Tuesday, November 23, 2021

How 'Season's End' Morphed into 'Cloistered Closing'

‘Season’s End’ was the fourth play I wrote after my success with three other plays all performed at the Steeple Center in Rosemount. The titled referred to the ending of a typical ‘season’ (roughly November through March) that occurs in many gated communities throughout the Coachella Valley.

The play was centered on a lively exchange between three old retired businessmen and a teenage girl. It was supposed to show the differences in ages as expressed and exposed in music, art, politics, religion, etc. I thought it read as a funny age-related differences of opinion and attitude. My Beta readers thought otherwise and Sharon thought it missed its mark entirely.

Their premise was simple enough. If these three businessmen were living in a golf community and frequenting a country club they were probably very successful in business and certainly not na├»ve to world events. They might disagree with the teenager’s attitudes and opinions but they wouldn’t be shocked by them. In short, Sharon destroyed the main premise for the play and thus rendered it unbelievable and just plain silly.

So back into the files went that play and it was quickly forgotten for a new idea that eventually morphed into ‘The Last Sentinel.’ Fast forward several years and I’ve had three plays produced in Minnesota and one in California. The Covid-19 pandemic hits and everything screeched to a halt. Theaters shut down, in-person gatherings were banned and I settled in with my keyboard and a lot of time on my hands.

Out of that limbo period came revisions to five new plays that I still hadn’t workshopped. A new suspense thriller was written and entitled ‘Playground for the Devil.’ A children’s story that I’d written fifteen years earlier was revived, and through the help of my editor, found a wonderful illustrator out of Bangladesh who is working on illustrations for the book.

Moving along, I decided to flesh out a storyline that originally came from a blog about my first job after Europe and a woman I met at work. It would be a serialized novella and placed on Amazon’s Vella platform for distribution. My writing plate was overflowing and I thought I’d be sequestered in my office for months to come. Then an e-mail appeared one day in my inbox.

SAP, The Second Act Players of Rosemount, had just finished a play entitled ‘Reunited’ and were beginning to look around for another play to produce in 2022. One of the actors contacted me and asked if I had anything that might work for them. My initial answer was a solid no!

Unfortunately, three of my five new plays demanded rather elaborate sets which I didn’t feel the Steeple Center could accommodate. The other two had content matter that I didn’t think a community theater, especially in a community like Rosemount, would find applicable or acceptable. Those last two plays were more suitable for an Art Theater audience.

What to do? I enjoyed working with SAP and producing my three other plays with them. All three plays had done very well in terms of audience numbers and financial returns for RAAC. It seemed a win-win for both of us. But without a play that worked for SAP, I had nowhere to go. That is until I pushed through my regular set of exercise routines at LA Fitness and had a ‘voila’ moment on the treadmill.

The main argument against ‘Season’s End’ was the fact that our audience wouldn’t believe that three businessmen would be shocked or surprised by the attitude and antics of my typical teenager. I agreed that my premise was flawed and wouldn’t be believable. But what group of people would be so isolated from the ‘real’ world that an encounter with today’s typical teenager might render them speechless. That afternoon at LA Fitness and nearing one mile on the treadmill, I had my answer and it was a good one.

What if I changed my businessmen to three nuns? But not just any group of black and white penguins but very isolated cloistered nuns who as children had been raised by missionaries and then entered into a very strict cloistered order that had no exposure to the outside world.

I knew from past encounters with some friends in Palm Springs that sometimes; abet rarely, but sometimes small religious orders of nuns or brothers do close for various reasons. In my storyline, these three nuns were members of a small cloistered order that closed down. Even the Vatican couldn’t or wouldn’t prevent its closure. The three nuns were given a small pension, a three-bed room condo to rent and then thrust out into the real world.

As my play opens, the three nuns are entering a club house for the first time to play a game of cards before the country club closes for the season. One of the nuns has invited her niece along to join the group.

Since three nuns and a kid playing cards for an hour and a half wouldn’t hold an audience’s attention, I decided to add several other characters and sub-plots. The results (I hope) are numerous encounters with several amorous waiters, a burnt out musician, a bitchy boss with a heart of gold, a drink menu to die for, the subtle threat of death, romance in the air, shock and dismay at living in the real world and hilarity of the most subtle order.

The first draft has been written and is going through various stages of tinkering and tapering. There are still a number of seen and unseen benchmarks that have to be met before a firm commitment on my part can happen. While on one level I see ‘Cloistered Closing’ as similar to my other three plays, I believe I have added more depth of character that my other three plays didn’t have. I also think the layering of music can add a musical tapestry as it enhances the audience’s attention and interest.

We’ll have to see what happens.

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