category: full length one-act
running time: one hour thirty minutes
setting: various documentary interviews, parties, dressing rooms, coffee shops, apartments, etc.
Simone Gordon, a young musician in her mid-twenties
Tim, her boyfriend, also a musician
Francisco, a record producer
Nikolai, his boyfriend, also a record producer
Naomi Finn, keyboards/lead vocals for “The Cunning Stunts”
Britney Bell, drums for “The Cunning Stunts”
Charlotte Stockman, lead guitar for “The Cunning Stunts”
Malcolm Moliere, a rock icon
Phyllis Nergal, a music geek
Robin Swords, a singer
Dimitri, a “Burger King”- gay
Gabe, a “Burger King”- homophobic
Julian, a “Burger King”- stoned
Kevin, a “Burger King”- annoyed
Sometime in the mid to late nineties, Simone and Tim are two young American kids in love, but sadly finding that lives lived in retail and rent control are sapping the fire out of their romance and eating up their potential as human beings. Simone decides to start a garage band with her friends, the ambitious and unscrupulous Naomi, the blithely apathetic Charlotte, and the sadly unmarketable Britney, and by some freak accident they are picked up and become overnight alternative rock sensations- “The Cunning Stunts”. If this all sounds too good to be true it’s because it is, and Simone soon discovers that she and her music are now at the mercy of Francisco and Nikolai, the squabbling gay power couple who run the record label. Seeking to make the band more marketable they book “The Cunning Stunts” on tour with a maniacal nymphomaniac pop princess named Robin Swords and a well-dressed but fairly talentless boy band more interested in scoring drugs and record contracts than making music. In the end Simone must decide not so much between success and integrity, but how she plans to cope with a world and an industry where that choice is never even given to her and her dreams might only really mean something to the boy she left behind to pursue them. Narrated by an ageing punk rock icon, Malcolm Moliere, and a rabid fan, Phyllis Nergal, the whole thing is done up VH1 “Behind the Music” style, with a mixture of dramatic scenes and interviews, but not one second of live music performance because hey, it’s never really about the music any more, is it?
This play is based on a short story, “The Cunning Stunts”, by a college friend of mine, who wrote it to accompany a photograph of her, two other Reed women (one of whom was DJ/poet Daphne Stanford) and my friend Adam, standing in a line and looking shockingly like the prototypical alternative music band. Combining the story’s basic plot line of the rise and fall of a band with excerpts from our love lives and my own screw ball characters- namely Phyllis, Robin, the gay producers and the boy band- L.E.A.R. emerged in the summer of 2001 but didn’t make it to the stage until 2004. Between the first draft and the produced draft a few characters were dropped or absorbed into other characters and the drummer, once Bradley Belle in honor of Adam, was switched to Britney Belle so that the all-female band could balance out the boy band (and also provide random lesbian undertones between Charlotte and Britney). Personally, this is one of my favorite plays, and certainly one of my silliest, perhaps only slightly less ludicrous than The Attack of the Killer Space Zombies, because no one in this show is an alien or one of the undead. Of course, like Zombies I would like to believe there is something more to the show than laughs, and I’m actually rather proud of the relationship between Simone and Tim, which I think is very real and very complicated for something sketched out in a handful of scenes, and also very touching without resorting to poetry or schmaltz at any point. What was sort of a big surprise in performance was how many people also found the gay producers equally as compelling, since I had always intended them to be likeable and funny but never really sympathetic and certainly not emotionally resonant. The show’s anagram, L.E.A.R. is doubly ironic because while the play isn’t really much of a King Lear story beyond the slimmest of allusions, it is very much a traditional Shakespearean comedy, with lovers lost and then restored, lessons learned by all, and forgiveness even for the worst of the bunch. The sunniest of all my plays, I think productions of it will always be hampered by the size of its cast (though I did later cut it down to ten actors- but that’s still huge by contemporary standards), and really that’s a shame: my writing rarely gets this delightful, or this unapologetically sweet and good willed.
No Nude Men Productions, May 27, 28 & 29, June 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 &12, 2004 at the New Langton Center For The Arts, in San Francisco, California. Directed by Jesse Lovejoy Baldwin, Costumes by Amy Seimetz & Suchandra Bullock, Lighting by Jesse Lovejoy Baldwin, Sound by Stuart Eugene Bousel, Scenery by Jesse Lovejoy Baldwin & Chris Rader, Stage Managed by Chris Rader. Cast: Lisa Swanson (Simone), Wylie Herman (Tim), Ryan Hayes (Nikolai), Chris Kelly (Francisco), Gina Seghi (Naomi), Margery Fairchild (Phyllis), Brian Warden Lawlor (Malcolm), Amy Seimetz (Robin), Ellie Davis (Britney), Stephanie Young (Charlotte), Aaron Begg (Dimitri), Jarrad Webster (Gabe), Christopher Paul Struett (Kevin), Alejandro Rios (Julian) Bands: The Wellwishers (“See For The First Time”, “Golden Arrow”, “The Game”), Carrier (“Oh My”, “Flesh”, “Apples”), Cristina Catinella (“Please Come Home”, “Better Way”), Alan Moses & Miranda Calderon (“Blow Winds”),
Echo Beach (“Cal’s Pals”), Wynne Hanner, (“Water’s Edge”, “Thoughts of Heaven”), Chris Egli (“Rock Star Parking”, “Tight Rope Tango”), Jeff Rolka (“Sunny Side of the Street”), John Haesemeyer (“Familiar Paths”)