You know, I have already read and reviewed my own play in 2016, but the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge has a category Makes You Laugh, and now as it did then (in 2016) and when I wrote it (in 1993 or 1994), it makes me laugh out loud at some joke I’d written thirty years ago that catches me by surprise and makes me chuckle anyway.
I should have flagged it, gentle reader, but I don’t know it would have worked for you without context. As I’ve mentioned, this play is rife with wordplay, in jokes for serious English or Philosophy majors, and general silliness.
In 1995, Stages St. Louis, which was really one guy, a courier by day and arts influencer by night who ran the open mic Tuesday night at the Oasis, but Stage St. Louis sounds better, presented a staged reading of the play one month of spring Sundays in the aforementioned Oasis coffee shop. A “staged reading” is when actors read from the script, and the stage has no sets, but they do kind of emote their lines. So I took over the production and shanghaied people I knew to play the parts. Mike played Todd. For balance, I had Todd, a high school acquaintance who went on to be Navy Search, an actor in actual productions in St. Louis shows, and later a Hollywood stunt man and actor with a SAG card, played Mike–although Mike wondered if I made him the villain because he might have matched the character in real life. Scott, the friend who told me of Mike’s passing played Mark, the main character. Nicole, my girlfriend at the time, played Jenn. Eve, who was a poet and the only one of us to turn pro–she teaches in the St. Louis area, although I think she’s touring other continents presently, played Barbara Holt. Dennis, a guy from our role playing gaming group, played Rick/Phil (the character’s name is Rick, but the character Mike calles him Phil because he’s a philosophy major and his last name is Specter; this was before the real Phil Spector killed his wife). Penny was played by…. Well, that was the one person associated with Stages St. Louis, so I don’t remember her name.
One weekend, Steve from Stages St. Louis brought along a camcorder (that’s like a thing that takes video like a cell phone, but it records it to VHS videocassette, you damn kids) and recorded the performance. He set up with his back to the front window, which meant that the performers had their backs to most of the coffeeshop. But several people I’d known came to see it. Dena, a classmate from Marquette with whom I’d traveled to Memphis, New Orleans, and Biloxi right after our graduation, came down from Chicago to see it and to bang Mike even though I’d said, c’mon, man, you hit everything else, don’t nail this girl I’d gone to school with, but as I’ve mentioned, he was a horndog and might have enjoyed nailing girls I was interested in just because I was interested in them. A guy I’d worked with at the Price Chopper brough his girlfriend and their toddler. And some woman came in and watched of her own volition. On a previous week, I’d invited a Washington University student with whom I’d worked at the car ad measuring place to see it, and I remember that my then-girlfriend (who did not become my beautiful wife) referred to her as “that dancer” (I knew a lot of people pursuing advanced art degrees at Washington University in those days).
At any rate, I can say this with certainty because I found the MPG file I’d transferred from the videocassette several computers and probably not a whole decade ago, and I shared the said MPG file on Google Drive with Scott and Todd, and they passed it around with other players that they were in contact with. Scott said:
You were a really good writer even way back then. It’s funny that my memories of the scripted reading revolved around my own stress of reading the script, never really stepped back.
The banter between the characters.
I sold a copy of it in December; it was probably him.
Oh, yeah, and Dennis Thompson Goes On Strike? A bit self-indulgent, but I had to have a certain number of pages to get the flat spine, so there it is.
I wrote a pile in that era; most of it was–oh, not that bad. Compared to what I see in the literary magazines these days, anyway.
So, um, by my book? Or not. In a couple of years, I shall re-read it and laugh in spots.
Hey, maybe I should write something else, too.