Drawing Lines to Dublin, New York & Back

How to take a world premiere play on the road, win awards, and not lose your mind.

Every play begins as a pipe dream.

From the first line of dialogue you write to the last, you must have the crazy idea that someone will want to produce your play and that a massive number of people will rush to purchase tickets to see it. No other reason could justify the pain of writing the damn thing.

Jim Dalglish, playwright

Jim Dalglish, playwright

Most of the time that dream remains in the pipe.  But every once in a while fortune smiles on you and not only is your play produced, but it manages to find its way to Europe and back, earning awards and raves and great reviews along the way.

In the Beginning

I began writing “Lines in the Sand” a few years ago with the crazy notion that someone would want to see a play about a 15-year-old boy who is rescued from being raped. The kid would be gay, his rescuer an ex-con who has been stalking him. I decided to play a little fast and loose with the storyline to keep the audience anxious and a little afraid of where the two characters were heading.  And I wanted to really stick it to the audience – make them uncomfortable with what they were seeing onstage – in order to challenge their notions on sexuality, masculinity, penal reform, rape, and forgiveness.  The play had an agenda. (Not an unusual thing for one of my works.)

David Kuehn, Executive Director of Cotuit Center for the Arts

David Kuehn, Executive Director of Cotuit Center for the Arts

David Kuehn and CCftA

I finished it, sent it out to contests and festivals and theaters and it met with universal indifference. Or maybe scorn or outrage – it’s hard to tell when you don’t get anything other than boilerplate rejections.  But I had the good fortune to corner David Kuehn – Executive Director at Cotuit Center for the Arts – at a dinner party hosted by the lovely Leah Hyman at her surf-side home in Harwichport and persuade him to listen to an impromptu reading of the play.   

He liked it. 

Leah Hyman and Tony Travostino at Leah’s home in Harwichport. Leah also graciously hosted Tony during his stay on the Cape.

Leah Hyman and Tony Travostino at Leah’s home in Harwichport. Leah also graciously hosted Tony during his stay on the Cape.

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Maybe the success of my plays “Bark Park” and “Unsafe” at CCftA gave him a little more confidence in my work. Or maybe the risk of letting me produce my play in the 48-seat venue was small enough. In any case, I got a performance slot at the CCftA Black Box and we were off on an adventure that far surpassed my pipe dreams. What follows is a diary of sorts of some of the high points of producing “Lines in the Sand,” taking it abroad, and bringing it to NYC.

Getting It Right

The play follows 18 hours in the lives of a 15-year-old boy and an ex-con.  Writing from a 15-year-old-gay-boy’s perspective wasn’t a stretch for me – much of what the boy experiences in the play I lived through or observed first hand. My Boy Scout camp experiences are still incredibly vivid 40 years later. But I needed to do more research to ensure that my feelings and memories were relatable to contemporary audiences.

I needed to make sure that my play had a reason to exist. I wanted it to say something important in a way that would be refreshing... in a way that would slap the audience in the face. Much of the play details the impact of bullying on a gay high school student. Other themes include penal reform, rape, and father/son relationships. 

I needed to make sure that my play had a reason to exist. I wanted it to say something important in a way that would be refreshing... in a way that would slap the audience in the face. Much of the play details the impact of bullying on a gay high school student. Other themes include penal reform, rape, and father/son relationships. 

Over the past few years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to act as a mentor to a few young men in the process of discovering their identities as gay men.  Their insights proved to be invaluable. As did the interviews I conducted with men who were incarcerated. Much of what Tom – the ex-con character in the play – expresses and experiences were gleamed from these intense interviews.  I owe a great deal to these men for their willingness to share their stories and I am grateful that they trusted I would honor their memories.    

Casting a 16-year-old

The play is a two-hander that asks its actors to go to the extremes – to the darkest, most traumatic, and most joyous of human experience. And do this in a way that does not betray the psychological realism that is at the core of the script. It offers bravura roles to two actors who are willing to take them on. It also requires the audience to believe that the younger actor is 15 years old. 

Nick Bucchianeri as a Wild Boy in my play “Unsafe.”

Nick Bucchianeri as a Wild Boy in my play “Unsafe.”

I got lucky when Nick Bucchianeri came to auditions.

I had cast Nick as a Wild Boy in my play “Unsafe” a few years back – when he was 14. Nick brought a wonderful vulnerable authenticity to his role as a runaway living on the streets of New York City. As the omega of the Wild Boy pack, you couldn’t take your eyes off him whenever he came on stage.

Before Nick auditioned he and his parents had read “Lines in the Sand” and decided that Nick should try out. I don’t think this was an easy decision. Any parent who has seen the play knows that it explores some of the most distressing ordeals any adolescent could experience. 

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“It’s hard for a mother to watch her child go through that every night,” As Nick’s mother, Paula Schnepp, would tell me later. 

After he auditioned I asked Nick what he thought of the role. “I think if I were to get this role, it would probably be the best part I might ever get to play for the rest of my life.”

How could a playwright not be thrilled to hear that?

The Rules

Before I offered Nick the role, I talked with Paula and Nick’s father Bob and we made a few ground rules for Nick taking the role:

  • If there were ever any issues about what I asked Nick to do during rehearsals – anything he felt he couldn’t handle – he was to tell me and we would stop immediately.
  • Bob and Paula were invited to observe rehearsals.
  • Nick was to report back to his parents after every rehearsal and check in. I wanted to make sure that he had an outlet to talk about his experiences and make sure he was okay. If something was wrong, they were to call me immediately.
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I assured both Paula and Bob that Nick’s well-being was much more important to me than my play.  With this assurance, we were able to build the trust we needed for Nick to pull the role off in such spectacular fashion. An accomplishment that is magnified when you consider that Nick had very little acting experience before taking on this character. While he was learning the role, in many ways he was also learning the craft of acting.

Paula & Bob

Bob and Paula are wonderful parents and it was a joy to watch them observe Nick's journey discovering my character.  Not that they probably didn’t have a few doubts. I wasn’t sure Paula would let Nick come back after one evening in which she observed us running lines in a public restroom in an attempt to get the atmosphere for the first scene. During the same rehearsal I had Nick run around the CCftA campus two times and when he came back into the studio I picked him up and threw him into a couch – all in an attempt to get him to feel the panic and fear of the physical assault his character experiences in the play.

Robert Bucchianeri and Paula Schnepp – Nick’s wonderful parents.

Robert Bucchianeri and Paula Schnepp – Nick’s wonderful parents.

Because of the way Bob and Paula had raised Nick and the nurturing home they have created, it was a challenge for him to fully understand some of his character’s feelings. What would it be like to be afraid to go home? How would you feel to have bullies picking on you every day at school? What would you do if your mother’s drug dealer tried to get you to shoot up? What if you had never met your father or knew who he was? It is a testament to Nick’s intelligence and talent and the support of his parents that he was able to empathize with his character and had the courage to expose those feelings and actions through his brilliant acting. I can’t thank Paula and Bob enough for trusting me to guide Nick through this process.

Skyping Tony In

Elliot Sicard as “Jimmy” and Tony Travostino as “Truman” in “Bark Park.”

Elliot Sicard as “Jimmy” and Tony Travostino as “Truman” in “Bark Park.”

While I was writing the play, I couldn’t help but hear Tony Travostino’s voice in my head whenever “Tom” spoke. I’ve known Tony for more than 20 years and he has originated roles in four world premieres of my plays. In “Bark Park” Tony played a role very dear to his heart – a German shepherd who was written for, and named after, his great pal Truman. I know when I cast Tony I can trust him completely. I also know that his beautiful soul will not only fill the stage, but that it will come through in the nurturing relationships he builds with his fellow actors. 

Besides being a great actor, Tony brings amazing charisma every time he steps in front of the lights. And when he signs up for a role in one of my plays, he knows the hell I will put him through. I usually direct my own work the first time it is staged and that can throw some actors for a loop. They sometimes feel that I am trying to bend them to perform in the precise way I imagined when I wrote the play. Which is true only to a limited degree – during rehearsals I am much more interested in how my actors see their characters. I try to be as collaborative as possible – in my own way. Tony is accustomed to my quirky approaches – the way we stay at the reading table for the first week and the way I send them out into the real world to do research by completing specific tasks as their characters.

A table reading from Boston, New York, and Marstons Mills.

A table reading from Boston, New York, and Marstons Mills.

The only problem with casting Tony is that he lives most of the time with his wonderful husband Carl in New York City. For the first few weeks of rehearsal we used Skype to bring Tony into the room virtually. At the beginning rehearsals were virtual with Nick in Marstons Mills, me in Boston, and Tony in NYC. Once we were ready to get the play on its feet, I commuted to Cotuit after work on weeknights and on weekends and we had Ian Ryan, my illustrious co-director, substitute for Tony for the blocking and fight choreography. When Tony arrived in person, the play was already cooking. I can’t thank Ian enough for being such a good sport and helping us block virtually.

Wearing Lots of Hats

Plays are more than just dialogue. It’s important for playwrights to conceptualize as much of what the audience will experience as possible. I think about the set, the characters, the costumes, the props, the lights, the projections, the sound effects, and about how all these dynamic theatrical elements harmonize as a whole. When I was in school I made it a point to study as much about the theater as possible – dramatic theory, lighting, costumes, sound, acting, movement. I have also had the good fortune to belong to playwriting workshops on the Cape, in New York, and in Boston. My playwright colleagues have helped me immeasurably. By the time I complete my scripts, I have a pretty complete vision for how the play should be realized onstage.

But you never know it will work in performance until you hear it. My friend actor/director Hatem Adell arranged for a reading by two great Boston-based actors, Cody Read and Lucas Nahuel Cardona. Thanks to Hatem and his actors, I knew I had something powerful. It was just a matter of putting it all together. 

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When I produce my own work, I wear a lot of different hats – director, marketer, and costume, prop, lighting, set, and sound designer. But what I enjoy most is collaborating with other theatre artists who share my vision of play.

Getting the Play into the Real World

During rehearsals for “Unsafe,” I asked Nick and his fellow Wild Boys to go to the Cape Cod Mall in character – as homeless youths with drug addictions – and find a man named Dan. They were to ask him for a password that would allow them to come back to Cotuit. Of course, there was no Dan or password and they were at the mall for four hours. By the time they figured out I was messing with them and returned to the theater, they had transformed from a bunch of aspiring actors into a cohesive group of street toughs – a wolf pack with an alpha, a few betas and an omega. 

For “Lines in the Sand” I asked Nick to wear a tag around his neck that said “I am gay,” as we went shopping for props. Then we had lunch at a diner in Falmouth. I wanted him to feel as vulnerable as his character feels every time he goes to school. Nick was a trooper. (I think the exercise worked.)

 

Ian Buys a Gun

Ian Ryan was a kick to work with. As co-directors of the play, we approached the script from very distinct perspectives. I focused on exploring the psychological elements of the script where Ian tended to the more practical aspects of the production.

Not that he didn’t have wonderful insight into the motivations of the characters and how to portray them onstage – he opened up the play for me and made me see it in a new light. But when it came to making sure our boys could be heard or seen on stage, Ian was the watchdog. While I might have a few notes that would each take ten minutes to review and process (“Why does Tom ask the kid if he is hungry?”) Ian would have 30 slips of paper that said, “Wipe the sugar off the table during your lines,” or “I can’t see your face,” or “More makeup on the black eye.”

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During run-throughs Ian would sometimes remind Tony and Nick about terminal consonants – every actor’s Achilles heel.  

Nick: “Kyle…”
Ian: (from offstage:) “Who?!”
Nick: “Kie-yelllllll!”

If it weren’t for Ian working his magic with the set changes in Ireland, we would not have brought the play in under our maximum running time of 75 minutes.

Bang! 

Can’t get realer looking than this little beauty.

Can’t get realer looking than this little beauty.

One of the rehearsal moments I will never forget is when Ian brought the handgun in before a run-through. Since the gun is often brandished within a few feet of the audience it needed to look like and have the weight of the real thing. For a few hundred bucks, Ian scored a semiautomatic beauty – only a plugged barrel distinguished it from the real thing. At first we thought we could use the blanks the gun fired instead of a recorded sound effect. We are all happy that we tested the gun outside in the woods that surround CCftA. The deafening bang scared the crap out of us all. In such a small room we would all have had ear damage.

We decided to go with the recorded sound effect.

Production Concept

In addition to the gunshot, I needed to source, record, and edit the 45 other sound effects we would need for the show. In order to take the show to Dublin and NYC, I knew it had to have as few set pieces and props as possible.

Ian and the amazingly talented Anna Bottsford during our recording of the party scene sound effects. It was crucial to get this right in order for the audience to visualize the off-scene action they could not see. These guys were amazing!

Ian and the amazingly talented Anna Bottsford during our recording of the party scene sound effects. It was crucial to get this right in order for the audience to visualize the off-scene action they could not see. These guys were amazing!

Yet when I had written the play I did not shy away from setting the action in detail-rich environments: a dirty men’s room with a urinal, sink, and stall; a diner booth with ketchup and mustard bottles, a napkin dispenser, hamburger, fries and shake; a room in a seedy roadside motel. In order to immerse the audience in each setting we would have to rely on sound effects, neutral set pieces that could represent multiple places, and the economical use of only the most important props. 

I also decided to use an element of the storyline to help audiences visualize the settings.

Billy’s sketch of his best friend Kyle. My favorite illustration that Jackie created for us.

Billy’s sketch of his best friend Kyle. My favorite illustration that Jackie created for us.

Billy, the 15-year-old character in the play, is a promising young artist who sketches the things he sees and the people he meets. He keeps them all in a sketchbook that the ex-con rifles through early in the play. When I thought about what the drawings would look like, I came up with the primary visual component of the staging. Why not project Billy’s sketches on the back wall of the stage to share them with the audience? And include other sketches that establish each of the scenes as though he had drawn them later. Since we knew we would need to project on a black wall, I inverted the black lines of each sketch to white – basically turning each into a negative. In my mind, the sketches would seem to emerge magically from the black way.

The only problem was to find someone to create the sketches.

Jackie's illustration of the woods scene.

Jackie's illustration of the woods scene.

Flipping the image.

Flipping the image.

As a proof of concept, we slipped into the Black Box during the run of “Rabbit Hole”  and projected a sample sketch against the back wall. It worked – thank god!

As a proof of concept, we slipped into the Black Box during the run of “Rabbit Hole”  and projected a sample sketch against the back wall. It worked – thank god!

The only problem was to find someone to create the illustration.

Talking Jackie into Doing It

Jackie Reeves – self portrait

Jackie Reeves – self portrait

Jackie Reeves is an incredibly talented artist who teaches at Cotuit Center for the Arts. When I called her and told her I needed 20 sketches that looked as though they were created by an incredibly talented 15-year-old boy who draws like a young Egon Schiele, she said, “I know what that looks like.” 

And she did.

Thank god she agreed to create the drawings for a pittance. To make sure we were respecting her valuable time, I provided photos for each of the 20 sketches. I was amazed by how she evoked the emotion of the play through her beautiful drawings. 

Jackie’s illustrations faded in and out and appeared to emerge from the black wall at the back of the stage. 

Jackie’s illustrations faded in and out and appeared to emerge from the black wall at the back of the stage. 

Her work was so extraordinarily good and the projections so compelling, she was nominated for the Hilton Edwards Award for Best Aspect of Production at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival this past spring when we took the play to Ireland. I wish Jackie could have been there to see how much everyone appreciated her work. It really made a huge difference.

Talking Sam into Doing It

Sam beating on his drums.

Sam beating on his drums.

Now to make the audience feel that they were “inside” the play as much as possible... An important monologue in the play details the ex-con’s perspective on the perils of being a man in our contemporary culture. He makes a few references to how men may not have evolved much past their caveman past. When I was writing these passages, I heard primal drums in my head. I decided that was just what the show needed.

I was grateful that Sam Holmstock – a program coordinator at CCftA who specializes in drum strategies for healing – decided to help me out. Sam is a Berklee College of Music alum who not only teaches drumming at CCftA, but leads wonderful programs for incarcerated teens, PTSD Vets, and autistic adults. The drum rhythms he composed and recorded for me were perfect for the play.

One of the amazing things about modern technology is that I did not meet Jackie or Sam in person until after the show opened. Our phone conversations, emails, and texts were enough to collaborate efficiently and effectively. We are living in connected/disconnected times.

Erin and a Bunch of Paper Clips

Tech week is always interesting. By that I mean action-packed, angst-ridden, mind-rending ... or you could just use one word – terrifying. Getting a world-premiere production up on its feet is that much more arduous. Thank heavens we had Erin Trainor onboard as our stage manager/technical director.

The black box at the CCftA is a great space for small, intimate plays. And the refurbished Black Box Theater is terrific, with two minor quibbles – acoustics and lights.

End to end at the black box – a marvelously intimate space to perform, but echo-y as heck. Note the clamp-on lights with the aluminum shades – just a few paper clips and gel and we were golden. (Rob Phelps – my man – is checking his email.)

End to end at the black box – a marvelously intimate space to perform, but echo-y as heck. Note the clamp-on lights with the aluminum shades – just a few paper clips and gel and we were golden. (Rob Phelps – my man – is checking his email.)

For being so small, the Black Box is a rather cavernous space that can act a little like an echo chamber when it is empty. We were fortunate to have Bruce Allen install a bunch of sound baffles before the play premiered, but I was still having difficulty hearing my boys say their lines. Tony’s beautiful baritone seemed to be tuned to the room in a way that would reverberate for a good four seconds. It was driving me nuts, so I went to Home Depot and bought a gray indoor/outdoor rug big enough to cover the floor. It fixed the problem immediately and had the added bonus of providing a softer/safer floor for my actors to tumble around on.

Nick, Ian, and Tony during rehearsals. (Ian is not wearing the wig he wore one day to freak us all out. We thought at first he was Greg Hamm.)

Nick, Ian, and Tony during rehearsals. (Ian is not wearing the wig he wore one day to freak us all out. We thought at first he was Greg Hamm.)

On to the lights... After Erin borrowed a few theatrical LCDs from Greg Hamm – one helluva great lighting designer – we grabbed some gels (cold blue for right-facing lights and warm umber for left) and used paper clips to attach them to the aluminum reflectors on eight clamp lights – the kind you can buy for 20 bucks at Home Depot. Those lights and a few other theatrical instruments were all we needed to convince the audience they were seated in a men’s bathroom, a diner booth, a clearing in a forest, a car, and a cheap hotel room. 

Erin was a complete trooper throughout the whole endeavor. With hundreds of cues – many of which happen at the same time – “Lines in the Sand” is a complicated show to run. Erin did a phenomenal job.  

Erin Trainor and the boys.

Erin Trainor and the boys.

Relieved by Remarkable Reviews

“Lines in the Sand” is not an easy play to watch. During most of the performances in Cotuit, I was amazed by the reaction of the audience. At intermission, many people would remain frozen in their seats with shell-shocked expressions on their faces. More than a few times I heard them say, “Wow!” “Oh my god!” or similar exclamations. One audience member came up to me at intermission and said, “I love it, but I don’t know if I will be able to take the rest.” The reaction at the end of the play was wonderfully warm and enthusiastic – particularly for my actors, who were outstanding. But while people seemed to be genuinely moved by what they had seen, it had also left them pretty disturbed.

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The play is a four-ticket ride.

And that had me a little worried about the reviews. I don’t write plays that are easy on the audience. For me a great play is one that appeals to the audiences’ hearts, stimulates their minds, and haunts them for days. If you are looking for pure disposable entertainment, you probably shouldn’t attend one of my plays.

The play’s excellent reviews were met with great pleasure and relief.

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“… a string of surprise twists transform the play from an intense, unnerving mystery to an equally intense but ultimately moving drama…  the story is engaging, with terrific performances…”
Kay Keough, The Inquirer and MirrorRead the full review >>

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“Well written and executed... The acting by both performers is outstanding. Raw, emotional, and believable, Mr. Dalglish has written a script that’s both gritty and, in some instances, lyrical.”
Joanne Brina-Gartner, The EnterpriseRead the full review >>

“Thought-provoking, gripping piece of theatre... Tautly directed by the playwright and Ian Ryan, the 90-minute play moves along at a crisp pace. Just when you think you have it figured out, the plot takes off in another direction before it results in a shocking revelation.”
 Johanna Crosby, Barnstable PatriotRead the full review >> 

Jack Craib, a regional New England critic, even awarded my two actors the best actor award in his yearly “Crabby Awards.” Read the full review >> 

Pitching It Over the Pond

Sturner Woman picking up her Oscar Wilde in 2016

Sturner Woman picking up her Oscar Wilde in 2016

Two years ago, Lynda Sturner and I brought our play “Super-lubricated” to Dublin for the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. We both acted in the play and The Sturner Woman won the Best Actress award. (It’s actually called an Oscar, as it is modeled after Oscar Wilde.) The festival was a hoot so I wanted to fly another play over the pond in 2017. I was fortunate to have had my play selected from among hundreds of submissions. However, Brian Merriman, the festival founder, expressed concern after the play was chosen that I might not be able to pare it down to fit into the time slot.

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I was worried because most theater festivals present one-person shows or performance art pieces or comedies or theatre that has a lot of narration and direct address.  Theatre festivals of the Gay variety typically contain beautifully endowed male actors who take off their clothes at regular intervals. Most are about 60 minutes long. The IDGTF presents an incredibly wide range of theatre, but I was worried that our play may not draw much of an audience.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the plays at the IDGTF that featured nudity. They were obviously chosen not for prurient reasons, but for the quality of their scripts. “Gypsy Queen” written and starring Rob Ward is a particularly effective and beautiful play. But “Lines in the Sand” doesn’t really meet a lot of the typical festival criteria for drawing an audience. Its subject matter is not an easy sell, it progresses without breaking the fourth wall, and requires the audience to visualize the multiple settings that contain the action without narrative shortcuts. I think Brian accepted the play because he thought the script was strong and he trusted we could pare it down and pull it off.

We did. 

But it wasn’t easy and we needed help.

My boys are famous ... seeing themselves on one of the Dublin billboards for the first time – Nick, Ian, Tony and Rob. 

My boys are famous ... seeing themselves on one of the Dublin billboards for the first time – Nick, Ian, Tony and Rob. 

Mounting the Thing

Taking a play to Ireland is no small task. Besides getting everyone over there and finding them a place to live, we had to figure out how to stage the thing. 

Our digs in Dublin...

Our digs in Dublin...

We were given a performance slot in The Pearse Centre – the restored home of Patrick Henry Pearse, a martyred gay hero from the Easter Rising of 1916. The space has a stage about half as large as the one we had at CCftA. It is a proscenium instead of a three-quarter thrust and it has a step up from its shallowly raked audience seats. They had a projector and a black back wall – thank god. It was a lovely space for our play, but it took Tony and Nick a little to get used to.

Exterior of The Pearse Centre

Exterior of The Pearse Centre

Interior from the booth: the seats are not in place.

Interior from the booth: the seats are not in place.

We were fortunate that the hilarious play sharing our bill was written and directed by Paul Winters. Paul is a theatre veteran who lives in Dublin, but got his theatrical start in Liverpool. The pre-hung lights were not suitable for his or my show. Paul needed to isolate the lights in distinct pools and I needed to make sure that none of it bled to the back wall and thus destroy our projection effects. Paul knew exactly what to do. I handed him the lights and he designed the grid on the fly within the few hours we were given to tech the show. 

Paul Winters – playwright, director, lighting designer, and all-around hilarious guy. He saved our asses by designing and hanging our lights.

Paul Winters – playwright, director, lighting designer, and all-around hilarious guy. He saved our asses by designing and hanging our lights.

Juan Felipe Rincón, an American expat working for Google in Dublin, was also instrumental in helping us pull off the play. As our stage manager, facility manager, and light operator, we would not have been able to get this beast up and running so smoothly.

Juan Felipe Rincón – keeping us on an even keel and making sure it comes off without a hitch.

Juan Felipe Rincón – keeping us on an even keel and making sure it comes off without a hitch.

Silly Americans

For some reason I thought it would be easy to get a fake gun into Ireland. Mail it, ship it UPS, pack it in my bag... No problem. Right? It's not that Ireland has a history of gun smuggling or anything. 

I was wrong.

After a little online research, I learned that I would probably be arrested if I tried to check it with my bags at the airport. If I shipped it, there was an 80% chance that the Garda – Ireland’s police – would confiscate it and call me in for questioning with the likelihood of charges pressed for attempted gun smuggling. I also found that I could not buy a fake gun and have it shipped to Ireland. No gun manufacturer I called would guarantee that it would arrive.

I was lucky enough to find a theatrical supply company that would rent one to me. It was plastic and not as heavy as the one we had in Cotuit, but it worked splendidly.

At the Oscar Wilde Memorial

At the Oscar Wilde Memorial

I’m not sure why Ian is upset here

I’m not sure why Ian is upset here

Comic Relief for the Irish

For the scene in the diner, I thought we needed a table that would fold in two. It needed to be moved offstage quickly. The people who rented me the gun had a table I thought would work, so I had them bring it to the theater. After tech, we discovered that the table was useless – it wasn’t stable and it took five minutes to fold up and unscrew the legs. I paid 60 Euros to rent the thing for a week. We used a regular table instead.

When the theatre people of Dublin found out how much I paid for the table, word spread like wildfire. I was the laughing stock of the festival for a few days. But when the theatrical supply company found out that the table was not being used, they refunded my money completely. I love the Irish.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Rob in Howth

Rob in Howth

wonderful Fun in Dublin

We all had a blast in Dublin. The city is very walkable, the historical sites are interesting, the music and arts scene is phenomenal and the people are amazingly lovely. Sharing drinks with Conor Molloy, the sultry public relations man for the festival... Listening to the marvelous Flo McSweeney sing “Little Red Rooster” at the gala... Dinner at Maria Blaney’s beautiful home... Dubliners are the most welcoming people I have ever met.

Rob, Carl and Tony in Howth

Rob, Carl and Tony in Howth

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

It was also gratifying to see Kathie Lynch Nutting, Cotuit Center for the Arts Board President, and her husband Paul attend the show. 

Success and Awards

The play was a wonderful success in Dublin, winning nominations for Best New Play, Best Production Concept, and winning the Best Acting Award for Tony and Nick.

Tony with Brian Merriman after Tony and Nick won the Best Actor award. Brian is the Founding Artistic Director of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Nick had to run back to the US the day of the awards - he had to finish his junior year at Sturgis High School. Ian presented his trophy to him in a wonderful awards ceremony at CCftA the following week.

Tony with Brian Merriman after Tony and Nick won the Best Actor award. Brian is the Founding Artistic Director of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Nick had to run back to the US the day of the awards - he had to finish his junior year at Sturgis High School. Ian presented his trophy to him in a wonderful awards ceremony at CCftA the following week.

Nick and Tony’s “Oscars” – They are named after Oscar Wilde.

Nick and Tony’s “Oscars” – They are named after Oscar Wilde.

Off Off Off Broadway

When we got back from our triumphant tour of Ireland, Carl and Tony wanted to make sure their friends in New York who couldn’t drive all the way up to Cape Cod or fly over to Dublin would have a chance to see it. Tony is associated with New York’s Workshop Theater and they have a small space a few blocks off Broadway that he managed to score for half price. It’s called The Jewel Box and it seats up to 50 people – as intimate a space as the Black Box back in Cotuit. It was just a matter of getting the set pieces and actors to NYC.

Packing up the U-Haul at Cotuit with Nick and Rob. (Ian sneaked off before I could take this pic.)

Packing up the U-Haul at Cotuit with Nick and Rob. (Ian sneaked off before I could take this pic.)

Carl & Tony's Place on the Hudson

Before we could mount the show in NYC, I needed to recut the script and add some of the stuff we cut for Dublin. These were important story elements and character background information that I thought would make the play stronger. Of course, I kept some of the cuts I made for the festival in Ireland - yes, I am able to “kill my darlings” when needed. I have the best actors in the world, because they basically had to memorize the script three times and there was nary a complaint. 

Tony and Carl

Tony and Carl

The weekend before we opened in New York, we headed to Tony and Carl’s beautiful weekend home on the Hudson. We reblocked the added scenes and made some adjustments that I thought needed to be made. I love working with Tony and Nick. I can’t thank them enough. 

A lawn with a view...

A lawn with a view...

Rehearsing in the living room.

Rehearsing in the living room.

The weather was perfect and the river was inviting. Carl, Tony, and Nick went paddle boarding. I love this video of them running lines as they paddled.

Rob, of course, supervised from the shore.

No one knows how to relax like the Pup.

No one knows how to relax like the Pup.

So close to Broadway you can Spit on it

Nobody pulls focus like the Pup. Rob’s good eye got an infection the day of our premiere in NYC and he could not attend opening night. My Facebook post about his eye generated twice as many responses as our show opening announcement. That damn Puppy!

Nobody pulls focus like the Pup. Rob’s good eye got an infection the day of our premiere in NYC and he could not attend opening night. My Facebook post about his eye generated twice as many responses as our show opening announcement. That damn Puppy!

I’ve decided that nothing is more nerve-wracking than trying to move a play into Midtown Manhattan. There is always construction in NYC and getting the U-Haul up 36th street and unloaded was a challenge. Nick has family who live north of the City – he would have to take the train in every day. Rob and I stayed at a lovely studio near Madison Square Park – a generous friend of Carl and Tony’s offered it to us. The logistics of where to stay, how to get the play up and running, and getting back and forth to the theater every night were challenging, but we managed to pull it off.

We employed two wonderful theatre professionals to help us. Alex DeNevers – a young man who has a ton of experience in NYC – designed and hung our lights and Jasmyn Abuarab – who was a recent émigré to NYC – stage managed and ran the show.

Alex DeNevers – fantastic Lighting Designer

Alex DeNevers – fantastic Lighting Designer

Alex and Jasmyn were a dream to work with. Alex mounted the whole show in a few hours and Jasmyn managed to keep her cool when I was up in the booth screwing up the sound cues. If anyone is mounting a show in New York and looking for help, I could not recommend anyone more highly than these two lovely people. 

Jasmyn Abuarab – Godsend

Jasmyn Abuarab – Godsend

If You can Make it there...

Producing this play in NYC was an absolute hoot. I had no idea we could pull it off, but with all hands on deck, we managed to mount a play that we were all very proud of.

The Workshop Theater on 36th Street between 8th and 9th. 

The Workshop Theater on 36th Street between 8th and 9th. 

We made sure to bring the infamous rug from Cotuit.

We made sure to bring the infamous rug from Cotuit.

“Equity” Break

“Equity” Break

Backstage / Dressing room

Backstage / Dressing room

It was wonderful to see Lucy and William Cromwell at the show in NYC. They have been incredible champions of my work. They traveled all the way from Cape Cod and were accompanied by CCftA Director of Development Tracy LaBonte, and David Kuehn and his husband Alan Trugman.

It was wonderful to see Lucy and William Cromwell at the show in NYC. They have been incredible champions of my work. They traveled all the way from Cape Cod and were accompanied by CCftA Director of Development Tracy LaBonte, and David Kuehn and his husband Alan Trugman.

The after-show parties at Carl and Tony’s apartment near Union Square were an added bonus. Unfortunately during the party they threw the night before we closed, Tony was trapped in the apartment building’s elevator for more than an hour. I would have completely freaked out, but Tony eventually emerged from the elevator with the repair man looking refreshed and ready to party. 

An after party at Carl and Tony’s.  These are the best people one could ever wish to create a play with. 

An after party at Carl and Tony’s.  These are the best people one could ever wish to create a play with. 

Great Buzz

We had a limited run in NYC with six performances and we nearly sold out each one – for some of the performances we needed to add seats. The audience’s reaction was incredible. I have to share a few of the things that were written on Facebook about the play:

  • “A beautiful, moving, passionate play.” 
  • “Rich and humane, powerful and unpredictable.”
  • “It’s beautiful, powerful and breathtaking!”
  • “I heartily recommend it.”

New Yorkers are a tough crowd, so it was particularly gratifying to hear these raves from people who don't give out compliments lightly. 

FAulty Signage

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If you are a good friend of mine, you know that spelling and proofreading are not my forte. Across the hall from our performance venue was another theater that was being rented out by a lovely woman who runs a performing arts school. For kids. We were terrified that they would make such a ruckus during our play that you would not be able to hear even the gunshots. So I made up a sign that I thought said “Quiet Please – Performance in Progress.” When I hung it up in the lobby we shared, the people from the other theater looked at it funny and laughed. But they were amazingly quiet during our show. It took me two whole days to realize I had written “Quite Please – Performance in Progress.” By the end of the run, one of the techies from the other theater had used a pen to edit it to read, “Quite Pleased with our Performance in Progress.” They were great people and we all had a good laugh. Quietly though.    

A Wicked Aunt, a Generous Cousin and Indulgent Parents

None of this would have been possible without the support of my Wicked Aunt Judith McCartin-Scheide, my vivacious Cousin Joanne Mullen, and my patient and trusting parents.

Joanne and Jim Dalglish – indulgent parents

Joanne and Jim Dalglish – indulgent parents

The wickedest aunt one could ever wish for...

The wickedest aunt one could ever wish for...

Brian and Joanne Mullen

Brian and Joanne Mullen

We are also indebted to the dozens of people who donated to our cause through our IndieGoGo campaign. Whether they donated out of a sense of guilt or curiosity or excitement, I hope they know that their kindness not only made my pipe dream come true, but it also came true for everyone who worked on the project. We all can not thank them enough.

I’m also grateful that my wonderful Cousin Kate and her family were able to come to the show in Cotuit. I dedicated the play to Kate’s son Jet and it was great to share it with them and Kate’s daughter Sophia.

Pipe Dreams

It’s truly amazing when something that begins as a tiny little idea in someone’s mind can turn into an adventure that will lead across the sea, through New York and back. My only hope is that the play – when it launched into glorious flight each night of its performance – spoke persuasively and compassionately to the people who attended.  That it stirred their emotions, captivated their minds, and continues to haunt their memories.

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