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Musicals, Writing Competitions, and Staged Readings

By Tony LaScala · July 16, 2012

O Frabjous Day, Callooh! Callay!

Oh Odd-Jobbers I have been Writing, oh how I have been writing. Most writers have been at this point before, when time seems to stand still while your fingers click-clack-click away at the keyboard. Everything you write seems like golden prose and witty articulate dialogue that will make readers squirm with anticipation to flip the next page. When I’m writing something I’m really deep into, the hour hand passes in a hazy time smoothie of intermingled periods of furious writing, pacing, and crashing from exhaustion. Work, writing, sleeping, and eating all tend to leapfrog each other with no real detectable pattern. I catch a nap when I can, and on a normal day can accumulate the four to six hours of sleep necessary to keep me walking and talking until I reach the pinnacle moment of staring at a first draft and muttering triumphantly “I’m done” (Or something equally insightful) I then reward myself with a full night of sleep, in which I dream of a full night of sleep.

No, it’s not a Screenplay: It’s a Stage play. A Musical…

What’s happened to me? I grew up performing in Musicals. I hated them. Why would a character sing about what they are feeling!? (It’s so unnatural) Oklahoma, The Music Man, Pippen, West Side Story, Caberet. I’ve played minor or major parts in all of them until my voice really started cracking in my teenage years. I didn’t want to be in Musicals, but it was the only way to get any stage time. Nobody was doing traditional theatre when I was a youngling, at least not anything I could perform in. And so I traipsed off to community college at eighteen with a very distinct disdain for all things Musical. Yet here I am twelve years later writing a Musical. So what changed? Musicals. Avenue Q, Spamalot, Wicked, The Book of Mormon

I got a call from a college friend. She and her theatre company wanted a play I had written as my Senior thesis (Coloropolis, That’s where my twitter handle TonyLaScala@Coloropolis originates) to be performed as a Musical at their Hollywood theatre. The catch was that they needed it quickly. In Hollywood, whenever someone asks you if you can have it by such and such date, even if such and such date has already past, you reply: “Yes.” You can always figure out how to stall later. Sleep is for the weak anyway.

And so I set off on a journey. The first thing I noticed was that the original manuscript, by my new standards of writing quality, was abysmal. There was no through line, plot structure, the characters SORT OF developed. Eye’s bleeding and hair tearing out embarrassment of reading through something you’d written five years ago aside, it was funny and quick tongued. I set out to completely restructure the story, and wouldn’t you know it, along the way, I came up with a few songs that even I would enjoy.

Now, I’m no songwriter, far from it. But something just clicked for me. Enough so for me to hand off the songs to my more musically inclined acquaintances and get positive response back. Thankfully, there’s a professional composer working on the music as we speak, and I think with some tweaking and a few nifty re-writes Coloropolis will be a full fledged musical in under a month.

Here I sit, with a full stock of writing energy, ready to tackle my next project: The Mockumentary screenplay I’ve been circling for several months now. Things just keep coming up: Potential Money making projects and Competitions. I just advanced in “The International Page Awards” and I’m waiting to find out if I’m a quarterfinalist later today. (However, advancing to the quarterfinals is a lot like qualifying for the Olympics. Sure you’re there, but unless you win a medal you’re just another bankrupt Olympic athlete.) As I have been AFK on this screenplay for a few months now, I have to restart the process of re-re-researching all of my re-research that I’ve already researched and re-researched.

Thankfully, I’m inspired to write the script as I’ve just attended a staged reading of a script going into production later this year and the writer in me was burning at every exhaustively long scene in which two characters just stood in a room spewing cliché’s about their feelings. At one point a character spoke for three pages. If you Odd-Jobbers out there can’t see why that is a problem, I suggest you watch more movies.

Here’s a pointer from one Odd-Jobber to all you other Odd-Jobbers out there: If you’re character has a lengthy monologue in which all of the things the character is rambling on and on about can be summarized with a simple exhausted nod that conveys all of the emotions of last nights drinking binge post break-up, DO IT. How many times in a three page monologue can one character mention how “Tired” “Exhausted” “Burned Out” “Weary” “Drained” “Beat” and “Sleepy” they are? THOSE ALL MEAN THE SAME THING!!!!!!!!

The most exhausting part about the read through was that the writer had a good idea. (I won’t go into details because I’m not one to give away another writers marketable concepts, but suffice to say the writer put an interesting twist into a standard Rom-Com). It’s hard to listen to a Screenplay that’s been bought and is going into production when it so clearly needs a page one rewrite. I know from experience, many of my scripts have needed or do need a page one re-write. I’m grateful for the experience because it showed me that if that Screenplay can be bought and produced, a few of mine must sell.

So here I sit fellow Odd-Jobbers, on a Sunday afternoon with plenty to do outside, writing. I’ve got a few competitions on my mind, A Musical 2nd draft in the near future, and a very small window of opportunity to capitalize on my current wave of inspiration to crack out a solid draft of what hopes to be an interesting story. Life it seems is not the Roller Coaster I once believed it may be. Rather, it’s more like a sadistic game of Bumper Cars: Each of us trying desperately to avoid slamming into walls while pushing others out of the way, hoping to get one more thrill before the electricity runs out.

He Chortled in His Joy,

Tony LaScala@Coloropolis