil and gone on to a better place.”

CARLTON: In this case, Vegas.

GLORIA: “Know that I am surrounded by the divine host of God’s glorious angels.”

CARLTON: In this case, prostitutes.

GLORIA: “But I am looking down on you from Heaven.”

SUZETTE: Fucking please! He is not in Heaven! He is in whatever part of the afterlife contains the most sleazy brothels.

GRANT: Don’t you think Heaven for Dad by definition would be a giant sleazy brothel full of sexy angels?

SUZETTE: No way, I mean, I don’t think angels even have genitals.

GLORIA: Would you both please just shut your face holes so we can finish this?

CARLTON: Gloria’s my lawyer. And my second ex-wife. Stepmother to Grant and Suzette. They all hate each other.

SUZETTE: Just skip the sanctimonious bullshit, Gloria, and get to the point.

GRANT: Did he leave us anything good or did he leave it all to you?

GLORIA: “To my ex-wife Gloria, I leave nothing.”

GRANT: What?

GLORIA: “To my daughter Suzette, I leave nothing.”

SUZETTE: Are you shitting me?

GLORIA: “To my son Grant, I leave nothing.”

GRANT: Let me see that fucking thing!

Grant tears the doc out of Gloria’s hands and reads it himself.

GRANT: “To my first wife Janice, I leave nothing. To the many various charities I supported throughout my life, I leave nothing. To the church, I leave nothing. I hereby bequeath the entirety of my vast estate… to Amber Monroe.”

SUZETTE: Amber Monroe?!

GLORIA: Amber Monroe.

Gloria snatches the document back from Grant as Amber enters, she is joining Gloria, Grant and Suzette even though at first she addresses the audience.

AMBER: Carlton Seeley was the love of my life - I won’t deny it. That’s why I left him. Couldn’t have a man in my life with so much power over me. Couldn’t stand the way he made me lose myself in him. He didn’t deserve me. That’s how I felt at the time. Now that he’s dead-

CARLTON: I'm not dead.

AMBER: -I realize what a young fool I was. I was lucky I got to see the man behind the curtain. Lucky he could ever feel vulnerable with me. Lucky we could ever make each other happy, even for just a few precious minutes.

GLORIA: You’re late.

AMBER: Sounds to me like I got here just in time.

CARLTON: No, she’s definitely late.

GLORIA: “Amber, I’m entrusting you with a grave responsibility. My entire vast fortune is yours to inherit, provided you meet one simple requirement. I want you to find Joey, and I want you tell him… I’m sorry.”

SUZETTE: Wait a minute. Who the fuck is Joey?

GLORIA: “You may be wondering who the fuck Joey is.”

GRANT: It says that?

GLORIA: I'm embellishing.

AMBER: Joey’s his brother.

SUZETTE: What brother?

AMBER: His long lost brother. They had a falling out some twenty years ago. Carlton could never bring himself to admit that he had driven his brother away, but it sounds like he had a change of heart on his deathbed.

GRANT: He did not fucking die in a bed.

AMBER: It’s just an expression.

CARLTON: Anyway, I’m not dead.

GLORIA: “If any of my beloved family choose to help you find Joey… for instance, Suzette with her intelligence and her elite hacking skills, Grant with his networking skills and his infamous charisma-”

GRANT: Oh, fuck that guy.

GLORIA: “-or Gloria with her legal expertise and her ability to freeze vodka into ice with her breath, then they may share proportionally in my vast fortune.”

SUZETTE: So that’s not murky at all, gee thanks.

CARLTON: See, my first wife Janice became a Jehovah’s Witness after we divorced, and she disavowed me and both the kids. Suzette and Grant grew up bitter and alone because I was too busy building my fortune to give a shit. Gloria and I lasted three years before we got so toxic toward each other we could barely avoid violence. But it was the worst between me and Joey. Growing up together, I used to torture that poor kid. Literally, it’s how I learned about the Geneva Convention. I must have left him a scarred, emotionally twisted wreck, but I don’t know, because… I went to college, freshman year, and when I came back for Christmas break, Joey had just… left. And I realized - I missed him.

Joey appears, addressing the audience.

JOEY: I surely the fuck did not miss Carlton, though, let me tell you that much straight off.

Joey exits.

SUZETTE: If we help you find Joey, I want a 25% cut of the estate, and I especially want the drone fleet.

GRANT: I want the same cut, but I also want the gold-plated piano collection.

SUZETTE: You don't even play the piano!

GRANT: You can't even pilot a drone!

SUZETTE: I can hire a pilot!

GRANT: I can hire a Liberace impersonator!

AMBER: Done. What about you, Gloria?

GLORIA: If Joey's anything like his big brother Carlton... then I'm probably going to want to fuck his brains out. So yeah, I'm in.

AMBER: Excellent. Where do we start?

*****

In the end, they found Joey on the set of his motion picture magnum opus, "A Little Slice of Paradise," filming in Bangkok. They never did realize that Carlton was still alive. The show was a very funny escapade around the world.

Writing for the second night, I leaned on some realizations from watching the first night. I realized first of all that what I had given them was a situation, but not really a play; they turned it into a play for sure, but almost despite what I'd written. Secondly - none of the jokes in my six pages were as funny as most of what the actors themselves came up with on the spot, which makes sense given they're a troupe of improv comedians. And finally, the actor playing Carlton had a moment where he genuinely expressed sadness over his lost opportunity for a meaningful connection with his son Grant; there was no punchline to the moment, rather it was just truthful and moving.

With those thoughts swirling in my head, I resolved to provide something different the second night. I now knew I had three men and three women, I knew their relative ages and had thoughts on their strengths. Of course, the casting would still be up to Dave, but at least I could write for what I considered to be a plausible lineup.

*****

Hat Shop

ALYSSA: It started off pretty simple. I had the kids for the weekend. Barry was trying to set a world record.

BARRY: "Die Hard" in a diaper factory.

ALYSSA: For the most "Die Hard" sequel ideas in a row.

BARRY: "Die Hard" in a cupcake shop.

ALYSSA: I told him I didn't think that was a real world record he could get, and he said-

BARRY: "Die Hard" in a sex doll manufacturing plant.

HARPER: Gross.

ALYSSA: Barry, that's not an appropriate topic in front of your sister.

BARRY: Sorry.

ALYSSA: As usual, Harper was harder to entertain.

HARPER: Mom, I'm super bored.

ALYSSA: Did you bring any games we could play?

HARPER: I don't feel like playing games.

ALYSSA: Or books? Did you bring any books?

HARPER: I read all my books.

ALYSSA: Every last book? Maybe we should get you some new books. You want to go to the library?

HARPER: I don't feel like reading books.

ALYSSA: What do you feel like doing, sweetie?

Harper pauses, struck by a sudden, epic idea.

HARPER: I want to make the fanciest hat in the history of the world.

ALYSSA: Harper, we don't have enough money to make the fanciest hat in the world.

HARPER: I didn't say the most expensive. It doesn't have to be made out of solid gold or anything. I just want the fanciest! The most elaborate. The most creative and beautiful hat.

ALYSSA: What do you think, Barry? Wouldn't that be a better world record?

BARRY: Maybe. How do you make a hat?

ALYSSA: I guess we should ask a milliner.

HARPER: What's a milliner?

ALYSSA: A hat maker.

BARRY: "Die Hard" in a hat maker's shop!

ALYSSA: It's called a millinery shop. Let's see if we can find one close to us.

HARPER: I'll check the internet!

ALYSSA: Barry, go log your sister in and help her search.

Barry and Harper exit.

ALYSSA: I don't want to be a downer here, but you should know - I don't survive this story. Seriously - I found out a few weeks ago that the tumor in my brain is inoperable. I'm still kind of working my way up to grasping my mortality. I haven't told the kids yet.

Mark enters.

MARK: Why haven't you told them?

ALYSSA: Because I'm trying to just - enjoy the time I have left? I don't know. I hate when they're sad and I hate the idea of making them sad when I have so little time left.

MARK: How little?

ALYSSA: Six months. Maybe less.

MARK: Jesus, Alyssa, you have to tell them.

ALYSSA: Easy for you to say. You won't have to watch their reactions.

MARK: Do you want them to find out now, or do you want them to find out when your health really starts to give out?

ALYSSA: Just stop it. I'm going on one last adventure with these kids before I break the news to them. I called because - I thought you might want to come with us.

MARK: I don't know. Maybe next week-

ALYSSA: No, Mark - right now.

MARK: What do you expect me to tell Carrie?

ALYSSA: Really? I need to spell this out for you? Put her on, let me tell her myself that the mother of her step-kids is dying, see if she'll let you out for recess.

MARK: Okay, you made your point.

ALYSSA: "Made your point"? Jesus, we're not having a debate! Pause. We're having an adventure.

Mark exits.

ALYSSA: Look, Mark's an asshole, but he's also a good dad. He got into the spirit of things eventually, and we started conspiring behind the scenes. Mark catches up to us later.

The kids re-enter; and now Isabelle enters.

ALYSSA: But first, the kids and I made our way to the local millinery shop. "Hats By Isabelle."

ISABELLE: The fanciest hat in the world? That's very ambitious.

HARPER: Can you help us?

ISABELLE: Well, that depends. Do you know who currently owns the fanciest hat in the world?

BARRY: You mean somebody's already got the record?

ISABELLE: Somebody's already got the fanciest hat, I can tell you that! He's a horrible little man named Gerald Singleton.

Gerald enters.

GERALD: Behold! See how I parade in my gorgeous hat!

ALYSSA: This is actually Mark's actor friend Roger.

GERALD: My hat is made of pure solid gold!

ALYSSA: It's spray painted.

GERALD: It is the fanciest hat in the history of the world!

ALYSSA: It came out of a costume shop. You'll see Roger in many costumes before the story is over.

ISABELLE: Gerald Singleton, you've got some nerve, flaunting that solid gold hat of yours in my shop. You're making my customers jealous.

GERALD: Good! I want them all to know - no matter what hat you sell them, Isabelle, my hat will ALWAYS BE THE FANCIEST! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

Gerald exits.

BARRY: That guy is weird.

HARPER: Mom! What are we going to do?

BARRY: I guess we should give up and just go home.

HARPER: Mom! We can't give up!

BARRY: Yes we can. Giving up is easy.

ALYSSA: Barry, stop encouraging your sister to give up on her dreams. She'll figure that out when she's older.

ISABELLE: I can't offer you a hat as fancy as Gerald's, but maybe I can offer you a simpler hat? Something plain and boring?

HARPER: Noooooo!

BARRY: Harper, plenty of people enjoy boring hats. Why are you so obsessed with having the fanciest hat in the world?

ALYSSA: Harper looked at me right then, and I could swear she knew. Before I'd ever even hinted that I was having trouble with my health, she knew. And now that my diagnosis was worse... now that it was officially terminal... I swear she knew that too. She wanted me to have the fanciest hat in the world. Because she thought it might make me feel better? I don't know. I didn't want to spoil it by asking her.

*****

I couldn't go to the show Saturday night because I had stayed up all night and was totally exhausted after turning in my script at 4pm (just three hours shy of when Dave was expecting it). Apparently the show was quite a success. Dave posted on FB:

Script Tease last night was so damned funny, but also so damned sad, just so very full of heart. The premise: a mother takes her children on one last grand adventure to make the world's fanciest hat. Her ex-husband grudgingly (at first) comes along, while also angry with her for not telling their kids of the tumor that will kill her in the next six months. Heavy shit, yeah?

The mother (via improvisation) died at the end of the first act. The audience was stunned, not quite ready to get up from their seats to go to the bar, bathroom, wherever. And the second act began (again, via improvisation) in the hospital, with the ex-husband having to explain to his kids that their mother isn't coming back. Heavy shit!

And with all that heavy shit, the show was HILARIOUS. The cast never shied away from the heavy shit, confronted it truthfully, and made something wonderful.

Apparently the closing line was: "You know what? 'Die Hard' in a happy home." The outro music was "What I Did For Love."



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